Title: Deserted Challenges
Disclaimer: These characters are not mine, nor is the programme. They belong to the folk who made them. I do not claim them in any shape or form.
Rating: 18 (UK) NC-17 (US)
The wind beat the sand grains against them as they explored each other’s lips and mouths, letting their tongues duel. As they pulled away to catch their breath, they leaned their foreheads against each others, keeping their eyes locked. They could feel the sand whip against them, cutting into their revealed skins.
“I’m in pain,” Brooke whispered, her voice drowned out by the wind.
Sam pulled off the jacket that covered their heads, only to throw it back on as the sand hit against their faces. She could see panic in Brooke’s eyes and knew that she was also fighting off the same panic. They were blind now. Sam tried to think, to remember the entire layout of the camp as she pulled the taller closer.
Her face lightened as she thought of something. She guided them to their right, a hard task as they battled the wind for each step. They hit something hard, and both girls pulled with their might to open the door to their one hope.
Inside the safety of the truck, after fighting against the harsh, howling wind to slam the door shut, they pulled the jacket from above their heads. Their faces covered with sand, their clothes more so, scratches on their skin from the beatings of soft sand, their hair ruffled. Brooke shook the sand from herself.
“I really, really, really want a shower!” The blonde complained as she wiped some sand from her lips.
Sam laughed and nodded in agreement shaking grains free from her untidy mane of dark hair.
They looked at each other, before quickly looking away in shyness. They both watched as the sand whipped against the window, their world slowly being plummeted into darkness.
Sam struggled to switch on a light, swearing under her breath.
“You okay?” Brooke asked as she could hear a monologue of indecent words leave Sam’s lips.
“There’s no key.”
“Here let me,” Brooke leaned over the brunette, fully aware of their body contact. She could hear Sam hold her breath as she leaned over her lap, breaking the panel below the steering wheel. She pulled out the wires, hearing only both their uneven breathing. She tapped the wires together, smiling at the sound of the engine waking up, and the lights flashing into action. She didn’t move for a moment, but felt Sam shift uncomfortably underneath her. She sat up with a start, smacking her head of the ceiling.
“Ow!” She shouted as she rubbed her forehead. She felt gentle fingertips run across her hand and she moved her hand quickly away. She closed her eyes, as the fingertips rubbed against the injured spot tenderly.
“There’s won’t be a bump,” Sam exhaled before realising what she was doing, and moved her fingers away.
Hazel eyes locked with dark brown eyes, and the two smiled nervously.
The two laughed as their words toppled over each others. They looked out the window again, to see nothing.
“Kind of like snow?” Brooke said quietly.
“Except it’s sand.” Sam nodded as if it was a deep perception.
Brooke giggled, and Sam just watched her. This was just inane. To be trapped in a truck in the middle of a sandstorm, a few yards from a refugee camp and feel like being in an awkward reunion with someone you hadn’t seen in ten years. Neither girl knew how to behave around the other, and their awkwardness was becoming more obvious by the second.
“How long does a sandstorm last?” Brooke asked, still watching the darkness.
“I don’t know. It’s my first.” Sam answered, trying not to look at the blonde. Brooke looked back at her with raised eyebrows. “Seriously, it’s my first.”
“Oh,” Brooke answered quietly, before leaning back in her seat. “It’s kind of cool… well, except being trapped in a truck with no water or food, and feeling completely helpless…”
Sam knew that Brooke’s mind was wandering back to the earlier events, the rollercoaster that they had been on since they’ve been dragged from their beds in the middle of the night. She knew that it was nightfall again. She also knew that a body of a poor defenceless woman was still lying outside. She knew that four young girls were being subjected to horrors at that moment. She knew that people were fighting against the wind to keep a shelter over their heads. She knew that Brooke could have been hurt. She knew that she could have lost Brooke. She knew she loved Brooke.
The tears and sobs came to her with surprise, as she let herself relive those events all over again, not just of that day but of everyday. She could barely breathe as the sobs hurt her throat and she felt arms pulling her into a tight embrace, rocking her. She let the sobs work through her, knowing that it was a pointless battle to try and stop them. When the sobs softened, and her breathing relaxed, she hissed out, “I can’t stay here anymore, Brooke… I can’t.”
Brooke just rocked Sam, knowing that she was feeling the same. She didn’t want to be in a place of death, and of torture and of fear for another day longer.
The two remained in that embrace for a while longer, letting their tears dry up. Sam pulled back and looked into the glazed hazel eyes. “When we go home, I’m not coming back.”
Brooke nodded, “When we get home, I’m going to have a long bath.”
Sam laughed at Brooke’s attempt to lighten their situation. Sam felt the urge to kiss the blonde again but resisted it, opting to move out of the embrace instead. Brooke looked hurt and Sam just pulled her towards her, so the two were leaning back against the window, facing the opposite door. They let their fingers entwine as they studied the darkness outside the window.
Brooke traced her index finger over Sam’s palm, running it gently down the lines. Sam leaned her chin on the taller woman’s shoulder, watching her movement. “Do I have a long-life line then?” She whispered gently into the blonde’s ear.
Brooke smiled softly, “Yeah… you’re going to live until you’re one hundred, and have a thousand babies.”
Sam laughed lightly, “Not if I have to do what that poor woman had to this morning.”
Brooke grinned and turned her head to meet Sam’s eyes, “Wasn’t that amazing?”
Sam nodded, “It was… you were amazing. I couldn’t have done that.”
Brooke laughed freely, “Don’t I know it… you were scared shitless. Big bad-ass Sam was scared. I wished I had a camera for that.”
Brooke felt a hand tickle her side and she yelped. Sam chuckled at the reaction, before turning serious. “You really have been amazing, with everything…. What you’ve seen, what you’ve had to do. Brooke, you are so unbelievably strong, that I feel so lucky to know you.”
Brooke turned to the gently spoken words, and gazed into Sam’s deep eyes, and tenderly, stroked her face, “Sam, it’s you that is strong. I’ve been here for a week and I feel incredibly lost, but you’ve been here for eight months. How you can still joke and laugh and smile? That’s strength.”
The intensity that filled Brooke’s eyes made Sam turn away. Brooke could see Sam’s discomfort and knew she had to make the first move. “Sam? About the kiss?”
Sam cringed and really wanted to be somewhere else, and was praying for the sand storm to end at this very second so she could run. She avoided Brooke’s gaze but felt a hand on her chin, moving her face to meet those eyes. “Sam, it’s okay… I’m just confused.”
“Brooke, I’m sorry. It was the heat of the moment. I didn’t mean to kiss you. It was just with everything that happened. Seeing you run in front of that bastard, I thought he was going to hurt you. I couldn’t let him do that… Mike would’ve killed me.” Sam added that as an afterthought making Brooke smile softly, before frowning.
“So it didn’t mean anything?”
Sam bit her lip, knowing this was the moment where she had to choose between risking it all or saving it all. She studied Brooke’s face and saw that it was unreadable. She struggled to find her voice, and when she found it, it was hoarse. “I would rather have you as a friend than nothing at all.”
Brooke looked away, hiding her disappointment. Sam suddenly missed their closeness and leant forward, grabbing Brooke’s shoulder. She whispered, “But yes, it meant something.”
Brooke laughed breathlessly and still confused, unsure of what to say, so the brunette continued. “It’s crazy I know. Kind of like that Casablanca movie, Of all the gin joints and that, except without Humphrey Bogart, which is kind of sad, because how cool would that be, to have Bogie here…” Seeing the blonde’s smirk and raised eye-brow she stopped her babble. “I always knew it was you Brooke, it just took being in hell on earth to finally admit it to myself. I know that you must be thinking what the fuck! But Brooke… I don’t regret that kiss, nor do I regret these feelings. If this place has taught me anything, it’s that the cliché is true. Life is too damn short.”
On finishing her speech, Sam released her grip on the taller woman’s shoulders and fell backwards, watching Brooke cautiously, waiting for her to speak.
Brooke watched as Sam moved back before looking back out the window into the darkness. She smiled as she remembered where she was twenty-four hours previously, lying in the comfort of a very beautiful brunette’s arms. She laughed almost hysterically when she realised that was where she wanted to be every night.
She looked over at Sam’s worried face, and tried to stop her laughter. “Sam, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t laugh. It’s just this is the most ridiculous situation to be in.” Seeing the brunette look visibly hurt, she chastised herself for her use of words. She leant forward and cupped Sam’s face with one hand, using the other to smooth down her hair. “Sam, I was just thinking about… how I was thinking about you non-stop before I came here. I just thought I was missing you.” She leaned in closer, pecking Sam’s lips tentatively. “Now I know, it was so much more than that.” She breathed against the lips.
Sam’s grin lit up her whole face as Brooke leant her forehead against her own. She could see a smile dance across the blonde’s face. Brooke turned so her back leant against Sam’s chest. She loved the feeling of their closeness, Sam’s chin resting on her shoulder, the hand idly twirling a strand of her hair, the soft whispers in her ear.
The two remained like that for a while, treasuring each others’ closeness, before Sam turned her head to kiss Brooke’s cheek before whispering with seriousness, “Why did you run to her?”
Brooke sighed and turned her head slightly, meeting the dark eyes, “Why did you?”
Sam laughed bitterly, “I wanted to protect her.”
“So did I… Sam, you’re not the hero here. You don’t need to play the hero.” At Sam’s frown, she raised her hand to stroke the soft cheek, before speaking softly, “I get why you did it. I did it too. But why you fought him, that I don’t get… you weren’t afraid to die.”
Sam sighed and leant her head backwards against the window. She kept her eyes on Brooke’s concerned ones. The blonde exhaled loudly, “I can’t be here without you.”
“That’s true. You’d have no one to take photos for.” Sam said without meaning.
Brooke glared at the brunette, “I mean it, Sam… promise me, you won’t do anything stupid like that again.”
Sam leant forward again and whispered, “As long as you promise not to put yourself at danger again.”
Brooke thought for a moment, “I can’t promise that.”
“Nor can I,” Sam answered.
“So we promise to be with each other in dangerous situations at all time.” Brooke stated matter-of-factly.
Sam laughed, “Yeah, I guess we do.”
The two of them sighed simultaneously and smiled. Brooke moved forward again, tangling her fingers into the long, wild tresses, pulling Sam’s head closer. Sam’s smile widened as their lips touch. They let their lips and tongues act without thought, exploring each others’ crevice with curiosity and joy. It was a slow, sensual kiss, one that was to mark their revelations, their feelings, their desires, and their need to be close to each other. Sam murmured into Brooke’s mouth as she felt Brook’s other hand dance slowly down her spine, a motion that caused Sam’s hands to act also. Her right hand stroked Brooke’s smooth cheek, her left pulled the blonde closer. She smiled into the other’s lips at the sound of the throaty moan erupting from the other’s throat. They pulled away slowly, pecking and nipping at each others lips, still smiling.
Brooke leaned back into Sam’s chest, adoring the feel of the brunette’s arms wrapped around her waist, her chin on her shoulder.
“What do you think the ‘rents are going to say about this?” Sam asked earnestly.
Brooke laughed out loud and felt the brunette chuckle against her. Brooke lifted her head slightly, wrapping Sam’s arms with her own and stated quite proudly, “I can honestly say that at this moment, I really don’t give a damn.”
Sam chuckled again before simply stating, “It’ll be different when we get home.”
Brooke nodded, “Yeah… but they’ll be so happy to see us alive and in one piece, they won’t care.”
When Sam didn’t respond, Brooke turned her head, “Sam, let’s not talk about this now. As you say, life is too damn short.”
Sam kissed Brooke’s lips softly, smiling into them before whispering, “I’m so glad you finally have started listening to what I have to say.”
“Ow!” The brunette yelled as she felt an elbow in her rib cage, and she pouted as Brooke giggled. Brooke glanced at her and kissed her lips softly, “I’m sorry, did I hurt you?”
Sam nodded, continuing to pout, only for Brooke to kiss her again. “Better?”
Sam shook her head, so Brooke turned around fully, taking her face in her own hands, and kissing her deeply. The intensity of the kiss made Sam gasp, before moaning into the feeling of the other tongue dueling with her own, hands pushing her back against the window, stroking her sides softly. She wrapped her arms around the blonde’s neck, pulling her closer, deepening the kiss, feeling the taller woman’s soft hands run along her waist under her shirt. As Brooke’s hands began their exploration upwards, Sam pushed her away, breathing heavily.
Brooke’s face was flushed, and her breathing equally as heavy as she studied Sam.
“We need to take this slow. It’s too new to destroy.”
Brooke nodded, before kissing Sam softly. She returned to her former position, wrapping Sam’s arms around her. She closed her eyes, and evened her breathing, before murmuring, “You’re a really good kisser.”
Sam laughed lightly, leaning her head back. She too closed her eyes, “So are you.”
The two woke, startled at the banging that was coming from outside the truck. They jumped apart as the door was pulled open. Charlie and Hugh were on the other side, grinning at the two disheveled women.
“So this is where, you’ve been hiding…” Hugh yelled, with a glint in his eyes.
Brooke climbed out, followed closely by Sam. The two squinted to the brightness of the sun and adapted themselves to the quiet calmness that replaced the chaotic panic that was in its place when they had climbed into the truck.
Both women stretched their worn muscles before looking at the camp. It appeared to be untouched by the storm, as if it never happened. As if the night never took place.
“Back in Kansas,” Sam muttered as she looked at the two boys who were grinning like mad-hatters.
“What?” She almost shouted at them, her muscles aching, her head hurt from the stitches and the bright sun.
“You never were much of a morning person, were you?” Hugh asked as he threw his arm around her shoulder. “Was she at home, Brooke?”
Brooke looked from Hugh to Sam back to Hugh, before mumbling, “No she wasn’t, I really have to go for a wash… see you later.”
Brooke practically ran from them, with Sam looking after her in hurt and disappointment. Maybe the sandstorm never happened. She shielded her expression, building her wall of defense as she looked up at Hugh who was watching her in concern, “What was that all about?”
Sam shrugged walking away. Hugh limped behind her, “Did you tell her how you feel?” Sam kept walking, ignoring her friend. “You did, didn’t you? And she didn’t take it well, did she?”
Sam turned to the tall boy, “I really don’t want to talk about it.” She walked away.
Hugh stopped in his steps to have Charlie walk straight into his back. He had never seen Sam like that. So cold. “Mate, what was that about?” Charlie asked. Hugh shrugged and the two returned to find Yuri, and let him know the girls were safe.
“The battery is officially dead!” Charlie stated as he sat down around the campfire in the dusky evening. He grinned over at Brooke who was opposite him, between Anna and Dev. “Were you a car thief at home or what?”
Brooke smiled and shook her head, “But it’s a good skill to have.”
Charlie nodded, “Yeah it is… you’ve got to teach me.”
Brooke promised him a lesson the next day before glancing around the faces of the numerous aid workers, knowing that the one she wanted to see wasn’t there.
“Where’s Sam?” Anna asked, as if reading the tall blonde’s mind.
“I don’t know,” mumbled Brooke, before allowing herself be distracted by her thoughts.
The day had been a quiet day, a fact with which they were all relieved. They had buried the dead that morning in a quiet ceremony. Brooke could only think that there were a few more un-named graves. Sittina had then found her and stayed with her all day, a distraction Brooke welcomed open-armed.
“What will happen to Sittina, and Wayla and Dafur? And the other children?” Brooke asked Anna.
Anna shook her head, “I would love to be able to give you a happy answer to that, but I really can’t. They will stay with us, until… well, until we’re not here anymore.”
Sam walked carefully into their tent, careful not to wake up the blonde who was lying still in her bed.
“Brooke?” Sam whispered into the candle-lit darkness and saw that the blonde didn’t stir. She sighed and sat on her own bed, changing her shorts and slipping of her shoes. She lay back on her bed, but couldn’t sleep. Unknown to her, the blonde opposite her was having the same problems.
Sam had spent the day sitting in the dunes, watching the quiet activity in the camp, scribbling in her note-book furiously. She wanted this story to be finished, so she could leave. For the first time since being here, she really wanted to leave. However, every time she read her writings, it seemed incomplete.
Every time, Sam spotted the blonde in the camp, she had wanted to run to her, shake her and ask her what the hell was going on. But she was absolutely terrified of the answer she would receive. She vowed to pretend it never happened, that it was a dream, it was to be her version of Oz.
The following day, Sam was determined to get some work done and told Brooke just as much.
“This is the AIDS clinic, I don’t know if anyone showed you before,” Sam stated as she opened the tent. She found Yuri sorting his way through the pills, thankful that the rebels hadn’t found that supply. These people needed to be on a regime, without it, there would be more graves needed to be dug. He smiled as he saw the two girls step in before turning to his patient. He watched her as she swallowed the pills, patting her shoulder softly. The three watched her leave to be followed by another patient, a much younger woman. Brooke photographed the similar process, touched by Yuri’s genuine smile. The man lived for these people, and the people doted on him. Everyone doted on him. He was one of the few that gave a damn.
