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'Til we meet again

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朗斯特里特发现最近阿米斯德有点坐立不安。他希望自己不知道个中缘由,这样他就可以直接质问他“你怎么回事”了。不幸的是,他知道,而且从某种意义上来说,这事儿可以算是他挑起来的。他不是瞻前顾后的人,他更喜欢向前看,就像他通常在战场上所做的一样;但是这次他有点烦了。我早就该知道的,他自嘲地想,我早就该知道Lo肯定会翻来覆去想这件事,就算他自己故意逃避这个话题。

在阿米斯德第七次过于明显到惹恼别人而不是引发他们好奇的欲言又止之后,朗斯特里特终于拉下脸(虽然他一向如此):“该死的,Lo,你到底怎么回事?”

“我没事啊,皮特,什么事都没有,”阿米斯德马上意识到自己回答得太快太具体了,“为什么这么问?”更糟了。

朗斯特里特不耐烦地咕哝了一句:“李也没意见。”

正如他所料,阿米斯德的眼睛忽然亮了起来。“你问过他了?”他紧张地问。

“问过了。”当然没问。不过李不会不同意的。他是个仁慈的老人。或许过于仁慈了。李心地温良,而朗斯特里特深知这一点。这种品格并不是看出来或者打听出来的,对朗斯特里特来说更像是……他说不清楚。他就是知道。每次李叫他“我的老战马”,或者李用那双黑色的、闪着光的眼睛向他致意时,他就是知道。

“好吧……好的。”阿米斯德咬了咬自己的口腔内侧,双手不自觉地揉着膝盖。他沉默地望着朗斯特里特,眼底闪烁着说不清是什么的光。就是他在听说汉考克正率领着波多马克军团在离他们不到几英里的地方时眼底出现的光。

朗斯特里特忍不了了。他赶苍蝇似的在空中一挥手,“赶紧去,别不停念叨了。”

阿米斯德微笑起来。“是,长官。”他敬了一个礼。

天色刚暗下来。营火点起来了。朗斯特里特独自站在那里。忽然有一瞬间,他在思考是否有那么一个地方是他所归属的。他失去了自己的孩子,阿米斯德也是(还有他的妻子)。下一个瞬间,他回想起了南加州。他不像其他的老兵那样喜欢怀旧,但他的脑海中总是浮现出当年的汉考克和阿米斯德。优雅的老“浪子”,帅气而自信的汉考克。内战之前他们情同手足——那是很少见的友谊。可是,汉考克现在却是带领敌军来了。他们曾并肩作战,而现在他们互相为敌,互相争战,直到他们再次相见,朗斯特里特想。

“我应该让Lo半夜之前回来。”李的声音从后面传来。

“您就算说了他也不会照做的,我敢打赌,长官。”

 

“谁在要求见面?”

上校被汉考克的死亡凝视吓了一跳,他组织了半天语言才再次开口:“联盟军的阿米斯德将军,长官。”

“现在?”汉考克呛了一下,差点儿没跳起来。

“是-是的,长官,”上校回答,“他正在哨兵线外等着。”

汉考克没等年轻人说完话便站起了身。他拒绝了副官的陪同,打开门冲了出去。

 

阿米斯德摘下帽子,紧紧地捏在手里,身体来回晃着。太阳已经有一半沉到地平线下了,气温开始下降。他感觉到吹过发梢的微风。一个士兵,应该是个中尉——阿米斯德很难在昏暗的天色下看清他的军衔——正在几尺之外看守着他,即使他携白旗前来的时候身上没有任何武器。步兵团的准将突然一阵焦躁,不安在他胸膛里翻腾不休——他已经等了很长时间都没有回信了。汉考克也许在和其他指挥官开会。这样他的请求会被忽略,机会便溜走了。阿米斯德抽了口气,感觉有点儿傻。

他一言不发地站着,时间似乎都模糊了。很奇怪这田野居然这样安静,和缓,而敌人的军队就在另一侧虎视眈眈。比眨眼还短的一瞬间,阿米斯德任自己惶恐地回到那些他和汉考克共同的回忆中。他祈祷着。他抬起头,立刻发现那个中尉已经不见了。

他皱眉,但在那之前他听见一个人的声音:“Lo?”

