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Mr. Blueskies, Mr. Brightside

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To be completely honest, Patton Hart is used to tragedy. He's been bred on sad sob stories, one after the other. A father who did not stick around long enough to see him first open his eyes, grandparents who did not live to see his third birthday, a mother who loved him too much, too often, too desperately. He'd been blessed with a forgettable face, with a submissive aura, with a backpack of items to call his own that was never unpacked because they always moved in the end, anyway. He was there and then he was gone like a bank of fog, like the sun on a cloudy day.

 

Patton grew up with sadness clinging to his bones, kissing nightmares in the dark, and singing eulogies in the graveyards for reflections of himself.

 

The Stock Market Crash paves the way for the Depression that chases him and his mother through the country, nipping at their heels, sinking its claws into their backs, and tearing their throats with its teeth. It’s bad.

 

But its nothing new for Patton.

 

The War, though.

 

The War is new.

 

The War steals the cute boy at the drug store who smiles at Patton across the counter. The War makes each penny stretch less and less. The War plasters propaganda posters condeming the Nazi menace across telephone poles and mailboxes. 

 

(The War wasn’t America’s problem until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The War wasn’t America’s problem when he lived in Brooklyn for six scant months at fourteen and helped a Jewish boy clean out his cuts after a group of sixteen year olds pushed him down and sneered you know, those Germans have the right idea.

 

The War kills his Mom. 

 

Not, directly, no, but. But it places her in a factory assembling turbines for the planes. They have money in their pockets for the first time in years but the War hands her ration cards and says they have to keep on starving. The War gets her sick in the factory, and the entire time she just smiles, ruffles Patton’s hair, and keeps handing him half of her rations because he’s still a growing boy. 

 

Patton’s Mom dies when he’s seventeen; she’s sick and starving and dies with her head in her son’s lap as he strokes her hair and sobs. 

 

Patton Hart is seventeen when he volunteers for the draft. He’s a year too young, but they don’t look hard enough, don’t care hard enough. Patton’s never known what he’s wanted to do with his life—bouncing from tragedy to tragedy and just barely managing to stay afloat but, well. He never thought he’d do this.

 

The War has taken all he has left; Patton thinks it might as well take him too.

 

Some might have started calling it a tragedy then, because if there hadn't been a war, if the Depression hadn't hit, if Patton hadn't been left all alone, he might have grown up to be a store clerk, a factory worker, a journalist, a self respecting average person. He might have learned to smile for real and not just to placate people. He might have settled down somewhere with a pretty boy and become that dad he had always wanted to be. He might have been happy .

 

They might have called it tragic that that sort of life had been stolen from him.

 

(Patton thinks it’s tragic that he could never imagine having that life at all.)

 

The War is...its something else really. They send him to a training camp run by both Americans and the British and they work them all to bone. Push ups, daily runs, crawling through barbed wire, carrying twice his body weight in supplies and keeping march. They press them until they can’t stand and fill their heads with delusions of grandeur that will come when they beat those pesky Germans.

 

The boys that he shows up with change very fast.

 

Patton feels like he doesn't change at all.

 

It's a problem , they say. Because Patton is still smiling at them while marching, still making jokes when the rest of the platoon is struggling to keep their eyes open, still acting soft and kind and friendly when they are trying to go to war.

 

It's a problem , they say. So they send him to the front lines.

 

Patton just smiles at them and nods his head. What's another order? What's another threat? What more can this life take from him anyway?

 

Patton thinks it's silly that the generals there are in the business of making tragedies, and yet they can't seem to see that Patton is a tragedy personified. It's a blindsiding attack: he's the comedy with a bad ending no one sees coming.

 

He gets captured six weeks after he’s sent to the front lines; it’s just another bump in the story, another trip into tragedy, and another thing to smile through and laugh over even as bitterness burns like acid in the back of his throat. 

 

It’s funny he thinks, because he was the only man in his regiment to get captured. The only man in his regiment none of them would be sorry to see go. The only one that lives to see the sunrise after that day.