As the last of the patients left, Yuri turned to leave also, only to be stopped by the curious look in Sam’s eyes. He sighed, knowing exactly why she was here.
He sat on a crate and gestured for them to do the same.
“Why did you tell them she had AIDS?”
Yuri once again saw the life-less eyes directed to the sky, and shook his head in anger at them, at the situation, at himself.
He looked back at Sam’s intense eyes, and cleared his throat, “Because if he had raped her, he would have spread it. If his men had raped her, they would also spread it. There would be more victims. More people would die.”
He went quiet waiting for the journalist to come through the brunette. He wasn’t disappointed.
“So you sacrificed one life for the better of others?”
“Sam!” Brooke exclaimed in shock. Sam glanced at her, a glare in her eyes. It frightened the blonde, as did the dead tone the brunette spoke with. Sam looked back at Yuri expectantly.
“I didn’t think he would shoot her… but I guess you could say I did.”
Sam’s tone became gentle, “I know Yuri… I know you didn’t think he’d shoot her.”
Sam stood and left, followed by a confused blonde. Yuri watched them with an inward smile. He knew there was something between the two, the moment Brooke had arrived. He guessed something more had happened, without the good results. He truly hoped the results would change soon, for both of them.
Sam disappeared quickly from Brooke’s view as soon as they emerged from the AIDS tent, and the blonde stamped her foot in a child-like tantrum, causing some amusement amongst the locals.
She looked at the three elderly ladies grinning toothless smiles at her, ushering her over to them. Seeing as she wasn’t going to be able to find the brunette, someone she knew she owed an explanation to, she went to the elderly ladies. They patted the sand beside them and she sat down with them.
They started speaking and laughing, as Brooke nodded with an uncomfortable smile, not understanding a word they were saying. One of them grabbed her arm, and started gesturing towards the sky, before picking up a handful sand, scattering it, and then prodded her in the chest. Brooke’s face was that of a startled animal and the woman grinned. She started speaking again, pointing to her own chest, patting her hand of her own heart, speeding the actions as her words became louder. Brooke just shook her head.
The woman sighed before making a rocking baby gesture. Brooke just raised her eyebrows in utter confusion. The woman laughed loudly before pointing to a nursing mother opposite them.
“Oh mother!” Brooke yelled, almost joyous. The woman laughed again, and clapped her hands.
The woman then pointed to the baby and Brooke cried out “Baby”. The woman again clapped her hands, recognising the understanding in the blonde. She made two mounds in the sand, one larger than the other. She again pointed to the mother, and Brooke nodded and pointed to the sand, “Mother.” The woman nodded and pointed to the baby, and Brooke pointed to the smaller mound and said “Baby”
The woman grins her toothless smile and again pats her hand against her heart quickly. Brooke shakes her head, slightly disappointed as her understanding and inability to play charades come through. The woman laughs and pushes the mounds together, again patting her heart.
“Oh! Oh! Love! Mother loves baby!” Brooke said smiling, patting her own heart.
The elderly lady clapped with delight before pointing to another woman. Brooke watched the woman and shrugged, seeing nothing specific about her. She looked back at the old woman who was gesturing her breasts, an action which caused much laughter from her friends.
“Oh woman!” Brooke shrieked, laughing with the woman.
The woman again makes two mounds, pointing to one which Brooke identified as woman. The elderly woman pointed to a man, and Brooke nodded, “Man” and it was the blonde that pointed to the second of the mounds to identify it as man. The elderly woman grinned again, and pushed the two mounds together, before patting her heart fast.
Brooke frowned, her voice lost of all its previous enthusiasm, “Woman loves Man.”
The elderly woman smiled, softer this time as she hit Brooke on the shoulder. She pointed to Brooke.
Brooke nodded, “Me?”
The woman nodded, and patted her heart again, before imitating a writer.
“I love Sam.” Brooke’s face broke out in a huge grin. The three elderly woman clapped, as Brooke stood up and thanked them continuously, running towards the Operational tent. The women looked at each other in glee, there was one thing life taught them. There was one thing greater than hope and that was love.
Brooke was almost laughing as she ran. It took a game of charades with three strangers to clarify her confusion. For the first time since she woke up in that truck, she knew exactly what she wanted.
She stopped as she came face to face with the cold brunette.
“Sam, I need to talk to you.”
Sam glared at her before walking away, only to be stopped by the sight of Yuri and a few others being followed closely by some armed men.
“Yuri!” Sam called out as she ran after them, closely followed by the blonde.
“Sam, go!” Yuri hissed.
The armed man blocked the brunette’s attempt to get closer. She stood to her full height and growled at him, “Where are you taking them?”
“You. Doctor?” The rebel pushed her back.
“Yeah… I can do first aid.” Sam said, smiling as the man stepped back and let her through. She climbed into the jeep, ignoring Yuri’s glares.
This glare she then wore as Brooke climbed in beside her.
“What the hell are you doing?”
Brooke shrugged, “I’m being your nurse…”
Sam sighed exasperatedly, as she turned away from the blonde, watching the men start the engines.
“Also, have you forgotten our promise? As long as you’re in danger, I am.” Brooke’s words sounded harsh against the purring of the engines.
“Here I was thinking that was all a dream,” Sam barked back.
“Sam, I’m sorry… I was confused. I didn’t know how to act,” Brooke pleaded.
“And now you do?” Sam said doubtfully.
“Yes,” Brooke smiled. “I love you Sam.”
Sam’s head nearly span around in full circle at Brooke’s announcement. She studied the hazel eyes, and could find nothing that denied the words. Her features softened. “We so need to have this conversation, but this is so not the right place.”
Brooke nodded, and suddenly became aware of where she was. “Sam, where are we going?”
Sam shook her head, “I have absolutely no idea.”
The walls were high, yet destroyed. The roads were rocky, bumpy and dirty. The windows had no glass, instead, guards with rifles. Despite a clear blue sky, and a bright sun, it seemed grey. Sam found it ironic, these men were stealing lives from others, and yet seemed so lifeless themselves. They found that they were being pushed through the buildings, climbing over heaps of debris and avoiding eye contact.
The brunette suddenly felt afraid, and found extreme comfort in Brooke’s hand which was clutching hers. She took a quick glance at Brooke’s face and saw that the blonde was trying not to look scared.
They were pushed up against a wall, and the eight foreigners were left under the watchful eye of one armed rebel, while the others left. Sam pushed herself back against the wall and watched the others, as they stood straight, waiting for something to happen. Their positions reminded her of an execution line-up and she gasped, gripping the blonde’s hand tighter.
“What is it?” Brooke asked softly.
“We’re about to be executed!” Sam almost shrieked.
“No, Sam! We’re here to treat their wounded.” Yuri said. “You shouldn’t have come.” His voice a mixture of concern and anger.
Sam took a deep breath, calming her near panic attack, before looking over to Yuri. “I wanted to know where they were taking you…”
“Ever heard the expression curiosity killed the cat,” Yuri spoke with callousness. “You’re going to get yourself killed, Brooke as well if you keep this up.”
Sam looked over at Brooke who was starring ahead, before looking back at Yuri, “I’m sorry”
Yuri nodded, “Just be careful Sam, both of you.”
Sam felt like she had let down a parent, the writer in her wanted to know more, the friend in her cared about the white-haired man, the woman in her wanted to make people proud. She still had to find the balance between chasing a story and waiting for a story. She sighed loudly, and heard some laughter on the other side of her. She glanced over to see Anna trying to hold in her giggles.
“What!” Sam asked impatiently.
“Nothing, it’s just, doesn’t this remind you of school, waiting outside the principal’s office, and Yuri is the principal?” Anna whispered, grinning.
Sam nodded, “Except it’s the guy on the other side of that arch who is the principal.”
“Yuri would make such a good principal,” Brooke whispered to no one in particular, and the other two women just looked at her, both stifling their laughter this time.
Sam coughed awkwardly in order to cease her laughter, thinking that in such a gritty place, it was such a weird feeling to be able to laugh.
They remained standing in silence for a while, until a group of armed rebels came in, marching them through the forbidden arch. They could hear the faint screams of pain and of grief as they marched silently through the rubble.
Brooke was trying to take the entire area in, the rotting buildings, the empty faces of the men and boys standing and watching them, the litter and empty cartridges on the ground, the emptiness of the place, and tried to picture it as it was. She was so lost in her thoughts, that she lost her footing, tripping in the rocks. She felt Sam pull her back up, gripping her hand. She could read the question in Sam’s eyes, and mouthed, “I’m okay.”
Sam held onto the blonde’s hand and followed her friends and her enemies through the building, hearing the screams become louder and louder. They were suddenly brought to a halt, and the foreman turned to them. “You make sick men good!” It was an order without a threat. He gave the impression of slight fear as he shouted his instruction.
As they entered the room, they immediately covered their noses and mouths. The air was filled with the mingling of stale air, aged vomit, stained blood, and rotting wounds. Sam gasped as she tried to hold in her stomach, and glanced over at Brooke who had paled. There must have been at least twenty injured, sprawled across sheets.
Yuri immediately jumped into doctor mode, checking each of the injured, assigning his workers to the individuals. He stopped at one, before looking at Sam and Brooke, gesturing for them to come over.
“Either of you sew?” He asked, his voice slightly trembling.
The two looked down at the young boy, his eyes vacant, his cheeks marks with dry tears, his lips moving but not speaking. He was covered with cuts.
“He’s only a kid,” Brooke whispered.
“Can one of you sew?” Yuri asked, with more urgency. “If they see that neither of you are doctors, they will…”
“Yeah, we can sew,” Sam stated clearly, stopping Yuri from continuing.
He grabbed two spools of thread, and needles from the box in the centre of the room and handed them to the women, before yelling at the guards, “We need water.”
One of the rebels left immediately, not needing to be instructed by his own peers.
Sam kneeled next to the boy, watching the blonde do the same on the other side. She studied the wounds, open cuts marked the boy’s arms and legs. “What happened?” She asked no one in particular.
“Boom!” muttered the man lying next to him. The brunette turned to him, recognizing him as one of the men that had beaten Hugh. Yet, he appeared weaker, worn, without his former vitality, a mere skeleton. Sam thought she could hate these men, but seeing this one man in such a weakened state, made her almost pity him. Almost.
The rebel dropped a bucket of water next to Brooke, some drops splashing her. Brooke wiped her arms dry, watching the rebel leave as quickly as he arrived. She turned to the brunette, “What happened? Who is fighting them?”
Sam shrugged and grabbed a rag, to wipe down the boy’s arms.
“Boom,” the dying man next to him mumbled, spreading his hands to convey a blast. He smiled without feeling at them, before closing his eyes, his breaths shallow, but loud in the stifling air.
Brooke gently cleaned the boy’s arms, watching his face to see if she was hurting him. The boy was still, and if it wasn’t for his chest rising and falling, she would have thought he had died.
Sam grimaced as she pierced the flesh with the needle, trying to imagine the boy as a teddy bear whose ear needed sewing back on. She didn’t want to see this as a boy who wasn’t much older than her little sister. She slowly pushed the needle though the other side of the wound, and watched as the thread pulled the open skin together.
Brooke watched the boy’s eyes as she guided the needle gently through his skin, pulling the thread slowly. As she finished closing the wound, she pulled the thread tightly, and glanced around to find some way of cutting the strand. She looked over and watched Sam take her own strand of thread between her teeth and bite it free. Brooke nodded as Sam raised her dark eyes to her, and bit her own piece of thread in two.
They attended each wound slowly and carefully, watching for a reaction from the boy, seeing nothing. The noise from the room, the screams, the moans, the pleas were blocked out by the girls. The only noise they were aware of were their own heartbeats, the boy’s breathing, and a dying man desperately sucking in for air.
The blonde bit of the last piece of thread, and studied the crooked stitches along the boys legs, torso and arms. She looked over at Sam who was still stitching her last stitch. She looked up at the boy’s face and watched his lips move. She glanced over at Sam who was biting of her last stitch.
Sam looked over at Yuri who had his fingers in a man’s chest. They watched as he pulled a small bullet from the open wound and dropped it onto the floor. His fingers returned to the wound, two fingers holding a needle, the others stretching the wound. He had Anna hold a vein as he expertly stitched the torn vessel up. Sam was once again reminded of the wonders of medicine, and tried to remember why her home country’s health-care was in crisis. She was witnessing a man save another man with the minimal of surgery tools. As Yuri stepped back, asking Anna to stitch the wound up, Sam called out to him, telling him that they were finished.
Yuri ran his fingers along the stitched wounds, nodding his head. He placed a hand on Sam’s shoulders, whispering, “You really shouldn’t be here.”
Sam stood and met his eyes, “I needed to see the other side. I needed to know that others were suffering.”
Yuri sighed with exasperation, reminding himself yet again that Sam McPherson was a journalist not an aid-worker. He gestured to another wounded man, saying that he too needed to be stitched. He walked away, and Sam had the distinct feeling that she had created a rift between herself and a man she hugely respected. She would talk to him when they get back to camp, if they get back.
Sam left the boy to attend to the man, stopping to look back at Brooke. Brooke looked up at her and stood. She stopped as she looked at the boy’s vacant face again, and gently stroked his face, “You’re just a boy.” She spoke softly and watched as the boy finally closed his eyes, new tears beginning their journey down his face.
As daylight started dimming, the two girls were stitching a head wound on a grinning man. The man just kept his eyes on them, unable to wipe his grin from his face, nor stop his eruptions of giggles. Sam frowned as she tried to see what she was doing with the poor light, as Brooke held the man’s face still.
“Why is he laughing?” Sam growled in frustration as another eruption of giggles burst from his lips. Brooke shook her head, “Post-traumatic shock?”
“I guess,” Sam muttered. “I wonder what the hell happened… I mean, who did this to them?”
Brooke shrugged and watched as the man giggled again.
“You stay. It dark.” The foreman yelled at the foreigners.
“Does that mean you will bring us back?” Yuri asked as he patched a man’s eye.
“You stay. It dark!” The foreman yelled again.
The foreigners slumped against the walls in the early hours of the morning. There was nothing else they could do. Some of those men will die, some have died, some will live. They did their job and were waiting for the first break of light so they could leave. They had not been threatened. They had not been harmed in anyway. They had been safe the entire time they had been within those walls, but they wanted to leave. They hated the feeling they were developing, the feeling of sympathy for the enemies.
“I feel so dirty,” Anna groaned, as she studied her skin, covered with grime and blood.
Brooke nodded and watched as Sam left her side to approach Yuri.
“Do you think we’ll get a beer for all this?” Petey, a cheeky red-head, piped up.
Brooke smiled and Anna slapped him on the arm, “That would be great.”
Brooke’s eyes did not leave the brunette who was in deep conversation with the older man. She frowned when the brunette frowned. She smiled when she smiled. She nodded when she nodded. She became uncomfortable when she did.
“You’ve got it bad.” Anna whispered as she slid closer to the blonde.
“Huh?” Brooke whispered, still not moving her eyes.
Anna laughed lightly and slapped her hand of Brooke’s shoulder, “I say, good for you… Sam is hot.”
Brooke snapped from her stare to look at a grinning Australian. “How do you do that?”
Anna raised her eyebrows.
Brooke turned slightly so she could see the Australian properly, “I mean… talk and laugh about the most unimportant things after doing what you’ve just done.”
Anna shrugged, “What else can I do? Get angry. Of course I am angry. I’m angry, that everyday could be the last day for the people at the camp, for the people left behind in their villages, for the people that are being forgotten everyday, for the children with no future, for the boys who carry guns knowing it’s their only chance to live, for the men who bury their raped wives, the women who mourn their husbands, grandparents who outlive their children and grandchildren… for us, the people who try to help… even for them, the people who are responsible. I am so angry, Brooke… but it won’t do anything… and also, when I get angry I’m a bitch to be around.” Anna smiled with seriousness.
“I’m here to get a story,” Sam said quietly as she moved closer to the older man.
Yuri looked at her, “I know that Sam, but I don’t understand you.”
Sam moved closer again, “I like you, but you’re not here to protect me…”
Yuri held up his hand, “No I’m not, but I want to. Just as I want to protect everyone at that camp. Most of them make it easy, but you don’t.”
Sam smiled, “I’ve never made it easy.”
Yuri smiled with her before creasing his brow in seriousness, “Is it worth your life though?”
Sam leant back on her knees, and thought about it, before glancing at Brooke who was in conversation with Anna. She looked back at Yuri and saw that he was watching her closely. She sighed, “If my story will change anything, then yes.”
Yuri bowed his head, before resting his hand on hers. He looked at her, his eyes gentle, “You could write the best story in the world, but people will forget… it’s what we do. We forget, because it makes it easier to live.”