他转过身寻找声源,但在那之前,他整个人被拉进一个拥抱。他差点跳起来。

汉考克用双臂紧紧地抱住了阿米斯德,“我不知道你会来。”他把下巴垫在另一个人的肩头上轻声说。

阿米斯德把自己的小臂从汉考克的怀抱里拽出来。“我也不知道。”他说,转过身面对汉考克。他立刻脸红了——此刻汉考克正环上他的腰贴近了两个人的身体,太近了。老实说,他可没准备好这个。

他抓住他朋友的肩膀,把头埋进后者的颈窝。然后他们都陷入了沉默。但是没有人动,最轻微的也没有。这一点都不奇怪,两个人都这么想,实际上,这让他们觉得松了一口气。他们不知道自己保持这样了多久,在夕阳西下的余晖中互相拥抱;反正他们也不在乎。两人都厌倦了战争。自相残杀。汉考克打破沉默,叹了口气说:“我愿意做任何事情来永远留住这一刻。”微风习习,星光灿灿,你。

“Old Win,”阿米斯德抽抽鼻子,(汉考克坚信自己听到他哭了,)眼睛里有什么在闪,但脸上带着微笑,“你闻起来可不太好。”

当阿米斯德说话时,汉考克能感觉到他的胸膛和喉咙的振动,紧紧地压在他自己的胸膛和喉咙上。他还感觉到了阿米斯德颊侧的头发和胡须,卷曲而熟悉。“不许叫我‘老’,”波托马克军的将军严厉地指出,“你比我大七岁,old Lo。”

阿米斯德低低地笑了,他直起身子分开了两人。手依旧搭在汉考克的肩膀上。

“李,天啊这个人让我们好一番苦战,他同意你来?”汉考克问。

“皮特跟他说了,他没有拒绝。”

“皮特也同意——”年轻的人说到一半便笑起来,“我在想什么呢?他估计也想来呢!”

没有理由地,阿米斯德深吸一口气,再次脸红了。他环顾四周,一把抓住了汉考克的领口,出其不意地亲了他的嘴。不过那只是个轻描淡写的吻,很快、很小心地碰过后者的嘴唇。浅尝辄止。“他是想来,估计这样就好把我们俩都杀了。”阿米斯德垂下眼睛,希望暗沉的暮光能够藏起他发烫的脸。至少周围没有别的士兵,不管是哪边的。他以为自己没准备好。好吧。

汉考克眨了眨眼。他一声没出,沉默的时间长到阿米斯德的手心都开始出汗了,随即他笑了。阿米斯德发誓,每当汉考克那张英俊的脸上出现那种傻笑,他的心都要化了。汉考克蹭蹭自己的下巴:“你说得对。”他放开阿米斯德的腰,转而用双手护住了他的后脑和后颈——他突然向前一步,把两个人都扑在了地上。

“目标倒下。”他笑。

“天啊,温,你差点吓死我!”阿米斯德被汉考克压在地上,低声叫道。他倒抽了一口气,试图撑起自己的身子:“你不能就这样……可恶,我的背……我老了,温!”

汉考克伏在阿米斯德的身上,弯下腰来用亲吻打断了他的抗议。后者惊呆了,无法回应。汉考克的双手捧着他的双颊,相当粗鲁地吻他。他不承认,但阿米斯德是对的:他的吻技很糟糕。他们唇舌相抵,收紧了怀抱。阿米斯德惊讶地哼了一声,满脸通红地接纳了这个突如其来的拥吻。有某种长久不见的东西涌进他的头颅,剧烈地搅动,占满他的意识。那几乎像是幸福了。他抬起前臂,手指穿过汉考克的卷发,呻吟着,阖上眼睛,无法控制地轻声啜泣。眼眶里涌出的泪水沾湿了他的睫毛,而最终流下时让他的脸颊烧得更厉害。仿佛身处烈焰。滚烫的物质填满了他的心脏,撕裂了那个跳动的器官。他记得,在他在南加州与汉考克告别的那一刻,他也有同样的感觉。他几乎被那告别的火焰焚烧殆尽;然而这一次,汉考克用一个吻将他拉出了地狱。熟悉的情感在他体内爆发,窜过他每一寸的神经,尖叫着,颤抖着。一个吻钉住了他,教他动弹不得,直直刺透他的灵魂。

一个或长或短的接吻过后,阿米斯德松开了汉考克的发丝,两人最终分开。他们因缺氧而沉重地呼吸着。阿米斯德看到汉考克也在安静地流泪;泪滴打湿了他的领子,留下一个个深蓝色的痕迹。就在此刻,阿米斯德意识到,正是这种情感使他震悚,撕开了他的心,打碎了他的理智——甚于幸福,甚至高于爱。像某种联结。

