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About zanoGreen

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  1. zanoGreen

    The Talk

    I understood why Grayson had to stay behind, but I didn't think it would suck this bad. I looked across the chopper at Riley who hadn't said a single word since we left, his hand still clutching Grayson's tags like they were the only thing keeping him grounded. Poor Riley I now understood what he was talking about back at the lab, how he knew what it was like to let someone slip through his fingers. That someone was Grayson. The whole ordeal made me realize just how fragile everything was and that, regardless of the guilt I felt over having feelings for Ryan, I couldn't let him slip through my fingers either. What would I tell General Dreyfus about why Grayson hadn't come back with us? I couldn't make it out to seem like he was a deserter, he would be imprisoned, or worse. "Elliott?" Ryan’s voice snapped me out of my thoughts. "What?" I gave him a puzzled expression. "I asked if you were doing alright," He gave me a questioning look. "Are you alright?" "Yeah, I'm fine." I tried to convince him and myself, but even I didn't believe the words. The look on Ryan’s face told me that he didn’t either. "I'll be fine, promise." I gave him a lopsided smile to try and ease the concern. Ryan flashed me a knowing look, telling me that he didn’t buy it. Goddammit, how could he see right through me? Ryan wasn't entirely wrong though, I didn't know if I would be fine. This mission wasn't like the other ones. Usually at the end of a mission I felt accomplished, high off the fact that I had done my job and I had done it well. But I didn't feel any of those things, I didn't feel accomplished instead I felt empty, I didn't feel that high instead I felt dead on my feet. I had been tortured, I felt sleep deprived and I didn't know if I would ever see one of my closest teammates ever again. Not to mention that I was left with more questions than answers like: Why didn't we have enough intel for this mission? How didn't the General know about The Colony, The Order? And how in the holy hell were they supposed to stop a terrorist plot to release a bio-weapon on an unsuspecting city? I looked out the chopper door, a warm breeze blowing through my hair. We were flying over a small abandoned town, its buildings disheveled and falling apart from the elements, forgotten and neglected. "We're forty-five minutes out from Bakersfield!" The co-pilot shouted over his shoulder. I felt a pit in my stomach at the announcement. I gave him a curt nod and turned my gaze back out of the chopper. I didn't want to go back to Bakersfield, back to stitching up wounded soldiers, back to running Medical and all the headache that came with it. I wanted to be free, free from the Army, free from all of this heartache and turmoil. My contract was coming to an end soon, and when that happened I would be gone, hopefully with Ryan in tow. But we had two more missions to accomplish and then, only then, would I leave. I let myself drift off to a life outside of the Army with Ryan. I would wake up to the smell of that bacon that Ryan cooked so well, a cup of coffee, Ryan blurting out the correct answers to Jeopardy questions. We would live in a small bungalow style house, with a nice front yard and deep porch to match. There would be flowers lining the walkway, the sound of chirping birds coming from the tall oak tree in the front yard. There would also be a dog, hell maybe even two dogs, because of course we would have dogs. I smiled at the vision and how real all of it could be. I wanted that, not just for myself, but for Ryan too. He deserved something good and wholesome in his life, we both did. I hadn't realized how much time had passed as Bakersfield came into view, the usual business of choppers coming in and out, construction still being done on the outer flanks of the city. I couldn't wait to be done with this place, why they chose Bakersfield for a joint military base was beyond me. The chopper dropped in altitude to prepare for landing, I turned my attention to the rest of the team who all looked spent and in much need of a warm shower and some R&R. "Take the rest of the day off. We'll meet tomorrow at ten hundred hours." They all nodded in compliance as the chopper touched down on the tarmac. The engine was killed and they all hopped out, heading towards the hanger. I fell back a little to talk to Riley, who was still clutching Grayson's tags. "I don't really wanna talk right now Ell." "Fair enough, hey," I reached out and touched his arm as he went by. I could feel him immediately tense up, he was hurting, but in classic Riley fashion he wanted to be left alone to his brooding. "I know you wanna be left alone right now. Just know that I'm here, and I always will be, okay?" Riley gave me a stiff nod before turning and heading in the direction of where his Camaro was parked. "And don't drop off the grid either! I will break your door down again!" I called after him. The thought of another repeat of last year ran through my head. I hoped it wouldn't come to that, I hoped he would be smarter this time. I hoped, which was all I could do for my best friend. "He gonna be okay?" Ryan asked. "Honestly, I don't know. He was like this last year too after his father died. He almost died from alcohol poisoning, but luckily I found him." I turned around and began heading towards Ryan’s truck, remembering that we had arrived at the airstrip together. Ryan followed, keeping pace with me even though I was walking a little fast. I just wanted to get home, take a shower, maybe drink a beer. Maybe I could drink a beer and take a shower at the same time, that was an idea. "And what about you?" Ryan asked which warranted him an eye roll. Here we go again. What did he want me to tell him? That I felt like shit that I couldn't help my best friend? That the cuts on my chest hurt, and that seeing them and feeling the pain made my brain flash back to that room, with Diaz and with me tied to a chair? Well I wouldn't, I had to stay strong for the team, for Ryan, for myself. "Like I said before, I'm fine." I tried to hide the annoyance from my face, but apparently I didn't do a good job. "You know what the word fine actually means?" Ryan’s face turned serious. "Depends on who you ask I'm sure." I replied sarcastically. "Fucked-up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional." "All that in one word huh?" I tossed my bag in the bed of Ryan's truck and turned to face him. "Could you be less of a smart ass right now?" "Ehhh probably not." I opened the passenger side door but Ryan pushed it closed. Leaving his hand on the frame, making it clear that he wanted some sort of answer. "Oh god, you really wanna do this, right here?" I could feel the heat rise in my face, the anger bubbling to the surface. "You can lie to me all you want, but I know there's something wrong. Why won't you just talk to me?" "Maybe I don't wanna talk about it right now!" I raised my voice, and that seemed to be enough to make Ryan back off slightly. He opened the door to the truck, his expression hard to read. "What, that's it? You're not gonna press me for more?" I asked, not moving. "All I wanted to hear was something other than "I'm fine" because I know you're not, and that's okay. But I know that when you're ready, you'll talk to me about it." I stood there, silent, mouth open slightly like he had just said something so appalling. But instead what he had said touched something in my heart, melted that ice a little further. He respected me. If this were James or anyone else they would have just kept badgering me until I exploded liquid hot lava all over them. But not Ryan, how did I deserve someone like him? I climbed into the truck, settling into my seat, still at a loss for words. Ryan climbed in and fired up the truck, her engine roaring to life, and drove off in the direction of my house. He didn’t say anything, keeping his eyes on the road. I could only imagine how tired he was, I don’t think any of them had slept in the past twenty-four hours, myself included. Ryan had one arm resting on the console between us and I was so tempted to reach out and grab his hand in mine. My mind flashed back to the rooftop and my heart gave a painful twinge. What if he was mad at me? I know I had hurt him with what I said. “Better not risk it.” I thought, keeping my hands firmly placed in my lap. We stopped at a red light and a bunch of tanks and transport trucks passed in front of us. Then Ryan did something I didn’t expect, he reached over and grabbed my hand, pulling it on top of the center console with his. I looked over at him and he looked back at me, his face was stoic with a hurt behind his eyes that made my heart bleed. I had caused that hurt, that was me, and I would feel guilty about that until he forgave me. I opened my mouth to speak but he turned his attention back on the road, making my mouth clamp shut. I wanted to apologize, I wanted to tell him that I was sorry, that I was a fool, maybe even a coward. We pulled up to the front of my house and I looked up the walkway, it seemed large and empty looking at. I really didn’t want to be alone, but I also wasn’t about to ask Ryan to stay with me. I reached for the door handle but Ryan surprised me again by speaking up, still looking out the windshield, but talking nonetheless. “I need to run home and pack a change of clothes, but then I’m coming right back.” I looked at him with a puzzled expression. “What?” Was this his way of saying that he was staying tonight? He turned his gaze to me again, his face was stoic, that hurt still behind his eyes. “I don’t want you to be alone, you’ve been through a lot.” I knew that he was talking about the… I couldn’t even say it, let alone think of the words. The cuts on my chest twinged and I was taken right back there, Diaz’s face looming closer to mine, scalpel in hand. I shuddered at the image and took a deep breath. “I’m okay.” I gritted through my teeth. “Clearly,” Ryan’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “I’m not taking no for an answer.” Of course he wasn’t because he was Ryan, and regardless of how I acted towards him on the roof he was still going to be there. I gave him a nod because I was clearly not going to win this argument, and pushed the door open, climbing out of his truck and retrieving my bag from the bed. I unlocked my front door and went into the house, Ryan waiting until the door closed behind me to drive off. It comforted me how he always did that. I leaned against the door in the tiny entry and took in my surroundings. Even though it was daylight outside the house felt dark and suffocating. I began walking around the house, opening all the curtains, trying to get as much sunlight into the house as possible, as if that would help. I think the only thing that would help my anxiety would be if someone knocked me out with a high dose of ativan. I went into the bathroom and turned on the shower, maybe a hot shower would calm me. I peeled off my shirt and stripped off my pants and boxer briefs, then climbed under the hot cascade of water. I was right, the hot water calmed me almost immediately, making me wish I could stay under there forever. I closed my eyes and dipped my head under the stream of water, but when I closed my eyes I saw Diaz again, and my eyes shot open a gasp escaping my lungs, cuts burning like they were just inflicted. “Fuck!“ I gasped. My hands began to shake, and then it was my arms, and then before I knew it my whole body was curling in on itself, air feeling like it was being pushed from my lungs. “This is a panic attack. Breath.” The Doctor in me was saying. But the other, less rational side, was taking control. Before I knew it I was on the shower floor, in the fetal position, gasping, and frozen out of panic. I thought I was gonna die, which only made me panic even more. “Get it together Pierce!” I commanded myself, but my brain and body apparently had other plans. Breathe I tried taking a deep breath but I just ended up gasping again and it was gone, just as quickly as it came. My vision began to get fuzzy around the edges as my body tensed, not able to relax. I felt like I was gonna pass out and wouldn’t that just be a sight? Ryan bursting in to see me passed out in the shower from a panic attack, him giving me that “I told you so.” look. Breathe I wished Ryan we're here, here to hold me while I went through this, tell me that it would be okay. Breathe This time it wasn't my voice I was hearing in my head, it was Ryan’s. It was like he was right there, and that alone was enough to finally, finally, get the breath I needed to fill my lungs. My body began to relax as I took in another shaky breath and another, and another, until my breathing was normal again. I laid there for another minute, scared to pick myself up from the floor, thinking that I would get hit by another wave of panic. After a few minutes passed I climbed back onto my feet, steadying myself. I reached for the bar of soap sitting on the ledge and began soaping myself up. My hands were still shaky and I dropped the bar of soap a couple of times, cursing at myself each time. But after a few minutes I was able to finish up and step out of the shower, grabbing a nearby towel and drying myself off. When I got to my chest I noticed my dressings were soaked. "Fuck." I cursed to myself, those were gonna need to be changed. I walked out of the bathroom and into my bedroom, pulling a pair of lounge shorts out of my dresser and slipping them on. Then I headed out to the living room where my bag was and dug out some dressings and tape to secure them. I grabbed the small trash can out of my bathroom and set it next to the coffee table, along with the fresh dressings. I sat down on the couch, and with shaky hands I pulled the wet dressings off, one at a time, having to breathe through it so I didn't go into panic mode again. I threw the soaked dressings in the trash can and then grabbed the dry rag I had retrieved from the bathroom. I patted the sutures dry, wincing slightly at the pain and shaking away the visions that crossed through my mind. I couldn't have another panic attack, I just needed to focus on the task at hand and that would get me through it. There was a knock at the door and I whipped my head over to it out of reflex. Ryan must be back. "It's unlocked!" I shouted and shortly after that the door opened and a warmth filled my chest as Ryan walked through the entry. He was freshly showered, his hair still damp underneath his baseball cap. He had one of his signature three quarter inch sleeve t-shirts on, this one was gray with black sleeves, and a pair of nice fitting shorts that hugged his ass and thighs. The whole house seemed to brighten up when he walked in, making it less dreary and lonely, and more warm and comfortable. He set his bag down on the floor and looked around at all the drawn curtains, a look of curiosity crossing over his face. “Why are all the curtains open” I shrugged. “I dunno, just needed some sunlight in here.” Even though opening the curtains didn’t even seem to help, it only helped when Ryan walked into the room. I turned my focus back on my fresh dressings, taping the sides so they were ready to apply. I brought the first one up to my chest and tried covering one of the sites, but my hands had other plans, shaking and making it noticeably difficult. “Fuck.” The words escaped my mouth. Ryan crossed over to me and pushed the dressings aside, taking a seat on the coffee table in front of me. He placed one of his hands on mine and gave me a sympathetic look. “Here, let me.” I was tempted to argue, to tell him no, but instead I exhaled out of defeat and handed the dressing to him. He took it with careful hands and placed it over the first cut, making sure it was secure. The entire time my eyes never left him, wanting to focus more on him, then what he was doing. “Cody does good work.” He broke the silence. “Yeah.” I replied just above a whisper. He grabbed the next dressing and applied it underneath the previous one. This time it stung a little bit. “Sorry.” “No you’re fine, that one's just a little sensitive is all.” Ryan’s jaw tightened, lips forming a thin line. I knew what he was thinking about, but I didn’t want to bring it up, because bringing it up would cause more of those visions to pop up and like hell was I going to fall apart in front of Ryan. I didn’t want him to see me like that. But curiosity got the better of me. "What is it?" Ryan shook his head. "Nothing." He applied the third dressing, more softly this time. I gave a confused look, why did he care so much? Especially after how I treated him on that roof. "What is it? Talk to me." I urged. Ryan scoffed, picking up the last dressing. "You want me to talk to you, yet you won't talk to me?" He cocked an eyebrow at me. "Okay, I deserved that." I admitted, and I did. I deserved his anger and frustration, especially after how I treated him on the roof and then again at the airstrip. Ryan nodded in agreement and applied the last dressing. He rubbed his face, the bags under his eyes more pronounced than earlier. "We haven't slept in twenty-four hours. We need some sleep. Then we can talk." His tone was flat and to the point. I really didn't like this side of Ryan, but yet I brought it on myself. I couldn't blame him for being frustrated, for being angry and distant, especially when I wasn't talking to him. Maybe some sleep would do us both good. Wait… sleep. I dreaded that word. Before I would have gladly laid down for sleep. But now, I was scared to sleep, scared to close my eyes. What if I went to that place in my dreams, that room? I shivered at the thought and Ryan gave me a curious look. "What is it?" "I…" I didn't want to make him worry, didn't want him to make a fuss over something that would probably be nothing. But if that time in the shower taught me anything, it most definitely wasn't nothing. "I… Don't know if I can sleep." Ryan’s expression softened and he gave me a knowing look, indicating that he knew what was going on. "I'll stay with you till you fall asleep." He placed a hand on my knee, which calmed my nerves slightly. I nodded, not having the energy to object. It would be nice to have Ryan there, maybe he could be like my human dream catcher, stealing all the nightmares I was sure to have. I stood up and turned in the direction of the hallway, walking towards my bedroom, Ryan following close behind. I paused once I reached the bed, it's warm and cozy features looking more like a cold abyss, its blankets and pillows mocking me, looking to swallow me whole. Ryan peeled off his shirt, his hat already gone, and then shucked off his shorts before climbing under the covers. The blankets settled down to his waist and he gave me a look of reassurance as I stood there, frozen in place. "C'mon, you need sleep." He spoke to me in a warm tone, and just like that I was moving my feet, climbing into the bed that looked warm and cozy again, now with Ryan lying in it. He wrapped his arms around me and brought me close, and I rested my head on his chest. I could hear the thumping of his heartbeat, his chest rising with every breath. It was peaceful, and calming. "Try and relax, focus on your breathing." He had a calm tone to his deep voice. I held onto him tighter, like he was a buoy in the middle of a storm, the only thing keeping me from being dragged into the icy depths. Ryan seemed to pick up on that, because of course he did. One thing that I had learned about Ryan, among other things, was that he was very perceptive. "I'm not going anywhere." "Promise?" I whispered. "Promise." He responded in his calm tone. That seemed to be enough reassurance for me. Because one second I was lying there, listening to the sounds of Ryan’s heart and his breathing. Then the next thing I knew my eyelids were getting heavy and I was falling asleep. "I'm gonna ask you again, why are you here?" Diaz held the scalpel up to me. I could feel the cold blade against my skin. "I-I told you, we're here to escort Doctor Grimm back to LA." "Are you a rebel scientist?" He asked. "No." I answered. I yelled as the pain from the scalpel cut deep into my skin. It was real, it was happening again. My worst fears had been answered, I was trapped. Trapped in this room again with Diaz, no way out. No one could hear me scream and yell as he dug the scalpel into me, again, and again. "Elliott!" I could hear Ryan's voice, he was there, but I couldn't see him. “Ryan!” I yelled, looking around wildly for him. Diaz’s lip curled upright into an evil snarl. “No one is here to help you.” and he dug the scalpel into me again. "Elliott!" My eyes snapped open. I was drenched in sweat, Ryan clutching me tight to him. "It's happening again!" I yelled, voice cracking from fear. "No-no it's okay, you're here with me." He tightened his grip. "No. I. Saw. Him!" I began gasping, my muscles tightening, my body going into full panic mode. "It was a nightmare, it was just a nightmare." The calm never left Ryan’s voice. I couldn't speak, couldn't think, couldn't breathe. My mind was still in that room with Diaz, the cuts he inflicted were on fire. "Breathe Elliott." Ryan rubbed my back as I gasped, hyperventilating from panic. "I…" Was all I could muster between gasps. Ryan made a shushing noise as he continued to rub my back, as if trying to will the air back into my lungs. "Concentrate on my breathing. We'll do it together." He said calmly. He began taking deep breaths, and I tried to concentrate on them, to feel them. "You're gonna be okay. I got ya." He reassured me. That reassurance, that warm and comforting reassurance was enough to make the air flow back into my lungs. I coughed and took in more shaky breaths. Then something happened that I didn't expect, I began crying. This was my life now, never being able to sleep, never being able to close my eyes without picturing the torture I endured while on that mission. And poor Ryan, who was lying here, holding me tight, rubbing my back and convincing me everything was alright, had to endure this with me. That thought alone made me feel worse, this burden wasn't his to bear. But yet here he was, holding my shaking body as I cried, a sign that he truly cared about me. But why? "It'll pass, just ride it out." He said, giving me a kiss on the top of my head. That kiss traveled from my scalp and down to my chest where it radiated caring and warmth, all the feelings that I needed. How did he know what to say, what to do? It was almost like he'd been in my situation before. Maybe he had been. After my body finally calmed down and my breathing returned to normal, Ryan released me from his tight embrace and climbed out of the bed. "W-where are you going?" I stammered, fear rising in my chest. "I'll be right back, promise." He said, giving me another kiss on the forehead before turning around and walking out of the bedroom. I knew he would be too, that was another thing I learned about Ryan, he always kept his promises. He returned about ten minutes later with a steaming mug. I eyed it with curiosity. "I don't think coffee is something I need right now." "Your right, and it's not." He climbed into bed and handed me the warm mug. I stared at the contents suspiciously, it was some sort of tea, judging by the bag in the contents of the liquid. Whatever it was it smelled heavenly. "Try it, it’s an old family secret." Ryan urged, sensing my hesitation. I brought the cup up to my mouth and took a sip of the mysterious liquid. I was pleasantly surprised by what I tasted, it was definitely tea, but it was sweet and there was something else behind it too, something strong. The liquid filled my stomach and radiated warmth all over my body. "Wow," I took another drink and Ryan gave me a lopsided grin. "What is this? It's amazing." "Chamomile tea with honey, and a splash of rum. My momma made it for me when I was going through this same thing." “What happened?” I asked, my curiosity peaked. “Remember that fire I told you about?” I nodded in confirmation, taking another drink. “Well, after I got released from the hospital I used to have horrible night terrors. I would wake up in the middle of the night screaming, and my Momma would just lay there with me and hold me until I fell asleep again.” "Is that why you care so much?" I asked. "Partly." Ryan settled back against the headboard, his gaze never leaving me. "And the other part?" He rolled his eyes at me. "Do I really need to say it out loud?" I didn't respond, instead I just blinked at him, showing that I was waiting for an answer. He stared at me longingly before he spoke. "I care about you, alot, and not in a friend sort of way." "Well I would hope not." I tried to smile, but I couldn't. I was still shaky, coming down from the panic I had just endured. "It killed me when Diaz was torturing you. I wanted nothing more than to rip his fuckin' head off." My body tensed and my eyes went wide from shock. "Did you…" "Hear what was happening to you?" Ryan's gaze fell. "Yeah, I could hear. I heard everything…" His tone was somber, like his face. "How?" My voice broke. "There was a closet, right off the living area. Inside there was a vent, it must have been connected to the room you were in because I could hear the two of you. Heard as he…" His tone broke as his voice trailed off. My mouth fell open from the shock of what Ryan was telling me. I cupped my hand on his cheek and he pushed into it, accepting it. "I'm sorry." Ryan scoffed. "You're the one who was tortured and you're sorry?" "I don’t know what else to say to make it better." Ryan grabbed my hand from his face, resting it between the two of his. "Just knowing that you'll be okay is enough for me." His words touched my soul, dancing around and making me feel slightly giddy inside. But there was something gnawing at me as well. Would I ever be okay? "I don't know if I'll ever be okay. What if this never goes away." "It will, with time." He responded and the look in his eye was enough to make me believe it. It was a look that he was sure, that he knew things would get better, and I believed no, trusted that look. If Ryan had gone through the same thing and came out the other side okay, then I should be able to also, right? "Now," Ryan took the coffee mug out of my hand and set it on the nightstand, then he pulled me into him, wrapping me up in those arms again. "Try and get some more sleep." Everything inside of me resisted the thought of more sleep. What if I had another nightmare? What if I woke up and it wasn't a nightmare? What if all of this; us coming back, me lying here with Ryan in my own personal safety cocoon, wasn't real and I had just passed out from the pain that Diaz caused me. All of these irrational thoughts ran through my brain as I relaxed into his embrace, letting his warmth and the safety I felt in his arms whisk me off to sleep. When I awoke it was morning again, Ryan had an arm around me, his hand resting on my hip. His other hand was holding a book, his eyes glued to it as they danced across the page. I didn't know he read, it was actually nice seeing this more relaxed side of Ryan. Something that I could get used to seeing every morning. "Hey there sleeping beauty." He gave me a grin as he set the book down on the bed next to him. "Is it morning again?" I asked, groggy from the amount of sleep I got. "Yeah, it's six." He chuckled. I looked around the room, the warm sunlight coming through the drawn curtains, shining bright highlights against the light gray paint on the walls. "How long have you been awake?" I rubbed my sleepy eyes and yawned, further relaxing into Ryan, if that were even possible. "Not long, maybe a couple hours or so." There was a smile in his voice. "You should have woken me." "You needed your sleep, you've been through a lot." "We both have." I pointed out, and boy was that true. Sure I was the one who had been tortured, inflicted by pain. But Ryan was inflicted by another pain entirely, one that was sure to leave psychological wounds. The pain of hearing someone you cared about being harmed, and not being able to do anything about it but sit there and listen, which begged another question. Did Diaz know about that too? Did he know that Ryan could hear somehow? It was highly unlikely, but it gave me more fuel for the fire of hatred that I felt for him. "Stooop." Ryan let out a long groan. "I can practically hear your brain thinking." "I can't help it." I admitted. "Well then let's find something to take your mind off things." He gave my shoulder a squeeze and climbed out of bed. "Bacon and hashbrowns?" He gave me a questioning look. "You seriously have to ask?" "I'll take that as a yes." He gave me one of those lopsided grins I loved so much, before heading out of the bedroom. I swung my legs out of bed and sat on the edge for a second. I did feel a little better after the sleep I got, and I had Ryan to thank for that. There were new feelings for him bubbling to the surface, feelings like, fondness if I had to put a word to it. There was something connecting me to him now, an almost invisible line that stretched from me to him, a strong line, one that felt like it couldn't be broken. I stood up and walked out of my bedroom, following the sounds from the kitchen as Ryan pulled out the tools and ingredients he needed. The fresh aroma of coffee met my nostrils as I took a seat at the island and watched Ryan work. His movements were so fluid, working around the space like he knew where everything was, like he'd spent his whole life in a kitchen. His Mom I'm sure had something to do with that. His back muscles flexed and rippled through his skin as he worked, watching him was like watching moving art. The coffee maker beeped, signaling it was finished. I went to stand up but Ryan pointed in my direction making a downward motion with his finger. "Sit, I got it." His tone wasn't commanding, it was more warm and caring. I settled back onto the stool as he poured me a cup of coffee and set it in front of me. "Thanks." I grumbled, taking a drink. He just grinned and shook his head. "So independent." "Is that wrong?" I asked defensively. Ryan gave me another grin before turning back to the bacon sizzling on the stove. "No of course not. It's one of the things I like about you." My heart jolted at that, Ryan has not just a thing, but things that he likes about me? That ice around my heart was in danger of becoming a puddle real quick. I sat there drinking my coffee, continuing to watch Ryan cook in his underwear, which wasn’t a horrible sight. In fact it was homely, comfortable even, and that invisible line seemed to grow stronger at those thoughts. He sat a plate in front of me that was piled with hashbrowns, bacon, and a couple of eggs. He went to the fridge and withdrew ketchup and a small bottle of Tabasco sauce, which were things that I loved to put on these particular breakfast items. "How did you-" "I've been a Cop for twelve years, I notice things." He gave me a wink and turned around, grabbing his own plate and his coffee and sitting next to me at the island. "Twelve years?" I was shocked that he had been a cop that long. I mean he was thirty-four, just a year younger than me so it made sense. But even the fact that I've been a practicing physician for a mere seven years was a shock to me. "Well, yeah." A confused expression crossed his face as he spoke. "I finished my Bachelors in Criminal Justice when I was twenty-one, then I joined the academy shortly after that. I made Sergeant at twenty-nine and I was up for Lieutenant last year before I left." I marveled at Ryan as he spoke. This man had accomplished so much in his twelve years as a Cop, it made my ten years of medical training look like nothing. "That's impressive." I took a bite of hashbrowns. He chuckled and nodded his head. "You're pretty impressive yourself." I laughed at that and Ryan gave me an amused expression. "What?" He asked, before placing a scoop of hashbrowns in his mouth. "I did four years of Medical School, and three years of Emergency Medicine residency, all the while in the safe confines of an ER. That hardly doesn't add up to your twelve years on the streets Protecting and Serving your community." Ryan shook his head before taking a drink of coffee. "I don't think so. You have literally saved lives, dealt with things that I don't even know how you deal with, and I've seen you work under pressure. Not to mention your Chief Medical Officer at the age of thirty-five, now that's impressive." I thought about his words for a second. It was true that my accomplishments were impressive, and how he spoke about it, almost with a hint of pride, made me feel impressed by my own milestones. "Thank you." I said in a humbled tone. Ryan gave