The spray of the Atlantic is wet, cold, and makes him shiver. His fingers clamp around the handle of the old-fashioned gun, stiff and frozen, but he doesn't show his own fear and tension, because behind him, there are the boys - his boys - crouched on the flat landing craft, and they need him to be strong. And for them, he will be.
For years, Kirk stayed away from the world war, escaped the drafting troops and the inner feeling that there should be something he could do, but had been reluctant to change the timeline with his interference. And of course, there was Spock; unable to join the army because his alien nature would've been detected in no time. Kirk couldn't imagine leaving him alone in a world and time like this.
But things changed, times changed; the war changed too, got a frantic taste of "now or never". And one day, Spock removed Kirk's reluctance with logical arguments, showing him that the US war entry had been delayed 6 months compared to the original timeline, which could only mean that this wasn't the original one anymore, but something different. Spock sent him away because it was best for many reasons, and who was Kirk to win against the Vulcan's sensible words? But he has every intention to come home alive.
The sea roars around them as the craft ploughs through the waves. He moves his fingers and shed a little smile on Private Ryan next to him. This war is like no other Kirk has ever fought in, didn't have the clinical accuracy of the weapons of the future, the silent death in space. Nobody was needed there to clean up after an exploded shuttle, and rarely were there any bodies drifting in the empty galaxy, stiff and brittle like fresh out of a deep freezer. They sometimes would break into neat pieces when you beamed them in too quickly.
But in this time and place, war is a loud, heart-breaking mess with pieces of flesh barely recognizable as human remains lying next to you - or worse, men screaming and dying next to you. Kirk has already given more than one man a mercy bullet to end his torture, and a little bit of himself is always dying along with them. But he has to come back from this hellhole, because Spock is waiting for him.
Kirk rests his head on the steel wall of the boat, taking in the shuddering sounds of the machine, like the pounding heart of a metal beast. It carries him away, the beat throbbing through his cold limbs and along his wet skin. For all the water around, his lips feel dry and hurting. He rubs his free hand over them in thoughts.
"When are we going to land, sir?" Ryan asks, and Kirk manages a smile.
"Soon," he says, glancing at his watch. The hands turn very slowly, as if held back by wishful thinking. He offers the boy a cigarette, shares some words about Ryan's brother who's in the 101st Airborn and already behind enemy lines. Thinks of Sam and is astonished how much it hurts.
He looks outside through a small slit, sees nothing but knows too much about what is to come, the many deaths, the brutal scenes. He folds his hands around the gun and prays for the first time in decades, a prayer that tastes of childhood and better times. By the end of the day - if he still lived - he'd be wading through wet sands full of dying people; blood and intestines and ownerless limbs would swim around him, blood colouring the tank traps behind which they would find little protection. The jackpot was survival and so few of the first wave would make it, only to be haunted by the images until the end of their days.
He sits up when he notices the captain waving. A nod is all he needs. Outside, the irregular drums of artillery draw closer.
"Attention!" he says loudly. "Get ready for landing. Fire the best you can!"
"Yes, sir!" his kids shout. He gives them another smile, the wet glimmer in his eyes covered well by the spray of the angry Atlantic. Behind their craft, at the end of the horizon, he catches a glimpse of the sun. In front of them, there are stripes of sand and endlessly high rocks, dyed a foggy dark grey.
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