Sam’s eyes started welling with tears of frustration and she listened as Yuri continued, “If we are reminded everyday, we either become used to it… look at you, about a week ago, you saw a mass grave, and now you are here stitching up boys who may have been responsible for that mass grave. You’re used to it. As I am. I’m used to watching people die from being shot, from being butchered, from AIDS. I’m used to it. Anna is used to being helpless around dying children. Hugh is used to being under threat when he goes on his stupid treasure hunts. Lucinda is used to amputating without morphine. Petey is used to helping the helpless die. Charlie is used to digging graves. Dev is used to starving himself so he can feed others. Elena is used to knowing she has to say no. Sam, we’re used to it… and if we’re used to it, so is the world. It’s not an easy thing to be, or even to admit. Your story may make an impact, but it’s nothing no one has heard before. I really hope it does change the world’s approach, but I’m realistic. It won’t.”
Sam felt tears stream down her face. She knew that Yuri could be right, but she wanted him to be wrong. Her stubborn nature wanted to prove him wrong. She wanted to make him proud. She wanted to do the story for him now. She felt his strong hand smooth her hair, and she met his caring eyes, “Sam, is it worth your life?”
Brooke watched as Sam crossed over the room to her. She could see the brunette appeared defeated, and she felt a sudden urge to punch Yuri. Sam never looked at her as she sat down, and the blonde felt lost.
“I’m hungry,” Petey said to no one, trying to break a heavy silence that dropped over the room. No one said anything.
They sat in the back of the truck, looking through the gap at the back, watching the destroyed city disappear into the distance, turning into the familiar yet graceful, sandy dunes.
“I wish we could have taken photos of that,” Sam said quietly, her first words since answering Yuri.
“I left my camera in the AIDS clinic.” Brooke answered her, looking at her carefully. The brunette still appeared at a loss, and Brooke was concerned. “Do you think someone stole it?”
Sam looked up at her, and asked wryly, “What would someone do with your camera?”
“Sell it for crack.” Brooke’s face remained deadpan and the other seven stared at her in shock, before Anna’s loud raucous laughter filled the truck. Brooke’s face broke into a grin and she felt relief as she saw Sam smile.
Her grin grew wider as Sam reached across and took both her hands.
“Man! Am I glad to see you?” Hugh shouted as they jumped from the truck. They watched the truck leave, the armed men solemn. Gone were the jeers and the gunfire, to be replaced with silence and fear.
“Jorge is here… he has news.” Charlie announced as he ran to greet them. Yuri nodded, his dislike for the short, round man obvious.
Sam let go of Brooke’s hand to follow Yuri to the Operational tent. Brooke watched, confused but not wanting to interfere. She wanted to feel clean again.
“The rebels have split.” Jorge announced as the two walked into the tent. He stopped to nod at Sam. “There is fighting amongst them. There is reports of cleansing in the north. They think it’s up to two million dead.”
“They still won’t do anything, will they?” Sam asked rhetorically, bitterly.
Jorge looked at her before looking back at the man who always watched him with suspicion. “There’s talk of removing all foreigners, before it gets worse.”
“Worse!” Sam laughed, her bitterness stronger.
Jorge stood, wiping his hands on his shorts, “Just thought I’d give you the heads up.”
They watched as the short man left quickly.
“He never tells a joke, does he?” Yuri jested.
Sam smiled before turning to leave. She was stopped by Yuri’s gentle hand. She turned and waited.
“Sam, I’m sorry.”
Sam shook her head, “Yuri, it’s okay. You were right… but I’m not giving up.”
“I’d be disappointed if you did.” Yuri smiled, letting her leave.
Sam watched from a careful distance as she watched the blonde. She felt like a voyeur, but didn’t care. The woman was truly beautiful with the backdrop of golden sand and the sun shining upon her, its rays bouncing from her blonde locks.
Brooke took the cloth, and let the water drip from it before running it along her arms, wiping the dirt to reveal tanned skin. She repeated the movement on her other arm. She watched in fascination as the dirt washed away, feeling soothed by the lukewarm water against her hot skin. She stood to run the cloth down the length of her long legs, watching in mere delight as the drops of water cascaded over the newly cleaned skin. She stood, stretched and placed her hands at the base of t-shirt, tugging it upwards, and pulling it free from her head. She dropped it carelessly, only to whip it back up and cover her chest, on hearing a gasp.
Hazel eyes found chocolate eyes, and Sam waved, her face red with embarrassment at being caught spying. Brooke smiled, also feeling embarrassed, but not sure why.
“You like what you see?” She spoke breathlessly.
Sam nodded, her cheeks reddening even more. She realized that she was still staring at Brooke’s now concealed chest and spun round. “Finish. I’ll wait.”
Brooke chuckled lightly, as she dropped her t-shirt and removed her bra. She ran the cloth over her breasts and torso quickly, wanting to see Sam’s face again.
She changed with speed that would impress superman, Sam thought as she turned to see the blonde dressed in fresh clothes.
“Hey,” she said softly as she walked over to the taller woman. Brooke nodded to her.
The two sat in the sand, suddenly at a loss of what to say.
“They think there will be an out-break of a civil war.” Sam spoke as she drew in the sand.
“Oh,” Brooke answered, sifting the grains through her fingers.
“They say two million are dead.”
Brooke took a deep breath, “Surely the UN will help now.”
“Not as long as they keep calling it acts of genocide, they won’t.”
Brooke looked at Sam in confusion, “Surely, genocide is enough of a reason to be involved…”
“No, acts of genocide,” Sam interrupted. “No one says genocide… genocide means getting your hands dirty, and what government wants to do that.”
Brooke said nothing, returning her fingers to sifting the sand. “But that makes no sense.”
Sam leaned back on her hands and glanced at Brooke’s profile, “Think about it. Rwanda. Always referred to acts of genocide, so we did nothing… and then when it was over, we said, hell, it was actually genocide… ooops!” Sam’s tone became sarcastic. “Cambodia, the same thing… Fuck! Even the damn holocaust! We ignore genocides… because the UN states that as long as we refer to such deeds as acts, then we don’t need to interfere…. FUCK!” Sam screamed out.
Brooke watched as Sam kicked the sand in front of her.
“Brooke, we’re doing no good here.”
Brooke moved closer to the brunette, placing a hand on her shoulder, “Of course we are. You’re going to write a damn fine story, which is going to be talked about, discussed, debated… It’s going to wake people up.”
“Until they fall back asleep again,” Sam whispered bitterly.
“Sam, I don’t know what can I say, but you don’t know, you really don’t know…”
“You’re a hopeless girlfriend…” Sam whispered as Brooke continued speaking.
“But I do know that you can cause a reaction with what you write… did you just say girlfriend?”
Sam laughed as she saw Brooke do a double-take. “Are you still confused?”
“I’m so sorry, Sam… I didn’t know how to act. I didn’t know how to be… I was an idiot.”
“Yes you were,” Sam agreed, grinning.
“But after everything that has happened, my insecurities seemed so irrelevant… I haven’t quite forgiven you for that last comment, but I love you,” The blonde declared, here eyes shining with truth.
Sam grinned widely, her eyes sparkling in the sun, “So what now?”
Brooke raised and eyebrow, before taking Sam’s hand in her own, “Well you’re dirty.” She traced her clean fingers over the dirt and blood ridden hands. She guided Sam gently to the bucket of water, pushing her gently down onto the sand. She kept her eyes on the dark eyes watching her with awe, as she rinsed the cloth in the water. She guided the cloth gently over the soft skin, wiping away the blemishes caused by their night away, running her finger tips over the newly cleansed areas. She moved to the other arm, tracing the skin with her finger tips, before wiping away the stains. She let the cloth travel to the brunette’s right hand, rubbing the material into the stains, her eyes never leaving the dark ones watching her. She took the other hand and trailed the drops of water over it, before pressing the cloth into the skin, ridding it from all traces of dirt. She dropped the cloth back into the bucket, listening to the light splash and the gasps she was eliciting from the smaller woman before her. She lifted the hands, letting her eyes flicker from the dark eyes to the slender fingers. She ran her thumbs over the coarse yet soft skin, before kissing each palm softly.
Sam sighed, and let her fingers travel the blonde’s cheekbones. Brooke smiled softly, reaching for the cloth again. She wrung it over Sam’s head, and watched the drops travel through the dark tresses, and onto the face. She soothed away the wrinkles of concern and stress with the cloth, freeing the perfect face of dirt. She watched as Sam closed her eyes, before wiping the cloth gently over the eyelids. She leaned forward and kissed each eyelid softly and leaned back on her knees. She let her fingers stroke the soft skin, marveling the smoothness and watched as the dark eyes fluttered open.
Sam lifted her hands, pushing loose strands of hair behind the blonde’s ears, before letting her fingers tangle through the locks. She pulled forward the blonde’s head, leaning her forehead against Brooke’s. The two smiled as their eyes reflected each other’s love.
Their lips met, speaking of promise, of love. As they tenderly explored the other’s lips with their own, they moved closer together on their knees. Brooke’s one hand wrapped itself around the slender neck, the other lost itself in the dark mane of hair. Sam’s fingers ran through the blonde locks, as she sought entry with her tongue. A gasp filled the air, as a tongue explored crevices, slid over teeth, and took the other tongue into a battle.
Brooke gently pushed Sam back onto the sand, feeling hands move towards the base of her back, sliding under her t-shirt, massaging the skin beneath. She let her own fingers trail the sides of the body beneath her, lifting the hem of the shirt, and tracing the skin beneath, softly.
Their tongues continued a battle of dominance, their fingers touched skin, their lips nipped.
Brooke slid her body between Sam’s thighs, letting her fingers travel upwards under the shirt. Sam moaned into Brooke’s mouth before wrenching her lips away, tracing a sculpted jaw-bone, and smooth neck with her tongue, before sucking and kissing the skin at the base of the collarbone.
Brooke lifted her head to give the brunette better access, letting her quiet moans pierce the silent air. Sam let her lips travel up the skin, she had mapped, stopping by a waiting ear, sucking the earlobe.
“I love you too,” she whispered and watched as the blonde turned to meet her eyes.
Brooke bent her head to meet the waiting lips, smiling as they touched.
Sam stretched, feeling strength return to her sleeping limbs. She smiled as she opened her eyes and looked to her right, finding the blonde was missing. She frowned, but heard laughter from outside their tent, and recognized one of the laughs. She crawled across the two beds now tied together with rope, and crawled onto the sand. She stood up, shook herself clean of the grains, before changing into fresh clothes. This was the fourth morning in a row when she could do that, and not have to run out in panic. She knew that this wasn’t going to last, with the threat of civil war looming over their heads. Jorge had told them that refugees were trying to cross the border, most of them were being stopped by their neighbouring countries. She slid her feet into her boots, before pulling across the material door.
She grinned as she crossed her arms and watched Brooke being surrounded by two dozen children. She was giving each of them something that Sam couldn’t make out, and the brunette stepped closer, hoping not to disturb the scene.
“Throw-away cameras?” She said without meaning to.
The blonde looked up and grinned before mouthing, “Morning.”
Sam watched as the blonde balanced herself on one knee, and turned her baseball cap backwards so she could teach the kids how to use the cameras. Once the kids understood, they all held their cameras to the blonde, simultaneously taking a photo of her. The laughter that erupted from the delighted children carried through the wind, throughout the camp.
Brooke stood, still surrounded by the children and spotted Jonah. She called him over, waving her hand excitedly. She had an idea and needed his help.
Sam couldn’t hear what Brooke was saying to Jonah, but from Brooke’s grin and from the children excited shouts after Jonah’s translation, she thought it must be good. She watched as the children ran in different directions, clutching onto the plastic cameras as if they were treasure. She watched the blonde thank the tall African before kneeling down to pick up the plastic wrappings of the throw-aways.
Brooke lifted her head and saw Sam sitting opposite her, in front of their tent. The brunette’s knees were pulled up to her chest, her arms crossed upon then, her chin resting against it, her eyes shining in the strong sun. Her dark eyes watched Brooke, a light smile dancing on her lips.
“You’re really beautiful,” Brooke said almost breathlessly.
She watched as Sam’s cheeks reddened slightly at the compliment, before raising her Nikon. She clicked the shutter, taking in the beauty and the love that was Sam.
She stood up and walked over to Sam, offering out a hand to pull the brunette up onto her feet. She kissed her lightly on the lips, “Good morning.”
“Morning to you too.” Sam grinned and kissed the blonde again. She watched as two of the children ran through the nearby tents, clicking their cameras. “So what’s with the throw-aways?” Sam asked feeling the blonde’s hand wrap around her waist.
“Oh… hope you don’t mind,” She saw Sam shake her head, “But I thought we would get some great photos this way… we don’t see what kids see.”
Sam nodded, “It’s a great idea, and you’re great.”
Brooke blushed, “What do you want McPherson?”
“Nothing,” Sam pouted, “Just I think you’re wonderful.”
Brooke left go of Sam‘s waist, “Yeah, yeah… we should go.”
Sam nodded and followed the blonde through the camp towards the food line.
“Late for breakfast again, Sammy,” Anna taunted, “You’re making a bad habit out of this.”
Sam smiled as she took the dish that the Australian handed to her, “What can I say? I’ve been sleeping really well lately.”
Anna grinned and looked from Brooke to Sam, “I say you have.”
Brooke reddened while Sam laughed.
Brooke sat down beside Sam, as the brunette ate.
“What are your plans today? Need photos?” The blonde asked as she took of her baseball cap, ruffling her hair.
Sam watched her, with a spoon in her mouth and shook her head, “I was going to do some writing… I’m hoping Jorge is coming with some more news.”
Brooke pondered this as she placed her cap on her knee. “Do you think we’ll have to move base?”
Sam shrugged, “I don’t know… if it getting bad, than maybe we can get these people out of the country.”
Sam put her bowl on the sand, and took Brooke’s baseball cap, placing it on her own head.
Brooke grinned, “It looks good on you.”
Sam stuck her tongue out, “But looks better on you.”
Brooke rubbed the palms of her hand against her face, “I have no idea what I look like anymore. I haven’t seen a mirror in nearly three weeks.”
“Having withdrawal symptoms?” Sam teased, receiving a deserved punch in the arm. She stopped laughing and studied the blonde, “You’re breathtakingly gorgeous.”
Brooke smiled and stood up, stretching her long legs before patting Sam on the head, “I’ll catch you later then.”
Brooke knelt on the ground holding down the stretched material with Charlie opposite her, and Hugh standing in the middle. Both blondes on the ground watched Hugh curiously, seeing that now recovered, he was getting restless.
“Man, can’t we just take the jeep and go east?… there’s nothing there.” He protested as he smoothened the material with his feet.
Brooke shook her head and looked over at Charlie who was grinning at the taller boy, “Mate, you really do need a leash… it’s not a good idea, with everything happening.”
Hugh stopped walking, and turned to Charlie, “But think of the beer… the beer!”
Hugh stood, his hands conveying drinking from beer bottles. Charlie shook his head, “Yuri will kill you! And there is no way we can get the keys.”
“I see you’re having a change of hearts, Mr. Bond,” Hugh grinned as he stepped of the material. He dropped to his knees and grabbed Charlie’s end of the material. The two began to roll it towards Brooke.
Charlie laughed, “It’s never going to happen.”
Hugh wiggled his eyebrows, “Why? Because we have no keys.” They reached Brooke, and smoothed the roll of material down. Hugh grinned, and watched as Brooke shook her head. “Mr. Bond, I think we have the solution to our key problems.”
“No!” Brooke laughed as she stood up. “No! No! No! And in case you didn’t get that, no!”
The two boys laughed and tied the roll up with rough strands of string. Hugh stood up and met Brooke’s hazel eyes, “Come on… think of how popular we’ll be when we bring back beer. Yuri always forgets when there’s beer… beer!” He almost screamed.
Brooke shook her head, laughing at the teenage-like behaviour. She put up her hands, “Still not happening.” She turned to leave.
“What if Yuri says yes?” Hugh called behind her. She turned to see Hugh now leaning his elbow on Charlie’s shoulder.
She shielded her eyes from the sun behind them with her hand and laughed, “Then you wouldn’t need me. He’ll give you the keys.”
“Idiot!” Charlie hissed, as the two ran after the tall blonde.
Charlie ran in front of her walking backwards, “What if you teach me how to start the engine?”
Brooke laughed, “They’ll still know it was me.”
Charlie moaned, “But you promised.”
Hugh wrapped an arm around her shoulder, “And you aren’t the type to break promises, are you?”
Brooke looked from one face to another before sighing, “How long is this going to take?”
Charlie grinned, while Hugh laughed, “I knew we could count on you.”
“Why do I think that this is a really bad idea?” Brooke said shaking her head at the two laughing boys.
Hugh stopped laughing, and became serious, “Trust me, I’m not going to let anything happen to you… Sam would kill me if I did.”
“I better go tell her,” Brooke said, leaving the two boys behind.
She saw Yuri as she walked towards Anna, and suddenly felt guilty.
“Hey Brooke,” Yuri said gently.
“Hi,” She answered, feeling her cheeks becoming red.
Yuri stopped her, “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, of course I am, why wouldn’t I be?” Brooke realised that she wasn’t being believable and took a deep breath, “I’m fine.”
Yuri looked at her, thinking with suspicion, “I think you’ve been spending too much time with Hugh and Sam… well, carry on then.” He said, chuckling to himself. The younger people always amused him. He walked on towards the clinic.
