Smitty Ryker knew something was off from the start. Although maybe not in the way most would think. He did not, contrary to popular belief, think that you did not belong there.
He was of the firm belief that you very much belonged right where you were. You belonged in the bunk bed beside his, and you belonged in the space diametrically opposed to him in every non-verbal encounter the two of you had. Whether those encounters were positive or negative didn’t matter.
As much as he did not the sight of you knee deep in the sea, hauling your pack on your back as you struggled to shore, he knew that was where you belonged. On the first day, when scaling the ridge was the only thing that mattered, Smitty found himself looking at you every so often. It was a sort of reassurance. Reassurance that his place in the universe was still intact, that the space next to you was still meant for him.
He did not like losing sight of you. One moment you’d been there, and the next you’d been gone and Smitty had roared like an animal when he’d realized you were gone. He raged against the enemy, and raged against the world, and raged against himself.
“Ryker!” You cried out, throwing your body on top of his to shelter him from the debris. Before he could reply, you were pulling bandages out of your pack and pressing down on his leg. “Smitty! Hey, can you hear me?”
It was the strangest thing to notice, and especially in that moment, with war raging all around you, but he had. And once his eyes had fixed themselves upon you, he couldn’t tear them away.
“Yeah,” he said quickly, fighting to look away. “Yeah!”
“Come on,” you muttered under your breath, pressing more firmly down on the wound. “Hold still!”
It was a few more agonising moments before Desmond arrived, but by the time he did you were already hauling Smitty down the mud and towards the ridge. Shouting and confusion greeted you as you passed Smitty to one of the men in charge of lowering the wounded. Your mud streamed face was the last he saw of you that day.
It was much, much later when he was given the chance to speak to you. You had been ordered into the medical tent to tend a wound. Smitty took his chance. When the doctor was gone, he cleared his throat and sat next to you.
“I know,” Smitty said in a hushed town, not looking at you.
You felt ice cold. There were only so many options to how to proceed. You straightened up, and looked away.
“So?” You asked. Smitty placed his hand palm up on his leg. A scar marred the skin. You traced it with a finger. “Is this the end of the line?”
“No,” he replied. And by heavens it wasn’t. “This is the exact place where you should be.”
“I’m just like you,” you said, inhaling as deeply as the bandages around your chest could allow. Concealing your true identity felt like a vice in more ways than once.
He smiled. Yes, and you were exactly where you belonged.
At his side.