me a smile before dusting off the last of his hashbrowns and wiping his face. "I have something for you." He turned around in the stool and got up, crossing over to his bag. My eyes went wide with surprise, he got me something? Why did he get me something? I didn't need anything from him, just him. He crouched down, balancing himself on the balls of his feet and unzipped one of the compartments. He pulled something out but I couldn't quite get a glimpse of it. He stood up and turned around, hands behind his back, a wide grin on his face that reached his eyes sending a twinkle to them. He walked towards me and brought the object out from behind his back, and I couldn't help but smile at what it was. It was a Seattle Mariners baseball cap. The teal and silver S on the insignia stood out against the navy fabric of the hat. I reached out and ran my fingers across the insignia, the memories of my first baseball game flooding in. Making that smile appear larger on my face. "Do you like it?" He asked in a hopeful tone. I nodded and smiled at him. "I do, it's awesome." And Ryan beamed at me, placing the hat on my head. It was one of those soft, flex fitting hats that didn't need velcro or a strap in the back. I hated messing with those things, which begged the question. How did Ryan know? "Where did you get this?" I asked, taking the hat off and marveling at it. "Remember that sports memorabilia store we stumbled upon in San Francisco?" I nodded and Ryan continued. "Well Riley and Gray told me that the Mariners were your favorite team, and that you couldn't find an original hat before they moved. So I figured it would be something nice for you." "Yeah, after the earthquake T-Mobile Park was destroyed so Portland agreed to build them a new field if they stayed and changed their name to the Portland Mariners. These are super rare, you can't find them anywhere." "Who knew the one place you could find them was in San Francisco." Ryan sat back down on his stool, facing me with a smile on his face as I gawked at something as simple as a hat. “I love it, thank you.” I gave him a kiss on the cheek and his face flushed. “I’m glad you like it.” He rubbed the back of his neck nervously. I smiled at him, his nervousness was always so adorable. It reminded me of when we took that walk around the perimeter fence some two weeks ago. A lot had happened since then, making a new pit form in my stomach at the thought that we needed to talk. “We should probably talk.” I said, trying to hide the somber tone to my voice. Ryan nodded, the flush disappearing from his cheeks, and the smile fading to a thin line. He dropped his gaze to the floor, his tone equally somber. “Yeah… We probably should.” “I think I should start by apologizing.” Ryan’s eyes snapped back up to meet mine, a puzzled expression on his face. “For what?” “The roof.” My mind flashed back to that moment, the moment I pushed him away, and I couldn’t hide the pained expression on my face at that thought. Ryan fiddled with his coffee mug in his hands, not maintaining eye contact, instead looking pensively into its contents. “Yeah... That hurt.” Ryan’s tone was flat, exact, and those words felt like a knife wound. The fact that I had hurt this man, this man that was so perfect, and so good. The man that stayed with me all night while I battled with the trauma I had endured, who took care of me. The fact that I had done what I did to him on the roof made me feel like shit, and want to kick myself in the ass. “I wish I could take it back.” And I did, I wished so much that I could reach back, pick that moment out of time and replace it with something better. But that wasn’t going to happen, so instead I have to mop up the mess I made. “Well, you can’t.” “I know, and I’m sor-” “Stop… Stop saying your sorry.” Ryan held up his hands. “It’s the only words I can think of to say.” And it was, I didn’t know what else to say to make it better. “Why don’t you tell me what you’re afraid of instead?” I swallowed hard at that response. My heart of ice wanting to form again, shut him out. But I didn’t want to this time, I didn’t want to shut him out anymore. If I was really hell bent on making things right with him, then I needed to also make things right with myself, and the only way I was going to be able to do that was being honest with him. “I feel guilty.” I finally said. Ryan gave me a confused look. “Guilty, about what?” My heart rate increased as I prepared myself for what I was about to say, to spill my feelings out and hope that Ryan didn’t run the other direction. “It should have been me…” I looked at the floor. “What are you talking about?” I took a deep breath, studying the knots in the wood on the floor boards. “It should have been me that died, not James.” My eyes stung slightly at the self revelation I had finally said out loud for the first time, the thing I had kept hidden for years. “Elliott…” Ryan grabbed his hands in mine, but I shook my head. “No, it’s true. Out of the both of us, he was the better one. He was a better person than me, a better Doctor, a better fiance.” “Is that what this is about? You feel guilty for being able to live, to enjoy your life, and he doesn’t?” “Partly. I mean maybe if I didn’t work so much, being exposed to so many sick people, maybe he would have never gotten sick.” It was a long shot, but it was something that I racked my brain with for the past eight years. Blaming myself seemed like the logical thing to do. “If he was a Doctor too, then he would have been exposed eventually. You can’t blame yourself for wanting to help others during what was, at the time, a national health crisis.” Ryan’s words made sense, they rattled around in my brain and settled in all the correct places, but it still didn’t help the grief I felt. “But I increased that risk, by picking up extra shifts, sometimes sleeping there. Being in the ER we didn’t know who had it or who didn’t since there was no way to test immediately. So we had to go off symptoms, and it mimicked the flu so perfectly that sometimes we weren’t even wearing all the protective equipment. Just masks and face shields, which at the time, we thought was enough.” It was like I was trying to reason with Ryan why I was in the right frame of mind. My grief and guilt had warped my mind to make me believe that I was the cause of James’ death, not a deadly pathogen that we hardly knew anything about when it was ravaging the country. Ryan shook his head. “That is not on you, and I’m sure James would agree.” He was right, and all my logic and reasoning was telling me that he was. I turned my gaze to the floor again, fresh tears streaming down my cheeks. “Well, I guess we’ll never know for sure.” I said somberly. “Elliott, look at me.” Ryan cupped my chin and lifted my head. His face was stern, his eyes had fire behind them. “It. Is. Not. Your. Fault.” He enunciated every word, making each one a point. I stared in his eyes, the fire behind them showing a man who knew the guilt I felt. I thought about when he told me about his brother David, and the guilt he felt over his death. Ryan knew exactly what I was feeling, which made his words that much more believable. The realization of that made a weight lift off my chest, this large cumbersome weight that I had felt ever since James died. “What happened to James, he was one of the unlucky ones, and that is not on you.” Every word Ryan spoke seemed to lift more weight off, and I felt surprisingly lighter. I took a deep breath and exhaled, wiping the tears from my eyes. “After James died I sorta, shut down or something. Everyone in my life has left or turned their back on me. My parents never accepted me for being gay, and neither did my siblings, and because of that I haven’t been home in over a decade. I figured that if I didn't let anyone get too close, then I wouldn't have to feel that pain again after they left. So I kept my distance from you. But I can't do that anymore." And there it was, everything that I had been afraid of, my guilt over James, my fear of abandonment. All of it came pouring out, it's contents pooling around Ryan and I like a puddle. I expected him to retreat, to let go of my hands, tell me that he couldn't handle this. But instead he kept hold of my hands, giving me a look that showed that he finally saw me, and he cared. "Well… I can't do anything about the guilt, that is something that will get better with time. But as for the leaving part,” He squeezed my hands lightly before he continued. “I can tell you right now that I'm not planning on going anywhere." I just blinked at him, I was stunned. Clearly I didn't give him enough credit, I truly didn't deserve a man like him. But maybe I did, maybe Ryan was exactly what I deserved, what I needed. That vision I saw in the chopper seemed to look more clear, more concrete. My heart was warm, radiating heat that melted that ice surrounding it. Ryan had me, and any fear or reservations that I felt about him seemed that much closer to disappearing. I wasn’t gonna haul off and exchange vows with him, although that thought did make me smile. But I could admit that I was starting to fall for this man. "So, where do we go from here?" I asked. Ryan gave me another one of those lopsided grins I loved so much and kissed my hands. "Forward."
  2. 10 Years Ago "Mijo, I don't understand why you can't just go to college closer to home." Grayson's mother fussed as he hauled his bags downstairs. Grayson rolled his eyes, his mother was always trying to talk him out of leaving. The truth was that he needed to get out of San Francisco, find his own way. He had considered going to a university in the bay area, being closer to home would mean he would save money on housing and he could enjoy his mom's home cooking. But when his acceptance letter to UCLA came in the mail he couldn't pass up the opportunity. It was a good school, and he was the first in his family to go away to college. "Mamá I told you, UCLA has one of the best Chemistry programs. I'll have access to cutting edge research, plus they're giving me a full ride. I'd be an idiot to pass that up." She grabbed Grayson's face in her hands. "You would never be an idiot to pass something like that up to stay closer to home." Grayson smiled at her. He loved his Mom, and he would gladly stay behind, basque in the comfort of his familiar surroundings, make tamales with her on the weekends and help his Dad with the shop. But he needed to do this, needed it like he needed oxygen. "Where's Pápa?" "Out in the garden." His mother responded, as she triple checked that he had everything he needed before he left. Grayson walked through their narrow kitchen and out the French doors that led to their small backyard. Most of the houses in their neighborhood were the typical Victorian row houses you found in San Francisco, narrow and with very little yard. His parents worked tirelessly to keep a roof over their heads, his father sometimes having to pull extra jobs here and there to make ends meet, and his mother often having to take extra house cleaning jobs to buy groceries. They immigrated from Mexico when his mother was pregnant with him, looking for a better life then what his parents had in their small village. With no higher education they had to get work where they could find it, and Grayson was always grateful for them. He crossed the small backyard to his father, who was planting some seedlings in the raised garden beds they had built over the weekend. "Pápa." His father turned to face him, sweat beading on his face from the unusually hot day. "Are you leaving?" "Yes, Marc should be here any minute." Grayson hated this part. Goodbyes were always awkward with his father, he didn't know whether he should hug him, shake his hand, or give him a nod. His father nodded and reached into his pocket, pulling forty dollars out that was folded in half. Grayson's eyes widened, he wasn't expecting this. His parents rarely if ever gave him money, and like hell he was going to take from them what they had worked so hard for. "No Pápa, I don't need that." Grayson shook his head and pushed the money back towards his father. His father grabbed his hands and held them firmly, rough and calloused hands, telling the story of a man who worked hard for everything he earned. "Grayson, I want you to have it." "But I don't-" "Listen to me Mijo," His father cut him off. "You have made me so proud, the first Torres to go to college." Tears formed in his father's eyes as he spoke, making Grayson start to tear up as well. Never in his eighteen years has his father ever spoken to him this way, from the heart, and he certainly had never seen tears in his eyes either. "You have been a good son, always helping out, always being there when we needed you. So let me give this to you, it's not much but it can at least buy you something to eat maybe a little more." Grayson reluctantly took the cash from his father and then his father did something that he didn't expect, he pulled him into a hug. It was warm and welcoming, like a cozy fire, like home. After what seemed like hours but was maybe only a minute, his father broke from the hug and wiped his eyes. "Go make us proud Mijo, like I know you will." Grayson nodded and turned around, heading back into the house, heart feeling heavy from the exchange he just had with his father. His mother was flitting around the kitchen rounding up tupperware containers. She had insisted on sending him off with plenty of food to feed a small army. She placed them in a tote bag and set them next to his duffel bags in the living room. "There's tamales in there, enough for you and Marc while you're on the road." "Mamá," I opened the tote bag which contained three medium sized containers, all full. "This is enough to feed the homeless." "You will thank me when you can't get my cooking on a nightly basis." Her voice was joking and light, but behind her eyes Grayson could see her struggling. He wrapped her up in a hug and she sniffed softly as she began to cry. "Mamá don't cry. I'll be home for Thanksgiving, and Christmas and then it will be summer before you know it." He tried to reassure her in a light tone. "I'll cry if I want to." She had a stubborn tilt to her chin which made Grayson laugh. "Gray!" He turned around to see his younger sister Gabriella all but barreling down the stairs. She was the youngest of the Torres clan at fourteen and the most athletic out of the three, with an excitement for life that Grayson always found refreshing. "What? You thought you would skip out without saying goodbye?" She punched him in the shoulder lightly and Grayson laughed. He scooped her up in a bear hug, her feet dangling off the ground. "C'mon Gabby, you know me better than that." Grayson said after setting her down. She placed her hands on her hips and cocked an eyebrow at him. "Mmhmm." There was a honk outside signaling that Marc was here. His mother stared dreadfully at the door, knowing full well that his time to leave was here. Grayson picked up one of the duffel bags and Gabriella picked up the other, his mother grabbing the tote of tamales and following closely behind as they stepped out into the hot San Francisco air. "You will call when you get to Salinas?" It was a question, but Grayson knew it was more like a demand. "Yes Mamá." "And again when you get to Santa Barabara?" "Mamá." Grayson groaned as they loaded the bags into the bed of Marc's truck. "Mijo I am your mother, I get to worry." She reprimanded, pointing a finger at him. "Hi Mrs. Torres." Marc called from the driver's seat, peering through the passenger side window at her. "Marc Tran, you better make sure he calls." She had a stern tone to her voice. "Yes, ma'am. Even if I have to call myself." Marc feared his mother's wrath, much like her own children and husband did. In the eight years he and Marc Tran had been best friends he had almost been like a fourth child to the Torres', his mother even fussed over him the same too. His mother brought him in for one final hug, giving him a kiss on the cheek. "Please be safe." She said, keeping a hand on his cheek. He nodded in understanding, trying to will reassurance through it, which he knew probably wouldn't work. His mother was going to worry regardless because, well, that's what mothers did. The front door of their house closed and Grayson peered over his mother to see his twin brother, Griffin, begin his descent down the tall staircase towards them. He and Griffin had been slightly estranged since his acceptance to UCLA. They had always done everything together, even hung around the same circle of friends. While Grayson was going away for college, Griffin decided to stay behind and take classes at a local college and work as a mechanic in their father's shop. Their mother stepped aside and Griffin stopped in front of him, he wasn't sure what was going to happen next. There was an empty pit in his stomach at the fact that his brother wasn't happy with his decision to leave home. But Griffin surprised him by bridging the gap and wrapping his arms around him for a tight hug. It felt like a thousand pound weight was lifted off of Grayson's chest at the realization that he and Griffin would be okay from here forward. "I'm glad you finally came around." Grayson said, breaking from the hug. "I can't stay mad at you forever bro." "Wonder Twins?" I asked, putting my fist up. "Wonder Twins." Griffin acknowledged and he bumped his fist with Grayson's. "God you guys are nerds." Grabriella shook her head and a smile split across her face. Grayson hopped in the passenger's seat of Marc's truck and they pulled away from the curb, leaving his family standing on the sidewalk, his mother with tears in her eyes and his siblings with wide smiles. Grayson gave one last look at his family in the side mirror as the truck went down a hill and they disappeared from view. This was the start of his chapter, his story, his chance to strike out on his own. He would miss his family while he was away at college, but there were always holidays and breaks, and there would always be a place for him here. Present Day Grayson couldn't move, he was shocked, stunned at the realization that his brother was here. A million things went through his brain. "Is it really you Gray?" Griffin asked, taking a step forward. "Y-yeah." Grayson fought for words, it was like he forgot to speak. Griffin approached, wrapping him into a tight hug, a lot like that same hug he had experienced all those years ago. "I… I don't understand." Grayson stammered, still trying to wrap his head around the fact that his brother was here, alive. "We have a lot to catch up on," Griffin gave him a warm smile. "Like how the hell, did you get so big dude." "Me? Look who's talking mister roids." And there it was, the playful banter like no time had passed. He always deep down felt like Griffin was still alive, call it twintuition if you will. "Wait, hold up!" Riley spoke and everyone turned their gaze towards him. "Your name is Grayson? We've been calling you Boomer for years now, and instead we could have been calling you Gray?" "Is that seriously what you're taking from this?" Alex gave him a glowering look. "I don't know, there's just so much crazy shit happening right now!" "Where's Gabby?" Grayson asked, turning his attention back to his brother. He was anxious to see her, anxious to see that love for life that he found so refreshing. Griffin's smile faltered and there was a new pain behind his eyes, a pain that told him what he already knew and feared at the same time. Grayson felt his heart pitch, like it was about to be ripped from his chest. He should have been here, shouldn't have left after the earthquake. Maybe then things would have turned out differently. "I'm sorry sir, but there's still the matter of what we do with them?" Diaz spoke. Griffin shot him a threatening look, which immediately made Diaz retract. Grayson recognized that look from their mother, she used it on them as kids all the time to make them fall in line. Needless to say it worked, even for a grown man like Diaz. A new pain formed in his chest at the thought of their mother and father. Griffin studied Grayson and the team for a few seconds before he spoke. "They're not rebels." He walked up to Ryan and reached out, ripping the Republic flag patch off of his vest. Ryan barely budged and instead just blinked at him. "Rebels don't wear this. They hate the republic." He held the patch up to Diaz, who studied it carefully. He nodded in confirmation but Grayson could tell he wasn't convinced. "I'm sorry for any trouble or harm that my men may have caused you. You are guests here, not prisoners." The last word he pointed at Diaz, who dipped his head in submission. "Is there somewhere we can stitch up our chief?" Cody asked, gesturing towards Elliott. There was a slight hint of blood soaking into his shirt, indicating that the gauze wasn't working to stop the bleeding. "I'm fine. We'll just pack it with more gauze." Elliott gritted through his teeth. "Those cuts are too deep and you know it." Cody challenged. "Cuts?" Griffin shot another stern look at Diaz who looked like a scolded child. Something said that he knew exactly what had happened, and that this had been a problem in the past. "What have I told you about torture Diaz? It has no place in our society!" Griffin looked like he was about to haul off and punch him, but he showed restraint, something Grayson didn't recognize in his brother. Being a leader had changed him. "He wouldn't have talked willingly." Diaz held his head high, clearly he felt no remorse for what he had done. Ryan scoffed, he had anger written all over his face. "Please, he told you the truth you sick bastard!" Diaz whipped his head in Ryan’s direction. "I broke your nose already, I can always break something else." He spat. "ENOUGH!" Griffin yelled, his deep voice echoing off the walls making us all jump. "One of the guards will take you to our clinic, you can stitch up your chief there." His face was calm as he spoke to Cody. "Thank you sir." "Please, call me Griffin. Any friends of Gray's are friends of mine." Cody nodded and he, Ryan and Alex turned around to walk away but Elliott gave Diaz a pointed look. His face was stern, something that told Grayson he meant business. “I believe you have something that belongs to me.” His tone was flat, and to the point. Diaz smirked and retrieved a chain with two rings dangling from it out of the front pouch of his uniform. He handed them over to Elliott who snatched them out of his grasp and hoisted the thin silver chain over his head, tucking the rings under his shirt. He turned around and walked away with the rest of the team. But Riley stayed put, giving Grayson a look that told him he needed some reassurance that he was gonna be okay left alone. "It's okay Riley, go with the others." Grayson said, a warmth filling his chest at the thought that Riley was concerned for him. Riley nodded and followed the others out of the church, the doors closing with a louder clatter. "We have a lot to discuss." Griffin put an arm around him and began leading him back to the hallway he had come out of earlier. He paused to look at Diaz, who was standing at attention, worry rippling across his face. "I'll deal with you later." Griffin glowered at him. Diaz saluted and walked away, heading towards a hallway in the opposite direction. "I'm sorry for any pain he may have caused your friend. Diaz is…" "An asshole?" Grayson finished. A grin split across Griffin's face. "Difficult was the word I would have chosen." "Walks like a duck, talks like a duck." Griffin opened the door to a room and let Grayson in first. The room must have been an office, judging by the solid oak desk, filing cabinet, and strategic maps placed on the walls. There was a large flag behind his desk that contained the city's seal, but instead of the words Seal of the City and County of San Francisco it read, The Colony of San Francisco Griffin sat behind the desk and gestured to the seat in front of Grayson. He sat down slowly, not sure what was going to happen next. Griffin pulled out a bottle of Jack Daniel's and two short glasses, pouring a drink for him and handing it over the desk for Grayson to take. He hesitated, not sure drinking would be in his best interest right now. "You're gonna want it after what I have to tell you." Griffin stated. Grayson took the glass and stared at the brown liquid inside, swirling it around lightly. He dreaded what was about to be said, the conversation that needed to be had. "She's dead isn't she?" He asked, not looking up from his glass. There was a long pause from Griffin, seconds felt like minutes and in this time he swore he could hear his own heart beating. "Yeah… She's dead Gray." Griffin's voice broke, and just then Griffin's whole world came crashing down. His shoulders began to shake as the tears came flowing out. Gabriella, the girl who he used to give piggyback rides around the house, take out for ice cream after school. The girl who's flicker of light lit up Grayson's outlook on life was gone, extinguished. He thought his parents death did him in, but this, this took the cake. It was like a hole was punched through his chest, leaving behind nothing but a giant, empty, nothingness. He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up to see his brother's own broken gaze, tears welling up in his bright brown eyes. He knelt down and pulled Grayson into a hug as he just let the tears flow. He clutched onto Griffin's uniform, like doing so would keep him from falling deep down, down, down further into a dark abyss. 9 Years Ago "Goood moooorning San Francisco! It's gonna be another beautiful Saturday morning in the city by the bay," The morning newscaster announced in a way too chipper tone. "Temperatures are expected to reach the high eighties today. So make sure you use that sunblock and brace yourself for another scorcher, because this heatwave isn't going anywhere-" Griffin clicked the tv off with a groan. "How is anyone that excited." He tossed the remote on the couch next to him. "Drugs are a hell of a thing." Grayson joked. It was summer and a freak heat wave was running its course across the Bay Area, making people flock to the beach for the cool ocean water. It was his second week back home from college for the summer break, and he had to say it was nice being back. He missed his family something fierce, he didn't realize how homesick he would be after getting to LA. But at least he had Marc there with him, and they had some of the same science courses seeing as Marc made a sudden shift to Pre-Med. "I for one love it, it's a nice change from the seventies." Gabriella smiled from above her book. "You would, freak." Griffin shot back. I just smiled at her, Gabriella, always the optimist. "Hey!" She exclaimed snapping her book shut and setting it on her lap. "We should go to the beach!" Griffin groaned and flopped his head back on the couch. The beach was never really Griffin's idea of a good time, he refused to go into the ocean at all. "Aww c'mon Eeyore. I won't let the big bad ocean get you." She teased. "I'm not afraid of the ocean! There's sharks and jellyfish and rip currents, it's a respect thing." This was a lie, Griffin was very much afraid of the ocean and always had been, ever since they were kids. "Is that why you screamed and cried when Gray and I dragged you into the ocean on my eighth birthday?" She chuckled and poked him with her index finger. "I had just watched Shark Week! Do you know how many teeth-you know what, doesn't even matter." He threw his hands up as Gabriella and Griffin began to laugh. "I'm glad you guys find it so fucking amusing!" He said a little too loudly. "Griffin Arturo Torres! What have I told you about using that language in my house?" Their mother called from upstairs. "Oooohhhh." Grayson and Gabriella both said in unison. "I'm sorry Mamá!" He called up to her. He flashed both of them a glare. "You guys suck." But there was a smile teasing the corner of his mouth. "C'mon Griff, it could be fun." Grayson used his position as the twin to talk him into it. "Fine-fine we'll go! But I swear to god," He pointed to both Grayson and Gabriella. "If you screw with me you'll pay." They both put their hands up in solidarity, promising no shenanigans. Griffin got up from the couch and began trudging his way up the stairs muttering something under his breath about not being afraid of the ocean. Once out of earshot Gabriella turned to Grayson with a mischievous glint in her eye. "Were totally gonna mess with him right?" He gave her an evil grin. "Baby sister, you read my mind." Their home in Outer Richmond wasn't too far from China Beach, which was the one they frequented as children. The sand felt great between Grayson's toes as they marched close enough to the ocean where they could enjoy it, but not too close to make Griffin run the other direction. The beach wasn't too packed either, which gave them a pick of where to set up. Griffin sat on a low beach lounger, shirt off, looking through some mechanics magazine filled with muscle cars and half naked ladies clad in bikinis. Grayson was sitting next to him and Gabriella was wading around in the water, ducking her head underneath every so often to retrieve a shell or a sand dollar she spotted. "So, anybody special back in LA?" Griffin asked, not looking up from his magazine. "Between classes and research projects, no." "I figured it would be easy for you, ya know, swinging both ways and all." Grayson was bi-sexual, which his family knew about and supported him whole heartedly. Griffin on the other hand had a way of sticking his foot in his mouth when it came to the subject. "Dude, it’s not like I can get anybody I want just because I'm into both. It's no different then you with girls." He explained. "I know, but you do have a wider selection." This was true, plenty of girls and guys had hit on him on campus. Especially this cute guy who was a medical student. What was his name? Edgar, Eli, Elliott! That was it Elliott. But Grayson was too busy with school, and he was top of the list for this exciting research project next summer back east, and he didn’t want to squander that with the "college experience". Whatever that was. "All I'm saying is that it’s good to get your toes wet every once and while." Griffin stated, setting his magazine in the sand. "I'm gonna go join Gabby." He said, officially done with this conversation. "You wanna join?" He teased, slapping his brother on the arm. "Yeah, right. Enjoy your pool of death." Griffin replied in a sarcastic tone. Grayson made a baby crying face at him as he walked backward towards the ocean, which got him a middle finger in return. He turned sharply and whack! His body collided with something warm, meaty and solid. "Shit, I'm sorry!" "No I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention." The man laughed, rough hands placed on Grayson's arms to keep him righted. The man was about the same height as Grayson, brown, short wavy hair, hazel eyes and a lopsided smile. He was tan with rippling muscles and a dusting of hair on his chest and stomach that trailed down below his board shorts. Grayson couldn't help but take in the sight of the man, he was sexy and way out of his league. The man cleared his throat and rubbed the back of his neck nervously. What did this man have to be nervous about? He was literally the sexiest thing to walk this beach. "Well anyway, sorry." The man gave him another lopsided grin before continuing down the beach. Grayson couldn't help but stare at his ass in those board shorts as he walked away, which was perfectly round and bubbly. "What the hell man!" Griffin came up to him with a look of disbelief. "That guy was totally into you!" "No he wasn't, he's way out of my league." Griffin gave him a dumbstruck look, like I had just socked him in the jaw. "Seriously, how are we twins?" Grayson felt a weird rumbling below his feet and he looked at Griffin with a wide eyes expression. "Did you feel that?" Griffin nodded in acknowledgement, looking around at the sand. The air was still, the only sound came from the ocean as the waves batted against the sand. A large flock of seagulls flew overhead and everyone stopped, mesmerized by the sight, there had to be at least a hundred of them. "That's crazy." Griffin stated, awestruck at the sight. Just then the ground jolted, knocking him and Griffin to the ground. "EARTHQUAKE!" A lifeguard yelled some ten feet away, but this was unlike any earthquake Grayson had ever felt. It was strong, like someone picked up the beach and shook it violently. People were screaming, car alarms could be heard going off in the distance. He attempted to stand but he was knocked down to his hands and knees. "Gabriella!" Griffin yelled in her direction. Gabriella was about twenty