“我想你,”他以恳求的口吻哽咽出声,“你不知道我为此付出了多少。我——天啊,我很想你。”

微风吹拂,虫子唧唧喳喳地叫个不停。至少什么也带不走这一刻。去他的战争。这是对他们坚守自己那个残酷岗位的奖赏;对于他们所犯下的罪,地狱自会洗涤它们,让它烧吧。在此刻,没有什么是真正重要的。他们怕极了,也累极了,那条弦也紧绷到极点濒临断裂,直到他们再次相见。未知的救赎力量。我付出一切来完成它,比一切还要多。

“我知道。”汉考克平静地回答。他的语气有些僵硬,似乎正抑制着什么。

他用袖子擦擦眼睛,站起身:“来吧。”他伸出手来。阿米斯德拉住它,和汉考克并肩站着,一直握着他的手。他们手牵手站在广阔的天穹下。最后一束光消失了;星星已经亮了。

汉考克盯着他的营地:“Lo,我在想,或许你能来吃顿晚餐,什么的。”

阿米斯德摇摇头:“没必要。我已经吃过了。除此之外我认为让一个联盟军的军官大摇大摆走进你的部队也并不合适。”

汉考克挑起一只眉毛:“不许找借口。”他给了阿米斯德一个“我会在这儿一直等到你改变想法”的眼神,而后者也知道自己并不是真的想拒绝。

“噢,得了吧,我们吃的可比你们吃的好。你尝过宾州的樱桃了吗?”汉考克拍拍他的肩膀。

“尝过了。事实上它们还没熟,皮特可以证明这一点。”

 

阿米斯德凌晨两点左右回到了自己的岗位。他想偷偷溜回帐篷,但朗斯特里特正朝他走来。

“早上好,长官,”他紧张地跟他打招呼,竭力掩饰羞愧,“你还没睡吗?我还以为和皮克特他们的牌局会早点结束呢。”

朗斯特里特咳嗽了下。“李将军和我有些事情,要讨论。”他简洁地回答。

一刻停顿。

“你去哪儿了?你和汉考克聚会了整晚?”

“是的,呃,是,”阿米斯德咳嗽了下,“我们一起吃了晚饭。”

“一直到凌晨两点,我明白了。”朗斯特里特上下打量着他的朋友。后者意识到自己在回来之前应该先抚平衣领和腰上的衣褶并系好扣子。他觉得脸上发烧。

“好了。”阿米斯德羞恼地回他。你刚从李那儿回来,老战马。“我要睡觉了。”

Chapter Text

Longstreet has noticed that Armistead looks a bit fidgeting recently. He hopes that he doesn’t know the reason so he can go and chide “God damn it Lo what’s wrong with you” straightforwardly. Unfortunately, he does, and, somehow, he started it. Longstreet is not the type of people who always rethinks for the things done or undone before; he likes to look forward, just as what he usually does in the battlefield, but this time, he gets annoyed by what he did. I should have known this, he thinks bitterly. I should have known that Lo will absolutely keep thinking about it over and over again, even though he himself dodged the very topic oddly.

After the seventh intended-saying-but-finally-mute attempt made by Armistead, which is too obvious to intrigue anyone, rather annoying them, Longstreet gets gloomy, though he always does: “God damn it, Lo, What’s wrong with you?”

“I’m fine, old Pete, nothing’s wrong,” Armistead realizes that he replies too fast and too specific, “why ask?” even worse.

Longstreet groans with impatience. “Lee is alright with this.”

As he anticipated, Longstreet can see that Armistead’s eyes are suddenly lit up. “You’ve asked him?” Armistead asks nervously.

“Yes,” Of course no. But Lee won’t disagree. He’s a merciful old man, maybe too merciful. Lee is tenderhearted, and Longstreet knows too well. Such faculty are not concluded by observation or interrogation; for Longstreet, it’s merely like… he can’t tell. He simply knows. Every time Lee calls him “my old warhorse”, or every time Lee greets him with that black, sparkling eyes, Longstreet knows.

“Well… well,” Armistead is biting the inside of his mouth, and his hands are rubbing his knees unconsciously. He stares Longstreet silently, with the strange light deep down in his eyes. The very same strange light from the moment when he heard that Hancock is right beside them, leading the army of Potomac, several miles away.

Longstreet can’t stand this anymore. He waves his right hand in the air like he’s dispersing the non-existent flies, “Just go and stop whining about it.”

Armistead smiles. “Yes, general.” He salutes.

