Brendan Graham had a perfect smile. He was tall and blonde with blue eyes, and he looked like a movie star. Brendan was built like a fighter.
But Brendan wasn't a fighter. Not in the physical way. Jimmy was more of a fighter than he was, but neither of them wanted to be there.
Vietnam wasn't a joke. It wasn't a fight that Brendan or Jimmy would have ever stayed involved in by choice. They wouldn't have gotten involved in the first place... at all.
Jimmy was shorter than Brendan, had dark hair and tan skin, and had an average built.
But Brendan fell in love with him anyway. He hadn't planned on it. Falling in love was the last thing on his mind when he'd gotten his draft letter. He was 19 year old, and had hardly even had time to accept the fact that he liked men, when everybody was telling him he was supposed to like women. He had gone through everything typical of a coming out story - telling his parents, telling his friends, and figuring out where religion and God fit into everything.
He didn't fall for Jimmy at first sight. Actually, he probably did, but he didn't believe in love at first site. Lust at first sight, sure. But he didn't love Jimmy until he saw the look on his face when General Andrews shot the little vietnamese girl who screamed for her Mother and wouldn't stop.
It wasn't the horror that a lot of the other men felt. It wasn't the regret.
It was his pain. It wasn't that Brendan was a sadist or the pain made him feel good... But that pain and hurt allowed Brendan to see a part of Jimmy that people usually shut off. Looking around at the faces the moment that that shot was fired allowed you see exactly what kind of person each individual was.
Jimmy was tormented. Absolutely torn apart by the brutal murder of that little girl... And it was then that Brendan knew Jimmy was the kind of person nobody could go without loving.
But Jimmy wasn't supposed to be Jimmy to Brendan, he was James R. Tanner.
And he barely knew who Brendan was. And he had a girlfriend back at home. And if Brendan ever said anything to him, he would be discharged on suspicions of homosexuality.
It didn't sound like such a bad thing, since Brendan didn't want to fight anyway. But he didn't want to leave and go home for such a stupid and ignorant-based reason.
He would never let them win. Although, in a way, they'd already won by getting him to Vietnam in the first place. Damned if you do. Damned if you don't.
Damned so much more if you don't.
He had to say something to Jimmy... No matter what happened. He swore he would tell him someday, before this war killed them both.
Standing behind General Andrews in the cockpit of the plane, Brendan watched the man he loathed so much pilot the aircraft over a small village of people.
"Fire at them." General Andrews ordered, preparing to swoop the plane to ridiculously low heights.
"You're crazy. Bullets aren't going to do much from a plane. Besides... It's just a village. Theses people don't have anything to do with -"
General Andrews cut him off, "Son, I said fire. Don't question an order."
The plane was nearing the village, and it was flying as low as the treetops. Firing a semiautomatic from a compartment on the left side of the plane, Brendan aimed away from the houses and people and towards the trees.
Instantly, people started running around in circles like mice in a medical experiment.
"Fire at them!" Officer Andrews ordered. "I know you can hit targets. Your aim is amazing. Stop fucking around, kid. This is serious."
Taking the gun back again and firing round after round, still trying not to him any of the people, Brendan suddenly felt the shock of the ground underneath him shaking. He was thrown to the floor suddenly, hitting his tale bone hard of the cold floor. The walls around him shook. The plane wasn't flying straight, it had been hit by something. Brushing the tops of a line of trees, General Andrews was able to get the plane to come back to a normal flight pattern.
It felt like hours before they reached the base. The plane ruptured and shook throughout the entire ride. Brendan had never felt so afraid for his life before.
"That was completely uncalled for," Brendan told General Andrews. "You're going to get us fucking killed."
"Under my orders, if death happens, it happens. If you don't follow my orders, the shit is worse."
"I don't think many of your orders are even things you're allowed to make decisions on," Brendan told him as they landed roughly on the base.
"Just give me a reason, Graham. Just give me one fucking reason and I'll have your ass so quick you won't know what hit you," General Andrews threatened, in more of a warning voice than an angry one. Almost like he didn't really want to do it.
Brendan exited the plane as quickly as it had made it's harsh and almost violent landing. Walking out into the base where the old soldiers were wandering, he looked around for familiar faces. A new fleet of men had come in that morning, and Brendan hadn't had a chance to meet any of them yet.
Without saying anything to General Andrews as he left, Brendan headed towards the cafeteria. Standing in line to get a meal, although he figured he was too sick from the rocky ride to eat it anyway. He spotted Jimmy sitting at one of the tables completely alone, and his stomach dropped.
I could have died today, Brendan realized with a pant. I could die at any moment.
"I've got to tell him," Brendan mumbled under his breath as he headed towards the seat across from Jimmy.
"Hey," Jimmy looked up and greeted Brendan. He didn't look thrilled to see him, but he offered a handshake. "I'm James Tanner."
Brendon smiled and shook his hand as he took the seat. "I know you. I'm Brendon Graham. I actually came over here... to tell you something. Only... it's kind of private. We should go... somewhere else."