yards away struggling to crawl towards them. So Griffin and Grayson began crawling towards her, meeting her halfway. They finally made it to each other and held hands, holding on to each other since there was nothing else for them to hold on to. The ear splitting sound of twisting and grinding metal could be heard, and Grayson looked towards the source of the sound to see the Golden Gate Bridge collapse into the water. Gabriella screamed and Griffin and Grayson just tightened their grip on her and each other, riding out the earthquake. "It has to be over soon, it has to be over soon." Grayson told himself in his head, but it didn't stop, it was a never ending torrent that felt like it was going on forever. Once the shaking stopped there was screaming, crying, people calling out for loved ones, running in different directions on the beach. Gabriella was crying and Grayson quickly picked her up to her feet. “Are you okay?” He asked, looking her over. “Y-yeah I’m fine.” She stammered through tears. “Griff?” He turned towards his brother, but he was still kneeling in the sand, a look of shock on his face. Grayson dropped to the ground in front of him and grabbed his shoulders, shaking him. “Griffin!” Griffin blinked and looked into his eyes. “What the hell just happened?” He asked dumbfoundedly. “C’mon we gotta get home.” Grayson pulled on his brother, but he was slow to get up, still in shock over the violent earthquake. “Griff, c’mon!” He pulled on him harder and Griffin seemed to snap out of it, jumping to his feet. They rounded up their important items off their spot and ran towards the street, towards their home, which Grayson hoped was still standing. A whole new flood of worries flowed through him at that thought, mainly about his parents. They were home, deciding to skip out on the beach and stay in. Their neighborhood was practically unrecognizable. Debris lay in the street and on the sidewalks, smoke was blanketing the city from fires. People laid on the sidewalks, some conscious, others not. Grayson flashed to his parents, laying there in the street, trying to escape their crumbling house. He shook the thoughts away as they rounded the corner to their street. There were people standing out in the street, observing the damage with looks of horror on their face. Most of the houses were collapsed and on fire and once they reached their house they soon realized that theirs didn’t fare any better. The home he was raised in, where he first learned to ride a bike, where they spent many Christmases in front of the bay window opening presents, now laid partially collapsed, a raging torrent taking it over. “Mamá, Pápa!” Gabriella screamed and she darted for the house. “Gabby no!” Grayson grabbed her and held her back. She kicked and screamed, cried and shouted for their parents as the house burned. Grayson held her tight until she stopped fighting, instead collapsing with him in a heap on the ground. Grayon didn’t think anything could hurt worse than that. He would never see his parents again, never make tamales with his Mom on the weekends, and never laugh at one of his Dad’s stupid jokes again. His whole world fell apart as he, Griffin and Gabriella all held each other in the street, watching their house full of memories burn, and their parents with it. Present Day Grayson tossed back his shot of Jack and grabbed the bottle from the desk, pouring another. Everything inside of him hurt, his soul hurt. It was one thing to think your family was gone, it was another entirely to be faced with the reality. “At least Griffin is still here.” His thoughts rang out, and that was true. Griffin was at least still here, his only remaining family member. “Told you you would want that drink.” Griffin settled back in his chair, and drank his own shot. “What happened?” The question all but blurted out of Grayson’s mouth. “Gray…” Griffin had a pained look on his face. “I need to know Griff.” Griffin studied him for a little bit, pouring another shot of Jack. “Gabby was my right hand, a job that I tried to refuse her. But she was stubborn, just like Pápa. She was killed by rebels during a supply run.” Griffin tipped back his glass and set it on the desk with a thud. “Why would rebels attack them?” Griffin stood up and crossed over to one of the many maps scattered across the wall. He pointed to a spot on one of the maps of the city, there was a red outline forming a boundary around Chinatown and some of the surrounding neighborhoods. It had to be at least thirty square blocks. “This is us right here, and this,” He moved his finger over to a section of the map just south of them that was grayed out, it was roughly three square miles of the city. “This is Rebel territory. Everything else is fair game.” Grayson studied the map for a second before taking another drink. “So you're telling me that the city is ground zero for some sort of turf war between you and the Rebels?” “Exactly, they don’t want us here and they’ve made that message very clear.” He sat back down at the desk. “But this is our home, and we’re not giving it up without a fight.” His face was stoic and cutthroat. Telling the tale of a man who had seen a lot of battle in the short span of time that the city went dead. “I don’t understand, you would think that the Republic would interfere, at least help.” Grayson had an incredulous tone. Griffin chuckled and stared at his brother with a look that told him he was naive. “The Republic? Those bastards are just waiting for us to kill each other off so they can reclaim the city for themselves. Protect their reputation, so they don’t have to face the repercussions of lying to their citizens about leaving us here to rot.” There was a tone of hatred to his voice as he spoke. Grayson sat back in his chair. The mission from the get go was shady at best, then finding out that Doctor Grimm was a rebel scientist that experimented on people, and then that they had plans to release a bio-weapon in LA. All the while they had no intel that pointed towards people actually being here, let alone a turf war, and they would have seen that on the satellite images. Doctored no doubt, covered up to hide the truth from the team. They weren’t expecting them to stumble upon this giant secret, but they did. Griffin stared at him from across the desk, watching him connect the dots, coming to the realization that sounded like a crazy conspiracy theory. But it wasn’t, it was fact, as solid as the desk that sat between them. Everything Grayson had fought for during his time in the Army, was for a corrupt government. Griffin looked at his watch and sighed, putting the bottle of Jack and their glasses back in the drawer he had retrieved them from. "It's getting late, and you need rest. You should go be with your team, I'll have some of my men escort you to your rendezvous location at dawn." Griffin walked around the desk and pulled Grayson into a tight hug. "It was good to see you brother, but you have to go back, expose the secrets of this place. Make your government accountable for what they've done." Fresh tears started to well up in his eyes at the thought of leaving him here. He couldn't, he wouldn't leave him again. He did that once already and he felt guilty for it ever since. But Grayson nodded, agreeing with his brother, for now. A guard showed him the way to the clinic where the rest of the team was, the entire way thinking about what needed to be done. His feet seemed heavy as he approached the building, pushing the front door open. He followed a light peeking down the dark hallway, as he drew closer he could hear voices, familiar voices, draw nearer and nearer. "One, TWO-" CRUNCH "Ah!" I recognized Ryan's painful shout. "You said you were gonna go on three." He groaned, nose sounding plugged. "If I would have done that then you would have tensed up, making it harder." I heard Elliott reply. I stepped through the doorway. Ryan was sitting in a chair with his head tipped back while Elliott stuffed little squares of gauze up his nostrils, Cody assisting him. The crunch sound he had heard was the sound of bone as Elliott reset Ryan's nose. Alex was perched on a cot in the corner, tinkering with her wrist computer, and Riley was sitting in a chair by a table, cleaning his gun. "Boomer!" Cody had a wide eyed expression as he made eye contact with him. Everyone whipped their heads towards him including Ryan, who winced because Elliott still had a hold of his nose. "I can't right now guys." Grayson said, fighting back tears, fighting back the urge to just lose it right there. Grayson crossed slowly towards Riley, a need pulling him towards him, a need that they had denied themselves years ago. “I can’t do this B.” Riley had tears in his eyes. “Why not? What would be so horrible about us being together?” “I…” He could see Riley fight for the words. “Give me one reason… Please.” Grayson pleaded, holding Riley’s hands in his. Riley was fighting it, fighting these emotions they shared together. He knew that it had something to do with Gregg, but he wouldn’t dare go there. “I’m sorry…” Riley dropped his hands, and with that he turned around, walked away. Leaving Grayson with a fresh hole in his heart. He shook the painful memory from his head. It had been a few years since Riley walked away, and since then he had made it clear to Grayson that he would always be there for him. He just couldn’t be there for him in that way. He felt dead on his feet, exhausted both mentally and physically, and he could feel his teammates eyes on him but he couldn't be bothered by that right now. The only thing that could make it better was cleaning out his assault rifle a mere ten feet away. As he got closer Riley looked up from his gun and he could see the knowing in his eyes, that he knew something was wrong. Five feet. He set his gun down on the table and stood up, concern leaking into his eyes. Two feet. He was almost there, just a couple more feet and he could fall apart, and Riley would be there to help keep him together. "Can we have the room guys?" Riley looked past him towards the team. "Yeah, sure thing. C'mon guys." Elliott said in a supportive tone. Did he know? Riley and him had been very close since Elliott stepped on base four years ago, so there were bound to be things that they talked about, personal things. He could hear footsteps walking out of the room, growing fainter as they walked down the hallway. "What's the matter?" Riley asked, knowing they were out of earshot. Grayson stood there for a second and when he opened his mouth to speak no words came out, instead he began gasping, gulping for air, precious air that tried to fill his lungs but couldn't. What was wrong with him? What was this? This was something he had never experienced before. Riley's eyes got wide and he wrapped him up into a hug, a tight hug and just like that his lungs found air again. He could breath. "Hey-hey I got you, I got you." Riley soothed, placing a hand on the back of his neck. Grayson held on to him for dear life as all the emotions, all the death, all the suffering he had kept bottled up for years came crashing down on him. He couldn't speak, all he could do was stand there and sob while being embraced by this man. This man that he so desperately wanted, needed, and who also felt the same way for Grayson. "I…" Was the only pained syllable Grayson could muster. "It's okay B. It's gonna be okay." Riley tried to reassure him, not loosening his grip, and Grayson believed him. It was like all the words Riley had were just what his soul needed. He looked into Riley's eyes, those sharp blue eyes that he used to get lost in for hours. He bridged the gap between their mouths and pressed his lips against Riley's, who let out a soft gasp. They were just as soft as he remembered and he even tasted the same, like spearmint and this candy that he used to get at the mini mart around the corner from his home when he was a child. Riley shuddered underneath the kiss as their lips parted and they exchanged their tongues, like no time had passed. It was a kiss like how you greeted a lover after a long time away. There was need behind it and longing. Riley led him over to one of the cots and laid down, pulling Grayson into him, wrapping him up in his arms and holding him close. He laid there, his head pressed against Riley's warm chest, the sound of his heartbeat lulling him into a sleep he so desperately needed. Seven Years Ago “Gray, you can’t leave.” Gabriella stood in the doorway of his room, hands on her hips. She had been at this all week, trying to get him to not go back to LA. But there was too much pain here in San Francisco and everywhere he looked were memories of his parents. “Gabby, I need to go back to school. I did two years online so that I could help you and Griff with Mamá and Pápa’s last wishes. But I need to finish my degree, on campus, not online.” This was the lie he told her, Griffin and even himself. Any excuse to leave this city and the pain behind. After the earthquake that claimed their parents, and countless others, Grayson stayed behind to help out. He helped with the lawyers, all the logistics, the insurance and even the debt collectors. Even after all of that the insurance money came through and it was enough for them to rebuild their family home. Not in it’s same former glory, but sustainable and suitable for the three of them. “You could always transfer to San Francisco State, they finally got it up and running again.” She followed him downstairs, hot on his trail. Grayson couldn’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu at this conversation. Wasn’t it just two years ago that his mother was having a similar conversation with him? He shook the memory of her from his head and tossed his duffel bag on the floor. “I already tried that one baby sister.” Griffin grumbled from the couch. Grayson looked between his brother and his sister, frustration mounting in his brain. He hated being teamed up on, and it was something they always did to him. Regardless if he and Griffin were twins Griffin was “technically” born first, he was always treated like the middle sibling. “It’s only for one more year, and I’ll be back for every break.” “Stubborn.” Gabriella muttered. “Hey, it’s a family trait.” Grayson pulled her into a hug. “Once I graduate I’m coming back and I’m not going anywhere, I promise.” He added, breaking away from the hug. “I’m gonna hold you to it.” Her bottom lip trembled. Griffin came over to him, fist raised out in front of him. “Wonder Twins?” Grayson smiled and bumped his fist against his brothers. “Wonder Twins.” Gabriella sniffled. “You guys are so stupid.” Her voice broke. They all laughed and came in for a group hug, Grayson savoring every minute. He was going to miss them while he was in LA, but he would be back, he had to, they were his family. “We’ll see you at Thanksgiving.” Griffin commanded, not leaving any room for objection. “You know it.” He responded. But that wasn’t true. It wasn’t true because, unbeknownst to everyone, two months later there would be another outbreak and the city would be sealed off. He would never see his family again for another seven years, and Gabriella would be gone. He gave Griffin and Gabriella a wink and one last wide grin before turning and walking out of the house, not knowing that it would be the last time he ever stepped foot in it again. Present Day Grayson awoke to the sound of the hushed voices of his team. He turned his head to see them grouped around the table Riley was sitting at earlier. Elliott made eye contact with him and said something to Riley, who turned around. Grayson sat up and swung his legs over the side of the cot, he rubbed his face with his hands, his sleep was decent but it wasn’t enough. When he looked up from his hands Riley was kneeling in front of him, a look of concern on his face. “I would ask you how your feeling, but I know that would be stupid question.” Grayson didn’t even know what he was feeling, he felt numb if he was being honest with himself. The only feelings he could comprehend in that moment was the feelings he had for Riley, which were exuberant and complicated. “I’m sorry.” He shook his head in disappointment, and Riley seemed to know what he was apologizing for as he shook his head and took Grayson’s hands in his. “Don’t… I’m glad you kissed me.” Someone cleared their throat which made Grayson jump slightly. He was blindly aware that they were even there. “Sorry to interrupt guys, but we gotta go.” Elliott looked remorsefully at them. Go? Grayson looked at his watch. 0400 He wasn’t ready to leave yet, he didn’t want to leave his brother behind. Didn’t he make a promise all those years ago, that he would come back and he would never leave again? “What about Doctor Grimm?” He asked. “They're keeping him. Good riddance I say.” Riley responded, hatred dripping from his tongue. “But what about the mission?” Grayson could care less about Doctor Grimm, but if they didn’t accomplish their mission what would that mean for the team? For Elliott? “Screw the mission, in fact I’m gonna have a word with General Dreyfus when we get back to base.” Elliott folded his arms across his chest. Elliott was fearless, something Grayson admired and envied about their chief. He wasn’t afraid to tell someone where to stick it or to “go piss up a rope”. That last one always made Grayson chuckle when Elliott said it. "What are you gonna tell him?" Ryan asked. "The truth. What happened was beyond our control, not to mention we didn't have all the intel before we came into this city." He looked at Grayson with sympathetic eyes. "Don't worry. I won't tell him your brother's people were involved. We'll say it was the rebels." He turned his gaze to the rest of the team, who all nodded in solidarity. There was a lump so big in his throat that Grayson felt like he was swallowing an apple. He loved his team for this, for keeping his brother and their people safe in any way possible. "Thanks guys." "You've lost enough over the years, it's the least we could do Boomer. Or should we be calling you Grayson now?" Elliott flashed him a mischievous grin which made the tip of Grayson's ears turn pink. "My family calls me Gray." And they were his family, they all knew it. One little slightly dysfunctional family. Elliott rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly, Grayson always found it humorous how the big bad chief couldn't handle emotional moments. Give him a broken leg with bone sticking out, a gunshot wound that wouldn't stop bleeding and he would handle it with grace and precision. Get deep on an emotional level with him and the poor guy didn't know what to do. He cleared his throat, which prompted Riley to speak up. "You okay big guy?" He flashed him a grin. "Yeah-yeah, just dusty in here is all." He cleared his throat again. “I don’t see any dust.” Alex teased. “Yeah, there's dust. It’s-you know what, we gotta head out.” Elliott quickly changed the subject. “Awww, it’s okay to get emotional Ell." Riley teased further. "Yeah. We won't tell the other chiefs." Cody even joined in this time. "I'm not getting emotional!" Elliott argued, even though he clearly was. "Group hug!" Alex shouted and they all converged on Elliott. "No! No group hug!" Elliott's commanding voice came out. But they all laughed and went in for the hug anyway, Elliott trying to squirm out of it as if he were trying to escape the most uncomfortable situation imaginable. Eventually he gave up and his grumpy face showed it. After a few minutes he began wiggling away from the hug. “Alright-alright that's good enough." He spoke up, and they all chuckled, separating from each other and satisfied with the teasing they had done. “We have two hours to get to the rendezvous, so let's pack up and head out." Elliott ordered, the blush not subsiding from his cheeks. There was a soft spot in him whether he wanted anyone to see it or not, but they all did. They rounded up their gear and made their way out of the clinic. It was dawn, the morning air was moderate, not too chilly, but enough to make the hair on Grayson's arms stand on end. They were met outside by a team of five men and women who were led by the guy with the green eyes, the one Riley had flirted with in the elevator earlier. Grayson stood closer to Riley, a protective side showing itself. "Doctor Pierce, I'm Seargent Hall. We're here to escort you and your team to Telegraph Hill for extraction." He held his hand out and Elliott shook it. "Thank you Sergeant, lead the way." "Will do sir." He gave a hand gesture to his team to roll out and they all followed him down the street. He looked at Riley as he passed and that smolder in his eyes appeared, that same smolder he had on the elevator. A low growl escaped Grayson's throat, one that he didn't think anyone had heard, but Riley did. "Jealous are we?" Riley gave a cheeky grin. "Of him? Of course not!" Grayson tried to put as much convincing behind the words, but Riley just chuckled and shook his head. "I only got eyes for you B." And he clipped him on the shoulder with his fist before following the rest of the group. A warmth spread in Grayson's chest at those words, but there was a pit in his stomach too that formed and they collided, creating a weird uneasiness inside of him. Could he go through with this? Could he do what he was planning to do, potentially breaking this man's heart, and giving up something he had wanted for years now? They were led in the opposite direction of the main gate they came in earlier, instead heading north. Grayson could see Telegraph Hill, and the notable Coit Tower standing out like a homing beacon in the distance and Grayson’s heart gave a little pitch at the sight. Pretty soon he would have to make a difficult decision, a choice that he didn’t want to but had to make. They came up to a small gate, maybe about as wide as Grayson, and his brother was waiting there and on his shoulders was the cutest little girl. Her dark brown hair was curlier than his or Griffin’s, and her chubby cheeks displayed dimples as she smiled at something her father said to her. “Figured I would see you guys off.” He said as they approached closer. Two of Sergeant Hall’s men began unlocking the gate, a job that evidently took two people. “This gate will give you a direct shot to Telegraph Hill, it’s only supposed to be used in case of emergencies. But I figured this would cut down time for you.” He added, giving a little bounce which made the girl giggle. “We appreciate it, thank you.” Elliott said, shaking Griffin’s hand. “No problem.” He gave him a grin. “Our colony is always open, for those who need it.” “I’ll keep that in mind.” Elliott gave him a friendly smile and followed Sergeant Hall and his men through the narrow gate. The team followed shortly after, all of them gave him a friendly handshake and a smile before stepping through the gate and joining the others. Once it was his turn he couldn’t get any words out, all of the words and emotions that he was thinking and feeling just seemed to get stuck. Instead Griffin spoke up. “I have something for you.” He held out a black thumb drive and I grabbed it, inspecting it and shrugging my shoulders at him. “What’s this for?” “It’s the truth. The truth about what’s really going on in here.” “What do you want me to do with it?” Grayson asked with a bewildered expression. “Leak it. Expose this dirty secret to the citizens of the republic. Maybe then something can be done." He replied. "Daddy I want pancakes!" The little girl shouted from his shoulders. Daddy? Grayson looked at the girl and her bright brown eyes gleamed back at him. The same eyes that he and Griffin had. "Just a second Mija." Griffin smiled up at her. She looked from Griffin to Grayson a confused look splitting across her perfect features. "Daddy, why does he look just like you?" "Because Gabriella, he's my brother which means he's your Uncle." Gabriella? Grayson's sinuses began to burn. He had a niece and her name was Gabriella, the same name as his sister. "You're a father?" Grayson couldn't hide the look of shock from his face. Griffin smiled at him. "I know, pretty wild right? If you would have asked me all those years ago if I wanted to have kids I would've called you crazy. But now," He sighed a look of bliss washing over his face. "Now I couldn't imagine life without her, or her mother." That pit in his stomach that he was feeling grew even larger. He had missed so much because he left, his brother met someone, became a father and also the leader of this Colony. An anger brewed up in him slightly, an anger towards himself for leaving all those years ago. "You comin Gray?" Ryan called through the doorway. "Yeah, I'm coming." But he didn't move, his feet felt like they were cased in concrete. He didn't want to leave. "Go,” His brother urged. “And when everyone knows the truth about this city, come back. There will always be a place for you here.” Grayson nodded and then held his fist out, tears fighting to be released. “Wonder Twins?” Griffin chuckled and bumped his fist with his. “Wonder Twins.” Grayson stepped through the opening and gave one last look at Griffin and Gabriella before the gate closed. A fresh tear ran down his face and he quickly wiped it away before anyone else saw. “Wonder Twins?” Alex chuckled, a look of amusement on her face. “Yeah, you know, Wonder Twins?” Grayson replied. Cody and Alex gave him a confused look, determining that they didn’t know what he was talking about. “You know…” Elliott put his fist out. “Wonder Twin powers, activate!” They gave him a further confused look. “C’mon! Twins that have super powers, one can transform her shape into any animal, the other any state of water,” He gave them a look of disbelief. “Super Friends?” He tried further. Nothing. “Is that like a song or something?” Alex asked in confusion. Elliott swatted a hand at the air before walking away. “God I’m old.” He grumbled. Cody and Alex both shrugged at each other and followed him. Grayson looked at the wall of The Colony one more time, wondering if he was about to make the right choice. He turned around and followed his team down the street, knowing what had to be done. It took them about an hour and a half to get to Telegraph Hill, because of all the collapsed buildings they had to go around which took more time, time that they thankfully planned for. Sergeant Hall’s team was friendly, most of them discussing battle tactics and sharing tips for how to better strategize during missions or when they came across rebels. Grayson couldn’t get into the conversation, his mind still traveling back to his brother and The Colony. Would it be such a bad thing if he stayed? If he didn’t go back with his team? If he became a deserter, to stay behind and help his brother? They began climbing the hill that led to Coit Tower, where the transport would meet them when Elliott pulled back and settled in next to him, keeping pace. “Something on your mind buddy?” “Nah.” Grayson shrugged. Elliott stopped and placed a hand on his shoulder, Grayson gave him a confused look. “I know that look. Tell me what’s on your mind.” Grayson looked up at the rest of the group as they continued on their path, not noticing they had stopped, before he spoke. “Have you ever been conflicted with a tough decision? Like life changing, where either choice’s outcome seemed bad?” Grayson asked. Elliott gave him a knowing look and Grayson knew that Elliott had an idea of where he was going with this question. “I think instead of focusing on the outcome, you need to focus on what matters most to you.” He responded cryptically. “But both are important to me.” He responded. Elliott thought for a moment before speaking. He placed a hand on Grayson’s shoulder and looked him deep in the eyes, telling Grayson he knew exactly what he was battling with. “Whichever one you decide to choose, the team and I will support the decision.” “But...” “Riley?” Elliott grinned at him. Grayson nodded slowly, it was crazy how Elliott knew things before anybody said anything. “Riley will be okay. He will be pissed, maybe even hurt a little bit but he will be okay.” Grayson thought about that for a moment. It was true, Riley was tough, probably the toughest man he knew next to Elliott. If Grayson chose to stay, Riley would hate him, but not forever. An image flashed through his mind, an image of him and Riley lying in bed next to each other, waking up in the morning to see Riley cooking breakfast, and two dogs cuddled up with them on the couch as they watched movies. The image gave him butterflies, made him hopeful for a future in a world full of uncertainties, and didn’t he deserve that? He could have that future with Riley regardless of what choice he made. “I know what I want to do.” He said, straightening his posture. Elliott smiled at him and patted him on the shoulder. "You're a good man, Gray. I know that whatever you decide will be for the best reasons." And with that he turned around and continued his hike up the hill. A new hope filled his chest after that conversation. The knowledge that his chief and the team supported him in whatever decision he made, gave him the energy to continue up the hill. Things would work out for the best, they had to. They reached Coit Tower fifteen minutes before the extraction time and a chopper could be heard off in the distance, it grew louder and louder as it drew nearer. "Time to make a choice." Grayson thought to himself as they waited for the chopper. It went out towards the ocean and circled back around to come in and land, the minutes felt like hours as the chopper got closer and closer to them, descending slowly. The wind from the blades blew a heavy breeze over the hill and Grayson wished that wind would carry him away, keep him from making one of the hardest choices he's had to make since that day seven years ago. The chopper landed lightly in the parking lot and they all began to move towards it, ducking slightly to brace against the beating gusts from the blades and Grayson having to hold onto his hat to keep it from blowing away. Once the team was on the chopper he took the thumb drive his brother gave him and thrust it into Riley's hand, who gave him a puzzled expression. "What are you doing?" He shouted over the noise of the helicopter. "I'm not coming with." "What are you talking about?" He asked, flabbergasted. "I have to stay, I can't leave my brother to fight this fight alone." "No! You're coming with, you'll be a deserter! Don't be stupid!" There was a hurt behind Riley's eyes that made Grayson's own eyes burn. He climbed up into the chopper and kneeled in front of him. "I can't Riley." "Then I'm staying with you!" Riley began sitting up from his seat but Grayson pushed him back down. "No, I won't let you desert either." "You don't get to decide what I do!" Anger split across his face. Grayson grabbed his hands in his and squeezed them tight. "Someone needs to get the message out that there are survivors here, then maybe people will force our government to do something. I need you to do this so I can stay behind and help my brother. I already left him and my sister before, and I still feel guilty about that. I can't leave him again Riley, I won't." Grayson explained, hoping that would be enough to get through to Riley, hoping that he would understand why he was doing this. Fresh tears formed in Riley's eyes, tears that threatened to escape at any moment. "But… I love you B." His voice broke. Grayson grabbed his face gently in his hands and brought their lips together, kissing him deeply and putting as much feeling behind it as possible, not knowing if it would be his last. "I love you too Riley." He replied, wiping a tear away from Riley’s cheek with his thumb. "We gotta go!" The co-pilot shouted over his shoulder at them. Grayson grabbed his dog tags from around his neck and yanked, freeing them from their place. He placed them in Riley's hand and closed it, sealing it with a kiss. "We will see eachother again." Grayson's face was serious. "Promise?" Grayson gave him one final kiss. "Promise." He confirmed. He flashed a look at Elliott who was sitting next to a very stunned Ryan. "Take care of him." He tried to say without words, and as he expected Elliott gave a firm nod, telling Grayson he understood him. He hopped out of the chopper and a few moments later it lifted off the ground, the team waving goodbye to him. He stood there, not able to move, knowing that he made the right choice. As he watched the chopper fly away over the city he hoped that he would see them again, hoped Riley and the team would be successful at the mission he sent them to accomplish. Hoped that vision of the future that gave him butterflies would come true. "I will see you again, if it's the last thing I do." Grayson said to himself as the chopper disappeared beyond the horizon.