“Hey Anna, you seen Sam?” Brooke said as she skipped to the blonde. Anna smiled and shook her head.
“Must be hiding somewhere…” Brooke said as she looked around, before looking back at Anna. “Can you do me a favour? Can you tell her that I am with Hugh and Charlie, and will be back soon?”
Anna frowned, “I really don’t know if that’s a good idea… with what’s going on.”
Brooke could see her concern and felt her internal battle return. “I know, but I just have this feeling… and I’ll be with the boys.”
Anna laughed, “That’s why I don’t think it’ll be a good idea.”
Brooke grinned, “Come with us then. Protect me.”
Anna looked around, and sighed, “No, I’ll be missed… where are you going?”
“East… wherever that is.”
“You do jump in blind, don’t you?” Anna grinned. “East should be okay, considering everything is happening in the completely opposite direction… and if Yuri asks, you never spoke to me.”
Brooke smiled, placing a hand on the nurse’s arm, “You sure you don’t want to come.”
Brooke took her shades from the collar of her t-shirt and put them on, grinning at Anna, “I’ll see you in a while, and tell Sam, I’ll be back soon… though knowing her, she’ll be writing all day and won’t even notice that I’m gone.”
Anna laughed and watched the taller woman walk away before calling out, “Brooke!”
Brooke turned around and waited.
Brooke gave her a thumbs up and flashed her another smile.
Sam spread the pages in front of her, holding them down with stones. She knelt back and watched the pieces flutter in the light breeze, before lying on her stomach. She studied her scrawls, scribbles and doodles. Yet, couldn’t concentrate on the work at hand. Her thoughts kept wandering to a certain blonde woman. She rolled onto her back with a grin. She never felt as complete as she did in that minute.
She was thinking about what they would do when they get back to the States, a slight fear of how things could change. Maybe Brooke only felt this way here, but when they got back home, everything would change. She knew she should speak to the blonde but knew that Brooke would just wash away her fears, telling her that she was being silly.
She shook of her negative thoughts and tried to imagine what she would do for Brooke once they got back home. Go for proper dates, go to restaurants, watch movies, curl up on the couch snuggling, take walks on the beach, normal everyday things. She grinned as she thought of the things she could do to surprise Brooke, show Brooke how much she loved her.
She rolled back over onto her notes, and frowned. She really needed to get some work done.
“Man, now tell me this isn’t great?” Hugh yelled as he stood in the backseat of the jeep. The wind ruffled his hair, and he closed his eyes, grinning in delight.
Brooke smiled widely as she steered the jeep, watching the road carefully.
“I’m the king of the world!” Hugh shouted, spreading his arms, before looking down at Charlie, “Come on, be my Kate Winslet.”
Charlie laughed loudly, “No way, mate! I’m far too pretty to be Kate.” He patted down his hair for effect.
“Woah! Brooke, slow down!” Hugh yelled as he saw something in the distance.
Brooke felt anxiety form in the pit of her stomach as she slowed down the jeep, trying to see what the tall sandy-haired boy could see.
Hugh gestured for them to stand, and the two promptly did so. He pointed in the far distance and all three pair of eyes followed the finger. It looked like tiny ants amongst the sand.
“What is that?” Charlie asked, and Hugh shrugged.
“Should we go back?” Brooke asked, her voice slightly trembling.
Hugh shook his head, “No they’re going the other direction… let’s follow them.”
“Mate, I don’t think that’s a good idea, it could be the rebels… and I kind of like my face as it is.” Charlie whispered hoarsely.
“Charlie’s right. I like his face the way it is too,” Brooke spoke just as quietly.
Charlie grinned at the tall woman, “Thanks.”
Brooke nodded, but Hugh was determined, “We’ll go slowly, and if it is them, then we’ll drive at top speed…”
“What about the beer?” Charlie moaned, knowing that when his best mate had an idea, he couldn’t be deterred from it.
“We’ll get it on the way back… come on. Think about the photos,” He wiggled his eyebrows at Brooke.
The photographer in the blonde was never one to miss an opportunity, and despite her doubts, she slid back into the driver’s seat, “If anything happens to me, Sam is going to kill you.”
Hugh slid down in the back seat and rubbed her shoulders, “I know.”
Sam rolled back onto her back reading one of her notes, knowing it told of the moment that her entire perspective on humanity had changed. She read the words carefully, running her thumb over the stains that her teardrops had left.
He wasn’t any older than three. All he did wrong was run in the wrong direction. The men taunted him, circled him, laughed at him, as he tried to break through their legs. He cried for his mother when he was shot in the foot. He screamed louder when he was shot in the shoulder. He howled when he was shot in the leg. He was on the ground, crying, not understanding. Then the guns just kept shooting him, his body riddled with bullets, not one inch of his skin left unmarked, except his face. His eyes were only of fear.
After the men left, a small boy had become another of the countless corpses. With ninety-four bullets inside him.'
Sam felt tears mark the paper again as she sat upwards. She could relive those moments as clearly as if it had happened that morning. She could remember Hugh’s tight grip on her shoulders, as she watched helplessly. This was when they had visited a village that no longer existed, bringing water and food to the people who hadn’t yet left their homes. People who were there no longer.
“Oh My God!” Brooke whispered as she slowed the jeep into a halt. She looked over at the two boys who were standing in their seats.
Thousands of people were walking, their steps slow, carrying what was left of their livelihood. Women with children on their backs and packages on their heads, men with tools, children holding up their elders.
“Where are they going?” Brooke asked.
“They’re trying to get out,” Hugh answered as he climbed out of the jeep.
Charlie followed suit, and Brooke remained seated. She watched the two boys walk between the people, to where some had collapsed from thirst and exhaustion.
Brooke climbed out and walked towards an elderly man, on the verge of collapsing, and offered him help. He shook his head, straightening his back with pride. Brooke looked into his eyes and nodded. She saw that this man still had dignity. She lifted her camera and took his photo, seeing no protest from him. He nodded to her and trudged on by.
She could hear the wailing from the other side of the crowd and pushed her way through. She could see a baby sitting by his dead mother, screaming. Brooke picked him up and rocked him. She saw Hugh walking over towards her, stepping gingerly around the exhausted and the dead.
“We’re taking him with us,” She said defiantly. “He’ll die here.”
He nodded, and watched her rock the still screaming child.
Brooke could feel the tears in her eyes, as she saw people collapsing further down, their loved ones trying to pull them up. Some sat with them, others shook their heads and kept walking. “Can’t we help them?”
Hugh shook his head, “We can barely care for the people we already have… the bastards took most of our food.”
“But we can get more,” Brooke shouted, tears streaming down her ashen cheeks, “They’ll come with more.”
Hugh rested his hand on her shoulder, “They might…”
He never could finish as Brooke had run past him. He watched as she dropped to her knees, by a young woman, lifting her head. She looked up at him, “We can take her… she needs a doctor! We have doctors!”
She stood again, pointing to a boy, “We can take him!” Pointing to an older man further down, “We can take him!” Her voice became higher, her tears became rapid. She tried to pick the man up with her free arm, before shouting back at Hugh, “Dammit! Help me!”
Hugh walked towards her, forcing her hand to drop the dying man’s hand. He turned her to him, his own eyes filling, his voice cracking, “We can’t Brooke. We can’t”
“This is not fuckin’ right!” Brooke yelled at him, making the baby in her arms scream louder. She turned and watched the people trudge past her, their eyes empty of hope. She turned to Hugh, “I need to see where this ends.”
Hugh nodded, and called out to Charlie who was walking amongst the collapsed and the dead. He hated being this helpless, and knew that the Brit was feeling the same. He watched as Charlie cried silently as he looked upon the helpless, feeling just as helpless.
Charlie looked up at him and walked towards him, “Mate this is shit!” He muttered as he followed Hugh to the jeep. “Surely the fuckin’ Red Cross or whatever would be here.”
The others said nothing. Hugh took the mourning baby from Brooke, as she started the engine. None of them could take their eyes from the people, watching them drop to the ground, as they slowly drove towards the border.
Sam pulled another page from her notes, and laughed bitterly as she read the first line.
‘Today was the second drop from overseas, the second in four months. Don’t they know that we have nearly a thousand people here? They say it’s too difficult to get in or there isn’t enough financial aid. With the many multi-national corporations that exist, the billions that are being made, surely a few cents for an extra day’s worth of food isn’t too hard to come by. They not only bring us food, but medical equipment, and medication for those with AIDS. We have enough to treat 100 AIDS sufferers, but we have 350. What do we tell the other 250? How do we pick the 100 we’ll treat? Is this a people lottery?’
She sighed, knowing that charity organizations were trying, and that a lot of what is sent gets put in the wrong hands. They usually would receive a quarter of the original delivery, the rebels taking their share first.
Brooke walked towards the high, wired gates, seeing people pushing against it, desperate to get to the other side. She watched the army on the opposite side of the fence, watching the people with steely eyes.
“Why won’t they open the gates?” Brooke asked frustrated.
“Because they can’t afford it… they are in a country of famine. If these people don’t die here, they’ll die there.” Charlie answered, his spirit dead.
Brooke lifted her camera, and allowed the Nikon record these images. The images of people screaming, pleading, charging the gates with little strengths, lifting their children into the air, hoping they could be saved.
She turned and watched as more people approached, her eyes empty of tears. She lifted her Nikon again, recording people fleeing their country. She thought to herself, will I ever have to flee my country? Will Charlie have to flee his? Will Anna hers? Will any of us be forced to flee ours?
She turned and saw Hugh rocking the baby gently, soothing the infant to sleep. “I want to go now.”
Sam glanced up at the sun, watching it move downwards. She lifted another page.
‘We visited an old village today, and saw that it was no more. Crosses stood where neighbours once talked to each other, where children played, where people worked, where animals grazed, where stories were once told, laughter was once heard. Where life once was.’
Shouts and screams pulled Sam’s eyes away from the page, and towards the dunes, where the camp lay on the other side. She grabbed the sheets carelessly, stuffing them into her bag, before running towards the camp, with only one person on her mind.
Brooke slammed on the brakes as four children stepped in front of the jeep. She watched them, lifting her shades onto her forehead. They stared at her with vacancy, and showed no sign of moving. Brooke climbed out of the jeep and walked slowly towards them seeing no sign of reaction. She nodded to Charlie who also climbed out of the jeep. They guided the children carefully to the jeep, but they refused to get in.
“Please, we can help you,” Brooke pleaded as she tried to push one of the children in. Charlie lifted the smallest one up and dropped him gently into the back seat. The others looked at him but still didn’t move. He went to pick another child up but she ran from him, into the crowd. The other two looked from the child in the jeep to the child that had lost herself in the crowd. They stepped away, and walked backwards into the crowd.
“Why won’t they come with us?” Brooke asked, her voice strained.
“Maybe, they know we can’t help them,” Hugh answered bitterly.
“Bastard!” Brooke yelled, readying her hand to slap him. Charlie caught it, and turned the blonde to him.
“Brooke, stop! There’s nothing we can do… we’ll go back to camp, tell Yuri and fill the jeep with water and food… we’ll come back and help.”
Brooke felt defeated. She could no longer see the children. She looked at the little girl staring ahead in the jeep. “We’ve got one of them.” She said quietly, as she slipped back into the jeep.
Sam peered over the dunes and watched in horror, before scrambling down the other side, dropping her bag into the sand.
“What the hell happened?” Hugh asked as he stood in the jeep.
Brooke shut down the engine, and climbed out, running quickly to the pale middle-aged man who had fallen to his knees, tears streaming down his face.
She tried to ignore the sights of the three crucified refugees that were displayed at the front of the camp. She tried to ignore the sounds of whimpering, moaning and screaming. She tried to ignore the few torn down tents. She tried to ignore the weeping aid-workers that stood by. She tried to ignore the darkness that was quickly falling upon the camp.
“Yuri, what happened?” She said, her voice quivering.
The pale man looked up at her, and kept shaking his head, stammering his words, “I-I-I didn’t think… I-I-I didn’t know… They c-c-came when w-we didn’t… It was a warning.” His voice cracked, and he dropped his head.
Brooke fell to her knees, and almost shook him to force him to look at her.
He watched her, as if trying to recognize her, before whispering hoarsely, “She’s gone.”
Brooke stood up, her breath quickening. She looked down at Yuri, a broken man.
“Brooke!” Sam screamed as she pushed through the crowds. She launched herself at the tall blonde, holding her tightly. She looked up at the shocked face. “Where were you? I couldn’t find you… I thought they got you…” Tears were streaming down the brunette’s cheeks. She pushed herself into the blonde’s arms, hugging her tightly.
Slowly the blonde’s arms came round Sam’s back, holding the embrace.
“Who’s gone?” Charlie asked Yuri as he fell to his knees in front of the older man.
Sam and Brooke turned to the two kneeling men, and the brunette seeing that Yuri wasn’t speaking, answered for him. “They took Anna.”
“No! No!” Charlie stood up, running his hand through his hair. He kept shaking his head, “No! Why the fuck would they take Anna?”
Sam didn’t know what to say as she watched the Brit, struggle to contain his tears. She looked up at Brooke who had paled, and let her go. She walked to Charlie pulling him into a hug. The blonde boy struggled against her hold, before relenting, letting the sobs break through his body.
The shatter of glass made them all jump and they turned to see Hugh smashing the windscreen of the jeep with his fist. He turned to them screaming, “This is shit! We come to help! And for what! This is just shit!” He pushed his fist again through the glass, and again, and again.
“Stop!” Yuri stood. “Stop Hugh!” The older man’s shouts rang through the night, and Hugh turned to him, weeping angry tears. Yuri put his hand around the sandy hair and forced him into a hug. Yuri though shorter than the boy, appeared to be the giant that the people of the camp saw him to be.
Even though there was noise, it seemed silent, as they stood watching Yuri, the father comfort Hugh, the boy.
Charlie let Sam go, and wiped his tears with the back of his hands, streaking his dusty face. He slumped to the ground and stared at the sand.
Sam turned to Brooke who hadn’t moved an inch since Sam ran to her. The tall woman was shaking, her face pale. The brunette brushed loose strands of blonde hair behind Brooke’s hair, and saw the hazel eyes turn to her. Brooke ran her fingers across Sam’s cheeks before noticing the two children they had brought back.
“We need to get them food, and somewhere to sleep,” Brooke stated as she walked to them. Sam watched her, not sure of the change in behaviour.
Brooke swept the baby in her arms and freed one hand to take the little girl’s. She glanced at the concerned chocolate eyes, and saw Sam walk to her. She shook her head, “Please, don’t.”
Sam was hurt as her eyes followed Brooke’s retreating back. She slumped down beside Charlie, and took his hand in her own. He looked at her, and smiled, “Mate, you don’t have anything stiff to drink, do you?”
Sam shook her head and leant her head against his. They watched in silence as Dev, Petey, Yuri and Hugh, pulled the crucified men down. The four men treated the dead gently, carefully wrapping them in sheets, and carrying them to the camp’s cemetery.
“Who came? Who did this? Who took Anna?” Charlie asked, not looking at the brunette.
Sam’s voice was hoarse as she answered, “I don’t know. Not the usual rebels. They looked like army guys to me.”
“Will she be okay?” Charlie asked almost afraid to hear an answer.
Sam sighed , tightening her hold on his hand, “I don’t know.”
“Why did they take her? What did she ever do?” Charlie felt his tears return, and rubbed his eyes with a balled up fist.
“To put across a message… let the world know that they’re not fucking around.”
“Obviously killing millions of people wasn’t enough a message,” Charlie laughed bitterly.
“People don’t care unless it happens to one of their own,” Sam whispered. She could feel the Brit’s body tremble in a mixture of bitter laughter and sobs. She wrapped both her arms around him, letting him cry again.
For the first time since hearing Anna’s screams fill the air, as she was dragged and forced into the back of a truck, Sam finally wept the loss of a friend. She closed her eyes as she remembered how she ran towards the front of the camp, to find Yuri on his knees, mute, and to see the trucks leaving. She remembered Anna’s cries and screams. She then remembered the last time seeing the bubbly blonde at breakfast. It seemed like a life time ago.
“Where were you?” Sam asked, after a while of quiet grief. Charlie looked to her.
“Hugh had the great idea of going on a beer run, and convinced Brooke and me to come along… they’re not letting them out of the country Sam. We drove to the border and they’re not letting them out.”
The two went quiet as they watched Hugh walk closer to them. He sat on the other side of Sam, and the brunette picked up his hand studying the dry cuts on his fist caused by smashing glass.
He shrugged and returned his eyes to the sand before them, “Man, I really want a beer.”
Charlie started giggling, a giggle forced by grief, and both Sam and Hugh looked at him in surprise before breaking into their own giggles.
Sam crept slowly into the dark tent, and could hear Brooke’s sobbing quietly into her pillow.
“Brooke,” she whispered gently, as she kneeled to light a candle.
She watched the flame come to life and studied the blonde’s back. She gently rolled her towards her. She saw the hazel eyes brimming with tears, and sighed. She stroked the soft cheek, “Oh, baby, come here.” She stretched her arms and watched as Brooke slid of the low bed into them.