 

(Its a blood orange sunrise, that boils the sky and makes hazy lines in Patton’s vision.)

 

The soldiers that dig him out of the trenches, that dig him from the dirt and the rubble and the bodies , that dig him out of the grave he had been so content to lie in, force him to his feet and tell him to march. They don’t like him, don’t like the way he stumbles, don’t like the way he collapses.

 

And they certainly don’t like the way he smiles. With blood in his teeth and his freckles dancing and his eyes as cold and dead as the rest of the allied forces in the area.

 

It doesn’t matter much though. This is War, after all.

 

They take him to a POW camp and they stuff him into a crowded cell with two French soldiers who know scattered English, and an Italian who likely was in the wrong place at the wrong time. If Patton had cared, he might have thought about how different it was from what he had been told being captured would be like, about how secret the base seemed, how violent the gatekeepers were. He might have been scared.

 

But all he can think about is how cold it is. How dark it is. How unfriendly it is.

 

This is War.

 

And Patton wonders why no one here knows how to smile.

 

Its a stand still: the days are the same and they blur together like the lines of a newspaper in the rain. He sleeps a lot, probably too much, but there’s nothing else to do. He’s got his own little corner where he keeps his legs folded up so that the Italian can lie down and without touching anyone. He offers half his food to one of the French soldiers because he’s nearly eighteen but the poor kiddo looked barely older than sixteen. He smiles, smiles, smiles, until that too becomes an unconscious action. The guards that pace the block snarl at him and Patton smiles each and every time. 

 

He loses track of how many times they drag him out of the bars and beat him with their rifle butts. But that might just be him being bad at math. 

 

His cellmates probably think he’s insane. Maybe he is. Maybe that’s what the War got from him.

 

It isn’t until three weeks later that the Brit with the mustache is thrown in with them and things start..starting again. 

 

His name is something fancy, something posh, and Patton hears it, but doesn’t remember it at all. It seems silly that he could have forgotten how to speak English in three weeks, but it happens that he can’t figure out how to answer the Brit with anything more than a half shrug and a smile that doesn’t reach his eyes even on a good day.

 

And good days are rare. It’s not that the others are bad, because how can something be bad when he’s got food, and quietness, and a roof over his head? It's strange to think that before he joined the Army, before the War had started, before his mother died, there had been times when he hadn’t even had that. Surely if he was tragic before, he had to be something slightly better now?

 

Patton tries to give his food to the French boy, who always, always hesitates. The Brit watches him. 

 

“Why do you do that?” He asks.

 

And Patton shrugs.

 

The French boy says something, or maybe he doesn’t. There’s a hollowness in Patton’s skull that rings when he looks too hard so its better just to close his eyes and go back to sleep.

 

The Brit speaks French and Russian and German. Patton doesn’t really notice it at first, because he’s been used to the sounds of his cellmates whispering softly in the cold dark, but at one point he realizes that there’s an extra voice, speaking foreign hushed words in the darkness. He doesn’t know how long they had been talking before he realizes, and he hadn’t been asleep but he hadn’t been there either. It had been like his body was there and his mind had stepped from the room for a moment, or ten, or an hour.

 

When he glances over the Brit is listening intently to what the older of the French boys is saying, nodding along, maybe partially in disbelief. Patton doesn’t get exactly what they’re talking about until there’s motion in his direction and the Brit’s jaw drops. There’s a rough laugh that follows, and it grows like a thunderstorm, rumbling closer and closer.

 

And oh , they’re talking about him.

 

Patton smiles for them. Because even if he's the joke they’re telling, at least they’re laughing.

 

The Brit’s eyes widen, and he says something back to the French boys, something with too many front-rounded syllables, and then he turns back to Patton and scoots close.

 

“They were telling me that you smile all the time,” He says. “They call you Mr. Blueskies!”