  3. zanoGreen

    The Story So Far

    Thank you! I hope you enjoy the read as i have enjoyed writing it.
  4. Thank you! And hopefully I can get chapters out more quickly in the future 🙏
  5. Well if you think about it Boomer is from San Francisco and he never knew what happened to his family after the Clayton Outbreak. So one of them was bound to survive. I figured it would be a good plot twist.
  6. “Los Angeles.” My heart dropped at those words, a lot like how my body dropped on our jumps. A bio-weapon being released in a city like Los Angeles could prove devastating, not just for the citizens that lived there but the entire Republic. After the Pacific Revolution the governors of what used to be the Western United States decided to designate Los Angeles as the capital of our newly formed Republic. It was the center of everything for the Pacific Republic: Government, financial, the president, all of it was in LA, not to mention 5 million innocent civilians. “What about the antidote I was promised?” Dr. Grimm peered through the glass at me. We had no where to put him where we could keep an eye on him, keeping him tied up to a chair would have sat fine with me. However, that seemed a little more inhuman for the teams liking. So we found a room to place him, in one of the other labs. It wasn’t a very large room, maybe the size of a standard bedroom, but it had a large impenetrable glass wall so we could keep an eye on him. I could only imagine he and the other scientists used this room to observe their “test subjects”. I shuddered at the mere thought. “Yeah?” I heard Alex behind me. “What about his antidote?” I turned around and the look she had on her face was one I could not quite pinpoint. It was almost disappointment, maybe with some anger mixed in there. “He’ll get it… soon enough.” I smirked as I brushed past her. I felt a hand on my arm and I turned around to meet her gaze. “Is this what we do now? Play judge, jury, and executioner?” There it was, the look she had earlier in the lab. The disbelief at what I had done, like she was looking at someone she didn’t recognize. I reached into my pocket and withdrew the piece of paper that I had given to Cody earlier. She snatched it from me and held it up eye level. Her face scrunched up as she tried to decipher the words. “What the hell is ‘3 ml NS’?” She asked with a bewildered expression. I grinned at her. “3 milliliters of Normal Saline. Otherwise known as water, with added salt.” Alex gaped at me. “Salt water? You injected him with salt water?” “Mmhmm.” I nodded. “You tricked him?” She gaped at me. I laughed, although there was no humor behind it, and I folded my arms across my chest. “Ya know, I’m not this monster that you think I am.” “I never said-” “Save it. I saw the way you looked at me earlier.” I accused. “Eliott.” Alex had a pained expression on her face. “I don’t blame you. I lost control-hell I didn’t even recognize that person.” I admitted letting my arms fall to my sides. I could see her eyes begin to well up slightly. It made my own sinuses burn so I turned my gaze to the floor before I spoke again. “Even now. You would have believed that I would have injected that man with a deadly pathogen just to get the truth out of him. How could you think I would do something like that?” “You were so angry… I thought you lost it.” She took a step toward me and I took a step back. Making it clear where I stood. “I’m not a monster like him.” I jerked my head in the direction of Dr. Grimm, who was pacing in the glass cell. “I never said you were.” She tried to explain but I put a hand up to stop her. “You don’t have to, Alex. It was written all over your face.” And with that I turned around and headed out of the lab, eyes burning from tears that desperately wanted to come out. I needed air, I needed to get out, to be alone. I headed for the stairwell near the elevator bank and came face to face with Boomer, who was doing his guard rounds. “Whoa, where’s the fire boss?” He asked, stepping aside slightly. “Just need some air.” I grumbled, avoiding his eye contact. I pushed the metal door open and climbed the stairs two at time until I reached the last landing. I pushed the door to the roof open and inhaled the fresh air, letting it settle deep into my lungs. The sun was setting and the temperature reflected that, the only thing keeping the roof cool was the calm and even breeze. I walked to the edge of the rooftop and rested my hands on the ledge, looking out over the city. From up here you could see everything from the bay to the ocean. The bridges that used to carry exuberant amounts of traffic in and out of the city were collapsed, leaving only two towers sticking out of the glassy water surface. I wondered what it must have been like to feel left and abandoned in this city after the Clayton Outbreak. How Boomer’s family must have been so scared and helpless. “Penny for your thoughts?” I heard that gruff southern drawl behind me. I wiped my face and turned around. Ryan stood there, arms at his sides, his muscles rippling below his t-shirt. He noticed the redness in my eyes and a look of concern washed over his perfect features. “What’s wrong?” He bridged the gap between us until we were mere inches from each other. That same woodsy scent I had caught earlier wafted into my nostrils. I felt a sense of calm wash over me, something that seemed to happen when I was in his presence. “It’s nothing.” I waved off his concern and concentrated on the gravel under my boots, kicking at the tiny pebbles. Ryan didn’t say anything, instead I felt his strong arms wrap me up into a warm hug. I wrapped my arms around him and buried my face into his shoulder. I felt his hand rest on the back of my head and his face nuzzle into my clavicle. I wished that I could stay this way forever. Forget about the mission, forget about this fucked up world we lived in, forget about rebellions and their plans to wipe an entire city off the map. “You’re not a monster.” Ryan’s voice was firm and concrete, like the embrace that he had me in. “You heard that?” My voice broke slightly. “Yeah.” Ryan pressed his face into me a little more. I went to break from the embrace but Ryan just held on tighter. “Let me hold you.” “The mission…” “Can wait. You need to take a breath, clear your mind.” Ryan stated. I felt his warm lips make contact with my neck and I closed my eyes, letting myself go, letting myself fall into his embrace even more. Ryan was kissing my neck and then my cheek, and then he was holding my face in his hands, locking eyes with me. He wiped the tears off my cheeks with his thumbs which only made my bottom lip tremble slightly. “You don’t have to be strong for me. You can let me take care of you.” Could I? Could I just give myself over to him so easily? I wanted to, wanted to just let Ryan in, let him kiss all of my wounds and make everything feel better. But it wasn’t that simple, it wasn’t like you read in the books or see in the movies. Emotions are fucking complicated, especially when you have a ball of ice where your heart should be. A part of me knew that Ryan was telling me the truth, that he could take care of me. But I flashed back to James and the day that ice creeped in, the day I found him dead on the floor. I couldn't - wouldn’t, go through that again. Before I could respond Ryan pressed his lips against mine, warm, inviting lips. It was soft and caring, making warmth spread across my chest, and that ice melt ever so slowly. My lips parted and a deep moan escaped my throat as I felt his tongue slide into my mouth. I could taste him, taste that unique thing that was Ryan. “I… I want.” I said between heavy breaths and kisses. “Tell me… Tell me what you want.” Ryan breathed hard. “You.” “You have me. I’m not going anywhere.” Ryan broke the kiss and pressed his forehead to mine. Was that true? Was he really going nowhere? I mean James said the same thing too multiple times. But in the end people left, whether they wanted to or not. “Stop.” Ryan said, like he could hear my thoughts. “Stop what?” I tried playing stupid. “Stop spiraling. I mean it when I say it.” “Everyone leaves.” My voice was just above a whisper. “Then I’m gonna fight like hell not to.” Ryan stated, and I believed him when he spoke those words. I pulled him into a kiss and I could feel Ryan's body vibrate in response. His hands left my face and rested on my chest, the warmth of them radiating across my torso. I pushed him against a high wall to our left and grabbed his hands, interwinding our fingers together and holding them above his head. Ryan let out a surprised gasp, and I broke from the kiss to look into his eyes, which were dark with lust. “Is this okay?” I kissed him on the neck and he arched his back slightly, moaning. “Mmm, yeah… it is.” I grinned at how his southern drawl was more pronounced when he was turned on. It was sexy as hell, and cute at the same time. I moved to his Adam's apple and kissed slightly which was greeted by another moan. Adjusting my grip on Ryan’s hands I used my other hand to snake it up his shirt, finding his nipple and giving it a slight flick. Ryan let out a low moan and arched his back towards me, feeding the grip around his nipple. “Fuck, Elliott.” He moaned. “You like this?” I leaned in and locked his lips on mine and Ryan moaned in response, parting his lips and letting me snake my tongue into his mouth. I rocked my hips into Ryan’s and our hard cocks rubbed together through the rough fabric of our pants. I cursed internally at the layers of fabric between our bodies. I began fumbling with his belt, needing to feel more of him, more of Ryan. I was able to get the belt undone and his gear fell to the rooftop with a thud. I reached into his pants and grabbed a hold of his girth, which made Ryan tilt his head back with a low moan. I took the opportunity to kiss his exposed neck which resulted in a gasp from him. “Elliott.” Ryan moaned. “Yes?” I responded, my lips hovering slightly above his neck brushing the skin softly. “I-I…” Ryan struggled with his next words, squirming slightly in my grasp, pushing his hips into my hand, his cock throbbing in response to the pleasure I knew he was experiencing. I moved my head to brush my lips against his, his breathing was ragged with pleasure. “Tell me.” I whispered, staring intently in his eyes. “I, need…” Ryan’s eyes were thick with desire. “Is this what you need?” I gripped his cock and began stroking it slowly. Ryan bit his lower lip and moaned. “Tell me…” My pace was slow and almost tortuous. “Tell me and I’ll get you there.” Ryan growled in frustration and I grinned. He was so fucking adorable when he was frustrated. “If you didn’t have my hands pinned…” “What? What would you do?” There was a slight humour to my voice. “You would be the one pinned against the wall.” Ryan growled. “Is that so?” I swiped the tip of Ryan’s cock with my thumb, which was coated in pre-cum and brought it up to my mouth. “Maybe next time.” I licked my thumb and moaned. Ryan tasted so damn good. I leaned forward and kissed him deeply, returning my hand to his cock. This time pulling it out of his pants. Ryan sucked in a breath and I continued my slow strokes. “Please…” Ryan pleaded, which only made my own cock get harder. “Tell me.” “I want to cum, please make me cum.” I grinned and quickened my strokes. I don’t know why this was getting me off so much, it was like this primal feeling deep down within me. All I knew was that having this weird power over Ryan was so fucking hot, but at the same time I wanted to take care of him, show him affection. “What about you?” Ryan asked between breaths. “Don’t worry about me, just seeing you like this is so fucking hot.” I kissed his exposed neck. “I want you to cum too.” “You first.” Ryan didn’t argue, instead he intertwined his fingers with mine above his head and kissed me. It brought out this weird feeling that I hadn’t felt in a while. It was warm, and it radiated from my chest, and made my sinuses burn. “Oh fuck. Elliott.” Ryan moaned. “Yeah you gonna cum?” “Fuck yeah.” “Cum for me baby.” I ordered. Ryan let out a moan and I felt his cock throb followed by warmth as Ryan unloaded in my hand. “Ohh, fuck.” Ryan gasped as the last wave of his orgasm hit. I kissed him and let his hands go, which he wrapped around my neck. He slouched against me, resting his head on my shoulder. I gave him a kiss on the cheek and he gave a groan, meeting my lips for another one of those kisses that I just couldn’t get enough of. Ryan grabbed a fistful of my shirt and spun me around, pushing me against the wall. A low growl escaped his throat as he pushed forward with a hungry kiss. If my cock wasn’t rock hard before, it sure was now. Something about being dominated by this man was such a turn on, I thought that I would shoot right there. Ryan reached his hand into my pants and grabbed my cock, I let out a moan and bit my bottom lip fighting the urge to cum right there. “Not… gonna… last long.” I gasped in between those addictive kisses. “Good.” I could practically hear the evil grin in his voice. He pulled my pants down to around my thighs and began stroking my length, slowly, like I did to him. Fucker. “Fuck Ryan.” “Yeah? Tell me what you want.” He was toying with me, like I did to him, and I liked it. He bit my lower lip lightly and I almost lost it, instead letting out a moan and arching my back towards him. “Please.” I begged, something I never did. “Please what?” “Please, let me cum.” Ryan grabbed both of our cocks in his hand and began stroking them together. I moaned at the feeling of our skin rubbing together, my precum giving us the lube necessary to let Ryan’s hand glide down the sensitive skin. “Fuck, Ryan oh fuck.” I moaned, thrusting my hips towards him. “Nuh uhh.” Ryan placed his opposite hand against my navel, preventing me from moving my hips. I growled out of frustration and Ryan chuckled. “I love it when you get all frustrated.” He teased. It was like everything was happening in slow motion, Ryan was stroking our cocks together, both of us moaning into eachothers mouths. That warmth that I was feeling seemed like a sun about ready to explode in my chest, and melt that ice surrounding my heart. “Oh shit, I’m gonna cum.” I announced. “Fuck, me too.” That enough was to make me cum. The feeling lit up my insides and traveled down every nerve ending as warm cum shot out of my cock coating both of our dicks in the warm fluid. Ryan let out a moan and pressed closer into me, kissing through the orgasm. “That. Was. Fucking. Amazing.” I said between breaths. Ryan chuckled and nuzzled our noses together. “Yeah it was.” Just then reality set in and that ice quickly began to form again, like there was a formidable blizzard in my chest. The only casualty being me, and the feelings that I had for Ryan. I reached down and pulled my pants back up around my waist, the feeling of guilt coursing through my body. Ryan followed suit all the while not breaking eye contact with me. “What is it?” He finally asked, after a moment of silence. “Nothing.” I grumbled. “I can practically feel your brooding from here.” Was it that obvious, was my guilt showing that bad? I shook my head and looked down, averting my gaze. “I can’t.” “You can’t what?” “Nevermind.” I said shortly. I turned to walk away but he reached out and grabbed my arm, turning me back around to face him. “Tell me.” He had a demanding tone. “There’s nothing to tell.” I replied defensively. He rolled his eyes. “The guilt is written all over your face.” Shit, apparently I’m not good at hiding my emotions around him. How was I supposed to explain to him why I felt guilty? The reason why I couldn’t but desperately wanted to keep this thing going with him. The idea of turning my back on what we had going was enough to make me hurl. But what would that look like? Me the leader of the team, dating someone that was supposed to be my subordinate? Yeah that spelled disaster. Maybe before Ryan came on the team we could have had something, but now that future looked uncertain and I didn't like uncertainties. “Elliott…” And there it was, the feeling that I got whenever Ryan said my name. This invisible force that drew me to him. I placed my hands on his chest and pushed him away lightly, shaking my head and looking at the ground, trying desperately to avoid his eye contact but failing. “This was a mistake.” I said sharply. “Oh,” There was a hurt in his voice that made my sinuses burn. "I see." “We need to focus on the mission, get out of here, and then we can talk when we get back to base.” I don’t think my voice was ever this flat and to the point with Ryan. I looked up and his expression was stoic, tears fighting to be released. There was a lump the size of a peach in my throat seeing him like that. Ryan cleared his throat and stood straighter, placing his hands behind his back. “Yes Chief.” He dipped his head slightly and turned around, walking towards the roof access door. That was a sucker punch to the gut that I so desperately deserved. Why the hell was I being so difficult, why couldn’t I just let this thing happen the way it was supposed to happen? I desperately wanted to run after him, apologize, tell him I was an idiot. Something to make things right. But as he passed through the door and it closed shut I knew it was going to take more than that to make things right. “God you’re a stupid motherfucker.” My thoughts rang out. The rest of the evening Ryan didn’t really talk to me, in fact he tried to avoid me all together, unless it had something to do with the mission. Now that it was his turn to patrol I didn't feel like there was a massive elephant in the room, waiting impatiently to be addressed. Boomer, Riley and Cody had seemed to have forgotten about the events that occurred just a few hours ago. It was nice to know that I hadn’t completely scared off my team, although Alex, seemed to be a different story. Speaking of. “Hey there slugger.” She had a nervous lilt to her voice. I gave a puzzled expression and she quickly spoke up. “Y’know, because you have a mean right hook.” She playfully punched the air in imitation. “So what? Now we're joking about this?” I responded flatly. “No,” Alex perched herself on the counter I had made into my desk, looking over Dr. Grimm’s files. “I wanted to apologize.” I peered at her over the notes. She was sincere, it was written all over her face. I closed the folder and sat back in my chair. “You don’t have to apologize.” “But I do,” Alex shifted uncomfortably on the counter. Apologies were not her strong suit. “I lost faith in you, something that should never happen. We’ve known each other ever since I came onto the team. Not once have I ever seen you act like that.” “Like what?” I crossed my arms over my chest and a frown split across my face. “Like you were gonna kill someone.” I gave out a hearty laugh that reverberated off the walls. “It’s not funny,” She slapped my arm. “It was scary seeing you like that.” “Alex, in the time that you’ve known me have I ever killed someone without provocation?” “Well… no.” “Exactly. It was about getting information, that’s all. I knew he wouldn’t talk willingly-” “So you decided to beat it out of him?” Alex cut me off. I gave her a curt nod. “When I saw what he did to that kid I knew that we were no longer dealing with someone with any sense of morality,” Alex gave me a confused look before I continued. “He’s a monster, someone who has done terrible things for a group of people who are going to do more terrible things.” “What are you saying? “We’re at war now Alex. With an enemy we know nothing about, and in war, we have to do things that are questionable.” I sighed and stood up from my seat. “As the leader of this team, I’m shouldering these responsibilities so none of you have to.” “You don’t-” I held up a hand and cut her off. “Yes I do. It’s my job, a job that I signed up for, and I can handle it.” Alex nodded slightly and slipped off the counter. “I really am sorry Ell.” I placed a reassuring hand on her arm. “I know.” My watch beeped and I looked at the display. 2300 “You should get some rest with the others, we head out in 4 hours.” I stated. “What about you?” “He’ll be fine,” Riley stepped around the corner. “Captain Insomnia at your service.” He gave an elegant bow as he finished. Alex rolled her eyes and chuckled. “Alright boys, don’t go causing too much trouble though.” She joked. “When have we ever caused trouble?” He asked incredulously. Alex cocked an eyebrow at him. “San Diego.” Riley and I blushed two shades of red at the mention of San Diego. “Touche.” He admitted in defeat and Alex passed by him to go join the others in the living room area. “What about you?” He gave me a direct look and I shook my head. “Sleep hasn’t been agreeing with me lately.” I admitted. He nodded his head and sat in the chair next to mine. He patted the armrest of my chair and I took the hint, pulling the chair out and sitting across from him. I had the feeling he was about to pry, something I wasn’t looking forward to. He wanted to talk about Ryan, and more specifically the reason we had been avoiding each other ever since we came back from the roof. “I know what you want to talk about and frankly, I don’t know what to say.” I got the first word in before Riley could. Riley leaned back in his chair and looked up at the ceiling tiles, I thought for a second he wasn’t going to say anything but then… “Did you know that I lost someone close to me?” I gave him a questioning look. “Like recently?” Riley grinned. “No, this was way back. Way before the outbreak, way before I left Philly. Hell even before I joined the Army.” Riley had never mentioned this before, in fact, Riley never talked about his life in Philadelphia. I always knew there was something dark surrounding that subject, but I never brought it up. I didn’t want to open up old wounds if there were any. All I knew about Riley’s past was that his Mom was a Nurse and his Dad was a beat cop in their rough neighborhood. “Gregg Moretti, the first boy I ever loved.” Riley smiled at the mention of the name. “He was a funny guy, and could always make me laugh. We met when we were thirteen after his mother and him moved in next door. We became instant friends. Skateboarding at The Foundry, getting cheesesteaks at Spot’s, causing trouble every now and then. I had my first kiss with him when we were seventeen.” Riley’s smile didn’t fade as he went down memory lane. “He took me to this rooftop downtown, he knew a guy that worked in security, and he told me that he needed to get something off of his chest...” “What was it?” I asked. Riley smiled and his eyes glinted with joy. “He told me that he was gay and that he loved me, and with that he grabbed my hands in his and he leaned forward and kissed me." I smiled at that. “That sounds really romantic.” “It was fuckin’ ballsy was what it was, and yes romantic. Gregg had no idea if I was gay, bi, whatever. But he kissed me anyway and it just felt right, like every piece of the puzzle finally came together, why every relationship I had with a girl failed miserably.” “So what happened then?” I asked, anxious to hear more. However, Riley’s smile faded and a hurt appeared in his eyes, something I had never seen in him before. “It was the summer after our senior year and we were bound to make it our best one. Gregg got a full ride to Penn, he was wicked smart. He wanted to be a Doctor, to help people. Unfortunately for me Ivy League wasn’t in the books, so instead I was going to Penn State, which meant we weren’t going to see each other as much as we wanted. We were supposed to meet at Fairmount Park, they were doing one of those movies in the park things, but he never showed. So I left, and I was pissed, he had never stood me up in the two years we had been together. When I got home our road was blocked off, my parents were there, my dad was in uniform working the scene,” Riley took a ragged breath in and exhaled before he continued. “When I saw Gregg lying in the street, I just wanted to die. Apparently he was hit by a drunk driver who fled the scene, killed him instantly.” I couldn’t control my jaw muscles as my mouth fell open in shock. In that moment my heart went out to Riley, feeling his pain, his sorrow. How had he never told me about this before, especially when he knew about James. “What happened after that?” I asked, not being able to contain my questions. “All I remember was my Mom holding me on the sidewalk while I bawled my eyes out, the rest of the night was a complete blank. The days after that I was depressed, didn’t want to get out of bed, didn’t want to eat. I thought about killing myself multiple times, I didn’t know how to get rid of the pain. Eventually my parents got so scared for me that they put me in a center. I was there for a month and it helped, slightly, but I was angry at that point. When I got home I revoked my admission to Penn State, and a few months later I joined the Army and left Philly. Haven’t been back since.” Riley finished, taking a drink from his water canteen. “How come you never told me this before?” I asked. “It didn’t seem relevant until now.” “But you know about James.” “But Gregg’s death isn’t holding me back.” Riley stated, and his words cut deep like razors. “You don’t know what you're talking about.” I replied. “Oh but I do, because I was in the same position as you a few years back. Unfortunately for me though, I didn’t have a friend to kick me in the ass.” “I don’t need a kick in the ass from anyone.” My annoyance level was at its peak. Riley laughed and shook his head. “Denial is not a good look on you.” “Fuck off Riley, what do you know?” My annoyance had slipped into anger and I pushed up from my chair, muscles rippling, fists clenched. “Oh I know a lot more than you think.” Riley stood up and faced me, his jaw was set and his voice was stern. “I know you’re scared, I know that you have a wall so thick around your heart that it would take a construction and demolition crew to knock it down. I know that everytime you look at Ryan, you think about James and that makes you feel guilty because having feelings for another person isn’t honoring his memory. I know because I have felt every, single, one, of those feelings.” “That’s not even the half of it.” I growled as I began pacing next to the counter. I needed to hit something, but I didn’t want to hit Riley, I could never hit him. “Then what else? What else could you possibly be scared of?” Riley raised his voice slightly. I punched the countertop. “I don’t want him to leave!” Riley blinked. “What do you mean?” “Everybody leaves me Riley! My parents, my siblings, James!” I leaned against the counter, eyes burning. “Ryan," My voice was raw and I didn't know what to say, so I spoke from the heart. "He's such a good person. He makes me smile. When I see him it makes this world seem less shitty. The feelings that I feel with him I have never felt before, not even with James.” Everything that I had been feeling about Ryan just spilled out of my mouth and lay displayed before us. I could trust Riley, I know he would never say anything. But admitting it out loud lifted a weight off my shoulders that I didn’t even realize was there. “I don’t deserve him, I would ruin him Riley.” My voice broke slightly. “Ell,” Riley took a step towards me. “You are one of the most good, caring, and loving people that I know. I mean you can kick some ass when you need to, and man are you scary when you're mad,” I scoffed at that, thinking about the beating I gave to Dr. Grimm. “You are the best of us, and you would not ruin Ryan.” Riley finished. “Yeah, you sure about that?” I challenged, my thoughts going back to the rooftop and how I practically all but physically pushed Ryan away. No wait, I did that too. I felt a twinge of guilt erupt in my stomach, I hated the fact that I had hurt Ryan. “Well, except for earlier when he came in looking like someone kicked his dog. What happened up there?” “I’m a fucking moron that’s what happened.” I responded. “It’s not too late to fix things man. He would understand if you would just explain things.” “I told him that what we did was a mistake, and that we needed to focus on the mission. You should have seen the look on his face.” Riley reached out and squeezed my arms. “If anyone can make it right, it’s you. Tell him how you really feel. If not now then when we get back to base. I’m telling you that you will regret it if Ryan gets away.” The look on his face was something that said he knew from past experience what I was going through. That he also had a Ryan, someone that he desperately wanted to be with, but couldn’t for some reason. "It could never work though," I sighed. "I'm team leader, and there's the whole fraternization rule." Riley considered that for a second before he spoke. "Cross that bridge when you get there. Everything has a way of working out." I nodded my head and Riley patted my shoulder, giving it a slight squeeze. There was a light clatter coming from the hallway and we both jerked our heads in that direction. “Did you hear that?” Riley asked. “Yeah.” My pulse quickened. We both began making our way towards the hallway when a small metal canister about the size of a soda can came tumbling in. “Shit!” Riley wrapped an arm around me and threw me back, we both fell to the floor, Riley landing on top of me. BANG! The flash grenade went off, blinding me and the percussion knocked my hearing out slightly. I could hear voices, muffled, like trying to talk through thick glass. I felt arms grab me and I fought trying to break free. I felt something hard hit me on the side of the head and if I could see anything I would probably be seeing stars. My vision slowly came back into focus and I looked up at my two captors who were people that I didn’t recognize. They were dressed like the Army, and they had American Flag patches on their shoulders. Upon closer inspection I noticed the flag was the old flag, before the civil war, not the new one. They dragged me into the living room where I could see Ryan, Boomer, Alex and Cody standing in the center of the room, wrists restrained behind them. My gaze landed on Ryan who was bleeding from his nose, which definitely looked