“I thought it was you Sam.” Brooke mumbled into the smaller woman’s shoulder. “I thought they took you.”
Sam rocked Brooke gently, as she heard the blonde start crying again. When the tears subsided, Brooke leaned back and met the dark eyes with her own. “When I saw you I was relieved. Anna goes missing, and God knows what is happening to her, but I’m relieved because you’re okay. How bad a person does that make me?” Brooke’s tears started to fall again and Sam pulled her back into an embrace.
“You’re not a bad person,” Sam whispered into the blonde’s ear. “You could never be a bad person. I felt the same… when I saw you. I love you so much, I couldn’t live without you.”
Brooke nodded into Sam’s shoulder. The two remained in their embrace for a while, rocking each other, whispering words of comfort to each other.
Sam pulled back and pushed Brooke’s long hair back, lifting her chin gently, and watched herself being reflected in the hazel eyes. Her voice was hoarse from crying, “I hadn’t felt that scared since Junior Prom, and you got hit… I thought I lost you then, and I thought I lost you tonight… Promise me, you’ll never leave me again… no matter what Hugh says.”
Brooke smiled sheepishly and nodded.
Sam leant in to kiss the soft lips before her, wrapping her arms around the slender neck. Brooke met the kiss with passion, desire and love. The smaller woman pushed the taller back onto the bed, kissing her slowly and lovingly. They let their hands wander , and their lips whisper promises with each touch. Brooke pushed Sam back up into a kneeling position, and sucked the brunette’s lower lips between her own. Sam moaned as the blonde dipped her tongue between her lips, tentatively exploring each crevice of her mouth.
Brooke pulled back and watched the dark eyes grow with desire, the lips swell from the kisses, and smiled. She placed her hands at the hem of Sam’s tank top and pulled upwards. Sam lifted her arms, never removing her eyes from the hazel ones that were memorizing each new area of skin being revealed. Brooke flung the top carelessly across the tent, before letting her fingers trace the material of the bra that lay beneath, her eyes sparkling as the skin beneath her fingertips reacted to the touch. Sam reached behind her, and removed the bra, hearing the blonde gasp as she laid eyes on the released breasts. The blonde let her fingers run across them, gingerly sliding them over the nipples. She heard the brunette release a light moan at the contact, and flickered her eyes back to the dark ones. Their lips met again, harder and with need. Their hands grabbed each others and their fingers entwined as Brooke fell back onto the bed, Sam sliding between her raised thighs.
Sam let her hands slide underneath Brooke’s top, urging her to take it off. Brooke leaned upwards and pulled the top and her bra off, before returning her lips to Sam’s. The brunette let her hands tenderly over old scars to gently cup the breasts beneath her, sliding her tongue between the lips. Their tongues meshed together, and the blonde gasped into Sam’s mouth as the brunette rubbed her thumbs over the hardened nipples.
Brooke glided her hands down Sam’s bare back, and slid them beneath Sam’s waistband, pulling the brunette into her. She let her hands wander to the front of the brunette’s pants, deftly unbuckling them, as she traced the lips on her own with her tongue.
Sam’s hands left the blonde’s breasts to pull down her own pants at Brooke’s demand. Once she felt them drop off over her feet. She used her fingers to tug down Brooke’s, sliding them to the taller woman’s knees, removing them altogether with her feet. She nipped lightly at Brooke’s lips, feeling them tremble as she ran her fingers along the length of the tall body below her.
Sam removed her lips, kissing a path of kisses along the jawbone, the slender neck and down the chest, slipping her tongue out at intervals. She could hear Brooke’s breath quicken and knew her own was the same way. She swirled her tongue around the waiting nipple, before licking it, grazing it, nipping it, eventually sucking it, her fingers teasing the other.
Brooke arched to Sam’s touch, clutching the dark mane of hair, holding the head in place. Her other hand’s nails scraping the brunette’s back. She pulled the head back up to her own so she can catch the lips again, rolling Sam over, straddling her.
The blonde leaned backwards, taking in the beauty of the body beneath her, glistening in the flicker of the candle light. She bent her head to nip the smaller woman’s shoulder, graze her teeth over the hot skin. Sam watched through hooded eyelids as Brooke descended down her body, flickering her tongue over each nipple. Sam bit down on her lip to hold in a moan, as the blonde continued her assault on each nipple.
Sam leaned upwards to push Brooke backwards, retaking her lips again. Their legs wrapped around each other, their fingers entwined, their tongues mingling. Sam left go of Brooke’s hand, keeping their other hands joined. Simultaneously they ran their free hand down each other’s chest, between the breasts, along the torsos, reaching the other’s core. Simultaneously , they entered each other. They sped their motions in time with the other’s. They tore their lips away from the other’s to bite in to other shoulder to muffle their screams as they reached their climaxes. They pulled their joined hands between them, to feel the other’s heartbeat pounding. They lifted their eyes to meet each others, seeing only love. Their lips met again as the candle flame died.
Sam smiled as she saw Brooke flutter her eyelids open. Brooke stretched and smiled.
“Hey you,” Sam whispered softly, raising her head to lean on an elbow. Brooke rolled over to meet her.
“Hey, you sleep okay?” Brooke asked as she pulled the blanket up to cover her naked body.
Sam chuckled, “Better than okay.” She bowed her head in self-consciousness, “Was last night okay?”
Brooke smiled and reached her hand to pull the brunette closer to her, kissing her tenderly on the lips, “Last night was perfect.” Sam pulled back and grinned.
Brooke rolled back onto her back and looked around, “Though, I can think of better places to do that again.”
Sam laughed and wrapped her arm around the taller woman’s waist, snuggling into her side.
“We should get up,” Brooke mumbled, despite being very content with where she was.
Sam groaned, “I really just want to forget everything, just for one day… pretend I’m not here, and be with you.”
Brooke nodded, but moved to get up. She slid on fresh clothes and turned to see that Sam had pulled the blanket over her head. She sat back on the bed and nudged the brunette gently, “Come on baby…”
She could hear Sam’s quiet sobs and pulled the blanket down, concern dressing her face. Sam looked up at her, “I can’t believe she’s gone.”
Brooke lay down to hug Sam close to her.
“Samster,” Hugh called out glumly as he greeted the two women as they approached the food line. Sam waved at him, leaving Brooke’s side to approach him.
“How you doing?” Sam asked as she glanced back at Brooke who was currently getting them both food.
“I’ve had better days,” He said as he followed her eyes. “I’m happy you told her.”
Sam nodded, “So am I… life is way too short.”
Hugh nodded, and they stood waiting for the tall blonde.
The mood was sombre as the aid-workers ate. Few words were exchanged as their thoughts were lost. Their friend was gone, and they had no idea what has happened to her. They were also realizing that it could have been one of them that had been taken. The internal battle of loss and of relief was painful to each and everyone of them.
“Do you think they’ll let her go?” Elena spoke into the silence.
“I hope so,” Dev mumbled, trying to not let his thoughts create the torture that the Australian could be suffering, nor the possibility that she could be dead.
“Has anyone told her family?” Sam piped up, and everyone looked at her. She looked to each person and could see that they didn’t know. “They need to be told.” She added.
“How do we tell them?” Petey asked, anger in his voice. “We have no phone, no e-mail… shit, there isn’t even post here!”
“Somebody needs to tell them,” Sam muttered, trying to keep her voice steady.
Petey threw his dish down in frustration, “Don’t you get it! No one gives a fuck about us, or about them!” He stood and pointed to the refugees. “You think that you writing a story is going to save the world… well, it isn’t! You’ll go back to the comfort of your own home in fuckin’ Los Angeles, fuckin’ California, in the fuckin’ US of A, and you’ll forget, believing you did your part because you wrote a fuckin’ story! Fuck you!”
“Hey!” Brooke yelled. She stood up and pushed Petey backwards. “Sam is Anna’s friend, she gives a damn about everyone here…” She turned from Petey to Sam who had paled with hurt back to the red-head. “Even you. She’s a fantastic writer, but she’s an even better person.”
“I won’t forget,” Sam’s quiet voice interrupted Brooke’s rant and both the blonde and red-head turned to her. She looked up at them, before addressing Petey, “I won’t forget.” Petey nodded and looked at Brooke, apologizing with a bowed head.
The two returned to their seats, and silence returned only to be interrupted by Sam.
“Brooke is right… I am a fantastic writer.”
Petey chuckled and threw rice at Sam who grinned cheekily back.
The light moment was just that, and soon sombreness returned.
“Pull it towards you!” Charlie called out as he tried to balance the two poles in his hand.
“We are pulling it towards us!” Hugh called back as he, Sam and Brooke tugged on the material, trying to bring it to the ground.
“Obviously, not the right way,” Charlie’s voice yelled back through the material.
“Can we just peg him inside?” Sam complained, as she tugged even harder on the material.
“I heard that,” Came the British response.
They had been trying to pull a tent that had been destroyed the previous night back up for the last hour, without avail. Charlie was balancing the inner poles while six of them were trying to pull down the material over him.
“Do you think Charlie knows what he’s doing?” Dev called from the other side.
“Mate, shut up! And bloody pull… it’s getting stuffy in here,” Charlie moaned.
“Man, you’re not claustrophobic, are you?” Hugh taunted.
“Okay we’ve got it,” Brooke called out. “Someone peg it in.” She pushed all her strength onto the material. After a few minutes of waiting, she looked up, “Where are the pegs?”
“I’ll get them,” Sam said, leaving go off the material. She heard screams and stifled laughter behind her and turned around to see that by removing her strength, the tent had collapsed onto Charlie. She laughed as she watched the British boy crawl out from beneath the material and give her a thumbs up, “Good one, Sammy.”
“I’m so sorry…” She walked back over to the group before her eyes caught something in the distance. She shielded her eyes from the sun to get a better view.
The others turned to see what she was seeing and they all began to step forward.
“I don’t bloody believe it… is that the Red Cross?” Charlie yelled out as they picked up speed.
Two trucks approached, adorned with the international red cross symbol. The small group stopped to watch Yuri meet the green trucks, and witnessed Jorge climbing out of the front. Yuri bowed his head as he spoke quietly to the short man. Jorge nodded before patting the older man on the back, leaving it rest a while before dropping it before turning to introduce his driver. Yuri stretched his hand to shake it and led them into the operational tent.
“What do you think is happening?” Hugh asked no one in particular.
The others mumbled their guesses, none of them really knowing. They watched as more people crowded around, their curiosity spiked by the arrivals.
“They could be here to help,” Brooke suggested.
“Or maybe they have food and medicine,” Dev added.
“Or a truck full of beer?” Hugh spoke loudly, a slight grin tugging on his lips.
Sam turned and smiled at him, “You and beer… you should know it just gets you into trouble.”
Hugh laughed lightly, “But, it’s soooo good!”
“Sam, you’re the journalist… go journalize, find out what’s going on?” Charlie nudged the brunette. “Also, you owe me for dropping a tent on my head.”
Sam laughed and turned to Brooke, as if to seek permission. Brooke smiled, “Yeah, go journalise.”
Sam slowly approached the tent, hearing Yuri’s raised voice and Jorge’s quiet one. Just as she reached the door, Jorge stepped out followed closely by his driver.
“Sam,” he nodded to the small brunette.
Sam smiled sheepishly, her expression resembling a child with a hand caught in the cookie jar. She waved, “Jorge…. What’s going on?”
“I’m going to tell everyone in a few minutes, Sam,” Yuri stated as he stepped out of the tent.
For the first time since she met Yuri, she had never know him to be as worn out as he was, standing before her. The loss of Anna weighing heavily on him. He had taken the Australian under his wing when she first arrived two years ago, and loved her like he loved all his staff.
Sam nodded and returned to her waiting friends. She shrugged as she stood by Brooke, “We’re about to find out.”
Yuri took the whistle from his pocket, and blew it hard. The sound made Brooke jump and Sam grabbed her hand in comfort, rubbing her arm with the other. The brunette had heard the whistle before once. It was the time they were forced to move base months earlier. They moved closer to Yuri, followed by the refugees and the other aid-workers.
Yuri cleared his throat and looked at everyone, remembering each face, hoping never to forget a single one. “Firstly, I know that today has been difficult with the loss of one our own. I hope that you will join me in my prayers in hoping that Anna will not meet any harm. It is a difficult time for us all, and I know that some of you want to go home. But each one of us came here with duty, a duty to the hundreds of people that surround you. Please take with you the knowledge that you have helped, that you have brought some hope, that you have brought some love to people, and for that you will never receive the appreciation that each of you deserve.” He glanced to each of his aid -workers who were all watching him, listening carefully to his words. He looked over to the Red Cross agent and Jorge before returning his eyes to the people before him, his people. He turned to Jorge. “Now, if you can translate please.”
The tall African nodded. Yuri looked up into the sky, and across the dunes before turning to the waiting people. “I have just been informed by the Red Cross that due to kidnappings of aid workers throughout the country, plus one of our own, that the UN and NATO are holding talks to come into Sudan. There is an increased international pressure to act. Meanwhile, we have been advised to move base, and move towards the border, walking north-east where a camp is waiting for us. It will take approximately six days to walk there.” He heard the whimpers and gasps from the refugees and from the aid-workers. “I know that this isn’t easy… especially with the ill, injured, elderly and children that we have. Yet, today the Red Cross will take our children.” He heard as mothers, fathers, grandparents started to weep, knowing that it was the best option for their children, but not wanting to leave them go. He continued, his voice getting louder, “Tomorrow, I have been promised transport for our injured and our elderly… we will leave with them. I expect everyone to be ready then.” He closed his eyes, remembering previous times he had to do this. He looked down at two children, too young to understand and who were grinning back at him. He felt tears sting his eyes as he coughed, “For now, let’s move the children.”
Brooke slumped to the ground, covering her ears. The sounds of children being separated from their parents became torture for her. She rocked, keeping her ears covered with the palms of her hands. She felt a warm hand on her back, and felt Sam crouch down behind her, holding her as she rocked. Sam had tears in her eyes as she watched the small children try to dodge the catching hands, the older children trying to be matured. Sam closed her eyes and leant her forehead against the back of Brooke’s head.
The sound of something hitting the soft ground at Brooke’s feet, made Sam look up. She smiled and nudged Brooke who also looked up. A throw-away camera sat between Brooke’s feet, a smiling boy stood in front of them. Brooke and Sam smiled weepy smiles at him as they watched him run to the truck. Brooks sobs became harder, and Sam’s tears became endless, as they watched the children be picked up and put in the trucks.
Brooke stood as she saw Sittina run away from the several people trying to catch her. She ran to Sittina and picked her up with ease, and watched as the little girl calmed down in her arms. Her cries were easily soothed by the tall blonde’s gentle whispers. Brooke looked back at Sam who simply nodded. She sighed as she walked slowly towards the truck, and could see Sittina’s big brown eyes look at her in fear, her whimpers becoming louder as she was placed into the truck. The little girl reached out her arms, pleading with Brooke, begging to be taken out. Brooke stepped back trying to ignore the screams from her and from the other children.
She felt warm arms wrap around her waist as she watched the sand settle where the trucks once were. She leaned into the embrace, before turning to the brunette, “Will they be okay?”
“They’re the lucky ones,” Sam whispered back.
The mood was stiff, with no sense of life. There was no laughter, no jokes, no feelings amongst the aid workers as they organized supplies. They were all numb, due to Anna’s disappearance, the end of the camp, the loss of children, the lack of hope, the finality of everything. No one could make eye contact with another person with fear of breaking down. No one could speak other than ask for assistance in packing crates or moving supplies. It had appeared that life had disappeared, and everyone had become ghosts.
Sam continued glancing at Brooke, making sure that the taller woman was okay, but knowing that she wasn’t. Brooke was terrified, as was Sam. Neither knew what was going to happen next. The idea of going back home seemed so far away now.
Brooke passed the bottles of water from Charlie to Dev, not really concentrating on the task in hand. She looked over at Sam who was tying blankets, and again wondered how the brunette could remain so strong, so together. She caught Sam glancing at her, and automatically bowed her head. She thought how silly it was to do that, but it felt automatic. She looked back up and saw Sam’s concerned eyes. She nodded, and Sam nodded back.
The aid -workers all sat around the fire late that night, none of whom were tired, but not awake. They had eaten, but none of them had moved to return their empty bowls. They felt a sense of comfort being together, that moving away threatened the loss of that comfort.
Sam leaned against Brooke, who held her hand, stroking it gently with her thumb. It was a small gesture, a simple touch, but it brought feelings to them both. The feeling of having each other, the knowledge of having each other.
Hearing footsteps approach from behind, they turned to see Yuri coming towards them carrying a crate. He smiled gently as he placed it on the ground, and sat behind it.
He looked over at Hugh, “You are going to see me as your new best friend.” He pulled out a bottle of Budweiser, and Hugh grinned.
“Where did you get them?” Hugh asked, grinning as he took the offered bottle.
“I always keep a secret stash for the hard times, and this is a hard time,” He replied, handing the bottles around.