 

“Blueskies?” The word chokes in Patton’s throat, rattling in his ribcage like a bird trying to break free. His own inhale scratches the inside of his throat, like nails tearing up his esophagus. It feels bad, and strange and foreign. He coughs.

 

“Yeah,” The Brit says, “Like clear skies. Bright and Happy. I didn’t think people like you existed in this hellhole.”

 

Patton doesn’t know what to say to that. So he just shrugs and smiles a bit more.

 

The Brit still smells like lavender soap, which was probably from a care package from home before he was caught and brought here. It reminds Patton of the flower shop he had to walk by to bring his mother lunch when she worked at the factory, before she died.

 

“Mr. Blueskies,” The Brit says somewhat still in disbelief, “What’s your real name, Smiles?”

 

Patton leaned against the wall ignoring the painful cramp in his legs because the Italian was still sleeping. “Hart,” He says, “Patton Hart.” 

 

“Unbelievable,” He says, “They should have been putting you on posters, not sticking you on the front lines.”

 

(And thats another tragedy for the list, isn’t it? Something so sweet and soft like Patton shouldn’t have ever been to War at all.)

 

“Patton “Blueskies” Hart,” the Brit hums. “Tell me something, kid, whats there left to smile for?”

 

And isn’t that the trillion dollar question? What is there left to smile for when his family is dead and he is halfway to meeting them again, when his legs are cramped, his cheeks are hollowed, his head rings, and his throat is dry, when he’s so far from anything that is familiar and has no chance of getting back? 

 

But Patton knows the answer, has known for a while. He can still feel the soft hand of the Jewish boy when he helped pick him off the ground in Brooklyn, can still hear the laughter from his mother before she got sick, can still smell the cookies that his platoon-mate got that in a care package that made the man cry.

 

War is a Tragedy.

 

It takes and it takes and it takes. 

 

What is left to smile for?

 

“Spite,” Patton says with the sweetest tone he’s ever managed.

 

And across the halls, in the cell parallel to them, laughter rings out. Patton blinks almost in surprise. He hadn’t realized that anyone else had been listening, and if he is being truly honest he forgot that anyone else existed outside their tiny blocked area.

 

“I like you,” The words are harsh and thickly accented, but the soldier’s voice is warm with laughter and it softens the hardness of his enunciation, “Revenge served best with smile.” 

 

“It’s not revenge,” Patton says automatically, because the word feels wrong . Because revenge is something you wait for, an expectation that sits deep in your bones, a vicious prize you endure for. Patton isn’t waiting for anything, not a reward nor not a reparation. He doesn’t smile because he thinks he might get revenge because he knows he won’t . Patton smiles, Patton smiles, Patton smiles , because—”It’s rebellion.”

 

The Soviet laughs again and again, “Even better,” He says and it sends a shiver down Patton’s spine.

 

The Soviet-Russian isn’t alone in his cell. He’s joined by a ruddy cheeked and auburn haired Irish boy, a quiet pale-skinned Soviet-Ukranian, and a blue-eyed North Brit. Patton doesn’t know if they introduce themselves because it doesn’t matter: he won’t remember their names anyway. 

 

They’ll all die, anyway. 

 

But Patton will smile all the way through it. 

 

Things start, Patton notices. 

 

Because the next time the guards pass through, he forgets to turn away and somehow his smile is still bright enough for them to pick it out of the blue grey shadows. Patton thinks that maybe the Allied forces had been gaining ground, had beat off the Nazi’s one time too many, had tipped the War back into their favor, because the Germans are especially angry.

 

Its not anything new. It can’t be when Patton smiles at the grasping hands of Death, and the enemy soldiers have always been so ready to deliver him to the brink. Its not anything new when he can’t force his smile to fall, and the but of the rifle slams between the bars of the cell and clocks him right between the eyes.

 

And his head flings back, cracking against the shoulder of the Brit and so hard he doesn’t even hear the snapping of his wireframe glasses. The halves fall into his lap, blurry and distant and almost as broken as he is.

