(2005) No infringement upon the rightful owners of “Combat!”, and the characters thereof, is intended. This piece of fan fiction is for enjoyment only, and in no way will the author gain monetary profit from its existence.
Author's Note: This story is a response to the 8-5-05 fanfic challenge to write about the squad's reactions to the news that the war in Europe has ended.
by White Queen
For three days the American troops tried to clear that town. They thought there couldn't be too many Germans left in it, not after the hordes that had run out to surrender when the Allies first reached the town. But three days later, Nazi soldiers still hid among the ruins, trying to take out as many GIs as they could before their individual ends came.
Sgt. Saunders and his squad had fared better than the rest of Lt. Hanley's platoon. Better than most of King Company, actually. As usual, the core of this squad remained alive and intact long after so many others had fallen. Until the third day, that is. That abandoned café had seemed empty, but inside death lurked in the form of a cleverly hidden Nazi with a Schmeisser.
Caje had sent a bullet through their attacker's head, but not before the Kraut had managed to wound all five of them with his first spray of bullets. So now here they sat, on the edge of some town they'd forgotten the name of, waiting.
Doc fussed over their wounds, checking and rechecking their bandages. He'd been two buildings away when they'd been attacked, working on some other soldiers. Doc had been busy those three days too, patching up men all over the platoon. And always returning to Saunders' squad when he wasn't needed elsewhere. The other squads had long ago accepted that they could count on Doc to treat their wounds gently and efficiently. But he didn't befriend them. And he always rejoined First Squad. It was as if he could only care about a few people at a time in this big thing called war, and he'd chosen those few. So far there were no vacancies on his friendship list.
Lt. Hanley had told them to wait here. "Wait for an ambulance or a truck to take you back. The rest of us are pushing on to the next town, now that this one's clear." Twenty minutes later, Hanley was back. Two soldiers carried him on a stretcher, and they tried not to jostle him too much as they set him down by Doc. For all their care, Lt. Hanley still let out a gasp, which he tried to turn into a chuckle. "Decided not to leave you here after all."
Saunders smiled as Doc carefully loosened Hanley's boot and slid it off his wounded foot. "You've earned yourself a rest, just like us." He pulled out the inevitable crumpled pack of cigarettes, lit one, and handed it to Hanley. He hoped it would distract the lieutenant enough so he wouldn't look down at his foot until Doc had finished.
Doc carefully removed the blood-soaked sock and tried to clean as much blood away from the area as he could. He looked up at Saunders and frowned. The sergeant caught his glance and nodded. The look clearly said he needed to distract Hanley a little longer.
"So what happened?" he asked casually. "I thought this town was clear."
Hanley grunted. "It is now. There was some creep hiding under the bridge on the way out of town. Popped his head up and before we could stop him, took three shots at my jeep. Only one did any damage."
"Well," Saunders grinned, "you picked a nice spring day to get shot." He lit a cigarette for himself, and gestured around the area with it. "No snow, no wind, not even that much mud. A guy couldn't ask for a nicer day to get shot on."
Hanley nodded. "Hey Doc, how's my foot?" he asked, trying to remain casual.
"Too far from your heart to hurt ya." Doc smiled as he secured the bandage.
"I don't believe that for a minute -- that foot hurts like the devil." Hanley took a drag on his cigarette. "Tell me the truth Doc."
Doc sighed. "Okay, here's the truth: you lost your little toe. I've stopped the bleeding, but the toe's gone."
Hanley took the news as calmly as could be expected. "Oh," he said. Then he added, "Just the little toe?"
"Yeah." Doc rummaged in his pack and pulled out an ampoule of morphine. "Want this for the pain?"
Lt. Hanley shook his head. "Not yet. I'll let you know if I do."
"Okay." Doc put the morphine back in his pack. "How about some aspirin for now?"
"That'd be great."
Doc moved over and knelt by Hanley's head. He helped the lieutenant sit up a little so he could take two little white tablets with a few sips from his canteen. "Thanks, Doc," Hanley acknowledged. "As long as it's just the little toe, I'll still be able to walk."
"Yup." Doc eased Hanley's shoulders back onto the ground. "Lucky you."
"Yeah, lucky me."
"Lucky all of us," Kirby added. None of the squad's wounds were very serious, just enough to keep them out of action until they got patched up a little more. Littlejohn took a round in the shoulder, which passed right through and on out into the wall behind him. Billy only had a slight graze, practically a scratch, across his left calf. Didn't go deep enough to sever any muscles, although he wouldn't be able to walk far for a while, at least not very quickly. Kirby had a leg wound too, and Doc worried a little at first because he couldn't find an exit wound. But Kirby revealed he hadn't actually been shot -- a splinter from a chair the Schmeisser hit had stabbed him, but he'd pulled it out and clamped a bandage on it. Caje was nicked on the side -- he'd bled the most. And a bullet had furrowed Saunders' right hand from the wrist to his index finger.
Doc nodded his agreement with Kirby. "You've got that right--this whole squad's getting a couple days to rest up and heal, if I have anything to say about it."
"Well, I'd say it's about time!" Kirby scratched around the bandage on his thigh. "You know how long it's been since we had any kind of break at all?"
"Yeah, Kirby, we know." Caje rolled his eyes. "We've all been right here too, remember."
The rumble of a truck in the distance drew their attention. "Hey, maybe it's a truck to take us back to the aid station," Billy hoped.
The truck barreled into view, and stopped when the driver saw the soldiers. "It's over!" he whooped, leaping from his truck. "It's over!"
"What's over, soldier?" Hanley snapped, the aspirin doing very little to ease the throbbing in his foot.
The driver stopped and saluted. "The war, sir! Germany has surrendered!"
Saunders slowly stood up. "Are you serious? Is this a joke?" he demanded.
"No, it's no joke!" The driver grinned. "They just announced it back at company HQ. Germany has surrendered!" He ran back to his truck, opened the passenger-side door, and pulled out seven glass bottles. "Here, my treat, guys. I've gotta catch up with the rest of the company and spread the news." He handed each of them a lukewarm bottle of Coca-Cola, then ran back to his truck, jumped inside, and roared off into the town.
They looked at each other, at the bottles in their hands, at the day around them. Things suddenly seemed brighter, cleaner. "It's over," breathed Littlejohn, reverently.
Kirby leaped to his feet, leg wound suddenly not hurting as much as he'd previously complained. "Yippeeeeee!" he crowed. "The war's over! It's finally over!"
Caje jumped up too, and threw his beret in the air. "Louisiana, here I come!"
Billy grinned. "Wow, wow, wow," he said over and over.
Hanley closed his eyes. "I think I'll take that morphine now, Doc."
Doc grinned. "Okay, Lieutenant, you got it."
Sgt. Saunders looked around at the wounded men rejoicing so jubilantly. "So the war is over," he said so quietly that no one really heard him. "Not a moment too soon." And he smiled.