Daylight has just dimmed. Campfire starts cracking. Longstreet stands there solely. Suddenly, there’s a moment, he feels that he’s searching in mind for a place where he can belong to. His children are gone, so are Armistead’s (and his wife). In the next moment, he recalls South California. Unlike other veterans, he doesn’t like reminiscence. However, the image of Hancock and Armistead insists flowing back into his mind. He could see them together-graceful Lo, dashing and confident Hancock. They had been closer than brothers before the war. A rare friendship. And now Hancock was coming this way with an enemy corp. They have fought with each other, and they’ll fight against each other, for each other, until they meet again, Longstreet thinks.

“I should tell Lo to come back by midnight,” Lee says from behind.

“Won’t happen even if you do, I bet, sir.”

 

“Who is demanding a rendezvous?”

The colonel is surprised by General Hancock’s deadly gaze; he mutes for a while to struggle out the answer, “General Ar-Armistead from Confederate Army, sir.”

“Now?” Hancock choked, resisting the urge to jump to his feet.

“I-I believe so, sir,” Colonel replies, “he is waiting right outside the picket line.”

Hancock raises up and leaves too hurriedly to let the young man finish his sentence. He refuses the company from his aide-de-camp on his way breaking out the door.

 

Armistead shifts his weight between feet while he takes off his hat and squeezes it hard. The sun is already halfway down the horizon, and the temperature starts cooling. He can sense the breeze slips through his hair. A soldier, a lieutenant maybe, Armistead is having troubles to tell his rank under the dim light, is guarding him several feet away, although he is completely unarmed when he arrived with a flag. The Brigadier General of the Infantry feels sudden anxiety and worry stirring inside his chest when he has waited for too long for any response that he’s expecting. Hancock may be in meeting with other commanders. His proposal will be neglected, and the chance will slide. Armistead breathes sharply, feels a little stupid.

The span of time becomes vague to him as he stands silently. It’s weird that the field can be so quiet, and so cozy, while troops of opposite sites are confronting. Almost frightened, Armistead lets himself sink into the memories between him and Hancock for a slice of time less than a blink of an eye. He prays. Very soon, Armistead raises up his head before discovering the lieutenant disappearance.

Before he frowns, he heard a man’s voice: “Lo?”

Before he turns around to find the source of the sound, he is pulled all the way back into a pair of arms. He nearly jumps.

Hancock surrounds his arms around Armistead’s tightly, “I didn’t know you would come.” He puts his chin on the other man’s shoulder and murmurs.

Armistead pulls his forearms out of Hancock’s arms. “Me either,” he says, turning around to face Hancock. He immediately blushes because of the fact that Hancock is holding them together by circling his waist and they’re getting too close. He’s not prepared for this, frankly said.

Armistead holds his friend’s shoulder, and he buries his head down into the latter one’s neck place. Then they both fall in silence. But no one moves, even the slightest. It doesn’t feel weird at all, both think, actually, it feels somehow relieved. They don’t know how long they freeze like this, holding each other in the rays from descending sunset; they don’t really care, anyway. Both tired of war. Of the massacre between brothers. “I’ll do anything to make this moment eternity,” Hancock breaks the silence, sighs. With all the mild breeze, the caliginous starlight, and you.

“Old Win,” Armistead snuffles, (Hancock believes he heard him sobbing,) eyes sparkling with something but smiling, “you don’t smell good.”

While Armistead speaking, Hancock can feel the vibration of his chest and throat, which are pressed to his own chest and throat very tightly. Hancock also senses Armistead’s hair and beard on side cheek, curly and familiar. “Don’t call me ‘old’,” the General of Army of Potomac points out strictly, “you’re 7 years older than me, old Lo.”

Laughing in low volume, Armistead straightens his upper body and separate them. He keeps his hands on Hancock’s shoulder.

“Lee, god this man did put up a fight, he approved?” Hancock asks.

“Pete told him and he didn’t say no.”

“Pete is also alright with—” The younger man breaks the sentence by laughter, “What am I thinking? He would probably come as well!”

Without knowing why, Armistead takes a deep breath and flushes, again. He looks around, and grabs Hancock by his collar, taking his mouth out of his surprise. But it’s merely a light kiss, very fast and cautious on his lips. A taste. “He would, and he would absolutely kill both of us,” Armistead lowers his eyelids and wishes that the twilight is dark enough to hide his face, which is getting hot. At least he’s sure that there’s no soldier around, no matter from which side. He thought he wasn’t prepared. Well.