 

And Patton laughs .

 

Maybe it is a little new. War is like that, he thinks. 

 

Its a repetition that repeats until it doesn’t and there’s no telling when that change will come: when it suddenly turns from him trying to inch through the haze of bullets towards the trenches across no mans land, to him trying to dig himself out from under the weight of another soldier from his platoon without screaming in frustration, because death was right there and it missed him again.

 

“Mr. Blueskies--” The Brit says as Patton gasps for air.

 

“Oi! Was that that smiley fellow?” Someone else yells from another cell, some other cell.

 

“Is he alright?” Another voice adds in.

 

“Bloody Germans!” 

 

Its a clamor. Patton hears it; its impossible not to hear with how close the cells are to each other, with how many of them are pressed together, with how each whisper reverberates off the stone around them and makes it ten times louder.

 

Something warm trickles down his face and Patton blinks hard as he tastes blood between his grinning lips. He thinks there’s some orders being tossed around but the full honesty is he can’t hear at all. All there is are yells about leaving him alone, about those where those Germans can stuff their guns, about how they can pick on prisoners their own size--

 

There’s nothing new, and yet the entire camp, the hall of their cells, Patton suddenly feels more alive than ever before. 

 

Their captors don’t know what to do suddenly. There’s several thwamps as something gets thrown at them, but Patton can’t see it at all.

 

The gunshots rattle all of them to their bones, a noise so loud in their small cells made of stone that turns the vibrations back on them. Patton’s hands cover his ears, his ringing ears, and he feels the Brit next to him stiffen. The echoes of the noise, steal all the fire from them, until they’re just cowering from the bars again, and selling lethal glares.

 

Patton blinks blurrily at the indistinct forms where their captors were, dully recognizing that orders are being spit out in rapid German. The cells ring with the foreign words, and then fizzle out as the soldiers move on.

 

And the silence returns, same as its always been.

 

Although something is different, Patton thinks, clutching the halves of his glasses that his mother had spent four months saving up to afford him, back before she had gotten sick. Something is different, he thinks, as the Brit softly presses a swatch of cloth he got who knows where to Patton’s forehead. 

 

Something is different, Patton knows.

 

Because the next time they get their portions of food and Patton tries to foist some of his off the French boy gives him a hard “No” complete with him reaching out and pushing Patton’s hand away. Patton eats a whole piece of bread, and he thinks it even had a taste. Its strange and weird and Patton doesn’t want to think about it so he sleeps instead.

 

He wakes up when the Italian reaches over and nudges him, and waddles around so that his long legs fold up and there’s space in the cell for the first time. The Italian motions for him to lie down, and Patton’s first instinct is to offer it French boys, to the Brit, to the Italian who was looking far too uncomfortable.

 

The Brit offers him a shoulder to his head on when he’s tired, talks when he’s not. The Brit asks him questions about home, about before the War, about what America is like because he’d always wanted to visit just to see if it really was as bad as he’s thought it was. Patton can’t see anything anymore, but its nice to hear the barking laughter that shows up sometimes.

 

(Patton makes up things sometimes, just to hear it, because its pretty and it makes Patton’s chest warm in a way that it hasn’t, doesn’t, won’t any other time.)

 

The Brit is warm and gruff. He smells like lavender and sounds like the rumbling of streetcars back home. He’s strong and steady and bold and brave.

 

“Hey, Blueskies--”

 

The War is a bad thing, Patton thinks, as he starts to notice things moving again. The War is a bad thing, Patton reminds himself, as his smile feels less forced than it has in years. The War is a bad thing, Patton whispers at night, as he stares at the sleeping face of a man who’s laugh made Patton’s heart jump straight into his throat.

 

The War is a bad thing .

 

But if it weren’t for the War they never would have met. 

 

And if it weren’t for the War the Brit never would have died. Not like this. 

