At that minute, Ryan noticed a rifle barrel to his left. "What the fuck, Davey? Stay down!"

"We...need...eyes....on....the ...enemy ...." David struggled to say.

The crawling man stopped moving and pulled something up from his side.

"Fucking RPG!" Ryan yelled. He took his shot and the man dropped like a stone.

"Nice...shooting...man..." said David.

Ryan turned back to his friend. "We got this covered, Davey. Stay down."

He fished around in his top pocket before pulling out his morphine. He pulled the top off with his teeth and spat it out. "Here," he said as he stabbed his friend with a shot of morphine. "This should relax you."

Ryan knew it was dangerous to give morphine to his friend, as he had breathing difficulties, but it was the only option he had if he wanted to keep alive.

Davey looked back at him. "Dude, not your morphine."

Ryan patted him on the shoulder. "If a bullet to the chest doesn't warrant pain relief, what does?"

Another burst of gunfire came from the building opposite.

"Fuck, I'm hit!" Chris groaned. He moved back, taking refuge in the ditch.

Ryan looked at his friend's shoulder. "Graze wound, dude. I think you'll be okay."

Chris got out a field dressing and stuffed it in the rip left by the bullet. "Fuck, this man. We're going. Now!" He grabbed David and tried to lift him. "Fuck! My arm is useless with this cut."

Ryan glanced around. "I don't know how many are out there, dude. This is so fucked up."

Chris looked back the way they came. "I can get back to HQ, Ryan. They should be less than a Kilometer back on Route Blue. I'll bring help." He passed Ryan his last three grenades and a full magazine, then turned to David, his best friend. "I'll be ten minutes, dude. Hold on."

"Chris, man. Stay put," Ryan said, trying to convince his friend to stay. "Our team will be here soon. They know our whereabouts. Stay together. Leave no-one behind, yeah?"

Chris wasn't listening. "It's okay, Ryan. I know what I'm doing. Look after Davey for me; he's all I've got. Promise me you won't let anything happen to him."

Ryan sighed; he knew there was no arguing with Chris once he put his mind to something. "I promise."

Chris nodded his thanks. "Put some covering fire down on three. Okay? One... Two... Three."

Before Ryan could comprehend what was happening, Chris ran from the ditch, back down the way they came. Ryan watched as he zigzagged down the bombed out streets, then he was gone.

David sat half propped against the side of the ditch. "Where'd Chris go, Ryan?"

Ryan scanned above the ditch. "He went to get help, dude."

David tried to sit up further. "Here, Ryan, help me up. I can still shoot."

Having no choice, Ryan pushed his friend up the side of the ditch and cocked his rifle for him. "Anything moves, you shoot it, okay?"

David nodded. "Got it, man. Anything that moves."

Ryan moved to the other side of the ditch. "And keep talking to me, okay?"

"Yeah, okay," his friend replied.

The two young men sat and waited for the enemy troops to attack. Suddenly, there was chaos, as all hell broke loose. The first explosion was about one hundred meters away. The second was eighty. Ryan watched for the third. It landed fifty meters away.

"Fuck, they're testing and adjusting their mortars." The fourth was thirty meters away, showering the two soldiers with falling debris. "We gotta go, Davey Boy."

Ryan pulled David back from the ditch and put David's arm around his neck. "Try to help me, dude," Ryan shouted. David nodded as they awkwardly, ran off.

The explosion behind them was close. Ryan looked back to see a dust cloud where they had taken refuge a few seconds earlier. Yells from other soldiers in the vicinity filled their ears. Groans and cries of pain hung in the air as the men rushed to safety.

Ryan's head filled with images of Ruby, his best friend's little sister. He swore to himself that he'd admit his feelings to her the minute he got home. Now, he didn't even know if he was going to live to see the next day. He was scared, and he wasn't ashamed to admit it. In fact, he was terrified that he wouldn't get to see or even hold her again. He shook his head and focused on hauling David away from the exploding terrain. He knew that Ruby couldn't help him now, no one could. It was up to him and David alone.

Both men hit the ground as David's legs gave way from under him. "Get up, man!" Ryan shouted as he hauled his friend up.

David started coughing up blood. "Leave...me...here...Ryan....please....I'm dying anyway."

Ryan shook his head. "No fucking way, man. We stay together, okay?"

Ryan got down on one knee, surveying the area for movement. "Fuck! David, come on, they're behind us." Ryan let loose a round. He hear a scream from behind all the dust. He grabbed his friend and pushed on. A whistling sound from above caught his attention.

"Incoming!" Ryan tried to push David to the floor but wasn't fast enough.

His friend took most of the mortar blast and Ryan was lifted off his feet and put through an already broken window. Ryan's head spun as he lay on the floor. He could hear Arabic shouting, then four rifle shots. The sound of the shouting drifted away and Ruby's smiling face filled his mind as he lost consciousness.


Someone was shaking him. "Are you okay, buddy? Medic! We got one here. Just hold on, son. You're gonna be okay."

Ryan tried to sit up. "David? He was out there with me. Is he okay?"

The soldier kneeling over him shook his head. 'Sorry, son, he's dead."

**********

A massive thank you to Cashjo for all his hard work on this chapter. I really appreciate all the time you put into working on this chapter for me. It means a lot. x

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