broken. He looked at me with a worried expression. “I’m fine.” I tried to convey with my eyes. Which he seemed to grasp as the worry dropped from his face a little. I braced my feet underneath of me to stand up straighter and one of the men restrained my wrists behind my back with zip ties, before pushing me towards the others. I fell in line next to Boomer who looked like he was about to hulk out from these zip ties and start splitting heads. They brought Riley in and he settled in next to me, he had a cut below his right eye and an angry bruise that was starting to develop. I looked out in the hallway to see 3 other men, all talking in hushed tones. One of them noticed me trying to eavesdrop and ordered the two who were standing guard to close the doors. Which they did, leaving us alone. “Damn, that looks like it hurts.” Riley said in a hushed tone staring at a spot on the side of my head. I could feel a warm liquid running down the side of my face, which I soon realized by the smell was my own blood. “What do you think these assholes want?” Boomer asked. “I don’t know but did you check out their uniforms? The flag on the shoulder is old, Pre-Civil War.” I pointed out. “I did notice that.” Boomer said. “You don’t think-” Alex started but Boomer cut her off. “What? That they're rebellion?” “Shit.” Riley responded barely above a whisper. “What are we gonna do?” Cody asked. He seemed nervous, I felt bad for the poor kid. “We’re gonna keep it together, we’ve been trained for this kind of stuff.” I stated and everyone nodded in agreement. Ryan was quiet all the while, the look on his face told me that he was thinking of ways out of this. I didn't know how we could get out of this. Looking around I didn't see any of our gear, and without that I didn't see how we were supposed to get unrestrained, and then take out five armed people. Our captors walked in and one of them stepped forward. He was shorter than me and stocky, tan complexion and brown eyes, with a short brown crew cut. His face was hard, and stern he was clearly their leader. He made eye contact with me and then spoke in a deep gruff tone. “Him.” Two guys came forward and grabbed me. I didn’t fight and instead let them guide me towards the hall. “Hey! Where are you taking him!” I heard Riley shout. They led me into the room that Riley and I were in previously and set me in a chair. They turned around and stepped out into the hallway closing the door behind them. It was just me and their leader, who stood about a foot away from me with his arms folded behind his back. “We’ve been following you and your team since you came into our city. Who are you?” His voice was deep and had a slight dialect to it that I recognized from hispanic culture. “My name is Doctor Elliott Pierce. I’m with the Pacific Republic Army.” “Okay Doctor Pierce. Why are you here?” “Our mission was to find Doctor Jason Grimm and escort him back to LA.” I explained. “Ahh, so your rebellion then?” “No.” “Then why would you and your team be here to extract a known rebel scientist?” Fuck, this could completely go sideways if I didn’t convince him I’m telling the truth. “We didn’t know he was part of The Order. In fact we didn’t even know a rebellion existed, it was always just a rumor.” He smiled and chuckled lightly, shaking his head. “Do you think I was born yesterday?” “I don’t know what you want me to tell you, I’m telling you the truth.” I put as much convincing as I could into that last statement. He nodded his head and knocked on the door. “We’ll see.” He said ominously. The door slid open and a man handed him a satchel, the leader took it and began speaking to him in Spanish. I could understand them, having learned Spanish in college, but they didn’t need to know that. “Take the red head, get her to talk.” “What about the others?” “Un-restrain them, stand guard. They won’t do anything seeing as I have their leader.” The man nodded his head and shut the door, leaving us alone again. The leader walked over to the table where Dr. Grimm’s files were still sitting and set the satchel down. He brought a smaller brown piece of canvas out and rolled it out on the table. The metal of surgical instruments glinted in the light, and right there my stomach dropped. This man was going to torture me for information. “You know, before the second outbreak I was a Paramedic. I wanted to help people, it was my purpose. I’m sure you know something about that?” He glanced at me, before returning back to his tools. “But then, your government left us to rot in this hell hole and all of that changed.” My breath caught at that last bit of information. They weren't part of The Order, they were people left behind during the Clayton Outbreak. He pulled a scalpel out of its designated spot and turned to face me. Every fiber in my body was telling me to freak out, to beg, plead, but instead I shoved it down and remained calm. Sure I was scared, but I couldn’t let him know that. “What do you want from me? I already told you the truth.” I kept a cool tone. “For some reason I don’t believe you.” “Well then you must be a shitty questioner.” He punched me in the face and I grunted, the pain radiating from my cheekbone. He smirked at me and held the scalpel up. “Keep up the sarcasm and see what happens.” His voice was cold, and stern as he spoke. I swallowed hard and for a split second that fear showed itself, and he grinned at the sight of it. “Ahhh, there it is.” He said slowly, making a chill run up my spine. I’ve been in the Army for four years now, and in those four years I had not once been captured nor had I been tortured. The fear of the unknown wrapped it’s icy fingers around me and made my bones shake. “What’s your name anyway?” I asked, courage rising up in my throat. He chuckled and walked back over to the table and pulled out a pair of trauma shears. “What does it matter?” He began cutting from the bottom of my shirt up the center. “It’s not like it’s going to help you anyway.” He pulled my shirt off, sleeves and all and tossed it in a tattered heap on the floor. “Maybe I wanna know the name of the man that’s going to torture me.” He leaned in closer to me, he smelled of sweat and citrus, his brown eyes had flecks of green in them and the corner of his mouth upturned into a slight smile. He was definitely the type of guy I would go for, if torture was my thing. “You can call me Diaz.” "Diaz huh?" I straightened up in the chair more, if I was going to be tortured I was at least going to take a page from Riley's book. "Well how about you un-restrain me and we can go get a beer, maybe watch a Mariners-" The rest of the sentence didn't make it's way out as Diaz punched me in the gut, knocking the wind out of me. "Your either stupid, or you have a death wish." Diaz replied in an icy tone. His eyes settled on the rings resting in the center of my chest. He reached out for them and every muscle in my body tightened. "These look important." He smirked and began lifting the necklace from around my neck. I tried to move my head to make it more difficult for him but all that earned me was another punch to the face. My head lolled forward and Diaz removed the necklace the rest of the way, my heart feeling like it went with it. I watched as he examined them closely and then tucked them in the front pouch of his uniform. "Maybe this will give you some incentive to talk." And with that he dug the scalpel into my right peck. White hot searing pain spread across the right side of my chest as he went slow and deliberate. It hurt like hell. I choked down a yelp, the only sound was a whimper that came from somewhere in my throat. “I’m gonna ask you again,” He retracted the scalpel, which was now coated with a thin layer of my blood. “Why are you here?” “I-I told you,” My mind was racing from the pain. “We’re here to escort Dr. Grimm back to LA.” I looked him in the eyes, which were searching mine for the truth. He nodded slightly and brought the tip of the scalpel back to my chest, just above the fresh cut he just inflicted. “Are you a rebel scientist?” “No.” But apparently that answer wasn’t good enough as he dug the scalpel into me again and began carving a straight line, perpendicular to the other one. I gasped at the searing pain, squeezing my eyes shut, bearing through it. I had been shot once, so I wasn’t a stranger to pain. But this pain was slow, relentless and it lingered long after he lifted the scalpel back up. “You're only doing this to yourself.” Diaz said and with that he kept going. Another question, another truthful answer, another cut. Another question, another truthful answer, another cut. I lost track of time, my mind only focused on the pain that Diaz was inflicting on me. It had to have been at least an hour, maybe longer? My mind wandered to the others. Were they okay? Were they going through the same thing? I hoped not. There was a knock at the door that jerked me back to reality. Diaz straightened his posture. “Enter.” The door opened and one of his men stepped in. “Sir, we got orders from the fort. He wants us to bring them in.” Why did they insist on speaking Spanish around us? Spanish, like English, was practically a universal language in the Republic. Everyone spoke it, or at least understood it. But maybe they didn’t know that, I mean they were shut off from the rest of society after all. “Very well.” Diaz replied. He turned his gaze back towards me. “Consider yourself lucky Doctor Pierce. You get to meet our leader.” There was that smirk again, the one that sent chills up my spine. “Take him to the others, then round up the other Doctor. We head out in thirty minutes.” He commanded in Spanish to the guard. “Yes, sir.” He and another guard walked into the room and grabbed me under my arms, hoisting me to my feet. I felt weak from adrenaline crash due to the torture, but I managed to make my feet walk in the direction they led me. Once we got outside the doors to the living room they cut my wrists free, opened the door and pushed me inside where I fell to the floor. “Oh my god Elliott!” Alex was immediately at my side. “What the fuck did they do to you?” I heard a shocked Boomer ask. “I’m fine.” I grumbled attempting to stand up. Alex and Riley helped me up and sat me in a chair. The soft cushions hugged me and I sank into them willingly, wishing the chair would just swallow me up so I could avoid all of this needless attention. “He needs dressings for these.” Cody appeared in my sight as he inspected my chest. “Fucking savages.” Riley spat. Where was Ryan? Did they take him? Did they torture him too? I began to panic at the thought of him in my position. I attempted to stand up but Bommer grabbed my shoulder and forced me down. “You need to relax.” Boomer commanded, and at that moment I hated him. I felt a warm, familiar hand grab mine and I looked over to see Ryan crouched next to me. I relaxed under Boomer’s grip, knowing that Ryan wasn’t in imminent danger. Fuck the mission, it was practically FUBAR at this point, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one that knew that. Now all I wanted was to focus on getting the hell out of here and getting back to Bakersfield. I felt a sting course through one of my cuts as Cody applied an antiseptic, but I didn’t budge. Instead I concentrated on Ryan, his blue eyes, his perfectly soft lips. My gaze drifted to his nose, which was still very much broken. It made him look even more rugged and tough, if that were even possible. “You look like hell.” I joked. “Look who's talking.” Ryan shot back. I chuckled and then winced at the pain in my chest. “Could you not make him laugh please.” Cody sounded annoyed. “Sorry Doctor Park.” I retorted. Cody rolled his eyes. “I’m not a Doctor yet.” “You will be. Even if I have to go to the Medical Board myself.” Cody gave a sheepish grin. “Thank you Doctor Pierce.” “For the love of god Cody, enough with the Doctor Pierce business. It makes me sound like a total stiff.” “Would you shut up so I can work please?” “Better.” I replied. Cody had laser focus as he dressed my wounds. There were five cuts total, stacked in neat intricate rows in a sideways motion across the right side of my chest. “What did they wanna know anyway?” Riley asked. “He just kept asking me who we were, why we were here, who I was.” “What did you tell him?” Alex piped in. “The truth. It’s not like we have anything to hide anyway. Besides, I don’t think it’s us they’re after anyways.” “They’re after Doctor Grimm.” Boomer said. “Exactly. I think this whole thing with me was just a power play. To let us know that they’re the ones in charge here.” “What makes you say that?” Boomer asked. I glanced over at him, he was wearing a scowl, hands on his hips. “Because he knew I was telling the truth, but he kept going anyway.” I felt Ryan’s grip on my hand tighten and I looked over to see a fire of rage behind his eyes, jaw clenched, face turning slightly red. “Don’t do anything.” I gave him a knowing expression and Ryan exhaled sharply. He understood me. It was weird how I could communicate to him with just a look. "What about you Alex? What did they wanna know?" I looked in her direction. She was sitting on the edge of the coffee table, clearly lost in her own thoughts. "How did you know they took me?" "Diaz told them to. They were speaking in Spanish, I don't think they know that we can understand them." "Well that gives us a slight upper hand." Riley chimed in. "They asked me the same thing as you. Then they wanted to know where we were keeping Doctor Grimm, so I told them. I figured they would find him anyways." She explained, a sense of worry in her tone. "It's okay Alex, your right. They would have found him anyway. You did what you had to do." I tried to ease her worry, letting her know that she wasn't in trouble for telling the truth. The door opened and Diaz walked in followed by the guards and to no surprise Dr. Grimm, who looked like he was about to melt into a puddle of fear. “Time to go.” Diaz spoke brashly. Cody didn’t glance away from my wounds, he only had one left. “I just need to dress this last one, I’m almost done.” Cody’s voice was flat and assertive. Diaz rolled his eyes and tossed a shirt at me. “Make it quick.” Cody laid a piece of gauze over the last cut and taped it down. I pulled my shirt on and stood up, my strength having slowly returned. “I’m fine, stop hovering.” I grumbled at everyone who gave me a look of worry and questioning. I hated being waited on and fussed over. They all gave me some space except for Ryan, who remained close. I felt a skip in my chest at the thought that he still cared, even after I acted like a complete asshole. Maybe I didn’t mess up things as bad as I thought? “Get a move on.” One of the guards said impatiently. “Patience is a virtue.” Riley gave a snarky response and one of the guards shoved him on the back through the doorway. “Rude.” He muttered under his breath. We all stuffed into the elevator as best as we could, which was a challenge but we made it work. Riley was pressed up next to a taller guy with a lean build, handsome features, dark auburn hair which was styled into a faux hawk, and dazzling green eyes. “You have really pretty eyes.” Riley joked in a flirting manner. The man didn't say anything, instead giving Riley a smoldering look. "Keep it in your pants Riley." Boomer grumbled. Riley gave him an astonished look. "What? I can't pay a guy a compliment?" Boomer scoffed and shook his head. "Shut up, both of you." Diaz ordered. Riley rolled his eyes. "Someone's got their jock in a knot." He muttered under his breath. The man with the green eyes stared straight ahead, but a crooked smile broke across his face. "At least this guy thinks I'm funny." Riley jabbed his head in the man's direction. The elevator doors parted and we flooded out, I was grateful for the extra room as we made our way out of the building and into the night. The city was dark, and quiet, which in other circumstances would have been peaceful and cool but now it just seemed eerie and creepy. The jagged and crumbling skyscrapers looked nothing more than tall and giant silhouettes. We were heading uphill, climbing higher and higher through the streets, turning down a dark alley here and there and then back onto the street. “Boomer? Do you know where we are?” Alex asked out of earshot of our captors. Boomer looked around. “We’re near Chinatown.” “God, these hills suck.” Riley grumbled. “Try living in Seattle.” I retorted. “At least you guys could drive. Driving here was practically worthless.” Boomer shot back. “Yeah, you got me there.” We came to a large gate, which I recognized as the famous Dragon's Gate landmark, proving Boomer correct about where we were. The framing looked almost the same, except for a few pieces missing. The center was retrofitted with two large, and heavy looking metal gates, practically sealing off whatever was behind it. Diaz gave two hammering knocks and a floodlight shined down on us from above the gate. “Open the gates!” I heard a woman shout. There was a click and then a screech as the gates were pulled apart. “Holy shit.” Ryan had a shocked tone as we took in the sight before us. I had been in Chinatown before the earthquake, so I knew what it looked like, but it was different now. Streetlights lined the narrow cobblestone street, and most of the buildings were relatively intact. Most likely due to reconstruction on their inhabitants' part. I glanced at the buildings as we walked by and saw people peeking through curtains and blinds, trying to get a look at what was going on. I don’t understand how our intelligence couldn’t have picked up on this on satellite imaging. “Oh my god, more hills.” Riley whined as we climbed another hill towards a dilapidated, mission style, church. “How did we not see this on the satellite images?” Cody asked, just as bewildered as the rest of us. “Maybe your government didn’t want you to know there were people here.” One of the guards said. Those words didn’t set well with me, because then that would mean we had someone working against us in the higher ups. We walked through a large archway and into a small courtyard. On the other side were two large oak doors with two guards standing idly by on either side. The guards opened the doors as we approached and us and Diaz filed in, except for the guards who were escorting us, who stayed behind outside. The inside of the church looked like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie. It was dimly lit and the walls were made of sturdy stone, which amazed me that the church withstood an earthquake at all. The trimming and columns were made of dark oak that gleamed ever so slightly in the light. The pews were pushed to the sides against the walls, leaving a vast open space that stretched all the way to the altar, where a large crucifix hung on the wall in front of a dazzling stained glass window. A man walked out of an entryway to our right and met us halfway stopping in front of Diaz. “Are these the visitors who dropped in earlier?” The man had a rough and thick voice. I couldn’t quite make out his face in the dim lighting, but I could see his bright brown eyes sparkle ever so slightly. “Yes, sir.” The lights slowly got brighter and I could now get a better look at the man. He had a tan complexion, and was large, like Boomer. His curly black hair was pulled back into a messy bun, and he had a five o’clock shadow dusting his chiseled face. His eyes shone even more now that the lights were brighter, and they were truly captivating. “Griffin?” Boomer had a shocked tone in his voice, his eyes the size of dinner plates. The man looked at Boomer with an equally wide eyed expression and stepped around Diaz to get a better look at Boomer. “Grayson?” “Grayson?” Riley gave Boomer a bewildered look. “Do you know this guy?” Cody asked, pointing a finger nonchalantly at the man. Boomer paused for a second before he spoke. The shock never leaving his face “He’s my brother.”
  7. zanoGreen

    The Order

    One thing was for sure, something wasn’t right with the situation we had walked into. The lab was deserted, no guards, no scientists except for Dr. Grimm who had just tried to attack me and lay on the floor before me after getting his ass handed to him. I lowered my gun slowly and the man stood up, regaining his composure. He looked as if he had run an obstacle course, his back hair was disheveled and he was missing his glasses. He had a rocker sort of style with his black Metallica tee, which hung close to his lean frame, and his long legs were clad in a pair of slim jeans which were tucked into a pair of black combat boots. “Why did you attack me?” I asked in a stern voice. “I thought you were with those… people.” Dr. Grimm winced as he stood upright. “What people?” I asked. The rest of the team stood near the doorway in silence, Riley and Ryan had their sights set on Dr. Grimm. He looked at me curiously and turned his head sideways slightly. “What exactly are you doing here?” Dr. Grimm asked. “I’m the one asking the question.” I growled, staring him down. Dr. Grimm cowered slightly at that. He repositioned himself on his feet awkwardly, he was hiding something. “People, they came in and took the other scientists.” He had a panicked tone in his voice. “I didn’t know what to do so I hid in my panic room.” He gestured at the closet, where a thick and heavy door sat slightly ajar. “What people?” Riley asked. Ryan and him had lowered their weapons and were now holding them at the ready in front of them. “People from the outside.” Dr. Grimm responded. “Were they military, like us?” Boomer asked, there was a hint of hope in his voice and I knew where that hope was heading. “No.. they were dressed like civilians.. But their clothing looked old, and worn.” Dr. Grimm explained. I kept trying to wrap my head around the fact that there were people here. People who were abandoned. By our government. “Maybe the government didn’t know there were people still here.” I tried to reassure myself. But even that sounded unbelievable to me. “How long ago was this?” I asked. “Three-wait-maybe four days?” Dr. Grimm scrunched his face together in confusion, which led me to believe that he had been in there for quite some time. “Elliott.” I turned around and Ryan flipped his head over in a come here motion. I stepped closer to Ryan, just out of earshot from Dr. Grimm. “How much of this do you believe?” He asked me in a hushed tone. I looked over at Dr. Grimm, who was now being examined by Cody. “I don’t know. But he seems pretty spooked.” I couldn’t get past the thought that he was hiding something from us. “I think we should keep an eye on him for sure.” I decided. “Riley, Boomer?” Riley and Boomer turned their gazes toward me. “You two and Ryan secure the floor, whoever those people are we don’t want them getting back in.” I commanded. They nodded their heads in agreement and made their way out of the room. “Do you want me to go with them?” Alex asked. I turned to her with my hands on my hips. “No, I have another job for you. Follow me.” I responded, turning around heading out of the room. Leaving Cody with Dr. Grimm. “Normally I wouldn’t ask so many questions, but what is this other job?” Alex trotted behind me. She had a hopeful tone in her voice. We stepped into the brightly lit hallway, lined with all the labs. “How good is your hacking?” I asked, hoping to hear anything but “piss poor” come out of her mouth. “Well, I went to MIT and dabbled in computer science if that answer’s your question.” She stated matter of factly. I grinned and made my way over to the BSL-1 lab I was in earlier and pulled the door open. “Perfect.” I responded shortly. I approached Dr. Grimm’s desk at the other end of the lab and rested my hand on the monitor of the computer. It felt warm to the touch and I could feel the mechanical vibrations contained within. “We need to get into this computer, whatever Dr. Grimm and his fellow scientists were working on pissed the locals off out of hiding. We need to know what it is.” I explained. Alex stepped behind the desk, she grinned and her eyes glinted slightly. I could see her mechanically inclined brain start to turn and work through its processes. “It might take me an hour or so, but I think I can crack it.” She said, undoing her vest to reveal a maroon tank top. She undid her hair from the tight bun it was in and her red hair fell to her pale white shoulders. I understood why Cody had a thing for her, she had brains and beauty, the perfect combo. “Just let me know when you're done.” I gave her a slight nod and grin. She didn’t respond, which is how Alex got when she was in her zone. I stepped out of the lab and into the hallway where I was greeted by Ryan, Riley and Boomer. “Floor’s secure.” Boomer said shortly. “Excellent.” I checked my watch “1202”, I grabbed the front of my vest and let my arms relax there. “Evac isn’t till 0700. So this is our base of operations until we leave for the evac point.” I explained. “Guess we're getting comfortable then.” Riley sighed, “I’ll take the first shift of guard duty.” He raised his hand slightly, volunteering himself for the job. “Ryan you take the second shift, Boomer you got last.” I said. “Got it Ell.” Boomer said, and with that he walked off in the direction of the living room alcove. “I’m gonna see if Cody needs help.” Ryan said as he walked off in the direction of the hallway that contained the living quarters. I looked over my shoulder and through the glass wall of the lab, watching Alex as she concentrated all of her efforts on her work. I reached into my bag and pulled out the files I had found on Dr. Grimm’s desk. The rough brown cardboard felt heavy in my hands and I was eager to see what they contained. With the files in hand I crossed the hall to the little living alcove we were in earlier. It wasn’t anything special, a large maroon couch, which Boomer was stretched out on, with two matching overstuffed armchairs sat around a glass coffee table. There was a landscape picture above the couch of the San Francisco skyline prior to the earthquake. I removed my vest and plopped down in one of the oversized armchairs, draping my right leg over the arm and resting my back against the opposite arm. I flipped open one of the files and began to read some of Dr. Grimm’s notes. Most of it was dry, scientific, and I almost nodded off a couple of times. A cure for cancer seemed like it would be more interesting than this. It talked about the Northern Flu virus and it’s RNA sequence, and how they could use that RNA sequence to then splice it with the DNA of another virus. I studied the notes more carefully and came across a gene sequence, the words “Zaire e.” were scrawled untidily underneath it. “Zaire e.? Zaire e.? Where have I heard that before?” I racked my brain thinking back through medical school, microbiology, anything. But I couldn’t think of it. I rubbed my face and looked at my watch. “1450”. I sighed and continued pouring over the notes again. “You need to take a break or you’re gonna fry that genius brain of yours.” James laughed, setting a cup of coffee in front of me. “I can’t, I need to pass my Intern exams, or I’m not gonna get that residency position at Harborview.” I replied, my eyes drooped and I had a tired expression on my face. “You’ll pass them.” James reassured me, rubbing my shoulders. I leaned back into his touch and groaned. “Some of us don’t have an eidetic memory.” I joked. “It’s both a blessing and a curse. Trust me.” James chuckled. The smell of coffee lifted me out of my memory of James and I. A coffee cup appeared out of my peripherals and I followed the gloved hand up to meet Ryan’s gaze. It was crazy how he could smile at me with just his eyes. “Thought you could use a pick me up.” Ryan said, handing me the mug of black liquid. I took the cup in my hands gladly and took a drink. Whatever the brand was, was a little bitter for my liking but I was appreciative nonetheless. “Thanks, I don’t know why I’m so tired.” I set the coffee mug on the glass coffee table and continued flipping through Dr. Grimm’s notes. “One reason comes to mind.” Ryan raised his eyebrows at me. I shook my head and grinned. As much as I wanted to flirt with him, kiss him, maybe even take him to one of those back rooms and have a little fun with him. The mission came first, and I needed my head on straight. “We can’t bring that up right now. It’s too distracting.” I replied gruffly. There was a twinge in my pants at the mere thought of our amazing sex last night. Ryan lifted his hands in defeat. “I know, I know. We need to concentrate on the mission.” He replied with a smile. “What you got there?” He motioned towards Dr. Grimm’s notes. “The good doctor's notes. I’m trying to find out what exactly they were working on here. Maybe it will give us a clue as to why those people came in here and took them.” I explained. “Does it bother you that there’s people living here on the island still?” Ryan questioned. “I would be lying if I said it didn’t.” I closed the file and tossed it on the coffee table. “I mean they could be from the outside and just traveled across the bay or the Daly Canal, looking for a home. They could also be natives, we don’t know. That’s what bothers me the most. I don’t want to walk into a Rager situation. Or worse.” Yes, there were worse things than Ragers, at least Ragers were out of their mind and more or less just had a one track mind. Other people though, they could be ruthless and sadistic, killing you slowly, and painfully. “Ragers, ruined cities, shady scientists. Man I miss Texas.” Ryan sighed and took a drink of his coffee. “You don’t ever really talk about home.” I stated. I needed a break from the notes for a few minutes, re-charge my batteries slightly before I dove into them again. Ryan settled into the armchair opposite me, leaning forward and resting his arms on his knees. He had a distant look in his eyes as he recalled his home. I could tell that he missed it, I missed my home too. “It’s awesome. Swimming at Lake Travis during the summer, getting BBQ ribs from Freedman’s, even the humidity. It’s like life before the Northern Flu pandemic.” Ryan spoke as if he was talking about heaven. I crinkled my face