 

People disappear from the cells. Taken by the guards, dragged out of their block in the middle of the night, and they never return. The Soviet, who’s been here the longest, almost a year , spins tales of his old, original cell mates, and the people who’d originally filled the cell that Patton was occupying. They’d all been dragged off in the night, one by one, he’d claimed, and the only reason the Soviet himself hadn’t gone taken with them was because he always squeezed himself tight into a corner during the guards rounds. 

 

“What about food?” The Brit had asked, half curious and half concerned, “How did you eat?”

 

“I didn’t,” The Soviet barked with laughter, “Going hungry is small price to pay for life. And now…” The Soviet reached into his tattered jacket, and pulled out a stale chunk of bread, “I am prepared.”

 

The Irish boy glances up from where he was playing some sort of hand game with the Ukranian, wide eyed and red cheeked, “You think they’ll come back to our block?”

 

“I no think ,” The Soviet said with complete surety, tucking the bread back into his coat, “I know. ” 

 

And he’s right, because two weeks later Patton’s woken from a half restless sleep by his head knocking hard against the wall as the shoulder he’d fallen asleep against was ripped out from underneath him. Patton’s vision is blurry, muddled by darkness and the sudden hit he took to his temple but he can see, suddenly, the open gate to their cell blocked off by one of their bulky captors as two others wrapped their hands tight on the arms of the struggling Brit. 

 

Desperate cuts through the drowsy fog in Patton’s mind, and he’s scrambling forward, knocking into the Italian who wakes with a sharp gasp, and accidentally kicking the leg of the French boy who squirms from sleep and proceeds to shake his older counterpart awake within in the second but Patton doesn’t notice. He’s attempting to stand, reach for the Brit, pull him back , but one of the guards shoves him away and Patton lands bruisingly hard on his backside just as the grated door is slammed shut and locked in front of him.

 

Patton lunges again, sticks his arm through the wire, ignores the burn, grabs onto the Brit’s shoulder, and gasps out his name, “...” 

 

The Brit swings his head up and over his shoulder, eyes alight in the dark. A guard brings his gun down on Patton’s elbow and he screams , loud enough to wake the rest of the block, certainly. He sees the Ukranian boy with one arm around the Irish boy’s stomach and the other covering his mouth as he presses them both against the back wall, sees the other Brit, the Northern one, pressed into the less shadowed corner, shaking and doesn’t even see a hint of the Russian, but knows he’s curled into himself and watching Patton too, waiting for him to give up, let go.

 

He doesn’t. His fingers dig deeper into the Brit’s shoulder, grasping onto the fabric desperately, even as the guard lands a second blow on his wrist, and his vision swims with bright purple spots.

 

Patton lets out a ragged breath, faintly hears the Italian quietly begging him to let go through the ringing in his ears, and tightens his grip because he’s selfish. The Brit is his friend. Makes him happy in a way Patton hasn’t known in years , with his kind words and gruff voice, and Patton can’t let him go, he can’t. Not, at least, without a fight. 

 

(The Brit deserves that much.)

 

“...Mr. Blueskies,” The Brit says, voice quiet, voice terrified , but still steady, “Let go.”

 

“No—” The guard swings his gun through the slots in the door and slams Patton’s nose with a loud crack . His vision dissolves into bright, spotted stars, and his face burns and he’s coughing on blood dripping down his throat and his ears ring, and his fingers are starting to loosen against his will and—

 

“LET GO BLUESKIES!”

 

“Let go! Let go!”

 

“Blueskies!”

 

—The clamor is back. Echoing in his ears and as violent as a thunderstorm as the rest of their block, wide awake now, scream and shout, and some of them, a few of them, are shouting swears and curses at the Germans for hurting Patton, for taking away the Brit, for everything, but the rest are yelling at him. To let go. 

 

His fingers are loosening against the fabric of the Brit’s jacket— but he can’t, he won’t. 

 

“Let go, Patton,” The Brit begs him, and Patton can feel his eyes burn , “And take care of them.”

