A short fic inspired by something seen on a trip to Belgium. Enjoy!

Dawn

They take him at dawn. Henry turns his mind away from the bare walls and tiny window of the room they just left, searching for some distraction from the man beside him. The tall figure whose expressionless mask into which Henry longs to smash his fist; to break through to the real person beneath. And yet he shies away from this thought, unsure as to what he would find, unsure if now, he really wants to see. Shies away from the man he once called brother.

His steel-capped footsteps ring across the silent corridor, mingled with those of his comrades. He knows he can't hear Jack's though. His boots have already been seized to be put to better use. His mother will be upset – it had taken a long time to find boots of such good quality. And he knows that that won't be the only thing she will be upset about.

The quiet shuffle of socks reminds him home. Of his father on autumn mornings and of his mother darning holes. And of Jack of course. Funny how however far away he thinks it all comes back to him. And this place.

It is dawn but the birds don't sing. He doesn't think he has heard them sing for years. But of course – they sang at home. And though even just a day can seem like a year it has only been a few months since they left. And maybe a few more than that since Jack had left. Leaving him behind until his birthday. Some celebration that had been.

They had used to bake cakes on their birthdays he remembers. Or at least, they had licked the bowls after their mother had baked them. Jack had always scraped the last bits from the bottom while he had been content with a few spoonfuls and then to wait for the cake to bake. That had all changed in the last few months. No-one waited for food – they simply ate what they could get and quickly – however mud covered it might be. It had been Jack who first told him that – who had told him the most about how to survive here. Jack had always looked out for him. He wishes he could do the same but now when it really matters, his mind is blank.

They had fought often as young boys would but not so much as they had grown older. As the fights had grown rarer they had ceased just to be blurred normality and Henry could remember some clearly. They had an argument his first evening here. He could not remember what over only that he had stormed off and that Jack had been angrier with him when he had returned. Fear had been in his brother's eyes, masked by anger – he had always hid it that way. But Henry could not say anything to him about it and so had spent the night comfortless and shaken.

He wishes he could see even that angry scowl on his brother's face now.

His footsteps change tone. They have reached the courtyard. He catches Jack's eye before the blindfold is pulled over the impassive features but words catch and stick in his throat. Only sad betrayal.

The gun rests cold and heavy in his hands. His pleas for forgiveness are drowned by guilt. A countdown. And a shot. He knows that it is Jack who should feel let down, the deserter killed by his own brother. And yet, looking down at the smoking muzzle in his trembling hand; it is he who feels betrayed.

xxx

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