He finished the last button and already the back of his shirt was soaked. It was too hot but full uniform was required. His orders had come down the day before, his supplies restocked like a new recruit and he hated every minute of it. The glare he directed at his boot failed to dull their shine even a single iota.
Taking one last look around the room, he verified all items had been packed and reached for the duffel at his feet. It wasn't as heavy as the one he carried from basic, but pretty damn near close. The need to ditch what he knew was wasted in the jungle, he stifled. He'd be able to trade bits and pieces once he got to his new unit.
New unit. His brows deepened and he felt ready to bite someone's head off if they so much as said a word. His old platoon was too far north to be reunited with them and he'd gotten reassigned while on convalescence. For the first time in fifteen years, Duo wasn't going to be a stone's throw away.
Quatre made his way to the helicopter pad and showed his orders to the clerk there. He was directed to one of the waiting Hueys. Crossing the flattened earth, he looked the gunship over, watched the activity around it. This bird or one like it, was to be his new home. A gunman. Being transferred from infantry to air cav was an unusual change.
As he reached its doors, the pilot stopped him with a hand out for his orders. A quick read and a smile, the captain jerked his thumb over his shoulder. "Stow your gear, and climb aboard. We're taken off as soon as you settle." Quatre nodded and reached for the lift bar. "Get Trowa to show you around in-flight. We'll have time."
He cast a frown in the captain's direction, one foot on the runner next to a launcher and an M60. Trowa. He hauled himself upward, and found space for his gear in the already crowded bay. Quatre worked his helmet out, and crouched down, wondering what next.
"Right gunner," a quiet voice told him. Quatre spotted a glint of sun off a pair of aviators and a uniform hoisted its way into the Huey. Suddenly a hand was in his face. "Trowa Barton," the man stated in that same quiet voice.
"Quatre Winner," he responded automatically. As his hand was dropped, the looked between the two mounted guns. "Right gunner?"
Trowa jerked his chin to the right side. "Our last gunner rotated out. You're his replacement." He gave a brief smile before leaning out the left side doorway. "Ready to fire up, Captain."
Ducking back inside, Trowa pointed out some of the indicator lights. "When we're on the ground, keep half an eye on these. Green means good, yellow caution." He tapped the red glass casing and grinned. "Red means get the fuck out."
Quatre gave a short laugh and caught the headset tossed at him.
"Wear this in flight. Once the motor runs, you won't hear shit without shouting." Quatre nodded and hung them around his neck like Trowa had done. The lanky man peeled off his shirt, leaving his tee-shirt on, and tucked both it and his sunglasses away. At Quatre's look, he tapped the pocket. "Don't wear sunglasses in the field. The gooks'll aim at the reflection."
Again, Quatre nodded. The back of his head was beginning to ache and he raised a hand to touch the scar. It'd been over month, but the pain still lingered. Trowa had settled on the floor with his back against the pilot's seat, and Quatre heard the Huey's engines whine and ignite. The twamping sound of the blades nearly had his head spinning, but Trowa caught his attention and motioned for his headset.
"You get used to it," Trowa's voice came from the headphones, the rotor and engine noise both muffled and not.
Quatre nodded, beginning to feel like a novelty dog sitting in the back window of someone's car. He removed his shirt, the newness and starch was making his skin itch anyway, and shoved it into his duffel. Taking a seat opposite Trowa, but on the other side of the ship from him, Quatre waited for additional communication. And it did.
Three hours in country, and Trowa told him about the Huey they rode in, the Huey he’d all but live in for the remain of his stay. Trowa told him about the guns he’d be using; told him how to cool one down without locking it up, how to aim for the maximum casualties, and how to keep friendly fire to a minimum. There were little tricks he’d learned, ones like sitting on his helmet under fire, using a blousing strap to hold a clip open.
When he was on the ground looking up, he’d thought those who flew had it easy. No hoofing it through the rice fields or jungles. No fighting mosquitoes and snakes. But his head ached and the muscles in his arms hurt more than the worst day of marching ever had. It was coming on twilight as their bird came in for a landing.
Another hour assisting in the unloading, before Trowa showed him where they bunked. With a silent apology to his new “partner”, Quatre stowed his duffel under the cot and rolled into bed without removing his boots. Not even a day had passed since his release from the hospital. He wondered what Duo was doing, where they were.
Quatre shot a look in Trowa’s direction. The soldier was sitting on his bed, reading. Somewhere in camp, someone played a radio – a DoD station out of Saigon. He could hear voices calling to one another, familiar noises of a large camp full of GIs settling in for the night. If he squinted just right, he could believe he was back at the old base camp, and Sgt Yuy would come visit the barracks tent on rounds. Duo would harass the sergeant, dragging him into whatever ploy he attempted.
It was the same, if the people were slightly different. His eyes closed against the light, and he recited his list of names again.