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Sing Another Charlie Boy

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“C’mon Charlie boy, sing us another,” Jaques encourages, smile tired and battered, but still bright.

Charlie flushes and ducks his head under the scrutiny of the men, the Captain’s gaze heaviest of all.

He loves his captain, as all the Commandos do, even more for the fact that he’d freed Charlie, along with the rest of the 101st Airbone that had been held captive with the 107th.

He’d been sure he’d die; he’d parachuted in along with the other Screaming Eagles, but the Germans had known somehow that they were coming and he’d watched in horror as the 101st had either been shot from the sky or hunted and killed on the ground.

He’d been unlucky enough to be taken captive, a third, horrible option in war, as he’d found.

He’d been forced to work on some terrifying project under the watchful gazes of brutal men with a penchant for violence, tortured for information and experimented on.

He’d been resigned to his death when a man in a blue and white uniform had broken into the facility and freed him and everyone else in it.

Steve Rogers.

A Brooklyn boy just like Charlie.

Irish too, though his accent was more Brooklyn than Galway.

He looks up and across the fire to where Sargent Barnes and Captain Rogers sit shoulder to shoulder, eyes haunted in that way all their eyes are now.

War isn’t hell, hell is hell and war is war and he’s goddamn tired of it.

“Yea c’mon Charlie, sing us something!”

A few others take up the call and the Captain gives him an encouraging nod, so he takes another long sip of whiskey to wet his whistle before clearing his throat and starting.

 

While goin' the road to sweet Athy, hurroo, hurroo

While goin' the road to sweet Athy, hurroo, hurroo

While goin' the road to sweet Athy,

A stick in me hand and a drop in me eye,

A doleful damsel I heard cry,

Johnny I hardly knew ye.

 

The Captain’s voice is low and deep when he joins, starling him for a moment before he breathes steadily and continues.

 

With your guns and drums and drums and guns, hurroo, hurroo

With your guns and drums and drums and guns, hurroo, hurroo

With your guns and drums and drums and guns,

The enemy nearly slew ye

Oh my darling dear, Ye look so queer

Johnny I hardly knew ye.

 

The Sarge joins in next, voice melodic and warm, eyes burning brightly, lips cracked and dry as he stares into the fire, hand clutching tightly at the Captain’s.

 

Where are the eyes that were so mild, hurroo, hurroo

Where are the eyes that were so mild, hurroo, hurroo

Where are the eyes that were so mild,

When my heart you so beguiled

Why did ye sci-daddle from me and the child

Oh Johnny, I hardly knew ye

 

A few of the men tap out a beat with their boots, the snow on the ground crunching under foot.

 

Where are the legs with which you run, hurroo, hurroo

Where are the legs with which you run, hurroo, hurroo

Where are the legs with which you run,

When first you went to carry a gun

Indeed your dancing days are done

Oh Johnny, I hardly knew ye

 

Dum Dum joins too, baritone deep and strong, ruddy cheeks flushed as he nods along, tears on his face.

 

Ye haven't an arm, ye haven't a leg, hurroo, hurroo

Ye haven't an arm, ye haven't a leg, hurroo, hurroo

Ye haven't an arm, ye haven't a leg,

Ye're an armless, boneless, chickenless egg

Ye'll have to put with a bowl out to beg

Oh Johnny I hardly knew ye

 

Jaques pulls out a harmonica and picks up the tune, notes light and in perfect harmony with their voices.

 

I'm happy for to see ye home, hurroo, hurroo

I'm happy for to see ye home, hurroo, hurroo

I'm happy for to see ye home,

All from the island of Ceylon;

So low in the flesh, so high in the bone

Oh Johnny I hardly knew ye

 

Charlie inhales deeply and puts his all into it, tears on his own cheeks as he sings and thinks of the pretty redhead waiting back in Brooklyn for him, heavy with their first child.

A girl, he hopes, as fiery as her mam.

 

With your guns and drums and drums and guns, hurroo, hurroo

With your guns and drums and drums and guns, hurroo, hurroo

With your guns and drums and drums and guns,

The enemy nearly slew ye

Oh my darling dear, Ye look so queer

Johnny I hardly knew ye.

 

Their voices grow softer at the final lines, the air around them so still Charlie can hear the wind in the trees and the crackling of ice.

It smells like a snowstorm is comin’.

 

The enemy never slew ye

Oh, my darling dear you look so queer

 

His voice is hoarse by the time he finishes, and he inhales shakily, sure that if he closes his eyes he’ll be able to see the rolling hills of Gallway once more.

Swallowing hard, he looks up and feels his heart break at the sight of the men weeping, silent and stoic, worn and dirty faces streaked with tears.

The Captain smiles at him despite the tears on his face.

“Made Brooklyn and Gallway proud Charlie boy,” he murmurs, hand still clutching tightly to the Sarge’s.

They sit in mournful silence as dusk falls, watching the fire crackle.

Alone, but together.

Brothers in arms.

 


 

The Captain stands in front of the memorial marker for New York, heart heavy in his chest as he stares at the mountain of stone that bears nothing more than the name of the state.

So many...

So very many gave everything to stop Hitler.

He remembers one who nearly gave it all, Charlie Campbell. A Brooklyn boy like Steve and Bucky.

A good man.

Tony’s hand in his squeezes tighter and he’s grateful to have him here.

The memorial is quiet; it’s dark out and the only light is from those that illuminate the memorials.

He squeezes back and clears his throat.

Starts singing

 

While goin' the road to sweet Athy, hurroo, hurroo

While goin' the road to sweet Athy, hurroo, hurroo

While goin' the road to sweet Athy,

A stick in me hand and a drop in me eye,

A doleful damsel I heard cry,

Johnny I hardly knew ye...