Characters: Merriell "Snafu" Shelton, Eugene Sledge
Disclaimer: I don't own The Pacific, nor do I mean any disrespect to the real men in K company, and their families. This is based on the actors' portrayal of real men in a fictional setting not the actual men themselves.
Warnings: Snafu being...Snafu?
Summary: Written for a pacifickink fill:
Prompt: Despite his harsh exterior Snafu can't help but be tender with Sledge.
Sledge doesn't have to do much to stick out in Snafu's eyes and yet, even with all the fresh-faced recruits that come in (and will either be leaving in body bags or, on the rare occasion get the "million dollar" wounds back home), he stands apart in his dungarees. The whole damn uniform looks too big on him and all Snafu can do is recline and think Hell, they'll let anyone in nowadays, won't they?
Merriell "Snafu" Shelton isn't thick and for all his lazy-eyes and easy New Orleans drawl, he's quick on the uptake. Someone like Sledge, too pale and too skinny, doesn't look like he can even hold a rifle properly. Strike it up to boredom or maybe a desire to see a recruit smack himself with the recoil of a freshly-fired gun, but Snafu finds himself wandering down to the firing range one day and watching the gunny yell at the new recruits and NCOs. He's idly surprised to find that Sledge cannot only can hold a weapon and not fall over, but he's not a bad shot.
Barely breaks a sweat as he loads up rounds and aims, the recoil barely making him budge. For some reason it annoys Snafu and he turns his heel and leaves as the gunny threatens to shoot another dumbass new officer that'll probably be killed within minutes of stepping on the field.
If Snafu was feeling kind, he'd almost think that maybe, just maybe, skinny and sickly-looking Sledge could actually make it. But even before Gloucester, he wasn't an optimist. Sledge was too whole, too fucking young, to be able to do what they were going to have to do--bigger men: athletes, coal miners, lumberjacks, sailors—all fell, so why would Sledge survive?
Sledge, who takes everything Snafu throws at him without even a clue as to why and still doesn't resent him for it. Someone who, no matter how hot Pauvu's heat gets, won't take off his goddamn undershirt because of modesty--Haney could be showering next to him in the street and he'd look away. He keeps his belongings in a nice little pile, has a fucking bible at hand at all times, and is so much of an overall model marine with his new uniform and pretty face that Snafu just feels like doing something to him—fuck him or shoot him, he's not sure what.
All he is sure of is that Sledge starts to show up everywhere and it's worse when he's asleep because his dreams hold no restraints. He feels like half the real times he's spent with women back home have never left him hard as one dream of Sledge giving him a messy and panicked blowjob. He played bedridden until everyone left the tent and was irritable for days after.
He's heard of guys that start turning to each other when wartime gets them, getting tired of their hands so they use their friends’ hand or even their friends themselves. He'd abstained from that, he's just as fucked up in the head as the rest of them, but damn it he hasn't felt any attraction to Burgin or De'lEau, so why is it that this one replacement is getting him all hot and bothered in his pants? Not even one of the better replacements either—he gets the one most likely to get his leg blown off from a landmine or get caught in Jap artillery fire.
He's not even friends with Sledge, nor does he even talk to him besides the occasional sneer here and there, but apparently it's enough for his mind to go half queer on him. Doesn't help that he's getting territorial and he's not even sure why, but he's chewed up Burgin for just showing the kid how to stow the mortars for easier access. They almost got into a fight and he stormed off. He gives Leyden, Oswald, and Sledge hell as a result, snapping at them for the littlest infractions. It makes him feel better but it doesn't change the fact something is starting and he's not sure what.
Then Peleliu happens and everything changes or it gets worse--Snafu just wants it to go away at this point. The hell of the beach landing and the locked Amtrak doors aside, they run out of water and the heat only fries them alive in their gear. Sledge, Oswald, and Leyden become part of the company simply by surviving.
He can barely believe it half the time either. Sledge is still himself enough to be dry, Oswald keeps to himself just the littlest bit less, and there isn't a day Leyden doesn't stop giving his own damn commentary about something. Snafu would almost feel proud if he wasn't so exasperated with how easily they affect him now, Sledge in particular. He's no longer the pretty-faced replacement that Snafu has confusing messy dreams about because he hasn't been with a woman in a while—he's his comrade in arms. Someone who keeps his cool even when there's a Jap tank barely feet away firing at him. It's enough to earn some respect in his eyes and just maybe Sledge'll see the end of this war alive after all.
