title: what doesn't kill you
characters: winters/nixon, easy company
category: short story
disclaimer: I don't own Band of Brothers. This is entirely fictional and based off the characters as portrayed in the miniseries, not the men themselves. I mean no offense to these men, whom I respect very much.
a/n: This is a multi-part story, written in the first-person POV. Points-of-view rotate with each part, and I'll preface each with who the POV character is. -1-
At the sound of hushed shouting, I climb out of my and Dick's foxhole, poking my head out and feeling nothing short of a gopher on groundhog day. Only it's not my own shadow I'm ready to run from; it's the shadows of mortar shells that might come down on us anytime.
No shells in sight, though; just a handful of soldiers looking pretty damned concerned -- even for soldiers in the middle of this godforsaken war.
"What's going on?"
Lipton's the only one of the four who seems to notice me. He walks over, eyes on the ground. "Have you seen Captain Winters?"
Until now, I hadn't thought that it was possible to get any colder; as it was I couldn't feel my legs, and each time I heard one of the Easy men open fire, I wondered how their fingers even worked enough to pull the trigger. But as he spoke, the frigid air permeated my skin and sank into my stomach, turning it to a ball of solid ice. "No."
Dick hadn't been in our hole when I'd climbed out to check out the commotion, but it hadn't occurred to me to think anything of it. He's never there when I wake up; that's just Dick. The man couldn't sleep past six a.m. if his life depended on it.
"Luz found his helmet in the CP when he went to talk to him this morning," Lipton says quietly, as if there's anyone to hide the news from. I'm probably the only one they ought to hide it from, and the look in the sergeant's eyes says that he's quite aware of that fact. "No body, no blood, no sign of a struggle, but there's an awful lot of footprints in the snow."
That means only one thing and Lipton's smart enough to know what; I can see it in his face. Easy Company's fearless leader, long after he's stopped technically being their leader, has just become a POW.
Lipton looks uneasy but leads me back to where Malarkey and a couple other men, replacements whose names I haven't bothered to learn, are standing, staring at the snow. Dick's helmet is still sitting in the snow, bottom up, and the footprints Lipton talked about are slowly being dusted over with each gust of wind. I finally find my voice. "Well, he wasn't dragged away, at least." I glance at Lipton, hoping for reassurance, but he's looking to me with the same look in his eyes. After a second I remember that I'm supposed to be the senior officer here. None of them know what to do.
I don't know what to do. Dick makes these decisions; it's not in my job description and I like it just fine that way. But he can't very well make plans for his own damn rescue, can he?
I need a drink. Where's the fucking whiskey?
"Call regiment," I finally say. "I'm going to follow these tracks as far as I can without getting myself shot."
It's really an asinine thing to say because there's no possible way to do anything here to stop yourself getting shot, except maybe pray -- and as much as I know it drives Dick crazy, that's not really my thing.
Lipton wants to stop me; I even see him start to reach out toward my arm. But he pulls back just as I step away. I can feel his eyes on me even as I start deeper into the woods.