Eighteen

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Reed Williams is only eighteen. Like any other teenager, he's confused, unsure, and has no idea of what he wants. He also happens to be fighting for his life and his sanity in Vietnam.

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I'm in the middle without any plans!
I'm a boy and I'm a man!
I'm eighteen and I don't know what I want!
Eighteen! I just don't know what I want!
Eighteen! I gotta get away!
I gotta get out of this place!

-Alice Cooper "Eighteen"

March 18, 1965

His stomach lurched.

"VC got him." Ernie McDonald told him, his face expressionless.

Reed Williams stared at the Captain, wondering how he could stand there and look so goddamn cool while one of his men was lying in the ground with his blood soaking into the ground under him, staining the dirt black. Flies were buzzing around him, and Reed kept expecting to see John swear and swat them away as he did so many other times, but John wouldn't be complaining any time soon. In a small part of his brain, Reed was envious.

"You okay, Williams?"

Stumbling to the ground, Reed Williams vomited his breakfast up. Even after he had emptied his stomach, he kept retching, bringing up nothing but air and pain. Maybe that was what he was trying to get rid of. The pain, the sight, the smell.

Bringing up his hand, he swiped at his face, and looked up, dazed. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine." His throat burned and he lowered his head again.

Ernie looked at him doubtfully, and nodded, "Okay, then. On your feet, private. We have a long day ahead of us."

Shouldering his pack, Reed stood up, feeling disorientated. Within the first few weeks of fighting, he had seen a lot more than he ever thought he would.

"Williams!"

Reed took a step towards the Captain and paused.

"Williams, for God's sake, stop acting like such a candyass and man the fuck up."

Opening his mouth, Reed almost told Ernie that he was only eighteen, still a goddamn child, but then he realized that everyone learned to grow up in Vietnam.

July 21, 1964

Reed Williams was not pleased.

"Fucking hell." He swore as the pocketknife slipped and cut a small gash under his fingernail. He sucked on the wound, wincing as the cut burned and seared. For some reason, Reed began to think of how the blood clotting was forming a scaffold of fibrin. A laugh bubbled inside of him. Christ, he was done with school, and he was thinking of what he had learned in Biology. How was that for moronic?

He removed the finger from his mouth and studied it curiously. The wound itself was now slightly pink, and it seemed as though his finger was throbbing with pulses of dull pain. A tiny drop of blood beaded on the surface of the wound, and his stomach lurched. Reed didn't handle blood well. Maybe it was a fucking psychological thing. Embarrassing though. He hung out with some of the toughest cats in the neighborhood and he couldn't even handle a one-inch wound.

Reed tossed the offensive pocketknife to the side and leaned back on his porch, frowning. The summer sun, in all of its intensity, burned his skin and caused sweat to drip from his hairline down his cheek and into the collar of his shirt. He wiped at his face, and then decided that it wouldn't make a lot of difference.

Then again, what did make a difference? Up until a few weeks ago, he thought high school graduation meant everything. It meant the end of oppression by bitchy teachers, even bitchier teenage girls, and the dreaded pile of homework. Unfortunately, he soon learned that the only thing worse than being bored in school was being bored outside of school. At least in school, he had Chris and Joe to relax with. Play a few games of blackjack, smoke a few fags over by the science building, eye up some foxes…school wasn't all that bad.

"Hey, Reed!"

Reed looked up to see Oliver Evart (fondly called Ollie) heading his way. The neatly dressed teenager sported a friendly grin and slicked back hair. Ivy Leaguer, Reed thought contemptuously. Hell, the boy probably ironed his shirts and Levi's, just to look so goddamn perfect. Like a fucking poster boy. Probably posed in front of the mirror for hours, practicing that perfect smile of his.

"Ollie. What's happening?" Reed asked distractedly, making it clear he wasn't really interested.

Trust the jeans-ironing-Ivy-Leaguer to take him seriously. Ollie replied, "My old man was telling me that there's going to be fighting in 'Nam soon. He says it's only so long before we descended on Ho Chi and kicked his ass."

Reed shrugged, then thought about it. A war would make life a hell of a lot more interesting.

"And I was going to enlist in the Army. You know. Travel a bit, complete my college education. I'll become a Captain and get a few pretty badges, and my life is made." Ollie continued, noticing Reed's growing interest.

Christ. Here was Reed, sitting on his parents' porch, using a pocketknife to pick at his nails, while Oliver already had plans to travel the world and fight a goddamn war.

"That sounds tight, man. Maybe I'll enlist too. Chicks dig men in uniform." Reed informed Oliver, who looked pleased at the idea of girls. Reed didn't know why- everyone knew Oliver was going to marry that blonde cheerleader girlfriend of his (Linda? Belinda….something like that). And they would make lots of perfect little blonde children and live in a picture-perfect blue house with a white fence.

"Linda is cool with you going away?" Reed asked.

Oliver's face fell, and he shrugged unhappily, "I told Melinda yesterday and she got angry. Said she didn't want to wait and get married when she was old and ugly. Then she threatened to break up with me if I ended up going to 'Nam."

Secretly, Reed was a bit pleased. It was nice to know that Oliver Evart's life wasn't always perfect. Then again, if he did break up with Linda, he'd probably end up with someone even better like Jane Fonda.

"Hey, man, I got to go. I have this…thing." Reed lied, getting up. He wiped at his brow again with the back of his hand. Oliver shrugged, and gave him a lopsided grin.

"Yeah, alright. I'll see you in the Army then."

Smiling, Reed entered the house, humming under his breath. War would be fun, he decided. A change of scenery, some action, what else could a man want?

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Author's Notes

I thought I'd try something new. I know it's short, but it's only the first chapter, a prologue really. And this writing this story is pretty hard because I have to research what life was like in the seventies and what 'Nam was like. Hopefully, it's historically accurate.

Please review and I'll update faster. I won't be waiting until a set number, but getting reviews inspires me to write more and faster, and constructive advice would be appreciated. :)

Kisses,

Celina Black