They all smiled, laughed and chuckled as they took their bottles, and uncapped them.
Yuri raised his bottle to the centre, “To Anna.”
The others followed suit, before chugging down the liquid.
“Man, that feels so damn good!” Hugh almost yelled, gratefully accepting another bottle from the older man.
“I can’t remember the last time I drank anything that tasted so good,” Elena blurted out into the silence, hiccupping. The group laughed. She blushed, “I don’t drink.”
“This could be entertaining,” Charlie grinned, sitting closer to the Mexican girl. Elena smiled widely at him, and Charlie chuckled before clearing his throat. He leaned back, “How you doin’?”
“What kind of accent is that meant to be?” Sam asked the smiling Brit.
“New York,” Charlie shrugged.
“That sounded like a cross between Texan, Cockney and Indian to me,” Dev laughed.
“How do you know what a Texan, Cockney and Indian accent sound like,” Charlie protested.
“Sounds just like you,” Dev retorted, and began laughing again.
“Ha ha!” Charlie moaned before turning to the smiling Elena next to him. “How you doin’?”
This caused them all to start laughing, resulting in sand being flicked at them by the grinning Brit.
“No way!” Brooke said, amazed, leaning forward. “She didn’t?”
She looked back at Sam who just nodded. She turned to Petey, “You’re telling me…”
“She got absolutely wasted the night she arrived, she did the strip-tease to Jonah playing the drums.”
Brooke laughed hard, and Sam blushed. The brunette protested, “I didn’t take everything off! I kept my underwear on.”
“You should have seen Jonah’s face, when she threw her shirt at him…” Petey started laughing hard.
“He didn’t talk to me for about a month,” Sam added.
“Do you remember when Dev decided to be Mama Dev for the day?” Amelia, a young American yelled out.
“No, we don’t need to tell this story,” The Indian stated, threatening to leave, only to be pulled down by Brooke.
“Oh but we do,” Brooke insisted.
“Well, Jan…” Amelia began.
“Who’s Jan?” Sam asked, this obviously had happened before she arrived.
“She left about a year ago. Anyway she was ill with small pox or something…” Amelia began
“Small pox! She had the flu!” Hugh interrupted, laughing again.
“Whatever,” Amelia shrugged, “Anyway, so we needed someone to fill in to take care of the kids, so Yuri said that Dev would do it.”
“Now I honestly didn’t think you would take the role seriously,” Yuri added, his cheeks red from the mixture of nostalgia, beer and merriment.
“Can I tell the story?” Amelia turned to the older man, who grinned at her. She turned back to Brooke and Sam. “So Hugh and Liam, another guy who left about a month before you got here,” She added, knowing that the brunette would ask her. “They convince Dev to dress up as a woman, so the kids could feel comfortable with him…”
Both Brooke and Sam started laughing hard at this.
“So you had Dev, tall, lanky guy wearing a dress with fruit as boobs, his hair tied back in a bun, and talking in this high-pitched voice.” Amelia began laughing, as the rest of the group had begun to.
“The kids were scared shitless by him…” Hugh struggled to get the words out between his laughs.
“They never came near me again, even a year later,” Dev added.
“The legend of Mama Dev shall always live on,” Yuri stated.
“Here Here!” Hugh cheered, clinking his empty bottle against Dev’s.
“It’s strange without the kids,” Elena said quietly.
“Yeah it is,” Charlie agreed, and the mood became quiet again, as they reflected upon everything that has happened since they came to Africa, be it years or months.
Sam stood up, stretched and nearly tripped over. She straightened herself up and smiled at everyone, “I’m going to go back to the tent, need to pack.”
Brooke stood up as the brunette bid everyone a good night and waved, “I’m going to… good night everyone.”
Brooke followed Sam into the silence of the dark camp and reached for the hand that reached back for her. She pulled herself closer to the brunette so they were walking side by side, and whispered, “Do you think Jonah can make a CD, so I can see this strip tease.”
Sam laughed lightly, “Why do I get the feeling that I’m never going to forget this?”
She pulled open the door to their tent and lit the candles. She watched as Brooke sat on the bed, looking sullen. She knelt on the ground and took her hands, “Hey baby, you okay?”
Brooke shook her head, “I know I’m slightly drunk, but… and it’s stupid, but I really miss home.”
Sam knelt upwards to kiss her softly on the cheek, “It’s not stupid. I really miss home…” She stopped, her eyes lighting up, “Hang on, I’ve got something…”
She turned to rummage through her bags, smiling widely as she pulled out a large wad of paper. She turned to Brooke and handed them to her, which the blonde accepted, a questioning look on her face.
Sam smiled, “It’s all the e-mails I got, from everyone back home… I thought you’d like to read them. See what Mac has been keeping me up to date with and all that.”
Brooke smiled, mouthing a thank you before sliding back on the bed to read the letters in the soft candle-light.
Sam could hear chuckles and sighs from the blonde, as she sorted through her belongings. She couldn’t help but smile at each lilting sound that escaped the blonde’s mouth. God, she loved her.
Brooke shot up, “Harrison’s gay!”
Sam laughed and turned to the blonde. “Apparently so.” She climbed up on the bed to sit next to the blonde, and wrapped her arms around her.
Brooke’s mouth was still wide open in surprise, and she turned to Sam, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I forgot,” Sam shrugged, smiling at the blonde’s shocked reaction.
“The little… you mean that whole three-way circle was for nothing…” Brooke could barely form a sentence and Sam chuckled.
“Aren’t you glad you decided not to date him after all?” Sam said, pushing the loose strands of blonde hair behind Brooke’s ear.
Brooke turned to her and smiled, “I got the best deal in the end. I got you.”
“Aw you say the sweetest things,” Sam laughed, sticking her finger in her mouth, and making retching sounds.
“Oy!” Brooke pushed her gently, and straddled her, tickling her softly. Sam squirmed beneath her, pleading for forgiveness.
The two stopped moving, and watched each other carefully before Sam spoke quietly, “Will this change when we get home? You and me?”
Brooke thought for a moment before leaning forwards, “Yeah it will… for the better.” She claimed Sam’s lips with her own, and enveloped them into a hug.
It was barely dawn when the gunfire startled them both awake. They scrambled to get up, clutching to each other, only to see a rifle being pointed at them.
Brooke pushed back into Sam at the sight of the gun. She knew that she was shaking and could feel Sam doing the same behind her. Sam fell back onto the bed, pulling Brooke on top of her. Neither of them dared to take their eyes away from the rifle. The person behind the weapon was in shadows, his face out of sight. He moved the gun, gesturing for them to step out of the tent. He walked backwards as they walked towards him.
Sam kept a tight grip on the taller woman's hand as they stepped into the beginnings of daylight. They turned to the gunman, and Brooke gasped, "You?"
Brooke left go of the brunette's hand to step forward.
"Brooke," Sam whispered wary of their attacker, but saw the same person as Brooke did. She would never forget those scars that dressed the dark skin. How could she when she was the one who stitched those wounds together.
The boy stepped back as Brooke slowly walked towards him. His hand trembled as he tried to keep his weapon steady. He turned to the shouts of his fellow `army' before looking back into the hazel eyes. He shook his head, and Brooke stopped in her steps.
He pointed to the ground with his gun, conveying for them to kneel. Both girls kneeled without resistance and watching him with careful eyes. He lifted his gun again , directing the tip at them.
Sam watched him, waiting… She listened to gunfire, the screams, the shouts that surrounded them, and she waited. Brooke glanced back at Sam for a quick second before looking at their shooter.
The boy lowered his rifle, and held it with one hand as his other hand ran over his scars, the thread still in place. He looked at the frightened women. He turned and ran away, holding his gun tightly to his body.
"Brooke," Sam whispered as she crawled forward. She wrapped her arms around the trembling blonde, whispering words of comfort as she felt her own tears stream down her cheeks.
They stayed in that position listening to the gunfire taper off into the distance, the jeers and the shouts, the moving feet of those fleeing and the screams of those left behind. As a sense of silence seemed to drop onto the camp, the two stood up. They watched as many others stood up, or crept from their hiding places, all appearing to be shell-shocked, as they were. Their eyes swept over the camp, seeing that it had been raided, its tents were no more, bodies of the dead and the wounded scattered the area, some they recognized, some they didn't.
It was the sight of Hugh hugging someone close to him that raised their panics. Sam ran towards him, closely followed by the blonde. They stopped as they saw who Hugh was cradling, his hand clutching a gun, hiding the dead man's face. Sam looked over to the body near him, and recognized him with hatred. This was the man that threatened Sittina, threatened Brooke, threatened her, killed the man in Hugh's arms, and now he was dead. Dead by the hands of Hugh.
Hugh let out blood-curdling cries as he rocked the dead man in his hands to him, refusing to let anyone near them. Sam fell to her knees before him, whispering softly, "Hugh, put down the gun! Please.!" Hugh looked at her and shook his head, letting his screams wrench through him again.
Brooke looked around them and saw that more people were rising from their hiding places and walking towards them. She let the ambush of the camp unfold before her eyes. There was nothing that resembled the camp to how she remembered it to be the previous night. The operational tent was stripped down, its contents scattered throughout the dunes. The medical tent had been collapsed, the people underneath still moaning, pools of blood seeping through the material. The food line was no more, there was nothing left of it.
Her bare feet were treading over warm sand, splinters of wood, torn rags and shell casings, yet she didn't feel them. She returned her eyes to Hugh, silently praying that the man whose head he was covering wasn't who she thought him to be. Yet, she knew it was.
Hugh's face was torn, blood spattered on his cheekbones, his eyes red from tears, his mouth ajar with moans. He felt Sam's hand on his, coaxing it away. He reacted angrily turning his pistol onto her. "Don't touch him!"
Sam's eyes ignored the gun, but fell onto the face of the dead man in her friend's arms, "No! God no!" She whispered, barely audible.
Hugh looked back to the open dead eyes staring up at him, and dropped the gun as he returned his hand to cradle the face, letting his tears break through again.
The remaining people in the camp dropped to their knees around Hugh, all in silent mourning, both refugees and aid-workers. Their leader, their father, their carer was dead. Yuri was dead.
Lucinda crawled from beneath the canvas that was once a make-shift hospital, and became immediately devastated, their must have been seventy dead, and more were injured. She could hear their cries in pain, and she knew that she didn't have the resources to help them all. She looked over at the mourning circle of people on their knees and walked towards them. She felt her heart stop as she realized that her old and dear friend was dead. She stepped towards Hugh, and ignored his protests when she went to touch the dead man's face carefully. She gently swept her hand over the dead eyes, remembering them for the last time, closing them forever.
"We need to help people now, Hugh," Lucinda spoke softly, as she looked into the red-rimmed eyes, "It's what Yuri would want us to be doing." She stood and addressed everyone else, "And that goes for everyone, we need to leave today."
Someone had to keep their emotions in check and that person was going to be her. She surveyed her surroundings and walked to the nearest injured person. She turned back seeing that no one had moved. She let them have one more minute, "Come on, they'll be back."
A sheet of silence dropped over the camp, not even moans of agony pierced the air. A giant hole was being dug by a mixture of aid-workers and refugees. They needed to bury their dead. Hugh stood away from them, digging an individual hole, for the man who treated him better than his own father did.
Sam and Brooke helped the many that were treating the wounded, watching as Lucinda either shook or nodded her head. A shake was a `They're not going to make it.' A nod was a `They've got a chance.'
As they were leaving, Lucinda had explained that the seriously injured can't be taken. She would stay with them until the Red Cross came for them. Dev, battered but uninjured helped Jonah carry the ones who wouldn't be leaving to a tent that was being erected for them.
Brooke held Charlie's hand, feeling her fingers being crushed by the British man, as Petey removed a bullet from his shoulder with his fingers. He looked up at Brooke who was trying not to show the pain he was causing her. "Who else did they get?"
"Amelia," Brooke sighed remembering as she was the one that covered the petite American with a sheet. "Marco, Hattie, Kris… Jet should be okay…" She stopped, pausing, trying to find words even though she has them, "They killed sixty refugees, more will die… and they killed Yuri." She watched as Charlie closed his eyes, oblivious to his own physical pain as a new for of pain replaced it.
Daylight had fully formed. The sun was hot but no one felt warmed as they carefully placed the dead in the large grave. The aid workers watched their own being buried with the dead natives, knowing that there was no longer a difference.
Brooke held Sam tightly to her as they watched Hugh and Dev carefully lower Yuri's body now wrapped in a sheet into the ground. The blonde could feel the brunette sobbing and could feel her own tears. Tears for the loss of a good man, a man she never got to know as well as she would have liked. There were also tears for the loss of her lover was suffering.
The people watched as Hugh and Dev covered the body tenderly with sand, no one wanting to move until he was completely covered. Hugh knelt and smoothed the sand over with his hand, and watched as Lucinda walked towards him. She smiled softly before turning to the crowd of frightened mourners.
"We have lost many, family and friends. But now is not the time to grieve. We must move. The Red Cross aren't coming for us today." She let her eyes wander back to the recent grave of her friend, wishing that her oldest friend was here still. He knew what to do in these situations. Her voice became quieter as she gave her listeners instructions. "Take what you need and leave. Go north-east where there's a camp waiting for you. Don't look back."
She squeezed Hugh's shoulder lightly, and looked at everyone again before walking towards to the tent holding the wounded.
Brooke stood outside their tent, waiting for Sam.
She smiled and turned to Charlie, now with his arm in a sling, approaching her. She nodded, "You?"
Charlie stepped up beside her and thought for a moment, "The weird thing is, I'm not." He saw Brooke's doubtful look, and continued. "Think about it, since I've landed in this god forsaken country, I've contracted Malaria, I've been left behind on one of Hugh's beer runs, I've seen people die before my eyes, I've lost many friends, I've watched people fall apart, I've been beaten up… and now, I've been shot… and I'm still alive to tell the tale." He stated rather proudly. Brooke chuckled lightly.
"I'm glad you're alive," she said softly.
"So am I. Or you'd be talking to thin air," he answered with a playful grin. He looked back on the camp, and watched as people began to walk away, with their most precious articles. He watched as the injured Jet hobbled towards the jeep, and climbed in. He watched as Dev and Elena loaded the last crate in, and shook hands with the quiet Canadian man, before turning away. He looked back at Brooke who was watching what he was watching, "You know when I was a kid, my grandfather would tell me about his stories during World War II… he never talked about the craziness of it, the deaths, the trenches, the inhumane crap that went on… he would tell me the little things, the things that made him smile, the adventures they got up to, the laughs he and his mates had… when I go back home, those are the stories I want to be able to tell my grandkids." He looked over at the tall woman next to him and blushed at his personal dream. Brooke smiled and patted his unharmed arm.
"Hey," Sam spoke as she climbed out with her backpack on her shoulder. "I'm ready."
Brooke grabbed her bag and threw it over her shoulder but made no move to walk. The two turned to her, and she smiled, "Let's wait a while. I'm not ready to leave yet."
Charlie looked at Sam who nodded for him to go ahead. She watched Charlie catch up with the departing crowd, the jeep at the top. Brooke turned to climb one of the dunes knowing that Sam would follow her.
The two sat on the dunes and watched as the camp emptied, but a few who had volunteered to stay with Lucinda. Elena and Dev being two. They waited in silence as the crowd disappeared into the distance, choosing the dunes rather than the road as a path. It was said to be a safer route by Yuri and Jorge.
Sam felt Brooke's arm wrap around her, and heard the blonde sigh. She turned to her, "We need to start moving."
Brooke nodded, "I just needed to do this." She took her camera from her backpack, and let the camera record the emptiness and the death of a once lively camp.
Sam nodded in understanding.
They stood and slid down the dunes, preparing to catch up with the crowd and for whatever comes next. They walked past the make-shift hospital and looked in. The injured were quiet, only mutters could be heard. Some of the injured were dead, but no one had the opportunity to take them out and bury them. They nodded to Lucinda who nodded back. They turned to Elena and Dev and hugged them tight.
"I'm never going to forget you," Elena whispered tearfully as she hugged Sam again.
Sam shook her head, "We'll see other again… when the Red Cross comes and gets you."
Elena nodded, though there was doubt in her eyes.
"We'll meet on the other side then," Dev spoke softly.
"What took you guys so long?" Charlie yelled as he saw the running women approach the back of the crowd.
Sam shook her head and pointed to Brooke, "Didn't you know? She takes forever to get ready."
Brooke pushed her gently and smiled at Charlie. Despite the uncertainty of what was to come, there was a sense of relief at not being at the camp anymore. The three tailed behind the rest of the crowd and walked in silence, each thinking about what they had left behind.
"Want to hear a joke?" Charlie said out of the blue, stirring both the girls from their thoughts. They nodded, and waited patiently.
"Okay, what do you call a dog without a bone?" Charlie asked, the lilt returning to his voice.
The two girls shrugged as they were expected to.
"Floppy," he answered, grinning at their groans. "Okay, what about this one? A man walked into a bar… Ouch! It was an iron bar!" He chuckled as they groaned again.
