Squadron Leader Reed Cassidy is not a cruel man. He's unfeeling, yeah, and snarky. And hurting--but he's not cruel. He has however long since given up on this goddamn war. He wishes to God almighty that he can have the strength to actually show he's given up, that he doesn't care, by leaving this place. The planes. The pilots.
He can't though. He should. But he just can't.
Cassidy devotes his life to training boys who have a straight-forward death wish. To become aces, or (more often than not) to die in the process. It gives him something to grasp, to fight for. It's pathetic but he needs...a shoulder to lean on sometimes.
Sometimes he doesn't want to be in charge anymore.
Or more often than that, he really would like to be dead.
The newest batch of boys: what's he supposed to make of them? Young, fresh-faced, hopeful. Like they're actually going to make a difference. It makes him want to smile bitterly. Oh, they'll learn soon enough--either by a bullet so fast in the face that they don't even know they're dead, or being the one who just happened to be facing the direction of his friend when he...when it happens.
They'll learn. Some of them will. Others won't even have time to.
Stupidly, as soon as Cassidy looks at them, he feels like he knows them. He's reminded of another brave, stupid, wonderful group of guys--the ones who were with him originally when he first came to pilot.
Eddie Beagle is a lot like how his buddy Ronny used to be. Ron was a bit of a wisecracker, with all of his goddamn freckles and that sly grin of his. He had a bony face like Beagle too. Ronny had been the one who had found the whore house with him. Oh how their own squadron leader had been pissed at them! When Jensen came and told Cassidy how Rawlings and Beagle happened to 'crash' at the brothel--he almost burst out laughing right then and there. The memories.
Jensen, on the other hand, reminded Cassidy immediately of his friend Jamie. They both had this thoughtfulness about them. Cautious, intelligent. Jamie was maybe more introverted than him, or Ronny, or any of the other boys. But hell he could certainly hold his own when he had to too.
In a dog fight though? He had tried. He had tried so hard. All of them had.
The black checkered plane took both of them down in the end. Them, and so many others.
All of Reed Cassidy's friends are dead.
Right now Cassidy lays in his office reading the newspaper. It's a rare short amount of downtime for the boys. His pet lion Whiskey rests its huge head on his knee. He wants a real glass of whiskey too, dammit. Outside, the others are talking. Beagle is laughing, and some others speak in tense, somber tones--Jensen and Lowry for sure. It's the night before their first fight.
He knows they're scared. They should be.
Rawlings says something to Jensen, and then to Nunn, the gangly black-haired kid they're sitting next to. Cassidy's lips twitch slightly; Whiskey yawns lazily, scary to everyone else but himself.
They think Rawlings is a troublemaker. Here's what Cassidy sees.
He sees only another boy, but soon to be a man like the rest of them. He sees someone itching to get his hands in the war, on the very controls of a plane. He sees a scrawny, smart-mouth kid desperate to get out of there, to prove himself--to make a difference.
Beagle and Jensen are copies of two dead boys from the sky.
Rawlings? He's the ghost of a lost soul too. Cassidy himself. He sees himself in the young Texan.
"Rawlings." he grunts finally, putting the newspaper to the side. He moves, and Whiskey shifts off his lap as well. Cassidy then pauses sort of hesitantly in the doorway. "I want a word with you."