a/n: this is just a short one-shot that I came up with when I had to read the most depressing article in English. (damn my stupid English teacher!)

~*~ When Jack McLanen joined the Union, he had been proud and joyful; thrilled to be doing his duty by serving his country.

That was three months ago.

Now. . . he lay in the dirt on no-man's land, clutching his wounded leg, wondering how he had gotten this far.

Over the past few months, he had seen his comrades killed in battle; red blood staining the dirt like so many before them.

One by one, he saw their eyes, accusing him, watching him, crying for help to him. And he couldn't save them. He couldn't; and he never could.

Daniel, his childhood friend, had gotten killed the other week. He had tried to stop a man from killing Jack---and as a result, had died the death meant for Jack.

'Please,' he thought. 'Just let it end.'

Suddenly, he felt himself being dragged over to a nearby ditch. Weakly, he fought the grip of whoever was heaving him, to no use. It was difficult to fight your captor when your injured leg was bleeding like a leak.

Wearily, he looked at his captor in the presumable safety of the ditch.

It was a man in his early thirties; about twice Jack's fifteen years of age. The man looked at him just as tiredly as Jack was staring at him, a five-day old brown stubble dotting his face.

It was then that Jack realized that this stranger was wearing a tattered gray uniform of the Confederates.

"Please," Jack said hoarsely. "Just do it quickly."

The man's face scrunched up into a grimace that would normally be called a smile. "I don't want to kill you, son."

"Then why didn't you just leave me there?" Jack said, horrified to find tears rolling down his cheeks. At this point, though, he really didn't care.

"You remind me of someone I knew." The man said, brusquely. Then he sighed. "Here. Let me bandage this up for you."

Jack involuntarily yanked back as the man reached for his injured leg.

"What are you doing?"

"Bandaging up your leg for you."

"And why should I trust a Confederate?"

There was a flicker of emotion in the man's disillusioned features. "You shouldn't. But you have no choice. That leg will eventually kill you if it's not treated properly."

"Who cares anymore?" Jack replied sourly.

The man settled himself more comfortably in the ditch. "No one. No one cares anymore. Hell, I don't even care anymore. Everybody just wants the war to finish; for it to be done with. The people in their fancy offices don't know what it's like. But us. . .we're doing the real work. And we don't care who wins anymore. We just want it ended."

Jack was silent. Subconsciously, he had known this. But nobody had ever uttered the actual thought before. And it sobered him.

"You're young, boy. You don't understand it." The Confederate soldier said, bitterly.

"I do." Jack said softly. "I do. And I'm sick of it."

"You ever hear whispers, boy? I do. Every night, I hear the whispers. I hear the whispers of the ghosts of the dead. Of the forgotten soldiers who died for this godforsaken 'cause'." The older man leaned back against the ditch, giving a short bark of laughter. "I can't even remember why I joined the army in the first place."

'I remember.' Jack thought. 'But nothing makes sense anymore.'

"I miss my wife." He heard the man say in a broken, rasping voice of pain. "I miss my little girl. Her name is Anna."

Jack didn't move. He had forgotten that the soldiers on the other side of the war were humans too. Maybe it was time he remembered that.

"How much more, boy? How much more are going to die? How much more are going to die for a cause that they've forgotten?"

Abruptly, the man bent double in a racking cough.

Jack started. "Are you okay?"

"F-Fine." The man said between coughs. "I'm fine."

Jack noticed the red spots of blood staining the earth where the man had coughed on. The man was not 'fine'.

Throughout the long, cold night, the two men talked. They talked about many things--about the Confederate soldier's wife and children; about the Union soldier's sisters and brothers. About the apple trees in spring; about the golden wheat in autumn. They talked about the politicians in Pennsylvania; dark humor shadowing their sentences.

In the middle of the night, the Confederate passed away because of tuberculosis.

"Boy," the Confederate said through harsh breaths. "Boy, tell them. . ." he coughed out blood again. "Tell the missus and my daughter. . .tell them I'm sorry. And. . .thank you, boy. Thank you."

And he took his last breath, features finally relaxing into a peaceful expression.

The Union scouting group found Jack at dawn, when the sun's light just touched the horizon, weeping over the body of a gray-clad stranger.

a/n: so. . .how was that? R/R plz!