Hell if he'll admit it out loud though. He'd rather shoot off his own foot than give a compliment, especially to Sledge. For some reason, he can't stand being looked at with anything but fear, and when Sledge gives him a half-crooked smile Snafu always feels like returning it back, and he's gone damn Asiatic hasn't he? Fuckin’ gettin’ worked up over a goddamn smile?
And still, Snafu keeps his tone sharp, his words biting, and, above all, makes it a point to show that he doesn't give a shit about what any of them think and Sledge...accepts it readily. Easily, he accepts him for him and Snafu's not sure what to make of that. Only thing he does know is that in his foxhole, Oswald and Sledge sleep next to him and for all his bitching about space before, he just keeps his mouth shut and watches the line. For some reason, he finds it near impossible with Sledge leaning on him.
Weeks later, he almost dies, and then Oswald does die. The trek across the airfield into the unwelcome embrace of enemy fire is hell he's never truly experienced till then. He's alive, in one piece, and it's all thanks to Sledge. The irony feels so thick he almost feels like gagging, but still, Sledge went back for him. Sledge dodged gunfire to check his wounds and pull him up.
Sledge thought he was someone worth coming back for.
The idea alone speaks volumes to Snafu, and something brittle and warm fills him. It's unpleasant, and he knows … he knows this is dangerous, his attachment is getting out of hand. He distracts himself by watching the field below from the rafters, tries to focus on the ruins and rubble around them, but his gaze is settled fixedly on Sledge writing in his bible, jotting when he thought no one was paying him mind. He's been doing it for a while now, and even though he knows it fucking has nothing to do with him, and he shouldn't care but more and more he has been, he makes a note to warn Sledge later. Ack Ack and Hillbilly probably couldn't give a shit but some of the new officers are always on the lookout for something to bitch about.
Snafu figures it's at least something to talk about.
They return to the airfield to the arrival of civvies and contractors, and Sledge's changed. Sledge's writing is still steady, but he's changing and all Snafu can do is sit back and watch. He doesn't really know what to think about it, but all his notions have been thrown out the window and he's almost afraid. He can see it in Sledge's eyes that something is going to go wrong. He's seen that look, hell he had that look at one point in time, they all did. And for some strange reason, seeing Sledge with it feels wrong. He's not stupid or idealistic enough to think he can just stop the war's toll on him, but he tries to keep Sledge focused.
And it's scaring him how personally he takes this, the idea of Sledge breaking makes him sick. Ack Ack can only do so much, Sledge is teetering, one more step and he'll be gone. The others notice it too, Leyden runs his mouth off twice as fast and Burgin tries to keep the peace. It all gets shot to hell when Leyden gets shrapnel to his face, Hillbilly dies and then Ack Ack. It's the hardest blow for all of them and for Sledge it's the breaking point.
He finds Sledge standing over a dead nip with his ka-bar raised, and he realizes that for all his playing with the dead Japs, he has to try and appeal to the only really whole person left among them. He doesn't care how he looks flicking stones into some assholes's brain because hell, he's already gone, and been so long gone already.
But this side of Sledge, weapon raised, inching closer to the dead body and making that first step--Snafu doesn't even realize it anymore when he prompts: "Whatcha doin' Sledgehammer?"
He runs his mouth, tries to keep steady, but all he can think is "Not you, you can't do this. You're supposed to be better than all of us."
He's not even sure what he's saying anymore but he tries to remember Doc Caswell in his position once, tries to think of what he said back then and to his relief, sees that it works.
Sledge glares at him in response, but he looks convinced. Part of that replacement Snafu used to hound is still there, and the severity of it all with the fact that Snafu was chastising tempered him a bit. Snafu looks at the rock in his hand and places it down, he's not feeling up to his new found game anymore either. They spend the rest of the day in silence.
Later that night, while the others settle to sleep with the flares going off around them, they share a foxhole again. Snafu knows that this is far from over, that it's up to him now to keep Sledge sane, and he's still not exactly sure why he's doing it.
What he does know is, later that night Sledge stays up with him, leaning on his shoulder, sharing a blanket. They don't talk much, but Sledge mutters a "Thanks" somewhere in the span of time, and Snafu thinks that maybe this was never really about him in the first place.