and scoffed. “You lost me at humidity.” Ryan chuckled and took another drink of his coffee. “You get used to it.” “I don’t know about that.” I rebutted with a grin. One thing Ryan had said stuck with me. “Life before the Northern Flu pandemic.” Sure I could remember life before everything went to hell, it was just hard to imagine a future where that life became a reality again. But would it be the same as before? No it wouldn’t. For one he wouldn’t have James, and second he would be working as an ER Physician in Seattle versus as a Trauma Physician in the Army. “You okay?” Ryan pulled me out of my thoughts and I looked across at him. His blue eyes looked at me with a knowing expression, like he knew I was going down the rabbit hole of life before. “Yeah, I’m fine.” I lied, taking a sip of coffee to hide the fact. I could tell Ryan could see right through the lie but he didn’t press it further. “What about your home?” Ryan asked. “It’s not that exciting.” I waved the question off. Ryan cocked an eyebrow at me. “No, really. It’s nothing to write home about.” I stated. “I’m still curious.” Ryan stared at me with his blue eyes and I instantly caved. Damn those eyes. “I’m from a town in Idaho called Kuna. Ever heard of it?” I asked. Ryan shook his head in response. “That’s okay, no one ever has.” I laughed. “It’s a small town, lots of farms and open fields. My parents own a ranch, my Dad breeds horses, breaks ‘em in for riding and then they turn around and sell ‘em for profit.” Ryan hung onto my every word, as if my past were a best selling novel. “I… I haven’t seen or heard from them since before the outbreak.” I glanced down into my coffee mug, swirling the dark liquid around. Ryan furrowed his brows and gave a questioning look. “Why?” “Well… after I met James they didn’t take so kindly to having a gay son.” My chest clenched slightly at the pain that still hung there. “Oh… I’m sorry.” Ryan’s tone was apologetic and soft. I shook my head, my eyes beginning to burn slightly as I pushed back tears. “Don’t be. It’s practically ancient history.” Even though that was a lie. I often thought about my parents, wondered how they were doing. But I could never get around to calling them, as I wasn’t ready to face the rejection that would follow soon after. “Hey Lone Star, you’re up!” Riley walked into the lounge, making us both jump. “Lone Star?” I gave Riley a confused look. “Yeah, you know… because he’s from Texas… the Lone Star State.” Riley replied. “That’s a horrible nickname.” I chuckled and took a drink of my coffee. “I’d like to see you come up with something better.” Riley folded his arms across his chest. “How about, oh I don’t know… Riggs?” I asked. Riley stared at me and then scoffed trying to hide the fact that my nickname was better. “That’s a horrible nickname.” And with that Riley strode off in the direction of the living quarters. Ryan, Boomer and I all laughed. Boomer’s laugh made me jump slightly, this entire time I thought he was sleeping. “So sensitive.” Boomer spoke with his eyes closed. “Boomer, have you been awake this whole time?” I asked, turning my gaze towards him. “If I say no, would you believe me?” Boomer smirked. “No.” I responded flatly. “Well then yes, I have been awake this whole time.” Boomer still had his eyes closed. “Why didn’t you say anything?” Ryan asked from the door frame. “Because… I’m trying to take a nap, duh.” There was a hint of sarcasm in Boomer’s voice. I shook my head and grinned. Ryan let out a chuckle and turned around walking toward the elevator bank confidently. I stood up from my chair and stretched, deciding that I should go check on Cody and Dr. Grimm. I made my way towards Dr. Grimm’s living quarters, glancing in the lab where Alex was still working away in full concentration mode. I could hear Cody’s voice from the hallway as I rounded the corner and stepped through the doorway. Cody was sitting at the desk pouring over a genetics textbook and Dr. Grimm was flipping through his tablet, no doubt looking through his research. “What’s going on here?” I leaned my broad shoulder against the doorframe and crossed my arms. “Oh hey Dr. Pierce!” Cody looked up from the textbook, his bright brown eyes shining at the sight of me. “Dr. Grimm was just answering some questions about genetics.” He finished. Dr. Grimm grinned at me from above his tablet. “You like Genetics huh?” I walked towards Cody and held my hand out, Cody gingerly handed me the textbook and the weight of it surprised me. “Yeah, it’s fascinating stuff. Dr. Grimm even said that if I was interested I should consider a fellowship in Genetics.” Cody had an excited tone in his voice which made my heart drop slightly. I didn’t want Cody to think about leaving, as selfish as that made me. He was the little brother I wish I had, his bright demeanor made my days better. I smiled at Cody and handed the textbook back to him. “If it’s something you really enjoy you should go for it.” What? No. You should be convincing him to stay. My thoughts rang out, but I squashed them down immediately. I turned my attention to Dr. Grimm who was trying, poorly I might add, to not eavesdrop on our conversation. “I actually had a question for you Dr. Grimm.” I motioned for Cody to give us the room, which he obliged. He went to put the textbook back in the bookcase but Dr. Grimm shook his head. “No, take it with you, please. You’ll have better use for it then I will.” Dr. Grimm smiled. “Thank you.” Cody said nervously and left the room, closing the door behind him. I sat in the now unoccupied chair that Cody was sitting in and faced Dr. Grimm. “I was reading through you notes-” “You were reading through my research?” Dr. Grimm cut him off. There was a sense of annoyance in his voice and his expression was almost taken aback, like I had violated some Doctor creed I wasn’t aware of. “Yes.” I nodded my head. “The best way to figure out what you guys were working on up here is to go right to the source.” I stated. “Which is why we're having this conversation.” Dr. Grimm pieced together. I nodded my head sharply before continuing. “In your notes, there’s a certain genome sequence of Zaire e., but I can’t seem to recall what exactly that is.” Dr. Grimm’s eyes widened slightly at the mention of that, but he shrugged his shoulders and smiled. “It’s a simple protein I’m using as a catalyst.” He set the tablet down on his bed and crossed his arms. “Why do you ask?” “It’s just… I mean… If you're really curing cancer up here, it would be awesome to know the brains behind it.” I explained. I knew Dr. Grimm was lying, but whether or not I could get him to spill, or even better slip up, was another story. “I’m sure that your general told you that we're working on here is classified, and strictly need to know.” Dr. Grimm gave me a knowing expression. Crap, he knows I’m on to him. I gave him a tight smile and nodded my head. “Very well.” I stood up and began walking towards the door. “Dr. Pierce?” I turned my head over my shoulder, Dr. Grimm gave me a smirk, there was an evil glint in his eye, one that I didn’t trust and sent a chill down my spine. “Do be careful snooping around. We wouldn’t want anyone to question your allegiance with the Republic.” My fists tightened into balls, my nails digging into my palms, and my body shook slightly with anger. I wanted to punch him in his pretentious face, make him talk but that’s not how this was going to get done. No. I had to beat Dr. Grimm at his own game, and that started with whatever was on the computer in his lab. I stormed out of Dr. Grimms living quarters and made my way to the lab hallway. “Ooof!” I ran right into a wall of muscle and kevlar that is Ryan, who was making his guard rounds. “Sorry, Ryan.” I looked at the floor, trying to avoid his eye contact so he couldn’t see how furious I was. “What’s the matter? I can practically feel the anger rolling off of you.” Ryan asked. Well there goes my plan of trying to hide it. “It’s that damn Dr. Grimm. He’s hiding something and he knows that I’m on to him, and to top it all off he threatened me.” I could see fire ignite behind Ryan’s eyes as I spoke the last part. I had never seen Ryan angry, his expression was all stoic, his jaw went firm and his southern drawl came out more. “What do you wanna do?” He asked. “We just gotta beat him at his own game. Whatever he’s hiding in that computer-” I pointed at the lab where Alex was still working tirelessly away. “-is going to give us our answers.” I felt a twinge of pain in the palms of my hands and I held one in front of me to observe marks where my nails had dug deep into my palms. The angry red and purple marks were enough to settle my anger slightly. It was physical and I could see it, which made it easier to cope with. Ryan grabbed my hand in his own meaty, fingerless gloved hand and turned it over to observe the marks. “What did you do?” He had concern behind his eyes. “Well it was either that or punched him in the face.” I stated matter of factly. “I would have rather you punched him the face.” Ryan placed his other hand over the palm of my hand. Even though he was wearing gloves, I could feel the warmth and electricity that I felt whenever he laid those hands on me. My mind flashed back to my bedroom last night and all the feelings I felt for Ryan, and I hoped he felt for me. I felt a warmth spread in my chest and my heart seemed to explode with desire, desire to be held, desire to be seen, desire to be loved. I regretfully pulled my hand back and stared at my feet, if I looked into those eyes it was only a matter of time before Ryan pulled me in for a kiss, and I would let him. But I couldn’t think like that right now, I had to think about the mission, there would be plenty of times for these feelings once we got back to Bakersfield. “Elliott!” I whipped my head over in the direction of the BSL-1 lab to see Alex poking half her body through the lab door. No one except Ryan ever called me Elliott, unless it was serious and her expression matched the seriousness of her tone. Without question I hurried towards the door, I could feel Ryan’s presence following behind me. I grabbed the lab door from Alex and stepped through following hot on her trail. Her red hair blew gracefully as she hurried along the racks and glass cabinets until we reached Dr. Grimm’s desk. “You need to see this.” She demanded, sitting in the computer chair. I stood behind her, leaning on the back of the chair and Ryan settled in next to me. It was a video still and Dr. Grimm’s exhausted face stared back at us. Alex hit a button on the keyboard and the video began playing. “This is Dr. Jason Grimm, date July 2, 2032 time 1620. We have successfully attached the RNA genome sequence of the H2N4 virus to that of Zaire ebolavirus-” The name Zaire ebolavirus stopped me dead in my tracks and brought me back to Dr. Grimm’s notes. Zaire e. My heart stopped at the realization of what was happening. Zaire ebolavirus is the scientific classification for Ebola, a very aggressive and deadly pathogen. They were using it as a catalyst to speed up the effects of the Northern Flu. “-We have gotten the green light to start human trials.” Dr. Grimm stepped aside to reveal a kid, no older than 20, sedated and strapped to a metal exam table. My eyes were glued to the monitor, not capable of looking away. Dr. Grimm took a pre-loaded syringe of some substance, which I guessed was the H2N4/Ebola variant and injected the kid with it. Ryan scoffed in disgust and looked away. I could empathize with him, I wanted to look away, pretend like I had never seen this. But my scientist mind got the better of me and I was determined to know what happened next. “Within twenty four hours we should see the effects of the variant present themselves. This is Dr. Grimm signing off.” The screen went dark and then Dr. Grimm appeared again, this time in a white hazmat suit. “This is Dr. Jason Grimm, date July 4, 2032 time 1920. The H2N4/Ebola virus variant has been successful. Symptoms began to present themselves as little as seventeen hours post exposure, seizures, hemorrhaging, respiratory failure and then death all presented themselves at an alarming rate. Despite the subject's excellent immune system he expired July 4th, 2032 at 1830.” “Shut it off.” I growled through gritted teeth. Alex clicked another button on the keyboard and the recording stopped. My blood began to boil, my hands shaking as I gripped the back of Alex’s chair. “Subject?” This was a human being. Not some lab rat that could be used for experimentation. The answer that I had been searching for in Dr. Grimm’s files came to light. They took the scientists not because they wanted to out of sheer thrill. They took them because the scientists were abducting and experimenting on them. “What do we do?” I heard Ryan ask. What DO we do? Out of all the missions I had been on, this was definitely a first. I had never been faced with something of this caliber before, I was practically in uncharted territory. A part of me wanted to kill Dr. Grimm for torturing innocent people. A part of me also questioned the government I had fought so hard for all these years. Did they know what Dr. Grimm was doing here? Did they know that he was slaughtering people like cattle? “Elliott?” I could hear Ryan’s voice, but everything was a haze. I was furious and not even Ryan’s husky southern drawl could bring me back to earth, bring me out of this cloud of fury, this fury that needed an outlet and I knew exactly what my target was. I stepped around the desk and began stomping my way out of the lab. “Elliott!” I heard Alex shout from behind me, but I didn’t turn around, didn’t acknowledge her. Instead I flung the lab door open and made my way towards the living quarters, towards Dr. Grimm’s living quarters to be more specific. “Dr. Pierce?” I heard Cody ask nervously. I shot him a look, and whatever that look contained was enough to make Cody clamp his mouth shut and give me a wide eyed look. I walked into Dr. Grimm’s living quarters to see him still sitting in the same place, with his tablet in hand. He looked up at me with an annoyed expression and returned his gaze to his tablet. “Dr. Pierce, to what do I owe this-” I grabbed Dr. Grimm by the scruff of his neck and jerked him out of the chair. I didn’t know where I got this brute strength from, but I enjoyed it as I watched Dr. Grimm squirm, trying to fight me off. “What’s this about?!” Dr. Grimm struggled, but my grip on him just tightened. “Shut up.” I growled, in a voice I myself didn’t quite recognize. I hauled him into the lab hallway and was met by Boomer, Cody, and Riley all with wide eyed expressions of horror at the sight they were witnessing. “Ell-” Riley started but I shot him an angry expression. “Move.” I commanded, and with that the three of them parted quicker than if someone had thrown a live grenade between them. “Help me-he’s crazy!” Dr. Grimm shouted. “I told you to shut up.” I said, grabbing the lab door and swinging it open with such force, that I swear if it hadn’t had soft open hinges the glass would have swung against the window and shattered. I was met with the same expressions of horror from Ryan and Alex as the others as I pulled Dr. Grimm towards the desk. Alex and Ryan backed away as I brought him around the desk and pointed his head towards the computer monitor, a video still of the deceased young man stared back at us. “Mind explaining this?” I asked, even though it wasn’t meant to be a question. “I-I don’t know what you're talking about!” Dr. Grimm stammered. I grabbed the back of his head and slammed it into the desk with a loud boom. Dr. Grimm yelped and grabbed at his face. “Wanna try again?” I growled. “Ell-” I heard Ryan start, I shot him the same look I shot the others and the look he gave me was a look that made my chest clench, a look that he didn’t recognize the man he was seeing. However, I didn’t let up, I was going to make him talk. One way or another. “I-I-” Dr. Grimm started but I interrupted him. “You were experimenting on people, living people, weren’t you?!” I shouted, the rage in my voice echoing off the lab walls. “No-no!” Dr. Grimm squeaked, which only made me see red even more. I spun him around and brought my fist back, plunging it forward I connected with his nose with a splintering crunch. There was something primal in me as I hit him again, and again, not letting up. Dr. Grimm yelped and howled at the pain but I didn’t care. I wanted him to pay, I wanted him to pay for the pain and suffering he caused. “Elliott!” Alex shrieked, but I ignored her. I felt two arms loop around me, pinning my arms to my sides. I growled and gave a kick towards Dr. Grimm but it merely connected with the desk and sent me and whoever had me pinned against the opposite wall with a thud, which made the person grunt. I struggled against him, but the more I fought the tighter his grip became. “Elliott-Elliott-Relax, I got ya.” I heard a southern drawl whisper into my ear. Ryan, I realized and slowly my brain came back to earth as I sunk into his grip, the rage within me subsiding. It was at that moment I became aware of my surroundings. Dr. Grimm was leaning against the desk, blood ran down his face and stained his t-shirt. There was a bruise that spread from the bridge of his nose and into his eye sockets. Cody tipped his head back and aided in trying to stop the bleeding, which was coming from his nose. Boomer, Riley, and Alex were looking at me with their mouths agape. They looked at me like I was a monster. Maybe I was. “C’mon.” Ryan, still holding my arms to my sides led me out of the lab. Boomer held the door open for us, avoiding my eye contact. I let him lead me willingly, my body shaking as the adrenaline that was just coursing through my veins began to subside. Ryan led me to a wall opposite the lab door and spun me around to face him. There was worry, with a touch of fear behind his eyes. Was he scared of me? I stared at the back of my shaking hands and my knuckles were red, covered in blood, but I didn’t see any cuts. My gut wrenched when I realized the blood didn’t belong to me, it belonged to Dr. Grimm. What did I do? I sunk to the floor, bringing my knees up to my chest and resting my arms on them. Ryan followed me down, crouching in front of me. I hung my head low, avoiding Ryan’s gaze. I didn’t want to see that look of fear in his eyes again, that look that the rest of the team had when he led out of the lab. I felt a firm grip on my forearm, and my body tensed. I couldn’t bring myself to look at Ryan, not yet. “Elliott...” Ryan had a calm demeanor in his voice. “... look at me.” I felt Ryan’s other hand cup my chin gently with his finger and thumb, slowly lifting my head so our eyes could meet and there it was. The look of fear behind those brilliant blue eyes, the look I never wanted to see again. I might as well just scrap my heart out of my chest with a melon baller. “Are you okay?” There was concern in his voice. “I… I don’t know what happened.” I whispered. “I thought I lost you there for a second.” The look of fear in his eyes was replaced with relief, and that’s when it hit me. He wasn’t scared of me, he was scared for me. “I can’t believe I lost it like that.” I said bewildered. I had been in plenty of fights, especially since being in the Army. But that was the first time I truly lost it, let the rage take control. I shuddered and let my head fall back into my lap. Ryan pulled me into him and I rested the top of my head on his chest and took a deep breath in. A woodsy smell mixed with sweat met my nostrils, Ryan’s smell. My sinuses began to burn from the want, no, the need to let the tears out. To let the crash of adrenaline just take me over. “It’s okay… I got ya.” And he did. I believed the words that came out of his mouth like they were law, like they were straight out of my Gray’s Anatomy medical textbook. I felt safe here, felt safe against Ryan, like nothing could touch me. I heard a throat clear and we both looked up to see Riley standing in the doorway for the lab. A look of regret on his face from interrupting. “He’s ready to talk.” Riley stated. “We’ll be there in a second.” Ryan took the words right out of my mouth. He returned his gaze to me and gave me a searching look. “Are you ready to go back in there?” He asked. “I’m gonna have to be.” I replied and Ryan helped me to my feet. I wished I could just hold his hand, keep him nearby. Right now he was my anchor in the shit storm of what this situation was. “I’ll be right beside you.” Ryan read my mind, giving my hand a squeeze before letting it go and holding the door for the lab open for me to walk through first. “Hey, you alright?” Riley asked in a low tone as I met up with the rest of the group towards Dr. Grimm’s desk. “Yeah, yeah I”m fine.” I mumbled. Riley gave me a slight smile and gestured towards the rest of the group, who were standing with their backs to me. Dr. Grimm was sitting at the desk chair, which had been moved to a more open area of the lab. I took a second to take in the damage I had done, turning my stomach in knots. The bleeding from his nose had finally stopped, which from the looks of it was indeed very broken. He had bruises that radiated from the bridge of his nose to his eye sockets, with his right eye swollen slightly. His eyes got wide as he saw me approach. “No! No! I don’t want him in here!” Dr. Grimm’s voice pitched with fear. “Well he’s our team leader, so that’s not gonna happen.” Alex folded her arms across her chest. Dr. Grimm scoffed, which made Boomer crack his knuckles in a threatening manner. “Okay, okay!” Dr. Grimm shouted. I could see him staring at me out of the corner of my eye, but I kept my gaze to the floor, arms across my chest, leaning against a lab bench. I could feel Ryan standing close by, just like he said he would. My heart warmed at the realization that he kept his word. “What are you working on?” Alex pressed. “An H2N4/Ebola virus variant. It’s meant to speed up the process of H2N4 to kill its host more quickly.” Dr. Grimm had a blank expression on his face, almost apathetic, which sent a chill down my spine. “Jesus christ.” I said a little too loudly. Everyone turned their gazes on me expectantly. I knew what they had planned for this new killer virus. My stomach twisted in knots at the prospect of the devastation it could cause, the millions of people it could kill. “It’s a fucking bio-weapon.” I gaped at Dr. Grimm, whose lips curled into an evil grin. “Why would the government want to create a bio-weapon?” Cody sounded flabbergasted. “Not the government…” Boomer looked deep in thought. “... a terrorist organization.” He finished. Dr. Grimm shook his head. “We’re not terrorists… we’re a rebellion, fighting against the fascist Republic that took over our homeland.” He spat. “Semantics.” Riley muttered, shrugging his shoulders. Boomer whistled slightly, getting everyone's attention and throwing his head over his shoulder. We all got the message and gathered around the lab bench that I was leaning against. Cody spoke up first. “Do you think he’s telling the truth?” There was a nervous twinge to his voice. “Well if he’s lying it’s a pretty elaborate one.” Riley spoke next, his eyebrows were furrowed from deep thought. We all looked over at Alex who gave us a knowing look. Alex was like a human lie detector, no lie would go unnoticed under her radar. Even Riley couldn’t hide things from her. “He’s not lying.” She shook her head, her red hair bounced slightly back and forth in its tight ponytail. “How have we not heard of an underground rebellion until now?” Ryan, still standing next to me, spoke up. “Maybe releasing this bio-weapon was how they were going to make their mark.... Unless…” Boomer trailed off giving me a look that I knew all too well. There had been rumors around Bakersfield about an underground terrorist cell. But it was always dismissed as rumor and a way to freak the newbies out. Maybe it wasn’t such a rumor after all. “No… there’s no way.” I rejected in a confident tone. “What?” Ryan asked, turning his gaze to me. I met his gaze and placed my hands on the cool surface of the lab bench. I didn’t want to say the words, because then saying the words would make them real, and would disintegrate everything I knew. I swallowed hard and then spoke in a calm, even tone. “Boomer is suggesting that this… rebellion… is working from the inside.” Riley scoffed and everyone else shifted uncomfortably on their feet. “That’s ridiculous.” Riley shook his head adamantly. “I’ve heard rumors...” Alex spoke up. “... that there are soldiers, even generals, in the army that have… wavering, allegiances.” Ryan let out a low groan and stared up at the ceiling tiles. “I miss Texas.” “If they’re making a bio-weapon we need to stop them before they release it.” Boomer spoke in an urgent tone. A chuckle erupted behind them, it sent chills up and down my body, making the hairs on my arms stand on end. We all turned our attention to Dr. Grimm, who had a wide grin splitting across his bruised and battered face. He shook his head and continued to laugh. “You’re too late, you know.” Riley stalked over to him, an angry expression spreading across his face. “What the hell are you going on about?” “The weapon…” Dr. Grimm said between chuckles. “... It’s already en-route to its destination.” My palms began to sweat and my stomach dropped after he spoke those words. People were going to die, and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. Or maybe there was. I took a step forward and I swear everyone’s breath hitched as they thought I was going to pummel him again. I had to admit the thought had crossed my mind. “What’s the target?” I growled. Dr. Grimm shook his head and smiled. “You will never be able to find it… at least not in time anyway.” The rage, that same rage that I had felt before, began to bubble to the surface. I squeezed my eyes shut and tampened it down to a dark place within me. I heard a slight yelp followed by a whimper and opened my eyes to see Ryan face to face with Dr. Grimm. He had a hold of the front of Dr. Grimm’s blood stained t-shirt by the fistfull. There was a serious expression on his face which made Dr. Grimm’s eyes widen with fear. The sight made me smile to myself. When Ryan spoke his voice was a growl, calm and even, his southern accent more pronounced. “Listen here you little weasel. If you don’t start talking my friend here is gonna pummel you to a pulp, only this time… I won’t pull him off of you.” Was it wrong that I was turned on by this strong, dominant side of Ryan? Maybe. But I would have to save those feelings for later. “Do whatever you want with me, I’m not talking.” Dr. Grimm replied. Ryan gave a threatening growl, gripping his shirt harder. His fist clenched and I could practically feel the anger radiating off of him. I gave a firm grip on his shoulder which forced him to turn his head slightly over his shoulder in my direction. It’s not worth it. I tried willing to him with just my thoughts. Ryan seemed to understand as he gave me a nod and released Dr. Grimm, who exhaled sharply in relief. That’s when it hit me, I knew how to play this game with Dr. Grimm. I knew exactly what would make him talk. “Cody?” I turned my attention towards him. I pulled a pad of paper and a pencil out of the front pouch on my vest and scribbled something on it. I then handed it to Cody, who cocked his head to the side slightly, giving me a confused look. I just gave him a stiff nod and with that he turned around hurried out of the lab, disappearing down the hall. Ryan gave me a confused look and I looked back at him. I’ve got a plan, just trust me. I tried to communicate with my eyes. Ryan nodded, signaling that he understood. The lab door opened and Cody walked up to me briskly handing over what I sent for him to retrieve. “Thank you Cody.” I had a more chipper tone to my voice, putting on an act for Dr. Grimm. He nodded and settled next to Alex who shot a confused look between the two of us. I turned my attention to Dr. Grimm, who sat there with the smuggest of expressions on his face. “I’m gonna ask you one more time…” I took a step closer until there was a foot between the two of us. “... What is the target?” “I’m not tal-ahhhh!” I stuck the needle into Dr. Grimms neck, injecting the liquid into him. I gave him a smirk and took a step back. He looked at me with a wild expression, rubbing the spot on his neck. “What the fuck was that!” He shouted. “Well in about forty eight hours you’ll find out.” I said apathetically, handing the needle and syringe back to Cody. “You mother fucker!” Dr. Grimm screamed. I just smiled and shrugged my shoulders. “I know you have an antidote. You would be an idiot if you didn’t…” I leaned against the lab bench and folded my arms across my chest. “... tell me what I need to know, and you’ll get it.” I was vaguely aware of the looks I was getting from the rest of the team. They would understand soon enough. Dr. Grimm seemed to be in deep thought, his breath huffing from anger at being backed into the corner that he couldn’t escape from. He went to speak but the words got caught in his chest, I stared at him expectantly. Waiting for a response. “The Order will kill me if I say.” Dr. Grimm looked torn, like he couldn’t decide whether living or dying would be better. This rebellion, The Order as he called it, must not be a force to be reckoned with if someone was battling that decision. “If you don’t say, then you're gonna die either way.” Riley had an annoyed tone in his voice. “So why don’t you just cut the bullshit and tell us what we want to hear.” There were so many things running through my mind. Would he talk? If he did talk what would that mean for us? How would we stop a terrorist plot from all the way here in San Francisco? I guess they could phone back to base and let the General know, then they could take it from there. “Well?” Alex placed her hands on her hips impatiently. Dr. Grimm hung his head somberly and muttered something incoherently under his breath. “Speak up for the rest of the class.” Riley demanded. Dr. Grimm lifted his head, he had a guilty expression on his face. No doubt from betraying his precious rebellion. “Los Angeles.”
