Pulse thudding loudly in her head. The smell of blood and singed flesh. Her mouth sour with fear. Lips cracked, breathing labored.
A rustle, a scuffle of dirt. Sam feels rather than sees the colonel lower himself to the ground beside her.
Something throbs. Pain pounding in her leg. A pressure in her head like the steel jaws of a vise. Nausea swelling in rolling waves. The memory of terror and a relentless monster.
She wants to throw up but she can’t move.
A voice somewhere outside the throbbing and pounding.
*His* voice. Awakening her.
*His* arm. Settling on her shoulders, pulling her to him.
A moment of surprise at his crossing the line. Then immediate acceptance.
Leaning into his embrace. Reaching over to him, clutching khaki in her fingers. Feeling his hand come to rest atop hers. The comfort of firm muscle and bone. The smell of sweat, dirt, and after shave. His distinctive, battle-worn scent, which she has come to love and can recognize in her sleep.
Her eyes fluttering shut. The light pressure of his cheek against her hair. Breathing in the sweet pungent odors from his neck, his shoulder, his t-shirt. Feeling the warmth of his arm around her, the sinews of his strong thigh under her hand. Hearing the beating of his heart.
Feeling him. Smelling him. Listening to him. Everything right at last.
The thud of her pulse slowing. The fear subsiding. Relief flowing like honey in her veins.
Her colonel has come for her. She is safe now.
She hears birdsong, and sleeps.