"A stand-up is so not your calling in life," Sam stated.
"Damn," Charlie exclaimed, clicking his fingers. "Back to the drawing board for me."
"What did you do before you came here?" Brooke asked after a few minutes of silence fell over them.
"I was in copper," Charlie stated simply.
"Really?" Sam asked, "I didn't know that… you look nothing like a…"
"Cop?" Charlie finished for her. Sam shook her head. "Hated it, especially considering the shit that I saw with refugees and immigrants that were coming in. People thought they were just their to take the jobs and advantage of the system. And sure some were, but some weren't… and I thought, I hate being a cop, why not come to Africa? Make a difference. Not that much difference is being made."
Sam stopped walking, rested her hand on Charlie's uninjured shoulder, "Believe me. You're making a difference… You keep everyone sane."
"Hey man!" Hugh called out as he jogged towards them clutching three bottles of water. He threw one to each of them. "That's your day's worth so don't drink it all at once," He warned as he watched Charlie chug half of the liquid down.
Charlie stopped and looked at him, "Are you serious?"
"Yeah, we won't have enough for everyone for six days otherwise."
"I'm going to have to drink my own pee then," Charlie spoke seriously.
Hugh laughed while the two girls made repulsed noises.
"So Dev stayed?" Hugh asked he fell into steps with them. Sam nodded and they walked in silence. "Sam, I'm sorry about… the… the gun."
Sam shook her head, "It's okay… how you doing?"
"To be honest, I've had better days… but at least I wasn't shot!" He said as he poked Charlie in his injured shoulder.
"Ow!" Charlie yelped, pushing him away. "You wanker!"
"We're stopping here for the night," Jet yelled as he pulled the jeep into a halt. He stood and winced from the pain that shot through him. He turned to the people following him, seeing their tiredness in their faces.
"Shouldn't we keep going?" Hugh yelled, "Just in case…"
"No, we need to rest," The Canadian said firmly. He knew that he needed the rest. His wound was beginning to hurt him to much. He climbed out of the jeep and collapsed onto the sand. He leaned against the hardness of the vehicle, struggling to open the bottle of water. It tasted like the sweetness of Elixir, he thought as he gulped the liquid down.
The people dispersed around the area, removing blankets from their packages.
Hugh and Charlie stood and stretched as the two girls sat down onto their outstretched blankets.
"Oh God!" They heard one of the other aid workers yell out. They all turned to see what she could see, and they all gasped at the sight.
A fire in the far distance provided the only light in the dark sky.
A fire in the direction from where they had come.
"It isn't…" Brooke was afraid to finish her sentence.
They stood watching as the flames rose before fading.
"I fuckin' hate this place," Sam almost screamed as she sat down on the blanket. She felt the others sit around her, and felt Brooke pull her towards her. "I fuckin' hate it!" She whimpered.
They sat in silence, their tiredness had faded away fast.
"Hugh?" Brooke whispered into the darkness.
"Do you have any beer?"
The quiet laughter filled the air, and Sam kissed the blonde lightly on the cheek, whispering, "You're the best girlfriend anyway could ask for."
"That is sooo true Samster," Hugh added.
He felt his body being slapped twice and chuckled, before having another slap from his British friend. "Hey man, what was that for?"
Charlie laughed, "They hit you… I wanted to join in."
Dawn break found everyone on their feet beginning their trek towards hope. The looks on their faces suggested that they were anything but rested. Yet fear was no longer present. Instead, there was a sense of resignation. This was their fate.
Brooke watched the sand move slowly in the gentle breeze, the grains jumping from one spot to the next, as if they were trying to keep up with the crowd. She turned to Sam who was staring ahead, focusing on the back of the man's head that walked in front of them.
"What if we get a sandstorm?" Brooke asked, but didn't sound frightened by the possibility.
Sam turned to her and took her hand, "Then we're gone."
She returned her gaze to the man's head, and watched as he hobbled forward on his cane. Brooke returned her eyes to the dancing sand grains.
They knew they were half-way through the day when Jet drove the jeep past them, tossing the rations of food and water to each person. Sam caught one package and passed it to Brooke before catching her own.
"I'm not hungry," The blonde murmured.
"Save it for later," Sam looked over at her girl-friend. "You'll need to keep up your energy."
Brooke nodded, and dropped the packet in her backpack. She watched as Sam ate her dry rice quickly, swallowing it down with the water. "Easy there," She warned gently. Sam looked at her and smiled weakly.
"Ever think this would be where we would be when we were younger?" Sam asked, returning her focus to the hobbling man before her.
Brooke shook her head, "I honestly didn't think we'd ever be talking to each other, never mind all this."
"Really?" Sam shifted her attention to the blonde. "Did you hate me that much?"
"Never hated you… I guess I was in awe of you… you terrified and amazed me." Brooke let her eyes meet the chocolate ones looking at her.
"I'm amazed by you." Brooke said breathlessly, her hand squeezing the one holding hers.
"I can't go any further," Brooke protested, letting her knees fall to the ground. She felt Sam tug her hand, trying to force her back up. She just didn't have the energy. The people walked around her, ignoring her. Sam dropped onto the soft sand beside her.
"Please Brooke, it's almost night time… we can rest then."
Brooke shook her head. Her muscles ached, her head felt heavy, her mouth felt dry, a taste of sand filled her. She felt like she was covered with the grains, and started brushing away at herself.
"Brooke, I need you to get up and walk with me," Sam pleaded, but she too knew how simple it would be to lie down and sleep. They had witnessed several doing just that throughout the day. None of them ever rising again.
Brooke leaned against Sam's body, "I can't."
"You have to… think about home. Think about the `rents. Think about Mac… keep thinking about them." Sam tried to sound encouraging but knew her croaking voice was failing her.
Brooke lifted her eyes to meet Sam's, "All I do is think about home, you and me being at home."
Sam smiled softly, "Well, that won't happen if you don't start walking now."
Brooke fell onto the soft sand as darkness blanketed over them. She didn't think she would have the energy to rise when day returned. It took every part of her to get up earlier that day, and she knew it took a lot of Sam's energy to pull her up and push her forwards.
She turned to face the brunette who was lying on her back next to her watching the stars.
"Sam?" Her voice felt odd, dry and unlike her own.
Sam turned her head to look into the exhausted hazel eyes.
"I love you," whispered Brooke as she closed her eyes and feel into deep slumber.
Sam took a blanket out of her pack and covered the blonde with it, rubbing her gently on the back before leaning forward to kiss her on the cheek, "I love you too."
"Samster!" She heard Hugh call out as he approached her. He slumped next to her and glanced at Brooke, "How is she doing?"
"Exhausted… I'm really scared," Sam replied, tears threatening to spill over. She felt his comforting arm over her shoulders.
"She'll be fine after a good rest," he reassured her. "How you doing?"
"I can't feel my feet. My legs no longer work. My butt hurts like hell, and my head is pounding… oh, and I'm starving." She answered, and fell back onto the sand.
"How much would you love a pizza right now?" Hugh whispered as he lay next to her.
"Bastard!" She whispered, hitting him with little energy. Within minutes she was asleep.
"I feel like I'm in that book by Stephen King," Charlie moaned as he rubbed his sore shoulder continuously.
"Stop doing that. You'll make it worse," Brooke scolded, feeling a new boost of energy after some sleep and being force-fed by Sam in the early hours of the morning.
"What book?" Sam asked, amused that she was again behind the hobbling man.
"You know the one with the guys taking the walk, and they get shot," Charlie explained with no sense of clarity. He scowled as Brooke swiped his hand away as he went to rub his wound.
"That sounds unhopeful," Brooke declared as she grabbed his hand, "And touch it again, I`ll chop your hand off."
"Bloody hell," Charlie retorted. "You always this bossy."
"Yeah she is," Sam mumbled with a smile. "But she is right… here let me see."
"You a doctor now?" Charlie asked as he slowly pulled off his tattered t-shirt, hissing at the pain it caused.
"Oh God!" Sam exclaimed as she studied the purple and red blotched wound. "That doesn't look good."
She looked around, before charging through the crowds trying to find the red-head doctor.
Brooke watched her leave before turning to Charlie who merely shrugged. "She's right. It's not looking good."
"Thank god, you're not a nurse," Charlie said humourlessly. "Your bedside manner sucks."
"What's up man?" Hugh called as he ran ahead of Sam and Petey. "Holy shit, that looks bad."
"So everyone keeps telling me," Charlie sulked.
He let himself be sat down as Petey studied the wound before taking out his own bottle of his water and washing the wound, "It's infected… I'd say we need to get you to the hospital soon…" His voice tapered into silence.
"Mate, what's the story?" Charlie asked.
Petey cleared his throat, "You feeling ill, nauseous, dizzy?"
"As much as the next person is," Charlie answered, his patience failing, "What you trying to tell me?"
"You should make it to camp… but the moment you start feeling symptoms, tell me." Petey stood and put out his hand to pull the young Brit up.
Charlie watched as Petey ran back into the crowds to tend to others, and then turned to his friends, "Any of you decide to open a hospital, I'm not going there." He joined the crowd, followed by his concerned friends.
Brooke let her fingers entwine with Sam's as she watched her feet, amazed by their ability to keep pushing forwards.
"The Long Walk," Sam said suddenly.
"What?" Brooke asked.
"That's the book Charlie was on about earlier." Sam said simply.
Brooke nodded, "I really miss showers!"
Sam chuckled and nodded, "I can't wait to have a shower with you." Her whisper was husky and it quickened Brooke's heartbeat.
"You've just given me a new focus, McPherson."
Sam grinned and watched the hobbled man who was a few feet ahead of them. He was her focus. As long as he kept walking, she knew that she could. And as long as she was still walking, she would make sure that Brooke would be too. She was leaving the responsibility of both their fates in this man's hands.
Sam gritted her teeth as she held Charlie down by his shoulders. Brooke held his one leg down while Hugh pushed down the other. The British boy screamed into the night as Petey ripped open his stitches in the wavering candle-light. He poured the hot water into the wound, before applying pressure with his hand. He looked at Charlie who was watching him carefully. "This is going to really hurt!"
Charlie nodded, before looking into Sam's eyes, "You know you're lucky Sammy?"
"Why? Because I haven't been shot!"
Charlie looked down at Petey who was holding up a burning metal rod. He looked back up at Sam, swearing, "Fuck! He's going to stick that into me… no, because you have Brooke… you have someone." He screamed loudly as the rod was inserted into his wound. His shrieks carried into the night. He soon passed out.
The three left go of the now limp blonde, and watched him. Sam pulled Brooke away, almost startling the blonde with the action.
Sam pushed Brooke to the sand in a secluded area, before falling herself. They lay looking at each other, both feeling weak, both feeling tired, both feeling lifeless. Sam traced Brooke's dry lips with her finger, watching as Brooke licked the lips as she touched them. She leaned forward to kiss her, putting her last inch of energy into that kiss.
"It's a long way to Tipperary," Hugh sang off-key as he weaved between the crowds. He had been singing it over and over again for at least an hour. The song becoming his focus point.
Charlie trudged slowly, a new pain replacing an old one in his shoulder. A dull ache, but as far as he was concerned as long as he felt it, he was there.
Jet knew that he wasn't going to see another day as he drove the jeep slowly. He also knew that there would be no more food after today, and no more water after tomorrow. He wanted to live to deliver that last bottle of water. That was his focus.
The young man hobbled on his stick, feeling his leg become weaker and more painful with each step. He wanted to see his son again. That was his focus.
An elderly woman being held up by two younger women, wanted to see hope one more time. That was her focus.
A teenage boy with one missing arm, started counting his steps on the second day walking. He could only reach a thousand before starting again. He wanted to count beyond a thousand without having to start again. That was his focus.
An aid-worker named Naomi, kept replaying her honeymoon on a Caribbean cruise in her head. She could always remember every detail in her head, except her husband's face. She wanted to see her husband's face again.
A tall man sat down in the sand and watched the people go by. He lay back slowly. His focus was his wife and daughter, but they were dead. He didn't need to keep walking.
Sam leaned against the taller blonde, her exhaustion threatening her with every step, but as long as that man with the cane kept walking so would she.
Brooke supported the weight of her lover, feeling herself becoming weaker, but as long as the woman she adored was breathing so would she.
They could feel the sand rise, before they could hear the sound of the helicopter hovering near them. They watched as it came to land, its engine loud, but seeming unreal amongst their silence.
"Who are they?" Sam asked, her voice almost gone.
People continued walking slowly past the landing helicopter, aware of the new arrival but not caring. Hugh stopped singing to look over, putting his hand in his waistband to ensure that he was still carrying a gun. He smiled to himself on feeling the metal. It made him feel safe. It even made him feel sane. He glanced back to Charlie who gave a painful shrug. The British man kept looking ahead ignoring the loud engine, and the sand rising, Hugh looked further back to Sam and Brooke who were holding each other up. Both had slowed their steps with curiosity for their new company. He looked back over and saw men jumping out. He stopped once he recognized they weren’t the enemy, yet didn’t move his hand from his weapon. These new men were wearing camouflage, and he had learned not to trust that uniform. He waited for Charlie to catch up and the two looked back at the girls, seeing that they also had stopped, as did many people at this point. All of whom were looking at the men approaching them from the helicopter. They all had seen what Hugh had seen to know that these men weren’t the enemy. These men were white.
Hugh and Charlie walked back towards the girls. Sam glanced at them as she tried to gain energy to leave Brooke go.
“Army?” Brooke rasped, before coughing.
They watched as the men started running towards Jet’s jeep. They looked at each other and Sam smiled as Charlie mouthed for her to go journalize. They walked slowly behind the crowds of people that has past them. They saw that Jet had stopped driving and was in deep conversation with one of these new men. Jet stood on the jeep and tried to shout, but the pain in his side and the lack of water refused to let him do that. Sam glanced up at Brooke, “Do you think they come for us?”
Brooke shrugged and kept her eyes on the scene before them. She watched as one of the men shouted to one of his colleagues. He then stood on the jeep and shouted loudly and clearly, stunning everyone to stop moving.
“My name is Lieutenant Barker. I am here as part of the UN peacekeeper corps. I have been enlisted to bring all foreign nationals to our army base in Khartoum where they will then be transported back to their home countries. We advise that you come with us as there is a war taking place, and we cannot otherwise guarantee your safety.”
“What about all of them?” Kenny, an Irish aid-worker asked, pointing to the hundreds of people who were watching the camouflaged men with a hint of hope in their eyes.
Barker looked at them and back at Kenny, “Our orders are to bring only Foreign Nationals. We have been ordered not to assist the movement of refugees.”
“Fuck this shit!” Hugh exhaled before walking towards the jeep quickly. He stood tall and straight as he faced the ruddy faced lieutenant. He looked at the people who had started walking onwards, their hope defeated. He glared at Barker, “And what are your orders if we refuse to leave?”
Barker was stunned, but answered the tall sandy-haired man, “We can’t force you to leave, but we can’t guarantee that you will make it. All borders have been closed.”
Sam exhaled loudly and ventured to the jeep, followed closely by Brooke. She watched as some of the aid-workers shook their heads and followed the crowd, only to be pushed back by the new army presence. She laughed bitterly, “You say we can choose whether to stay or to go, yet you force us to go with you!”
Barker studied the exhausted but still attractive brunette, “Where you from?”
Charlie laughed and rubbed his shoulder, “Mate, this is the freakin’ desert, not a pick-up bar.”
Barker glared at the Brit before returning his attention to the now frowning Sam, “Don’t you want to go back to your family?”
He watched as Sam turned to the taller blonde standing beside her, who simply nodded. She turned back to Barker and waited. He cleared his throat. “We are not forcing you to stay here. But we need to ensure that you understand that if you don’t leave with us, your chances of survival are minimum.”
He saw the group of aid-workers walk away from him and gather around in a circle. They whispered amongst themselves, throwing odd glances in his direction. He sighed and jumped of the jeep and joined his troop. He had seen this all before and never understood why some chose to stay behind. He guessed that it was a different form of army. The aid-workers watched out for each other, like he and his soldiers did.
Naomi looked into the haggard faces of the people she had spent the last year of her life with and sighed. If she was properly hydrated she would cry, but she was thirsty, hungry and exhausted. She knew her decision before Barker finished, “I’m going home.”
Hugh nodded and Kenny patted her on the back. They looked to the others and watched as Kit nodded, “I’m going too.”
Hank smiled at the petite brunette and gripped her hand, banging their wedding bands together, “Me too.”
Sam watched silently, feeling Brooke hold her hand loosely. She watched as the several more made the decision to go home, and even more decided to stay.
Hugh shrugged, noticing very few had spoken including himself, “I’m staying… I’ve got nothing at home.”
“Except beer.” Charlie added. Hugh smiled at him and raised a questioning brow. Charlie looked at Petey who shook his head at him. He looked back at his best friend. “I’m sorry mate, but doc tells me I’ve got to get to a hospital if I’m to be any good… but I’ll be back… with beer.”
Hugh smiled at the joke and looked to his other friends, and saw that they were both being silent.