 

The guard moves to hit a fourth time, on Patton’s fingers, on the Brit’s shoulder. But Patton unclenches his hand first. His fingers slip off. His arm hits the grated door and the guard kicks it for good measure, but Patton can’t even feel it. He just watches, through blurry, spotted vision, as they drag the Brit away. 

 

The Brit doesn’t come back. Never comes back. And something like anger starts to burn in Patton’s mind.

 

Patton is not a stranger to tragedy. He’s not a stranger to the sadness that wells up in him and then floods his senses, he’s not a stranger to that grief in his chest that tears apart his heart and lungs with bargains to a god that’s not interested in anything he has to offer. He’s not even a stranger to death that calmly reaps yet another soul without an inch of mercy. 

 

(They don’t get to see the body; Patton doesn’t know if that’s mercy, doesn’t know if after what they did to the Brit disposing him without Patton’s knowing was a favor, doesn’t know if where the grief ends and the fury begins.)

 

Patton is not a stranger to the tragedy that sings in his bones when he’s left in that too cold cell, but the anger that comes rushing through him is violent and bursting and that--

 

That is new.

 

And Patton embraces it. 

 

“Oh,” The Soviet says, when Patton looks up with that rage in his eyes. “ Oh.” 

 

They come again a week later, and this time Patton is waiting.

 

He’s sitting closest to the door, eyes closed but alert , but the guards reach past him for the sleeping older French boy, who’d determinedly sandwiched his younger counterpart between himself and the Italian in a sham of protection hours ago. They reach for him, even though Patton is right there, and the guard has barely twisted his fingers into the thin fabric of the boy’s shirt before Patton lunges. 

 

He tackles the guard against the wall of the small cell, and surprise on his side gives him a momentary advantage before the other three are jolted from a restless sleep by the guard’s violent swears. 

 

Patton doesn’t know what he’s doing, why he’s doing it, beyond a reckless sort of anger and a desperate kind of despair, but it’s better than sitting here and doing nothing while the older French boy is taken. He knows the rest of the cell block is going to wake up and notice soon, urging him to give up again, but this time Patton is ready: ready to fight, ready to defend, ready to die. 

 

The second guard smacks the back of his head hard with a gun and he thinks it’s the third that pulls him off of the first, the first, who’s staring at Patton with a death glare and a broken nose, and Patton grins viciously back at him. A challenge.

 

(Patton’s vision swims with black. His head pounds, and there’s a dripping warmth down the back of his neck he thinks may be blood.)

 

“Take him ,” The first guard says, in clear, accented English, intended to make Patton quiver with terror and beg for mercy but Patton’s grin only widens, tugs harder at his cheeks, because in one move the guard has accepted his challenge and lost . And Patton has won.

 

The two guards drag him out of the cell, and Patton flashes his battle-grin at his three remaining cellmates; a reassurance, a reminder. 

 

“Take care of them.”

 

And Patton does. In the only way he can manage. 

 

The War takes and takes and takes.

 

It takes the great things, the good things, the not so bad things-- it takes Patton and drags him down the cell block, with his well worn leather shoes scraping the floor with a cacophony of screams behind him. 

 

Its strange, because Patton thinks he can pick out the individual voices in the noise around him: the Soviet who threw himself from the shadows into the metal bars once he saw what Patton had forced the soldiers to do ( take him, take him, take him), the French boy who started sobbing once he realized that he had been the intended target, the unknown voices from down the cell that he had come to recognize over the months. He’s pulled down the hall and he puts those voices to outraged faces for the first time.

 

His grin makes his cheeks ache, a feral looking sort of thing that awakens some sort of primordial beast in each prisoner he passes.

 

It’s his name they scream. The name that he forged in spite, the name that he earned, the name that was his and his alone.

 

The name the War didn’t, doesn’t, can’t take.

 

The soldiers drag him down the hall, out of the cell block and the metal door slams behind them, cutting off the riot of noise so effectively that Patton almost thinks he fell into some sort of alternate reality.