Hancock blinks. He stays silent for long enough to make Armistead sweat inside his palms. Then he smiles. Armistead swears that he’s melting inside every time there’s a smirk on that freaking handsome face. Hancock scratches his chin: “You’ve made a good point.” He retrieves his arms from Armistead’s waist and put surround them at the back of Armistead neck and head for protection when he suddenly steps forward to throw both of them on the ground.

“Man down.” He laughs.

“Jesus Christ, Win, you scared me half to death!” Armistead cries in low volume while getting pressed on the ground by Hancock. He inhales sharply and tries to push himself up, “you can’t just… Damn, my back, I’m old, Win!”

Hancock interrupts Armistead’s protest by kneeling over his body and bend down to kiss. The latter one is stunned and unable to respond. Hancock keeps him in position with hands on both sides of his cheeks and kisses him quite roughly. He won’t admit, but Armistead is right: he is a terrible kisser. Their lips and tongues meet; they hold each other tighter. Armistead embraces the sudden clinch with surprised hum and burning face. Something long missing rolls into his skull and stirs heavily, filling up his mind. It almost feels like happiness. Raising his forearms, running his fingers through Hancock’s curly hair and moaning, he closes his eyes and sobs quietly, uncontrollably. Tears emerging in his eyes bedew his eyelashes, and when they finally fall down, they only make his cheeks burning even more. Like in fire. Scalding substances stuff his heart, tearing that pulsing organ apart. The same feeling, he remembers, as the moment he bided farewell to Hancock in South California. He was nearly incinerated by the flame of adieu; yet this time, Hancock pulls him out from hell by a kiss. Familiar emotion bursts inside his body and rushes through every inch of his nerves, screaming and shivering. A kiss pins him down, directly penetrates his soul.

When Armistead loosens his fingers from Hancock’s hair, they separate eventually, after a long time or short time of kissing. They breathe heavily due to lack of oxygen, and Armistead finds that Hancock is weeping quietly, too; drops of tears bedew his collar, leaving mazarine stains. At the moment, Armistead realizes that very emotion nearly stuns him, rips up his heart, and breaks his sanity is more than happiness, even more than love. It’s like some sort of bonding.

“I miss you,” He chokes out, in a pleading tone, “You don’t know how much that would cost me. I—God, I miss you.”

The blow of breezes and chirping of bugs fill the air. Nothing can take away this moment, at least. Screw the war. That’s the reward for them, being so religious on their own brutal posts; for the sins committed, hell will clean them up, so just let it burn. Nothing really matters in the very moment. They were so very frightened and exhausted; so very tense and fragile the string was until they meet again. Unknown power of redemption. It costs me everything to see it done, more than everything.

“I know,” Hancock replies tranquilly. His tone is somehow stubborn, as if he’s trying to hold something back.

After wiping his eyes with sleeves, Hancock stands up: “Come on.” He raises out his hand. Armistead takes it to stand with him, shoulder by shoulder, and he holds it. They stand, hand in hand, under the grand firmament. The last beam of light faded; the stars have already put up their light.

Hancock stares into his camp: “You know, Lo, I’m thinking about, if you can come for a dinner or something.”

Armistead shakes his head: “Not necessarily. I’ve eaten before. I don’t think, besides, it’s proper to let a Confederate officer stride in your troops.”

Hancock raises one of his brows: “No excuse.” He gives Armistead the look of “I’ll stay and wait until you change your mind,” and the latter one knows himself that he doesn’t really mean to reject anyway.

“Aw come on, we have better food than you do. Have you tried the cherries in Pennsylvania?” Hancock pats him on the shoulder.

“Yes. They’re not actually ripe, and Pete can justify that.”

 

Armistead returns to his own position around 2 am. He tries to sneak into his tent, but Longstreet is walking towards him.

“Good morning, sir,” he greets him nervously, trying hard not to show the walk-of-shame look, “you’re still here? I thought the cards game with Pickett would be over earlier.”

Longstreet coughs. “General Lee and I had some things, discussed,” he replies concisely.

A pause.

“So where have you been? You and Hancock had partied all night?”

“Yeah, uh, yeah,” Armistead coughs, “we had dinner together.”

“Till 2 am in the morning, I see.” Longstreet looks at his friend up and down. The latter one realizes that he should smooth the wrinkles of his collar and waist and tie up his buttons before leaving for returning. He feels his face getting hot.

“Cut that,” Armistead’s miffed. You were just coming back from Lee’s place, his old warhorse, “I’m going to sleep.”