Sam thought about home, about her mother and her step-father, and her baby sister. She then thought about her story, and even though she had more than enough she still needed to see the end. She laughed inwardly. This was never going to end. She then allowed herself to think beyond the story and about the people she had been helping for the past nine months. A part of her wanted to stay and keep helping them in anyway she knew how. She looked at Brooke and saw in those hazel eyes what the blonde wanted. She thought about her future with the blonde, would it be different when they got back? Would Brooke think that once in the States, she didn’t need the brunette anymore? Would their family be okay with the idea of them being together? Would they be able to survive their memories and grow together as a couple? She sighed loudly and knew everyone was waiting for her to speak.
She transported herself back to the dirty, destroyed building where they had been to help the injured rebels. She relived the moments in which she sat on the hardened floor listening to Yuri speak with realism and wisdom about her purpose as a journalist. She thought about his question where the older man had asked with sincerity in his eyes, “Is it worth your life?”
She returned her mind to her present situation feeling twenty seven pairs of eyes on her. She tugged Brooke’s hand and looked up at her. She felt Brooke push away some fallen strands of hair from her eyes. She let her other hand take the blonde’s fingers and bring them to her side. She let her eyes meet the hazel ones watching her carefully and whispered, “You’re worth my life… let’s go home.”
The two girls stood back as Hugh pulled Charlie into a tight hug. Both boys ignored the physical pain that the embrace caused. Hugh pulled back and looked to his friends, and grinned.
“It was a hell of an adventure,” he spoke with emotions.
Charlie slapped him on the shoulder, “I’ll be back soon.”
Hugh nodded and looked at Sam and Brooke, “Have a beer for me when you get home.” The girls chuckled and heard Barker order them to the helicopter. Hugh glanced at him before looking back at his friends. “You better go… the borders are awaiting my charm.”
The three began to crouch as they approached the loud vehicle. Charlie looked back at his best friend and yelled, “I’ll see you soon mate!”
Hugh nodded and waved. They both knew that was a lie.
As the helicopter rose to the safety of the sky, the nine new members onboard looked out the windows, watching the people grow smaller. Sam looked into the horizon to see only deserts, before looking back on the people they left behind. She whispered a silent prayer for their safety, hoping they would find a way home as she had just done. She felt the blonde’s hand on her back, rubbing it soothingly. She looked up at Brooke and saw that the blonde was focusing on the people below become mere dots. She looked across to see their British friend also staring out the window. She touched his knee with her own knee and he looked at her. He nodded at her, trying to reassure her that he was okay.
The brunette stared out the window and watched as the sand became darker, turning slowly into roads and cities. She could make out crowds on the ground below, but could only hear the loud engine. She felt scared, not sure of what was going to happen next. She was watching a world tear themselves apart below, and it terrified her. She saw a flag waving in the distance. The flag that represents the UN and the sudden realisation that the world was reacting began to kick in.
Brooke studied the frowns on her lover’s face and continued to rub her back. The blonde was happy in the knowledge that they were going to be back home soon, but was scared as to what this would mean. How much has she changed? Will she be able to do what she did before with a clear conscience?
As they approached the ground behind the protection of high wires and sturdy walls, they jumped out, running from the loud engine. They watched as the helicopter rose to the sky again and waited to be told what would happen.
“The barracks are up ahead. You will find showers, fresh clothes and food waiting for you.”
“Showers? Did he just say showers?” Sam cried out. She looked over to see Charlie chuckling.
Sam sat on the bed, rummaging through her notes, and feeling pleasure from the drops of waters cascading down her arms from her recent shower. She looked up to see Brooke coming into the room.
“That felt soooooooo good!” Brooke exclaimed as she towel-dried her hair. She smiled at the grinning brunette who was watching her. She dropped the towel on the floor and readjusted her clothes. “I am so skinny.” She said as she prodded her ribs.
“I never thought I’d hear you say that,” Sam commented as she stood up and wrapped her arms around the taller woman. “You smell good.”
“So do you.” Brooke whispered as she turned to face the smaller woman, kissing her lightly on the lips.
Sam saw tears brimming in the hazel eyes, and gently wiped away the tears, “Hey, what’s wrong?”
“We’re almost there,” Brooke whispered back, leaning into the contact.
Sam smiled and tip-toed to kiss her, “Yeah, we are.”
Brooke rolled over in her sleep, resting her hand on the bare pillow next to her. She lifted her head and adjusted her eyes to the dim light coming from a small lamp. She sat up and saw Sam sitting on the edge of the bed scribbling her notes down. She moved down on the bed to sit behind Sam wrapping her arms around the smaller woman’s torso. “Hey, what you doing?”
Sam smiled as she leaned back, “Writing my article” She whispered so not to disturb the two other people sleeping in their room. She turned her head and kissed the blonde softly before continuing, “I want to finish it before I get back… I want to finish it here.”
Brooke nodded, and kissed the brunette’s neck lightly. “Don’t stay up all night…. We’ve a long day tomorrow.” She felt Sam nod, but she knew that she had lost the brunette to her writings.
Sam re-read her article as the sunlight started to drift in through the bare windows. She nodded as she read the last sentence, and signed her name to the bottom. “Finished,” she whispered to no one. She looked back at Brooke who was fast asleep. She stood, stretching to relieve her muscles smiling as Brooke stretched in her sleep.
The brunette peered out the window, watching the soldiers below practice their drills. She could see Barker shouting orders at the men and women who were incredibly obedient in their actions. She knew that she could never join the army. It required too much discipline, something which she lacked.
“Sam?” The brunette turned to the blonde who was watching her carefully, a smile dancing on her face. Sam grinned at her.
“Hey you,” Sam whispered as she approached the bed, “Sleep well?”
Brooke smiled, “Guessing I slept more than you… did you even try to sleep?” She pulled the brunette onto the bed next to her.
Sam let herself be embraced by the taller woman as she answered, “No, I just finished… I love you.”
Brooke raised her head at the unexpected declaration of love and saw dark eyes sparkle at her. She bent her head to kiss the lips below her, “I love you too.” She mumbled into the lips.
The blast startled them out of their sleep. Brooke jumped out of the bed, ignoring the pain that occurred as her bare feet made contact with the hard ground. She looked at Sam with panic in her eyes. Sam tried to calm her breathing down as the tremors from the blast sifted through the building. They both stood in silence, waiting for… they didn’t know.
On hearing orders being shouted outside, Sam pulled herself out of bed and approached the window, feeling the blonde close behind her. The two watched as the armed men ran to and fro below them, appearing to be chaotic in an organised fashion.
The door burst open behind them and Brooke couldn’t help but let out a yelp. The two turned to see Charlie staring at them. He nodded, a small smile on his lips.
“That’ll teach you for sleeping in… an old fashioned alarm clock does not work for you!” He said as he played with his sling.
“What was that?” Brooke almost barked out, startling the young man. She noticed his flinch and relaxed herself. She wanted to get home, and was terrified something would step in the way. “I’m sorry…”
Charlie waved it off, “The natives are getting restless… they’re delaying our ride home.”
Brooke could have punched a wall if it wasn’t for Sam taking her hand. She glanced at the smaller woman who seemed calm. She admired Sam for that, for being a rock.
“Why?” Sam asked, sensing her lover’s frustration.
Charlie shrugged, “Guy said it is too dangerous to move us today… they’re going to try and settle things in town before moving us out. They say at night will be the best bet… “
The three stood in silence, their impatience becoming obvious. Nothing was worse than waiting.
“I hate waiting…” Brooke mumbled as she sat back on the bed.
Sam smiled softly at her, “Same here, baby.”
Charlie chuckled, “You know that we spend most of our lives waiting. Waiting for grades, for buses, for a TV show to start, for someone to visit, for the queue to move quicker…”
“What is your point!” Sam laughed, effectively interrupting the blonde Brit.
“I’m just saying… we wait a lot,” Charlie shrugged. “Anyway, you guys wanting lunch…”
“Lunch? What happened to breakfast?” Brooke said as she let herself be pulled off the bed by Sam and led to the door.
“You missed it…” Charlie laughed as he led the way to the soldiers mess.
“So what is the first thing you’re going to do when you get home?” Naomi said, her sadness replaced by contentment of going home.
“Am going to go to the pub, and drink the place dry,” Charlie answered without looking up from his plate.
“Really?” Naomi asked, almost disgusted.
Charlie nodded and looked up at her, “And then I’m going to go get me a kebab… and then I’m going to watch a movie, and then I’m going to go skiing…”
“Skiing?” Brooke laughed out.
Charlie turned to her, “Yeah… I’ve never been… and now, I think we should all have new experiences. Every day should be a new experience.”
“Here Here!” Sam yelled, raising her tin cup to make the toast.
“What about you Naomi? What you going to do?” Charlie asked, obviously enjoying the light-hearted conversation. It made them temporarily forget those they left behind.
Naomi rested her chin on her hand and looked into Charlie’s eyes, “I’m going to have a lot of sex.”
The British man choked on his food and felt tears run from his eyes. “Good for you,” He spluttered, feeling Brooke hammer her palm against him back.
Brooke tried to control her laughter as she saw Naomi’s eyes sparkle. Naomi looked at her, “What about you Brooke? What you going to do?”
The blonde let herself finish chewing, still chuckling from Charlie’s animated reaction. She glanced at Sam who was watching her with warm eyes. “I’m going to publish my story and going to see my family and friends… then, well… I don’t know.”
“You could have lots of sex?” Charlie suggested.
Sam grinned and saw Brooke blush, “I could”
“Excuse me, can I have your attention please?” Barker yelled as he walked amongst the tables in the mess. He waited until he was sure that he had all eyes upon him before continuing, “I know that all of you should be out of Sudan now, but delays couldn’t be helped… however, we will be airborne in two hours, heading for our base in Germany. There you shall be put on planes to your own countries… As you are all aware, it is very dangerous here, so we ask that you be prepared on time. We will not be waiting for anyone.”
“Are you saying that the army are leaving as well?” Someone yelled out.
Barker looked in the direction of the voice, “I am under orders not to comment.”
“Obedience, a wonderful thing,” Sam mumbled sarcastically. She knew Brooke heard her as she felt the blonde’s fingers entwine with hers.
They watched as the soldiers left before looking at each other. The atmosphere had become heavy again, their jokes and laughter forgotten.
“What about everyone else?” Kit asked, and saw her husband shrug.
“I hate the fuckin’ government,” Charlie mumbled, as he realized his best friend will become one of the forgottens.
“Hey, the army might be staying… just because he says he can’t say anything, means nothing.” Brooke said, not really believing her own words.
Sam smiled gently and heard Charlie chuckle. He clapped his hand on the taller woman’s back, “Got to love an optimist.”
“I do,” Sam answered. “I love her, so very much.” She let her eyes meet the hazel ones and knew Brooke was surprised by the public revelation of her feelings. Sam was not known to be speaker of emotions, and so saying out loud her feelings made Brooke’s heart skip a beat. She leant forward and kissed the smaller woman with passion and love, ignoring the cat calls surrounding them.
Sam sat on the destroyed wall, letting her feet dangle as she watched Charlie and Brooke get involved in a game of kicking the bricks the furthest away. It was a silly game but it distracted the two from the waiting, and Sam enjoyed any moment she had of watching her lover.
She let her thoughts drift to her family, and their possible reactions to her newfound love. Would they be happy? Would they be angry? She didn’t know, but she knew that she didn’t care. If there was one thing she could take from her time here, and that was the knowledge that life was far too short to care about what other people think. She was interrupted by Charlie’s joyous cheers.
She looked up to see the Brit spinning around and yelling, “I’m the god of footy!” repeatedly. She laughed as she watched Brooke shove him.
Brooke looked over at Sam and grinned. Everything that is Sam, is what she wanted her future to be. She wanted to have everyday with the smaller brunette. She wasn’t naïve and knew that things would change when they returned home, but she didn’t care. She would never stop loving Sam.
“We should get our stuff,” Sam suggested as she jumped off the wall. She took the taller woman’s hand and waved to the Brit who grinned, “I’m still the God of footy.”
“Here,” Sam said as she past her story to Brooke, “Reading material for the plane.”
Brooke dropped the disposable camera on top of her used films before looking over at Sam’s outstretched hand holding the reason they were both here. She raised an eyebrow and Sam nodded, “Please, I want to know what you think.”
Brooke nodded and took it, feeling moved by the gesture. Sam was always private about her work and she felt honoured to have the invite into her world. She placed it gently into her backpack and closed it. She looked up to see Sam smiling at her somewhat bemused. “What?”
Sam laughed, “I’ve never seen you be so careful with paper before.”
Brooke grinned and watched as Sam pulled her own bag over her shoulder. Sam looked around before looking back at Brooke. She could feel tears welling in her eyes, and allowed the taller woman to pull her into a hug.
“I can’t believe we’re going home,” Sam mumbled into the taller woman’s chest, “So much… so many people… and nobody… it’s not fair.”
Brooke could understand Sam’s incoherent speech, and hugged her tighter to her. There were no words needed.
She let Sam have a few moments to recover before taking her hand and leading her out onto the last road of their journey.
The two could see people gather into jeeps and trucks getting ready to leave. They held each other’s hands and didn’t speak while they crossed the busy yard.
Brooke looked at Sam’s profile and saw a mixture of emotions radiate from her beautiful face. She smiled to herself, she knew she was the cause of some of those emotions… the good ones.
“What about you Sam? What you going to do when we get home?”
Sam looked over at her and smiled, “I’m going to go wherever you go.”
The noise was deafening and then there was nothing for a moment, before screams, shouts and gunshots filtered the air. Another blast hit the buildings nearby and Sam pushed Brooke away as the walls began to tumble down. She could see nothing as smoke and dust started filling the air and more explosions occurred.
She could feel her feet slipping on the debris beneath her, and she struggled to keep her balance. She tried desperately to find Brooke, but every time she shouted out her throat filled with dust, making her cough. She could barely see and used her hands to feel her way round.
Another blast exploded near her, knocking her to the ground.
Her body ached as she tried to stand. Her ears were ringing, almost deafening her to the surrounding sounds of panic. Her eyes were watering as she tried to see amongst the smoke and dust.
“Brooke!” She cried out as she stood up straight. The fear swept over her as noises began to return to her. “BROOKE!”
Another blast rocked through the grounds and then there was darkness.
The applause sifted through the room, getting louder with each clap, stirring her from her memories. She looked around and could see that people were watching her expectantly, waiting for her to rise. She stood and felt the comforting hands of those she loved touch her own as she stepped past the numerous tables. The lights were hot against her skin, the material of her dress felt itchy, her eyes were watery from the brightness. She could hear the claps getting louder, the chairs scraping against the grounds as people stood. She let her feet touch each step lightly as she climbed to the stage, seeing the speech-maker awaiting her. She smiled a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes, and stood behind the podium. Her hearing had been damaged from the explosions, but she knew that their applause could be heard out-doors. It was deafening almost. She grinned inwardly at the inappropriateness of the phrase, but was thankful that she had maintained some hearing. She maintained more than that. She was lucky.
She looked behind her and let her eyes wander over the photo that had been displayed on the big screen. She smiled as she remembered the day it was taken.
The brunette’s knees were pulled up to her chest, her arms crossed upon them, her chin resting against it, her eyes shining in the strong sun. Her dark eyes were watching the blonde not the camera, a light smile dancing on her lips.
The photo captured a peaceful moment in a chaotic world.
She smiled as she remembered that moment before turning back to the still standing but now quiet audience. This was the audience watching an acclaimed prize being given for a renowned article. An article that shook up the classes, woke up the people and made the tiniest of difference to pave the way for many more.
She watched the faces, recognising none. She suddenly felt nervous standing before these strangers, and instead of speaking she cleared her throat. She replaced their faces with those she could never forget when she closed her eyes. She could see the many faces that she left behind in a world that didn’t seem real now. She could see the faces of giggling children playing football with a piece of rag, the faces of elderly women as they told their stories of their youth, the faces of the injured finding their feet again, the faces of aid-workers surrounding a camp-fire, the faces of friends, the faces of good friends… the face of…
“Sam,” Brooke’s voice was barely audible as she felt tears touch her hazel eyes. She took a deep breath, “Sam wanted more than anything , to be a prize-winning journalist… that’s what she wanted before she went to Sudan… She spent all her time there, learning about what was going on, why it was going on and how a small number of people were trying to make a change. She saw a goodness in the darkest of places, a light in a darkness.” She lifted her head towards the roof and sighed before returning her gaze to the unfamiliar faces. “There are no words for me to use. I am not the words smith… Sam was wonderful in so many ways, from when we were arguing teens to when we became lovers… She always maintained her sense of passion, in everything that she did.” She looked back at the photo which she had taken and smiled. It was better to remember Sam like this then as she saw her last, lifeless amongst the rubble and surrounded by the chaos.
Brooke turned back and saw the unfamiliar faces express grief for someone that they would never know. She did know that Sam was right, she would go everywhere with her.
She swallowed hard, “ In her life there, she wanted to make a difference… but it was in her death that the difference was made.”