 

The noise was nothing compared to the silence .

 

The lab was far from pristine. It had the same old, grey rock walls and hard dirt floors. But it was filled with shelves, counters, and tables--all metal, all steel, and all shining under the artificial lights so brightly that Patton had to half-squint his eyes to keep from being blinded. 

 

It was meticulously organized. Neat and clean in a way Patton hadn’t seen in years and had never had the luxury of experiencing. Almost painfully so. The alcohol in the air stung at his nose and made his eyes water, but Patton blinked it away hard and fast less the guards think he was crying, less they think his anger and rage and determination had faded to fear and desperation. 

 

Because it hadn’t. 

 

Because Patton won, would win, would continue to win even as they stripped him of his jacket and strapped him to the table, because when he dies here--goosebumps prickling at his bare arms from the chill, heart pounding hard and fast, anger dancing in his blood--it’s a victory. 

 

Because it’s him . And not them. 

 

The guards leave him there for what feels like minutes, yet could be seconds, but is really hours. He gazes through the lone, bar window in the lab until day breaks over the horizon and his eyes burn with the first glimpse of the sun in months. 

 

It heats his face and warms something in his chest, but he doesn’t cry, doesn’t smile, and stops his stare. He relieves the ache in his neck and stares flatly at the ceiling, ignores the pain in his gut, in his head, and waits. 

 

For what? He doesn’t know.

 

(A another lie: he waits for, wants for, craves for the end. They call him Mr. Blueskies, they call him brave , but really he’s just as much a coward as they all are: he just dresses it up in dull smiles and habitual kindness as he hopes for relief.) 

 

(Any kind really, but at this point he thinks, knows, fears that the end is the only kind he’ll get.)

 

Patton waits until the sun stretches out of the window. Hunger starts to burn against the nausea in his gut. It must be past noon when the scientist comes in, decked in sterile white marred with red and checking things off on a clipboard, like he’s a doctor and Patton is a patient in for a fever, like he isn’t strapped to a table, waiting .

 

(Waiting to die.)

 

Patton’s stiff with tension as the scientist presses a stethoscope to his chest, mouthing numbers as he measure’s Patton’s rapid pulse against the watch on his wrist. His fists curl into white knuckles as his blood pressure is measured, and the scientist has the gall to chide him for it as he clicks his tongue at the results and takes them again and again until Patton’s sweaty palm is flat against the cool metal of the table. A thermometer is stuck under his tongue and Patton bites it so hard he’s almost disappointed when it doesn’t snap in half. 

 

His headache pounds. The scientist peels back his eyelids to check with a light, and pokes at the blood-crusted bump on the back of his head until Patton hisses. 

 

The scientist smirks at him as Patton scowls, says something that Patton forgets as soon as it’s slipped from the man’s lips. Something about “glory of HYDRA” and “dehydration.” He hangs an IV and sticks the needle in Patton's arm and leaves him. 

 

Four vials rehung by guards and the rest of daylight pass by before the scientist returns, pushing through the door as he snaps bloodied gloves off his hands and slings them on one of the clear counters. 

 

“Another failure,” He sighs to himself. He picks up a vial and examines it, twists it back and forth as the blue liquid catches the artificial light. He glances over at Patton through his glasses, head tilted to the side, “But...perhaps not a set back.”

 

The scientist swings around the table, settling just next to where Patton’s head is, holding the vial up so both of them can see it. Patton can feel the man’s breath on his skin, and he yanks on the restraints without getting anywhere.

 

“Do you know what this is?” The man asks so calmly, so logically, so friendly-- like Patton and him are old acquaintances about to catch up. His voice is so loud, his tone so-- so-- Patton hates it. Patton hates it so much.

 

There’s something about it that reaches down his spine, and picks apart Patton’s anger, his misery, his emotions that have been twisted and warped and neglected ever since that day his mother’s hand had gone limp. The scientist’s voice disarms the everything that Patton had been clinging to for the past hours, the months, the years, and with just a couple words Patton is just a kid again.

