He was gorgeous. Upon first seeing him, I knew he was perfect. The first time I saw him, he was sitting in the grass outside the barracks, and a farm dog was curled up in his lap. Now, he'd just landed after his twenty-fourth and final mission. Still, there was something in his eyes, telling me that not all was okay. I watched as hospitalized vehicles drove over, taking away a ginger on a stretcher, and one staying to patch up a brunette with a split forehead.
The rest of the men were celebrating, kissing the ground they stood on. But not Luke. His eyes were cloudy, and his smiles were forced. More men came over, slapping him and his companions on the back and whooping victoriously. I stayed put. I knew my turn with Luke would come, and, after a year of being with him, I knew he'd always come to me first. Most men ran after the trucks, and I folded my hands patiently. Luke's dog, Dozer, bolted past me, making the side of my dress follow him. The mutt leaped into his owners arms, and Luke ruffled his fur, kissing him on the head. The dog licked his face, almost desperately. The dog moved onto the other men, and Luke's smile disappeared, his eyes shifting to mine.
By now, most everyone had run off. Luke moved, standing next to me silently. I looked to him, following his gaze to rest my eyes on the plane that carried him and his companions. "Nineteen planes, Luke. Five went down."
Luke didn't say anything and I turned my head to face him, trying to understand his expression. He clenched his jaw, "I took one of them down."
I felt slightly light-headed, and looped my arm through his, "What do you mean?"
He swallowed thickly, "Clay let me take up his position, as tail gunner. Said he needed ammo, as an excuse to get me back there. I just... I wanted to take down one Nazi, just before we came home! I just wanted something to be proud of, and I-..."
He trailed off and we began to make our way towards the barracks, "What happened, Luke?"
"Well, I- I'm back there, and there's these three little fighter planes. I- I take one of 'em down and it..." His voice cracked in a sob, "It went down and the wing... The wing cut one of our planes clean in half..."
"Oh my... Which plane?"
"Mother and Country." He looked to me and a tear rolled down his cheek, "I killed the rookie's on their first mission. I heard them die. We all did."
What was I supposed to say in this situation? I wiped the tear from his face, "Luke, you couldn't have known that would happen... Is the crew mad at you?"
He shook his head, "They don't know. They heard it, and saw it go down, but they didn't see how it happened."
"Were there any chutes?"
"Two, but it doesn't change the fact that I killed eight other men!"
I stopped walking and cupped his jaw. He leaned into my palm, and I brushed his cheek gently with my thumb, "Luke. It was an accident. There was nothing you could have done."
"Guess I learned my lesson in acting before thinking... I just wish it hadn't been like this..." He looked to me, "I need you to keep this between us... Don't tell any of the guys. Especially Dennis."
I kissed him, "I won't. Now that you've got that off your chest... I believe you have numerous newsmen out for your photo, along with a party. You go on." He moved to walk off, and I grabbed his hand, "And Luke... I love you, alright? No matter what."
He smiled, "I love you too."
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