  8. zanoGreen

    The Ruined City

    My alarm woke me up the next morning signaling it was time to get ready. My mind flashed back to last night and I felt butterflies in my stomach. Ryan and I had sex, but not just ordinary sex. Probably the best sex I've had in years. I looked over and noticed an empty spot next to me. There was still an indentation from where Ryan had been sleeping, so I know I wasn't dreaming. I sat up and looked around the room. My bedroom door was open slightly and I could hear a faint voice coming from the main area of the house. "Where is he?" I thought to myself. I threw the covers back and walked up to my dresser, pulling a fresh pair of underwear out and slipping into them. I made my way out of my bedroom and stepped out into the hallway, the wood floor felt cool and comfortable under my bare feet. I caught a whiff of the aroma of bacon and coffee, two of my favorite things in the morning. As I crept down the hallway the voice was getting louder and I quickly realized It was coming from the TV. I stepped out of the hallway and spotted Ryan standing in front of the stove with his back to me. He was wearing a pair of lounge shorts, the legs going down just mid thigh. I recognized them as mine, but I didn’t mind, I liked seeing him in my shorts. I had never noticed how well defined his back was, or the fact that he had a tattoo on his left shoulder blade. It was a phoenix rising from the ashes, surrounded by flames. It was very well defined, and beautiful. Watching him cook in my shorts, was definitely something I could get used to waking up to. "In 2005 the San Antonio Spurs mascot got ejected ref Jess Kersey saying I want the wolf gone!--he's really this creature." A man's voice came from the TV. I looked over and recognized the show as Jeopardy, one of my favorites. "What is A Coyote." Ryan said, raising his fork slightly in the air. “What is A Coyote?” The contestant asked. “That is correct.” The host said. “Suck it Jeopardy!” Ryan exclaimed, raising both arms slightly. I grinned at him and took a step forward. A floorboard creaked under my foot and Ryan turned his head over his shoulder, he saw me and smiled. “You know a question about the San Antonio Spurs isn’t exactly fair, seeing as you're from Texas.” I said. “I’m from Austin, so technically it is fair.” Ryan challenged, he turned around with a mug of coffee and set it on the island for me. I sat down and grabbed the warm mug in my hands. I took a drink of the dark liquid and it warmed my insides. Ryan sat a plate of bacon down on the counter and grabbed a piece for himself, leaning on the counter with his elbows. I grabbed a piece and took a bite. The seasons exploded in my mouth and I closed my eyes, savoring the bite. “Damn, that’s good bacon.” I said. “Thanks.” Ryan responded, smiling between bites. I took another drink of coffee and looked up at Ryan, who was gazing at me from across the island. “What?” I blushed slightly. “Last night was..” Ryan trailed off. “Amazing?” I finished his sentence. “Yeah.” Ryan smiled and there was a look of joy in his eyes. “I agree.” I said smiling at him from above my coffee cup as I took a drink. There were a lot of feelings that I felt for Ryan, feelings that I hadn’t felt since James was alive. It was nice, and warm feelings that touched my heart and made me feel butterflies all over. I looked at the clock and the LED read “0500”. “We gotta get ready.” I said standing up and grabbing two slices of bacon and my coffee. I shoveled the bacon down real quick as I made my way to the bathroom. I stripped off my underwear and tossed them in the clothes hamper. I turned the shower on and stood outside the sliding glass door, waiting for the temperature to warm up. I felt two arms wrap around me, and I could feel the heat from Ryan’s body as he pressed into me slightly. I leaned my head back into his shoulder and he gave me a kiss on the shoulder before resting his chin there. I pulled away from him and stepped into the shower, I stepped back to make room for him and he stepped in closing the door behind him. The shower head spewed hot water out of the faucet, cascading over Ryan’s head and running down his perfect body. I stepped forward and he placed his hands on my lower back pulling me into him slightly and I placed my hands on his shoulders. Our semi erect cocks pressed up against each other and they started becoming hard the moment they made contact. Ryan kissed me under the waterfall of water, our tongues dancing together in our mouths. I wished we could just stay like this. I grabbed the shampoo bottle and pumped some shampoo into my hand. I began scrubbing Ryan’s head and he closed his eyes as soapy water ran down his face. I could tell he was enjoying me running my fingers across his scalp, he groaned slightly and hung his head down so I could get to the back. He rinsed his head off and shook his head slightly, flicking water all over the shower. I chuckled and wiped his face off, he grinned at me and pumped some shampoo into his hand. I hung my head down so he could scrub my hair. Ryan’s fingers felt so good across my scalp, this must have been what dogs felt like when you scratched them. I closed my eyes as I rinsed the shampoo out of my hair. Just then I felt something warm and wet wrap around my cock. I let out a sharp moan and looked down to see Ryan working my dick with his mouth and right hand. I grabbed the top of the shower door and placed a hand on Ryan’s head. “Ry-ryan.” I moaned. “We don’t have t-TIIIME!” Ryan responded to the last sentence by deep throating my cock, sending a wave of pleasure over me that almost made my knees buckle. Ryan worked my cock with such force and conviction that it didn’t take me long to start reaching my climax. I gripped the glass door door harder and began bucking my hips, forcing my cock in and out of his mouth. “Haa-ohhh fuuuck!” I roared as cum began shooting out of my cock and down Ryan’s throat. He swallowed every drop and milked my cock for more until I was done. He stood up and grinned at me. “Damn, that was quite the load.” He kissed me deeply, I could taste my cum in his mouth as his tongue passed into mine. I dropped to my knees and immediately began working his cock with my mouth. Ryan moaned and placed both hands on my head. I could taste the pre-cum on the tip of his dick and it tasted amazing, I couldn’t wait to taste his cum. I stroked my hand up and down his girth and worked the head with my mouth and tongue. I placed my hands on his ass and pulled him into me more, deep throating his cock. Ryan moaned in pleasure and grabbed some of my hair. I took my middle finger and began pressing at the entrance of his hole, he must have liked it because he moaned even louder and began bucking his hips into me. “Oh shit, mmmm fuck that feels good!” Ryan shouted. I worked his cock more with my mouth and slid my finger slowly into his hole. At that point Ryan lost it. “Fuuuuck, I’m gonna cum!” He shouted. Not long after, Ryan’s cock began to pulsate and shoot warm salty cum into the back of my mouth. I savored the flavor of Ryan as I swallowed every last drop, milking his cock for more. His cum tasted magnificent. Ryan shuddered slightly as I licked the last drop from the tip of his penis and stood up. He wrapped me in an embrace and kissed me. “We're never gonna be able to take showers together again if we're late.” Ryan laughed. I laughed with him and gave him a quick kiss. “It’s worth it.” I said. Ryan and I washed each other down with soap and finished up our shower. Ryan teased me by whipping a towel at me, just barely enough to miss me. “I will cut you!” I shouted between laughs. Ryan just laughed and ran after me into the bedroom. I slid into a fresh pair of underwear and pulled my black tactical pants. They were comfy and had loads of pockets for all my tools and things I would need in the field. I threw on a plain olive green shirt and laced my boots up, my pants tucked inside. Ryan was wearing the same pants but opted for a black ¾ inch sleeve baseball tee instead. I noticed Ryan wore these a lot, and after what I had discovered last night I now knew why. We grabbed our gear bags on our way out the front door and headed to his truck. We threw our bags in the back and hopped in the cab. Ryan turned over the engine and we drove off down the road in the direction of the airstrip. The airstrip wasn’t too far from my house and would only take us close to 10 minutes. Which was a good thing because it was now 0535. We pulled into the airstrip 10 minutes later and Ryan parked his truck next to the hanger. We hopped out and grabbed our bags out of the bed. We began making our way towards Boomer, Alex, Riley, and another figure. Once we got closer I recognized it as Cody. “Cody!” I shouted, wrapping him up in a bear hug. “Can’t. Breath.” Cody gasped. I released Cody from my grip and Ryan shook his hand. “Showing up in the same car eh?” Riley eyed us suspiciously. “What happened after we left last night?” He prodded, there was a wicked glint in his eye. “Nothing, mind your own business.” I said. “Mmhmm.” Riley replied with a grin and a slight chuckle. “Cody what are you doing here? Did you pass your boards?” I asked. “What? You didn’t think I would miss out on all the fun did you? I mean, Boomer is bound to blow something up.” Cody explained. “You know it!” Boomer shouted as he laughed, almost maniacally. I shot a raised eyebrow at him and he quickly became quiet, looking sadly towards the ground. “I won’t find out the results of my boards till tomorrow. So the General said I could come on the mission.” Cody beamed. “Well we're glad you're coming.” I said giving him a slap on the back. Cody smiled and Boomer came over and wrapped an around his neck. “C’mon kid let's load up.” He said dragging Cody away from the group. Riley and Alex followed and Ryan and I followed shortly after them. “So tell me something?” Ryan asked. I looked over at him as he asked his question. “Why is a trauma doctor the leader of the team?” He gave me a perplexed look. “What? Are you questioning my leadership skills, newbie?” I joked. Ryan laughed. “No, you know what I mean.” He stated pushing me lightly. I chuckled and began explaining. “You remember us telling you about Danvers right?” I asked, Ryan nodded his head. “Well after Vegas, they needed someone to help keep the joint free of Ragers, and bandits. So they appointed Danvers to the job, much to Boomers chagrin.” “Boomer wanted the job?” Ryan asked. “Yeah he did. But he was offered team leader instead. I don’t know why he turned it down, he would have been perfect for it. Since he rejected the offer they then turned to Riley. But in solidarity for Boomer, Riley rejected the offer as well. The only person left was me.” We reached the plane and Ryan stopped and faced me. “So why did you take it? Why didn’t you stand in solidarity with Boomer and Riley?” Ryan asked. I looked up the ramp of the cargo plane and watched as Riley, Alex, Boomer and Cody laughed and carried on, strapping into their seats. “Because we knew if we all refused then they would throw some outsider into the role, who didn’t know our team, and who wasn’t a part of our family. So with Boomer’s blessing I accepted the position as team leader. I think it secretly annoys the General just a bit, which is funny in itself.” I chuckled, turning and walking up the ramp. I slammed the button with my hand to raise the ramp as I walked past. Ryan settled into a seat next to Riley, I walked up to the cockpit and knocked on the door. I heard a bolt slide and then the door swung open. There were two men and the pilot was staring at me, expectantly, waiting for an answer. “Were set.” I said giving them a thumbs up. They gave me a thumbs up and nodded, closing the door and latching it. I walked back towards the group and took a seat next to Alex, across from Ryan. I strapped myself in and rested my hands on the straps. Ryan gave me a grin and a wink. I flashed him a smile and gave him a wink back. Riley made eye contact with me and placed his hands over his heart. “Me!” He mouthed, acting flattered. I flipped him off and he laughed. The engines of the plane fired to life and a voice came over my headset. "Passenger secure check." A younger male voice rang out in my right ear. The plane began to move as we all responded with a simple "Secure." "Estimated time to drop zone is one hour." The voice said and then it got quiet. I looked across the aisle at Ryan and Riley who were talking. Ryan was leaning his ear inward to hear better. I wondered what they were talking about? "I bet they're talking about you." Alex leaned over and told me. "Whatever." I said grumpily. "What? It's good that your beau and your best friend are getting along." Alex smiled. The plane pitched upward as we began our ascent. I sat back waiting for the inevitable stomach drop that ensued shortly after. I closed my eyes and waited for the plane to stop ascending, so I could get out of my seat and find something to preoccupy myself with. I hated flying, in my opinion people belonged on the ground and gravity didn't like to be challenged. Unfortunately the Army did not agree with that statement. "Ryan is not my beau, and you know I hate that word." I said annoyingly. "Well what else would you call someone who slept over at your place and you had sex with?" Alex questioned. "How do you know we had sex?" I challenged. Alex gave me an annoyed expression. "Really? It doesn't take a genius to realize the sexual and romantic chemistry the two of you share." Alex explained. "You know just because you minored in Psychology in college, doesn't mean you know things." I responded. I unbuckled myself from my seat and grabbed my bag. I sat criss cross on the floor and unzipped the many compartments of the bag and began taking inventory of my supplies. Alex sat down across from me and stared at me. "What?" I questioned with annoyance. "What are you so afraid of?" Alex asked. I looked over at Ryan and Riley who were still talking. Ryan looked over at me and smiled, I smiled back. "I'm scared Alex." I admitted. Alex gave me a surprised look. "I've never seen you be scared of anything." She said. "Yeah, well my feelings for Ryan scare me shitless. I haven't had these feelings for anyone since James." I explained. "So why don't you tell him that?" She responded. She had the sisterly tone about her. "When the time is right." I promised. I gave her a slight grin and she smiled back. "There's never gonna be a right time. But hey it's your life." She said, throwing her hands up. She stood up and turned around to go talk to Cody. I eyeballed Boomer messing around with a wireless speaker and his wrist computer. Oh god, he wasn't doing what I thought he was doing was he? Just then Van Halen started blaring over the speaker and Boomer began shaking his head and tapping his foot to Panama. Don't get me wrong I love Van Halen just as much as the next person, but I wasn't in the Van Halen mood right now. "Boomer shut it off!" I yelled over the music. "What?!" Boomer shouted back. Alex rolled her eyes and walked over turning the speaker down. "Aw c'mon Ell, it's tradition on our way to every mission." Boomer gave me his best pouty face, but it ended up looking more scary than anything. “Yeah c’mon Elliott.” Ryan flashed me a smile and his blue eyes glinted. I blushed slightly and looked down at my pack, fumbling with my pre-loaded syringes of Adrenaline. "Fine, just not so loud, and if you promise to not make that face again." I ordered, pointing at Boomer. Boomer just smiled and turned the speaker up slightly. The plane pitched slightly and a roll of gauze rolled across the plane and Ryan scooped it up in his hand. He walked over and kneeled down, handing the gauze over. “Thanks.” I said grabbing the gauze and stuffing it in my bag. “Whatcha doin here?” He asked, adjusting his baseball cap. “Eh ya know. Just inventory.” I said. “Pretty boring really.” I laughed shyly. “What is this?” Ryan asked, he was holding a cylindrical white tube and pulled the cap off. “Careful with that, unless you want to be injected with .3 milligrams of epinephrine.” I shot him a grin. His eyes got wide and he capped the EpiPen handing it back to me. “Aaaand I’m done playing with that.” Ryan responded. I chuckled and shoved the EpiPen back in my bag. “The worst thing that would happen is that your heart rate would elevate and you would probably get heart palpitations.” I explained. “Is that all?” Ryan grinned. “Aside from cardiac arrest, yes. But that’s rare.” I reassured him. “Good to know.” He responded, giving me a grin. He stood up and turned to walk away. “Hey, Ryan?” I asked standing up. “Yeah.” He responded turning around, eagerly. I wanted to tell him how I felt, I wanted to tell him the feelings I was having towards him. Maybe Alex was right, maybe there never was a right time to tell someone how you feel. Ryan gave me a confused look and took a step forward. “Is everything okay?” He asked with a hint of concern. “Yeah, yeah everything’s fine.” I said. “I forgot what I was going to ask you. Must not have been important.” I lied. Ryan gave me a look like he wasn’t buying it. “Okay.” He responded shortly and turned around walking towards Boomer. Okay so I chickened out, but can you blame me? “That was awkward.” Riley said, shooting a quick glance at Ryan’s back. “Don’t, please.” I said. “What? I’m not gonna give you a hard time.” Riley defended himself. I cocked my eyebrow at him. “Okay fine, maybe I was going to give you just a little bit of a hard time.” Riley sat in the seat next to where I was sitting on the floor. “I’m not ready to tell him how I feel yet.” I explained shortly. “I’m sure he understands that.” Riley responded. “What were you two talking about?” I asked suspiciously. “You’re just gonna have to wait for him to tell you.” Riley gave me an evil grin. “You’re evil.” I said grinning back. “You’re just now realizing this?” He asked incredulously. “No, I've always known. Just stating the obvious.” I replied. I zipped up my bag after making sure everything was in order and stuffed it under my seat. I sat down next to Riley and rested my head back. “What if he doesn’t feel the same way? Like what if yesterday was just a fling for him?” I asked, staring up at the ceiling of the plane. “What if he thought the same thing about you?” Riley asked back. I crinkled my forehead in confusion and turned my head towards Riley. “Why? What did he say to you?” I asked. Riley shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. “I don’t know what you mean.” He responded sarcastically. “C’mon Riley, you’re my best friend. If you know something you have to tell me.” I demanded. “I can’t man, you need to talk to him.” Riley responded. That’s one thing I loved and also hated about Riley Monroe. He was a steel trap. You could tell him anything and he wouldn’t say anything to anyone. Riley noticed the look of frustration on my face and placed a hand on my knee. “It’s not bad. I’ll tell you that much.” Riley stated. He stood up and walked over towards Ryan and Boomer, who looked to be having a large debate about sports. I stared back up at the ceiling and began getting lost in my own thoughts. What if Ryan did feel the same way? What would that mean for the two of us? I hated this feeling of uncertainty, I hated not knowing. I’ll talk to him when we get back to Fort Bakersfield. I decided. Yeah that would be perfect. We could have a picnic under the stars, and I could tell him how I feel. I slowly drifted off to sleep, with the sounds of the plane engines drowning out the debates about sports teams the guys were having. “Elliott.” I felt a heavy hand on my shoulder. I opened my eyes to see Ryan standing over me. “Mmmm?” I mumbled. “We’re twenty minutes till drop.” Ryan said. His hand slowly slid off my shoulder but I grabbed it. I looked up into his eyes and he looked into mine. “We need to talk when we get back to Bakersfield.” I said. He squeezed my hand and smiled at me. “We will.” Ryan responded. I smiled back and I let his hand go. I stood up and Ryan handed me a parachute. I grabbed his hat off his head and tucked it in my medical bag. “Wouldn’t want to lose that.” I smiled at him. “I feel so naked without it.” Ryan rubbed the top of his head. “I wouldn’t mind seeing that.” I winked at him. “Quiet you.” Ryan grinned back at me. I strapped myself into the parachute bag and then picked up my medical bag and strapped it to my front. Ryan walked up to me and checked my straps to make sure they were secure. “I got it.” I said. “Peace of mind.” He said shortly. A sheepish grin spread across my face and he grinned back at me, it was nice that he cared. I grabbed the front straps of his bag and tugged on them, making sure they were snug. Ryan looked over at the others, who were all concerned with their own parachutes, and leaned into me stealing a quick kiss. “What was that for?” I asked. “It might be the last time we get to for a little bit.” Ryan admitted. I looked over at the rest of the group and they quickly averted their eyes, except for Cody, who had a shocked but gleeful expression on his face. Alex grabbed his jaw and pointed his gaze the other direction. Ryan and I both laughed silently. “Well I guess that cat’s out of the bag.” Ryan said. “Oh please, Riley and Alex always knew.” I said. I broke apart from Ryan and walked towards the back of the plane. I turned around to face the team before I spoke. “Alright guys you know the drill! After two alarms we jump! Remember where the drop point is and there’s thick fog so stay close!” I shouted. I slammed my hand on the door release button and the ramp began to slowly go down, exposing us to cool air that whipped around us in every different direction. I held onto a strap attached to the wall near the ramp and made eye contact with Ryan who flashed me a confident smile. One alarm, the team planted their feet to the floor getting ready to run for the opening. I always hated the seconds before the alarms, my chest always pounded like a sledgehammer and it always seemed to last minutes rather than seconds. Two alarms. “GO! GO! GO!” I shouted, waving my arm out towards the opening. One by one they began running and jumping out of the hatch. I could hear Boomer and Riley cheer with glee as they jumped out. Those crazy bastards loved dropping in. Ryan ran past me and jumped out of the plane, that was my que. I let go of the strap and ran towards the end of the ramp, I felt like my stomach was going to explode with how anxious I was. My feet left the ramp as I jumped into the foggy abyss. I looked around and couldn’t really see anyone as I fell towards the earth. After what seemed like minutes, the fog slowly began to start clearing and I could start making out buildings, and 5 figures not too far below me. The earth was coming at me, fast and once I knew the time was right I pulled my ripcord and the parachute flew out of my bag. My body jerked vertical and my speed slowed down as I began drifting down towards the earth like a feather. I looked down and could see the others circling like vultures on our drop point. I looked over where downtown San Francisco should be as the fog lifted slightly. The city was practically unrecognizable. I hadn’t been to San Francisco since before the earthquake, but most of the buildings that were there before were no longer standing. I could recognize the Transamerica Pyramid and the Salesforce Tower, which remained unscathed, the other buildings however were broken and tattered. Some of them reduced to nothing but heaps of metal and stone masonry, others were lopsided, leaning against other buildings for support. There were cranes littered across the skyline from where they tried to repair the city prior to the Clayton Outbreak, but ultimately didn’t succeed. I landed next to boomer, who was staring in awe at the city he once called home. I released the parachute from my bag and turned my attention towards Boomer, who didn’t even flinch. “Ya know, this is the first time I’ve stepped foot in this city since before the Clayton Outbreak.” He said mournfully. I didn’t say anything, and instead placed a hand on his shoulder. He broke his gaze away from the broken skyline and stared at me. His eyes were watery, as if he were about to cry. I had never seen Boomer like that before. I grabbed the back of his head and pressed the top of my forehead to his. “If you need to let it out, let it out. No one is gonna judge you, and if they do they'll answer to me.” I said in a voice just above a whisper. Boomer grabbed my shoulders and looked at the ground. “Thanks brother, you're a good friend. But I’ll be okay. I’ll save it till after we're done with the mission.” He replied. “Okay.” I said pulling him into a hug. He hugged me back, almost squeezing the life out of me. We broke apart and I turned around towards the group who were all staring at us. “Well? We got a mission to complete, let’s go!” I said, clapping my hands. Alex and Cody pulled up the map on their wrist computers, Riley began assembling his weapons to his belt, and Ryan began re-packing a parachute. I retrieved Ryan’s hat from my bag and walked over to him. I knelt down to his level and slid the hat on his head, knocking my finger on the bill which made it go down into his eyesight. He pulled it up slightly, smiling. “Is Boomer okay?” He asked. “I think so. It’s kind of painful for him to be here, ya know, after all this time.” I responded. Ryan nodded his head in understanding. “Why are you re-packing this anyways?” I asked. “You never know when you’ll need a parachute.” Ryan said confidently, tucking the rest of the parachute into the bag. “Fair enough.” I responded. I stood back up and looked over in Cody and Alex’s direction who were arguing over which direction to head. “We need to go down Embarcadero and then down Mission.” Alex said. “It would be quicker to just cut through this plaza and then go down Market.” Cody argued. “Yeah if you want to make it complicated.” Alex argued back. “How is that complicated?” Cody replied with an annoyed expression. I rolled my eyes and walked up to Alex and grabbed her wrist. I pushed a button and the map displayed the best navigation route. I patted her on the shoulder giving her an amused look. "Lead the way." I said. Alex sighed and began walking down Embarcadero. Riley, Boomer, and Cody followed and I took up the rear with Ryan. Ryan looked extremely sexy with his backward facing baseball cap, his stubble that dusted his face, his tight black ¾ inch sleeve baseball tee and bullet proof vest. The strap for his automatic rifle was slung over his shoulder and he held the rifle firmly in his hands which were covered with the fingerless gloves. He looked over and caught me staring, grinning from ear to ear. "See something you like there?" He asked. "Maybe." I grinned back. "I know I do." Ryan replied, giving me a wink. I chuckled and rolled my eyes. "Have I told you how corny you are sometimes." I said. "A couple of times. But I know you like it." He said in a sure tone. "Attractive and delusional, those are excellent qualities." I said sarcastically. "So are sarcasm and surliness." Ryan shot back. I laughed and pushed him lightly on the shoulder. "Smart ass." I said and Ryan laughed. We crossed through an intersection riddled with cars and came upon, what looked like, a park with a pathway trailing through it. “The GPS is telling us to go this way.” Alex said. I peered down the path which ended in a pile of rubble, the side of tall building could be seen poking out slightly. I could see a tunnel below it. “The walking path leads to a tunnel, that’s our way through.” I said. We made our way down the path to the tunnel at the bottom and stopped at it’s entrance. It was encased in concrete, it was dark, and I couldn’t see a light at the end. “Sooo, this is creepy as fuck.” Riley said. “A jack in the box would creep you out.” Alex retorted. “Hey! Those clowns are scary as shit.” Riley defended. Alex just shook her head and turned her flashlight on, shining it down the long and never ending tunnel. “Can we just go around?” I asked. Alex turned her head over her shoulder at me. “This is the quickest way, going around would take too long.” She explained. “Alright, let’s go.” I said. We all turned on our flashlights and began making our way down the long, dark tunnel. The darkness slowly enveloped us, the only source of light coming from the tip of our flashlight. Ryan stayed close behind me, which I didn’t mind, as a matter of fact I found it comforting. I didn’t want to admit it, but going down a dark tunnel into the unknown was creeping me out a bit. “Shit!” Alex exclaimed in a whisper. “What is it?” I asked, praying it wasn’t something bad. “It’s a fucking dead end.” She replied. “Greaaaat.” I could hear Riley say. I made my way towards the front to observe for myself and my light shone against a wall of rubble, there was no way through. “I can’t blast through this.” Boomer spoke up, as if reading my thoughts. “There’s gotta be another way.” I said looking around at the walls and ceiling of the tunnel. There was nothing but concrete. My light settled on a spot on the floor, where I could make out a hole about the size of a softball. I got on my hands and knees and shined my light inside. “What have you got Ell?” Boomer asked. I squinted my eyes to make out what I was seeing, I was moving my flashlight back and forth to try and make something out. “Ell?” Riley asked. I held a hand up for them to give me a second. My flashlight caught something metallic, I stopped, then I moved it to the left and caught another metallic object. Train tracks, it was a subway tunnel. “There’s a subway tunnel down here.” I said. “The Mewnie.” Boomer said. “What the hells a Mewnie? That sounds made up.” Riley responded. “M-U-N-I, short for Municipality. It’s San Francisco’s transit system.” Boomer responded. “Oh, well of course it is.” Riley responded in a snarky tone. “Do you know where this leads Boomer?” I asked. “Well if we're lucky and the tunnel is still intact, then we should be able to get down to Montgomery which will put us right next to Union Square.” He explained. “This is our way then.” I said standing up. “Do you have a small enough explosive to make a hole big enough for us to climb down?” I asked, already knowing the answer. A grin broke Boomer’s face before he spoke. “Do you even need to ask?” He set his pack down and opened one of the pockets pulling out a tube. The emblem on the side read “Crest”. “Toothpaste? You're gonna blast us out with toothpaste?” Ryan asked behind me. I chuckled and Boomer flipped Ryan off. “It’s an experimental corrosive I’ve been working on. It should eat right through this concrete.” Boomer explained. I gave him a confused look. “What? I was a Chemistry major in college. Don’t you people ever pay attention? There’s more to me then just blowing shit up.” Boomer had an irritated tone to his