Then a crushing weight. Time seemed to slow in this final moment as his hands and body moved of their own accord.
He felt the air squeeze out of his lungs, the sudden pain of being crushed, and it all went black.
“Medic on standby!”
“We need backup, focus your fire!”
He no longer heard any of the noises on the field.
He stirred, as he tried to raise himself again. He rests, in a sea of nothingness.
“Ugh.” His head was groggy. His body was heavy, and he barely feel his limbs. He could not come to his senses. He was conscious, but barely so, feeling like he had been heavily sedated.
In the blur of his vision, he felt light.
“Ace? Is it… is it you again?”
He could feel warmth approaching, and a familiar grip, gentle, but firm had pulled him by the hand and sat him up.
“I… I stuffed up again, didn’t I?”
“It wasn’t your fault.” The voice was distant, and omnidirectional. But it was a voice he heard often in his dreams. The ones he has at night, when he wishes it was clear was day, and the ones he has now.
“You got rushed. You had no chance.”
“Do I... do I get to be with you now?”
“Captain.” The voice went quiet for a long time.
“Ace… you can’t keep intervening… it isn’t right…”
“I still worry about you. I don’t know where you are. I don’t know what you had to give up to do this.”
Chris sighed. Trying to remember what he had so often resolved to say the next time he was to meet Him again. Yet all those resolutions faded away. The words went away. How could he say anything, when all He did was help him, again and again?
“Piers. I’d made peace long ago. You knew that. There’s nothing I can’t let go of anymore. Ever since… ever since… you let go…”
He felt the inside of his nose clog up.
“Believe me. I don’t have a death wish. But I do want to see you again. Be with you again…. If there is a way. If I might end up where you are. I mean who am I kidding. You are you, and I am I. Is that right Ace? I know you probably can’t tell me…. Or I will forget it all again when I wake up.”
“You know I miss you, every day. Every mission. I know you can hear me when I talk to you.”
The being stayed silent, but He held Chris in his arms. The way he used to.
Chris treasured every second as they embraced. He could always say so much with a touch. He let the silent tear roll down his cheek. It is always so good to be with him again. But even worse, it to know that it only lasts this moment, and he will wake up. Alone.
“Medic on standby!”
With his senses, Chris felt his strength return to him. But it wasn’t just his strength. He could feel the rush of warmth from His arms, the fire in his chest.
“I’m... I’m alright. Get this thing off me!”
“You’re, you’re bleeding Captain!”
When the team finally got the foe from Chris, they could see that it was not him who was bleeding, to their great relief. Rather Chris had gripped his knife in both hands and the beast had impaled itself upon it in his final moment.
“Are you OK Captain?”
“Nothing to worry about kids. Just uh... had the wind knocked out of me… cough cough…”
“May… Maybe a few broken ribs…” Chris grimaced. The pain was very real.
“We thought you’d be goners for sure!”
“Shut it rookie! Captain always pull through. You should learn from him.”
Somehow he always ended up with the starry eyed rookies. And LTs who held him in reverent defence.
“Uh… do as I say kids… not as I do.” Chris sighed.
He put his hand over his breast pocket, and sure enough, he can feel the warmth emanating from the old blood-stained patch. He closed his eyes as the team loaded him on a stretcher and said a silent prayer.
You may be on the other side, Ace, but I know we’re still a team, and I know you’re still out there with me. I miss you fiercely, but thanks for saving my butt out there again.
And I still love you, Piers.