March 22, 1968
‘He must have been a P.O.W.’
That was Dave’s first thoughts when examining the man in front of him.
His hair was sweaty and messy, his face was pale and drawn, red rings and black circles marred his eyes while cuts and bruises marred his temples. A red band made its way around his neck. His chest was bare and thin as long deep cuts bled heavily down his damp collarbones. He wasn’t wearing clothes or shoes, just a scrap of fabric wrapped loosely around his waist, too dirty to be considered white anymore.
The next thing he noticed was how confused he was. Then he noticed how green his eyes were.
He had to blink a few times to right himself, still dizzy with sleep. He didn’t know who the man was or where he came from, but he did know that they needed to get to a medical tent before the man collapsed or fell victim to infection. He sat up straighter and was about to say something to the man when the bombs started falling outside.
Suddenly everyone was awake and he was jamming his feet into the ill-fitting boots stationed next to his bed. A helmet was placed on his head, and when he next looked over, someone was forcing the stranger into a pair of ill fitting pants, jamming a helmet onto his still bleeding head. Dave winced at the harsh treatment, but there was no time for any questions. His gun was in hand and the next thing he knew, they were fighting on the front lines.
After the fight, they were jammed on a bus. Groans were stifled as men threw themselves down on the brown, leathery seats that stuck to any bare skin and provided little cushion to their tired, aching bodies. However, Dave could argue that any moment of reprieve, any moment of rest, was better than none at all. So he happily plopped down in his seat and shut his eyes as he forced his muscles to relax.
He opened his eyes at the frantic whispering coming from behind him. He craned his neck and winced as the muscle pulled, but wasn’t sorry as he was met with the man who he had seen hours prior. He did not look any better.
His eyes were wild, shocked. The bleeding from his wounds had stopped but he was still caked in his own blood, though it was now joined by a copious amount of mud--no doubt causing an infection.
“So, uh, you just get into the country?” He had no doubt that his mouth wanted to kill him, obviously he was not alright. What kind of question was that anyway? He was frankly disappointed in himself.
“Oh, uh… yeah?” The man grinned, his eyes squinting.
“Yeah, shit’s crazy…” They both smiled, but Dave felt as though the other man were just humoring him and his terrible points of conversation.
“You’ll adjust” The other man attempted to nod, but winced and just smiled instead. Dave felt his heart clench, he hoped to get to the next base soon so he could escort the man into the medic tent.
Speaking of which, he couldn’t keep referring to the guy as “the man” or “the P.O.W” in his head--it was disrespectful.
“I’m Dave” He held out his hand.
“Klaus” The man placed his own hand in his. Dave could feel how boney and calloused Klaus’ hands were, just how thin the skin seemed. He grew even more worried. How long had Klaus been captured?
The conversation petered off, Dave silently worrying, and Klaus spacing off and mumbling under his breath. Dave figured it might have been something he had started to cope with being a prisoner of war. He had met a couple in passing, and they always had a quirk they explained away with their time behind enemy lines. He wouldn't begrudge them of their oddities. He doubts he would have the strength to survive, let alone make it back.
March 23, 1968
Dave had escorted Klaus to the medic as soon as the bus rolled to a stop at their next camp.
In the daylight, and without the fatigues, Klaus looked even worse than he did the first time Dave saw him. The medic, obviously someone just shipped in, winced as he cut away the shirt sticking to the bloody wounds on his skinny chest. And he really was skinny. Dave could count his ribs and spine from behind Klaus’ back, which wasn’t a good indication of a healthy weight.
“So, how long?” The medic asked and Klaus winced.
“Yeah, how long were you captured?” Another wince, though Dave couldn’t tell if it was from the line of questioning or the stitches closing the gaping wounds on his thin chest.
“I don’t- I don’t remember.”
“That’s fine, not a lot do. Do you know the date?” A shake of the head was his response.
“March 23, 1968.” A rattling inhale.
Dave felt sorry, Klaus must have been captured for far longer than he realized. He wanted to comfort the other man. But all he could do was stand there and watch as the seemingly small man grew smaller in his seat.
“Where are your tags? Paperwork? I need to file this.”
“Oh, um, I don’t know, taken, or lost… Destroyed somewhere.” There was a long pause, “The, uhh, the camp was, uh, burned down when they captured us-me.” The medic clicked his tongue, sucked on his teeth, and then stood up from where he was kneeling and stitching.
“Looks like we’ll have to file some new paperwork. That will be bothersome.” Klaus winced again and Dave grew angry at the insensitive, inexperienced doctor.
The doctor turned to Dave and made a shooing motion.
“You can leave now, you escorted him here, your job is done.”
“Actually, can he…can he stay?” The doctor stared at Klaus, then turned back to Dave, then sighed and looked affronted.
“I guess, but the questions I need to ask to fill out your paperwork will be personal. Are you sure?” He got a nod in response. The doctor sighed again before walking to the far end of the tent and rooting around before coming back with a pen and a clipboard.
“Any family members?”
“None.” “Any allergies?”
“I need a medical history.”
“Let’s see, um. I’ve gotten pneumonia, bronchitis, a broken jaw. Broken my left and right arm 4 and 5 times, respectively. Almost died of scarlet fever…” Klaus looked down, brow furrowed in thought as the doctor and Dave stared at him in horror and despair. “I’ve been stabbed and shot, and before coming here, I um, I was, uh, homeless.”
That got both of their attention, but no one dared say anything. The doctor resumed writing down the answers and looked back up.
“Do you have any next of kin? They need someone on record in case you die.” Dave and Klaus both jumped at the callous question.
“No, no next of kin.”
“October 1, 19...38.”
“When was the last time you got the tetanus toxoid vaccine?”
“I was seventeen so, hmm, 19...55?”
“Social Security Number?”
“Don’t think I have one, I was an abandoned orphan.”
Dave’s heart pumped painfully in his chest, he wanted to wrap Klaus up and protect him. Take him away from the front lines and back home to his family in Missouri.
“That’s gonna be a problem… hmm, religious affiliation?”
“Alright, we should be done. Wait here for a couple of days so we can catch any infection. Your new dog tags should be ready by then”
The doctor left and Klaus pat the spot on the cot next to him, silently asking for him to sit down.
He sat quietly and pat Klaus’ knee in an attempt to show the other man that he did care for him, no matter how soon it was they had just met, nevermind they didn’t know each other that well (Dave’s mind graciously supplied him with the fact that Klaus asked him to stay for the intensely personal questioning, and that he did know more about Klaus now).
“So, Dave, now that you know me so well, I think it only right I know more about you.”
Dave looked over and saw Klaus grinning and swore he would keep that grin on that beautiful face.
April 7, 1968
Klaus ended up staying in the medical tent for one week. The people who had imprisoned him had also drugged him and he was currently going through withdrawals. On top of that, his untreated concussion and swollen larynx proved more problematic than aforethought. His breaths had grown wheezy and a fever developed alongside dizziness and nausea. Infection had set in and Dave grew worried.
Monsoon season had just begun and everything was flooded. They weren’t well supplied enough to take care of any injury or malady--not to mention that asshole of a doctor was still in residence, seldom coming by Klaus’ cot. Dave stayed instead, using what instincts he had regarding medical treatment to care for his new friend.
When the week came to a close and Klaus was now better, a low ranking officer swung by and delivered Klaus his new dog tags.
O NEG SSN:N/A
Dave thought it was rather underhanded to assign him a religion when Klaus had before stated he was not religious. Dave would have raised a fuss if someone had written anything other than Jewish on his tags.
He helps Klaus sit up and puts the dog tags around the other man’s neck and tries to misunderstand the meaningful look they share.