 

“This is the glory of HYDRA,” The scientist says, so proudly. “The glory of humanity .”

 

“What good is your glory?” Patton’s voice shakes, “All it does is kill people. It’s useless. It’s...stupid!”

 

“Oh…” The scientist trails, looking at him with something akin to pity, “You don’t understand.” He sighs, and then moves his free hand outside of what Patton can see--

 

Patton’s entire body seizes as the scientist over him suddenly starts pressing his fingers through Patton’s unruly curls. The man pets him, running those fingers through Patton’s oily hair, gently massaging his scalp, touching him .

 

Patton thinks he’ll throw up. Because-- Because this is different from them taking his blood, from them sticking needles in him, from them hitting him. This is-- its--

 

Patton yanks against the restraints, yanks his head away from the touch, but the Scientist just tuts at him and moves his hand further down the sides of Patton’s head, before cupping Patton’s jaw. The skin on skin contact-- it burns . Patton struggles against it, but the hand follows him wherever he goes.

 

“Your people never understand,” the man says, “Why don’t they understand? This is going to save the human race.” His thumb rubs the soft flesh under Patton’s chin, and Patton squeezes his eyes closed, squeezing back the tears and biting his touch when every muscle in his chest begs him to whimper.

 

This is okay, Patton thinks. Because it’s him and not the French boy, not the russian from the cell across from them, not anyone else. It’s okay, its okay, its okay.

 

This is War.

 

 The thumb rolls a circle over Patton’s pulse, and the scientist peers down at him with a bright smile, something so blinding that Patton can see nearly all of his teeth. “I’ve heard about you-- the smiler. You make my friends very uneasy.”

 

The pad of the thumb presses slightly, and the grin widens when he sees Patton’s heart rate fluttering. “The one before you-- he said that I should be the one on the table.” Patton’s breath freezes in his lungs. “He didn’t know what he was talking about.”

 

The scientist sets down the vial and uses the second hand to go back to curling through Patton’s hair. One hand on his pulse, on hand in his hair, and Patton feels every inch where he’s touching him, every bit where his skin feels like white hot embers, every point where Patton is burning alive on that table.

 

“I didn’t like him, personally.” The man says, smiles in spite of how Patton’s turning to ashes under his handling. “He fought too much, screamed too much. I don’t like it when they scream.” The face comes closer. “You aren’t going to be like him, are you?”

 

Patton’s body seizes, and before he can even think, even register what the hell he’s doing, the bonds are digging against his chest and upper arms as he leans as far forward as he dares and spits right in the scientist’s smug face. 

 

The scientist scrambles back cursing in a foreign tongue and Patton’s flighty enough to revel in the feeling of accomplishment, of winning-- even if he knows there’s really nothing left to win at all. 

 

Because this is War. 

 

And he’s just another face, another shadow, another soldier sent to die. He’s forgettable. And it's a tragedy, just like every other moment of Patton’s life.

 

“Whats left to smile for?” the Brit had asked him once.

 

And Patton’s still spiteful enough to grin as the hands come off his body, as the scientist who knows nothing and care nothing about humanity stumbles away from him, as the ceiling lights flicker, as that vial of blue liquid death is jammed into the IV line that's connected right into Patton’s body.

 

“This should teach you some respect,” The scientist sneers, and Patton watches as the blue drip, drip, drips down the tube, “Mr. Blueskies.” 

 

And Patton’s fury burns hot because that’s, that’s his name. The one he earned by passing the French boy bread and getting beat by the butts of the guard’s guns. It’s his name—it’s his name that got shouted down that hall by every other prisoner, a rallying cry, a war cry, a child’s plea.

 

Its his name and it doesn’t belong in the mouth of a Nazi.

 

Patton burns and burns and burns. And when blue liquid enters his veins, he burns even more.

 

He does not stop burning.