voice. “Well it’s certainly a shock to me.” Riley grinned. Boomer slowly squirted the paste out of the tube forming a circle big enough for two of us to fit through. We all stood there, waiting for it to suddenly start eating away at the concrete floor. “Uhh, Boomer?” Cody asked, he had a look of confusion on his face. “Just, give it a second.” Boomer said holding a hand up. We waited for a couple more seconds, you could hear a pin drop as we concentrated all of our efforts on this circle of gray paste on the floor. “BOOM!” Riley shouted, making us all jump. Riley began to laugh. “Asshole!” Alex exclaimed, punching him in the arm. “Ow!” Riley exclaimed, rubbing the site where Alex had hit him. Suddenly the gray paste began to bubble and slowly it started to sink into the floor, eating away at the concrete. The circle in the floor gave away and fell to the ground below with a loud crash that echoed down the subway tunnel. “It worked!” Boomer exclaimed with a surprised tone. “Umm, I mean of course it does. I’ve tested it several times.” He added with a slight chuckle, seeing our uneasy expressions. Riley tossed a rope down the hole for us to climb down and secured it to a piece of rubble that looked like a window frame from a building facade. “Ladies first.” Riley said, glancing over to Alex. “Well in that case you better go first.” She replied sarcastically. “Fine, beauty always goes first anyways.” Riley replied, flipping his head as if he had long hair. “Oh god.” Alex scoffed. Riley climbed into the hole and and began his descent down into the tunnel. Alex climbed in next, then Cody and then Boomer until Ryan and I were left. “You go first.” Ryan said. “No, you first.” I insisted. Ryan listened and climbed into the hole I watched as he descended waiting for him to get to the bottom. Once he reached the bottom I tossed my pack down to him and he caught it with outstretched arms. I hoisted myself down into the hole and began climbing down, I was about 15 feet from the ground when I felt the rope snap and I began falling backward. My heart dropped and I closed my eyes shut, waiting for the inevitable impact with the ground. I felt a pair of strong arms catch me and we both fell backward onto the gravel covered ground. “I got ya, I got ya!” I could hear Ryan’s voice in my ear. I exhaled sharply, relaxing into him and patting his arms which were still wrapped around my center. “What the hell Riley!” April shouted advancing on Riley who had a look of shock on his face. “That rope was secure!” Riley shouted back. “It wasn’t Riley’s fault!” Cody shouted. Ryan and I sat up and we all looked at Cody, who was holding the other end of the rope. It was cleanly cut. “Someone cut the rope?” Ryan said. “That’s impossible, there’s no one in this city except for us and those scientists.” Riley said. “Or so we thought.” I replied. We all sat in silence for a second before Boomer spoke up. “It doesn’t matter, let’s just get to the lab and get Dr. Grimm. Then we can get the hell out of here.” Boomer said. “Agreed.” Riley said. Ryan looked over at me with a hint of concern. “Are you okay?” He asked. “Yeah I’m fine, are you okay?” I asked, standing up. “Yeah I’m fine.” Ryan replied. I held out a hand and helped him up to his feet. “I can’t believe you caught me.” I said. “Of course I did.” Ryan replied. He gave me a grin and we stood there, holding hands for a bit. “Hey! You guys coming?” Cody called out. “Yeah, we're coming.” I replied, releasing my hand from Ryan’s. We began following the group down the tunnel, I gave one last glance over my shoulder at the hole we had climbed down from. “Were there still people here?” I asked myself. No, that would be impossible. The Republic was told that the people in San Francisco all died. But what if that were a lie? “What’s on your mind?” Ryan asked, seeing the perplexed look on my face. “It just doesn’t make any sense. If there were people here, then why would the government just abandon them like that?” I asked. “I don’t know.” Ryan replied shortly. We continued walking along the tracks until we came upon a platform. Boomer shined his light on a sign that was hanging haphazardly from the ceiling. Emblazoned on it, in white lettering, were the words “Montgomery Street”. “This is it.” Boomer said. He hoisted himself up onto the platform and held his hand out for Riley to help him up. Ryan climbed up onto the platform and held a hand out for me. I planted my boot on a small concrete lip and grabbed his hand. I grabbed the edge of the platform with my free hand and helped Ryan hoist me off the tracks. Boomer walked up to a gate and opened it, the old rusty hinges squealed at the years of neglect and Boomer passed through the gate, making his way up the stairs towards the sunlight that was pouring in. We all followed him and made our way up to the street, letting our eyes adjust to the sudden brightness. There was a derailed streetcar poking out of a building across the street, stone and brick were laying in the road and on the sidewalks below the buildings they once belonged to. Below my boot there was a newspaper clipping. I bent down and picked it up recognizing it as the San Francisco Chronicle. “San Francisco to Begin Rebuilding After Devastating Earthquake” The headline read. April looked at her GPS and began looking around pointing her body in the direction the GPS was telling her to go. “This way.” She said, jerking her head sideways to the west. I tucked the newspaper into the front pouch on my vest, and began following the rest of the team. We passed by a building with a car halfway out of the glass storefront and Ryan stopped. “No way!” He exclaimed and jogged towards the store. “What? What is it?” I asked in a panicked tone. “It’s a sports memorabilia store!” Ryan shouted from inside the store. “Oh no way!” Boomer exclaimed joining Ryan. “C’mon guys, we don’t have time for this!” I called after them. “Speak for yourself I need, a new hat.” Riley said joining them. I threw my arms up in defeat. “Fine, I guess we could use a break.” I said, sitting on an overturned mailbox. I set my pack on the ground. Alex and Cody came over, Alex took a seat next to me. “What’s the matter?” She asked. “Something’s bothering me about the rope.” I started. “Don’t.” Alex interrupted me. “You’re gonna spiral until you obsess.” She added. “But what if there are people still here?” I asked. “I doubt it.” Cody said. “I read up on the Clayton Outbreak and the odds of survival are slim to none.” “Then where’s all the bodies, the bones?” I demanded. They both gave me a perplexed look, they didn’t have an answer to that question. “San Francisco had a population of just over six hundred thousand after the earthquake. All of those people crammed onto an island of around fifty square miles, and you're telling me there's not a single body, a bone, something to come across?” I questioned. I could see the wheels start to turn in their heads as they began to consider what I was telling them. "Not to mention, the additional fifty thousand that were never recovered or went missing. Something doesn't add up." I added. Riley, Boomer and Ryan began to walk back towards us. Riley was wearing a Philadelphia Flyers hat. Boomer and Ryan were empty handed. “Didn’t find what you were looking for?” I asked. “Nope.” Ryan replied shortly, but I could tell he was hiding something. Even behind that tough Army Rangers facade, he didn’t have the best poker face. I gave him a knowing look and he turned his attention towards Alex. “How far are we from the objective?” Ryan asked. He was obviously avoiding something. “Not too far, maybe a few more blocks.” Alex replied, looking at her GPS. “Let’s get going then.” I said standing up and putting my pack on. After about twenty minutes we made it to Union Square. It was a large and sunken plaza, what used to be an obelisk in the center was partially gone, the broken remnants scattered next to it. There was a 6 story tall glass building on the northside of the plaza that Alex pointed to. “That’s it, over there.” She proclaimed. “Jeeze, could they have made it more obvious?” Riley asked. “What would you suppose they do?” Alex asked, a hint of annoyance in her voice. “I don’t know. Maybe an underground bunker?” Riley responded sarcastically. We began walking across the plaza towards the building. Ryan surveyed the landscape, looking around at all the collapsed and lopsided buildings. “How could one earthquake do all this?” He asked, flabbergasted. Boomer shot him a stern look. “It wasn’t just any earthquake, it was THE earthquake.” Boomer explained. “It was the largest earthquake in US history, a 9.7.” Cody added. “They don’t have the news in Texas?” Riley asked sarcastically. “They do. But I was overseas when it happened.” Ryan responded. Riley looked away embarrassingly, due to his sarcastic remark. We reached the glass doors to the building that housed the lab. Boomer stuck his fingers in the slit between the glass panes and tried to pry them apart, but the doors didn’t budge. “Any ideas?” Cody asked. Riley looked around and picked up a piece of rubble off the ground and threw it like a baseball at the window. It bounced off and fell to the ground not leaving so much as a scratch. “Well that sucked.” Riley said in a defeated tone. Alex looked closely at the faceplate that contained the locking mechanism. Alex began digging through her bag for her tools. “I could see if I could bypass the security, but it’s voice activated and it might take me awhile-” “Riboviria.” I interrupted. There was a beep that emitted from the faceplate and the doors slid apart. Everyone turned to look at me, my face flushing slightly. “It’s the Realm for the viral classification for H2N4.” I explained. “That means absolutely nothing to me.” Riley said. “H2N4, the Northern Flu.” I said. “Whatever nerd.” Riley said, flashing him a grin. “How did you know that would work?” Alex asked. They walked inside the building and the doors closed behind them with a silent mechanical sound. “I didn’t, I just guessed.” I chuckled. The building was quiet, the only sound came from our boots as they echoed and reverberated off the cold and tiled walls. There was a bank of elevators straight ahead and Boomer pressed the button to call one. “Isn’t it weird that we’re standing in the very place that caused the Clayton Outbreak?” Riley asked. I shot him a glare and Riley retreated slightly. I looked over at Boomer whose head was hung slightly. Poor Boomer, I couldn’t imagine what he was going through. Losing his whole family in the blink of an eye. Ding ding! One of the elevator doors sprang open and we all piled inside, Alex and Cody being squished into a corner as our wide frames took up most of the space. The elevator began to move upward and my heart began to skip beats. This is it. In all of my years as a physician I had been waiting for the day that medical science found a cure for cancer, and now he was going to meet the doctor who was on a breakthrough. The doors slid open and we were greeted by a long plain hallway, lined with doors and windows. We all stepped out of the elevator and I began walking down the hallway, looking through the large windows as I passed. They were all labs, but they were all empty. Something didn’t make sense, where were all the scientists? “Are we on the wrong floor?” Ryan asked, he approached me with a look of confusion. “No, the elevator only had one floor button and this was it.” Boomer stated. I opened a door that had the words “BSL-1” above them. Ryan grabbed my arm with a look of concern on his face. “You can’t go in there.” He said. I smiled at him. “It’s fine, it’s a BSL-1 lab, you don’t need a hazmat suit.” I explained and continued through the door. Ryan followed close behind me which made me grin to myself. It was cute how he cared for me. I looked around, and made my way over to a desk at the back of the room. There were papers and files nestled in perfect order and placement. A computer screen was sitting on the corner of the desk, the words “Clayton Labs” with the company’s emblem bounced around the screen. I woke the computer up by moving the mouse gently and another screen popped up, it was a user interface login. Ryan was walking around the lab, peeking in the glass cases. “Somethings not right.” Ryan said. “I know. I don’t have a good feeling about this.” I responded. I began peeking through the files on the desk, it was Dr. Grimm’s research notes. “Just grab the files and let’s go.” Ryan urged. I began picking the files up and stuffing them in my pack. We walked out of the lab and joined the rest of the group, who were talking amongst themselves in what looked like a living room setup. “Something’s not right.” Riley said as they walked up. “That’s what we were just saying.” Ryan responded. “Even if the scientists aren’t here there should still be armed guards. They were working on some pretty classified stuff here.” He added. “We just need to find Dr. Grimm and get out of here.” Cody stated with a hint of worry. “Agreed.” I responded shortly. “I saw another door that led down a hallway. There might be private quarters back there or something.” Boomer said. “Let’s go check it out, and everyone stay close.” Ryan said. We all headed out into the hallway and towards a door at the opposite end from the elevator doors. Riley pushed the door open and we were greeted by another hallway, but this one had no windows, and doors made of solid oak in a modern design. I approached one of the doors and there was a silver name plate hanging on it. Emblazoned on it in black letters read the name “Dr. Jason Grimm, MD”. I turned the smooth, cold handle and pushed the door open, stepping inside. The room had plain white walls, and gray pergo laminate floors. There was a large window on the opposite side of the room that gave a view of the bay, amidst a ruined city. There was a desk against the wall to my left and a full sized bed to my right. I looked around at the walls that contained photographs, some of prominent San Francisco Landmarks, some of what I assumed to be Dr. Grimm’s family. I approached a bookshelf and began scanning the books. There were lots of medical journals, medical textbooks and a book on genetics. With the stuff contained in this man’s room, he reminded me of myself. I walked over to the desk and picked up a tablet, the screen woke up. A message flashed across the screen. “Hello Dr. Grimm”. I swiped the screen but it wanted me to input a pin, I sighed in defeat and set the tablet down. I heard a gun cock behind me and my heart dropped. I stuck my hands up slightly, there was someone behind me. “Who are you?” I heard a male british voice say. I swallowed hard, my training was running me through a hundred different scenarios on how to turn the tables on my opponent. Where was my team? I decided to go with the truth. “Dr. Elliott Pierce with the Pacific Republic Army.” “Okay Dr. Pierce. Where are your credentials?” The man asked further. “Here, in my vest pocket.” I pointed to my right side. I felt a hand slowly approach the pouch and I acted quickly. I trapped the gun against my left side and bicep and twisted slightly thrusting my elbow backward into the man's gut. “Unf!” He groaned. To finish him off I turned slightly and kicked him square in the chest which sent him flying backwards onto the floor. I turned his gun on him as he curled up in the fetal position on the floor, moaning in pain. “Now it’s your turn to answer the questions! Who are you?” I shouted. The rest of the team came piling in, Riley and Ryan were first, aiming their guns around the room. I raised an eyebrows at them. “How nice of you to join.” I said snarkily. I turned my attention back on the man. “I’m gonna ask you one more time. Who are you?” I asked more sternly. “Dr. Jason Grimm!” The man shouted. “And I need your help!”
  9. zanoGreen

    The Hero's Scars

    Hey thank you! I never thought to explain why Elliott is the team leader, maybe I will explain in the next chapter.
  10. zanoGreen


    Thank you! Lol I'll have to change it.
  11. zanoGreen

    The Hero's Scars

    After the meteor shower was over Ryan drove me back home. We held hands the entire way and Ryan sang along to some country music, which made me grin. Nothing was cuter than a southern boy singing country music. We pulled up to my house and he put his truck in park. I looked over at my house, the porch light shining like a beacon in the night, welcoming me. “Well, here ya are.” Ryan said. I looked over at him to meet his gaze. “I had a good time. It was refreshing to not have to deal with medical for a little while.” I admitted. “I’m glad.” He smiled at me. I pulled on the door handle and my door swung open when he spoke up again. “Hey, I just want you to know that I know we kissed tonight and believe me I loved it.” He sounded nervous. “Buuut?” I asked, waiting for the inevitable. “No buts. I just want you to know that I don’t expect anythin from you.” I smiled as he continued. “We can move slowly if that’s what you want. I just know that I like you, and I’m willin to be patient.” He finished. My heart pounded in my chest as I grabbed his face in my hands and brought our lips together. His kisses were like fireworks, it was the most amazing feeling ever. Our tongues danced together and he brought a hand up to the back of my neck, resting his thumb on my jaw. We broke apart and I stared in his eyes, rubbing my thumbs across the stubble on his jawline. “I could get used to that.” Ryan said smiling. I smiled back and removed my hands from his face, which made him drop his hand. I turned around and climbed out of the truck closing the door and giving Ryan one last look through the open window. “See you tomorrow.” He said. “I’ll hold you to it.” I said flashing him a smile. I turned around and began the walk towards my front door. Ryan waited to drive off until I got through the front door. The lights flicked on automatically as I closed the door. I tossed my keys and wallet on the entry table and walked down the hallway towards my bedroom. I stepped into my room and began stripping off my clothes leaving my boxers on. I climbed into bed and my bedroom lights faded out until I was enveloped in darkness. I closed my eyes and my mind flashed to the date I was just on, and the kiss I had just experienced with Ryan. I touched my lips, where I could still feel his kiss. I drifted off to sleep thinking about holding Ryan’s hand underneath the meteor shower. My alarm went off, signaling the start of a new day. I dragged myself out of bed and made my way towards the kitchen. As soon as I got to the coffee maker to start my day with some much needed caffeine there was a knock on my door. I groaned and threw my head back as I shuffled my way towards the front door. I unlocked the deadbolt and threw the door open, the bright morning sunlight blinding me slightly. There on my front doorstep stood Ryan, with two coffees and take out containers. His eyes got wide as he looked me up and down. “Well, you look better than I expected.” Ryan joked, and it took me a second to realize that I was still in my boxers. “Oh my god!” I exclaimed, burying my face in my hands. “I’m so tired I wasn’t even thinking.” I added. Ryan laughed. “Hey, if it’ll make you feel better I can strip down as well?” Ryan walked through the front door and closed it behind him. I smirked at him. “Oh yeah, you would like that wouldn’t you?” If I was being honest, I wouldn’t mind that. I turned around and walked, rather quickly, back towards my bedroom. “Why, I have no idea what you mean.” Ryan sounded appalled. I grabbed a pair of lounge shorts and a tank top out of my dresser and threw them on. Returning back to the kitchen to see Ryan moving about the kitchen grabbing plates and forks. He smiled when he saw me, pointing at the stool at the island. “Sit, here’s some coffee.” He said, handing me one of the cups he brought. I took a drink and savored the taste. The first cup of coffee was always the best. “You know, not that I’m complaining or anything, but why did you bring me breakfast?” I asked. Ryan began setting up a plate with an assortment of breakfast items. “Because I see what you eat for breakfast most mornings and it’s sad.” He said. He placed a plate in front of me and handed me a knife and a fork. I looked down at the plate that contained bacon, eggs, and pancakes. I picked up a slice of the bacon and took a bite out of it. My taste buds exploded as they came in contact with meaty goodness. “Wow, this has got to be the best bacon I’ve ever had.” I said. Ryan grinned and nodded his head. “My Momma used to cook it just like that most mornings.” He replied. I envied the fact that Ryan had a close relationship with his mom. My mom loved me and we talked on the phone every now and then however, she wasn’t the most approving of my sexuality. Her and my dad loved James, they even considered him part of the family. But deep down she always wished that I would get married to a woman and have kids. “You and your mom are pretty close, I take it?” I asked, taking a drink of my coffee. “Yeah she’s the best.” Ryan had a smile on his face. He came around the island and took a seat next to me with his own plate of food. “Does she know that your gay?” I asked. “Of course she does. She’s really supportive of it too. When I came out she told me.” Ryan straightened his back and put on his best southern belle impersonation of his mom. “Honey, if your gay that’s okay. But you better bring home a real hunk of a man so we can both drool over him.” I laughed and smiled at him. It was nice to see Ryan had such a wonderful relationship with her. “She sounds great.” I said taking a bite out of my pancakes. “Yeah, she really is.” Ryan replied. Ryan and I talked more about our families while we sat there and at our breakfast. We talked about what we would do after we were done with the military, where we would go and what we would do for the remainder of our years. “I think I would want to go back to being a cop.” Ryan said. He gathered up our plates and walked over to the sink. “How come?” I asked bewildered. “I don’t know, I’ve just always loved helping and protecting people. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t do that anymore.” Ryan turned the faucet on and began washing the plates. I stood up from my stool and walked over to the sink, standing next to him. I grabbed a towel and waited for him to finish washing the plate. “What about you?” He asked looking up at me slightly. “I think I want to move to one of the islands in the sound. Maybe open up a little clinic, settle down a bit.” I stated. Ryan handed me a plate and I began drying it off. “The sound?” He asked with a look of confusion. “The Puget Sound. People usually just call it “the sound” up there.” I replied. I put the dish away in the cupboard and returned back to my spot next to him. “There’s islands up there?” Ryan asked, sounding astonished. “Oh yeah! A lot more now, ever since the 2023 earthquake. They’re beautiful too, very green.” I said. My mind wandered a little bit to my dream home, right on the water, surrounded by trees, a vision of downtown Seattle way off in the distance. Absolutely perfect. Ryan handed me the last plate and shut the water off. I dried off the plate and put it away with the others. Ryan rested his hand on the counter and leaned against it, looking at me. “Sounds peaceful.” He said. I mimicked his posture, my fingers inches away from his. “It really is.” I responded shortly. Ryan’s eyes drifted down to the rings hanging off the silver chain around my neck. He reached out with one hand and grabbed them gently. He took a step towards me and observed them closely. I forgot to tuck the rings in my shirt. I went to speak but Ryan interrupted me. “It’s okay, you don’t have to explain." He said. He had a look of understanding in his eyes as he gently placed the rings back in their spot on my chest, letting his hand rest there for a few seconds. After he removed his hand I grabbed them and dropped them in my shirt. "I feel like I should say something." I said. I know I shouldn't feel guilty, but I did. James was always going to be a reminder, on every future relationship. This was partially the reason why I never dated. Ryan was the first date I had been on in years, with a person I felt like I had an actual connection with. True I had left a trail of guys behind me, but that was just sex. Emotionless sex was always easy if you never got attached. "I understand." Ryan grabbed my hand in his. "James will always be a part of you, and you will always hold a special place in your heart for him. I knew this before we went on our date, and before we kissed. So you don't have to explain anything to me." Ryan finished. I leaned forward and kissed him, Ryan wrapped his arms around my waist and brought me closer. We broke apart and I rested my head against his shoulder. In his arms I felt impenetrable, like we were in our own little bubble of protection. A few moments had passed and our phones went off. First mine and then Ryan's. I grabbed my phone off the counter and looked at the caller ID. It was General Dreyfus. Either one of two things was happening. They were either reassigning me, or they were shipping us out for something. I pulled away from Ryan and answered the phone. "Yes General." I said in my most professional tone. There was a gruff voice on the other end that spoke. "Dr. Pierce, your needed in my office immediately." "Yes sir, I'll be there right away." I responded. General Dreyfus hung up on his end and I set my phone on the counter. "Yes sir, right away sir." Ryan responded to his own call and hung up the phone. "My captain needs to see me immediately." He said. "Yeah the general needs to see me too." I responded. "We'll rode together their offices aren't too far from eachother." Ryan said. I went into my bedroom to quickly get dressed and then followed Ryan out the front door, locking it behind me. The General's office was all the way on the other side of the base, past medical. I racked my brain the entire way, thinking what it was that was so urgent that he needed to see me right away. Ryan held my hand on the drive over and I noticed for the first time that he had finger tattoos. The other times I had seen his hands they were covered with those fingerless combat gloves, and last night it was too dark to see. I observed the tattoos and they were runes, like viking runes. They gave him more of a rugged sexy vibe, which I liked. We pulled up to the building that contained the Generals office. Ryan gave my hand one final squeeze and I hopped out of the truck. I saluted the guard at the door and he saluted me back, opening the door for me. The hallway that led to the Generals office was long, and boring. The carpet was an ugly shade of blue, and there were no pictures hanging from the yellow cinder block walls. The door to the Generals office reminded me of something that you saw in a cheesy P.I. type of movie. It was wooden, with a large glass pane. The words “General Dreyfus” were emblazoned on it with golden letters. I gave three short knocks. “Come in.” I heard a gruff voice say behind the door. I opened the door and stepped in his office, closing the door behind me. General Dreyfus stood behind his desk, he had a pair of wire rimmed glasses on. His salt and pepper hair was cut into a high and tight, classic military cut. He stood a little taller than me at 6 feet and was built like a lumberjack. In essence he was every twink’s daddy fantasy. I saluted him and he saluted me back. “General, sir.” I said shortly. “Dr. Pierce.” He said back. "You're probably wondering why I called you here?” He questioned. He gestured to the chair in front of his desk, offering me to sit as he took his own seat. I respectfully declined and instead stood behind the chair, placing my hands on the back and leaning against it. “Honestly sir after 3 years in the Army, nothing surprises me.” I replied honestly. “I’ve always admired your honesty.” General Dreyfus chuckled. “We have another assignment for you and your team.” He added. My interest peaked at this. The last assignment we went on, we got sent out to Las Vegas to overthrow a militia that had taken up residence. We won of course, but not after destroying half the city. “I would appreciate it if you kept the collateral damage to a minimum this time.” General Dreyfus said with a commanding tone. “Hey, we won and we reclaimed Vegas. That was the assignment.” I stated flatly. “You leveled 3 city blocks and killed the militia in the process.” General Dreyfus responded. “Boomer wanted to test out his new explosives.” I shrugged my shoulders. General Dreyfus held his hands up. “You know what, we’re not here to discuss the Vegas Incident.” He picked up a file and tossed it across his desk. I picked it up and flipped the black folder open. Inside were maps, satellite images, pictures. I looked more closely at the map and recognized where it was. “You want us to go to San Francisco?” I asked bewildered. “Yes.” General Dreyfus responded. “But it’s a dead zone. No one has gone in or out since the Clayton Outbreak. What reason would you have to send me and my team in there?” I asked. Ever since the Clayton Outbreak, all of the bridges to San Francisco were destroyed isolating the island city. Since then there has been no communication and everyone who was inside was presumed dead. There were rumours that some people survived, but it was chalked up to myth. But it still didn’t keep people from talking. “That’s classified.” General Dreyfus replied. I scoffed at his answer and threw the file back on his desk. “Then give me the cliff notes version.” I responded, my blood beginning to boil. If they thought they were going to have me risk my team, my family’s, life for some fool errand. Then they had another thing coming. “You were told that everyone inside San Francisco was dead.” General Dreyfus began. I nodded in response. “But that was a lie to protect the public.” I tried to hide the look of shock on my face. General Dreyfus ignored me and continued. “After the Clayton Outbreak, seven years ago, the United States Government sent a team into San Francisco to search for any survivors. They didn’t find any, but what they did find was Dr. Clayton’s research and he was on to something, something big.” “What do you mean big?” I interrupted. “I can’t tell you that. All I can tell you is that it’s important and we need it.” General Dreyfus pulled out another file and handed it to me. I took it and opened it up. On the first page was a picture of a man. Handsome and lean with a stoic expression behind a pair of black rimmed glasses. Underneath the picture, in a white footing, read “Dr. Jason Grimm, MD”. I looked up from the picture as General Dreyfus began to speak. “You need to find Dr. Grimm and bring him to LA.” He said. “Why is this doctor so important?” I asked. “He’s a geneticist, researching the effects the Northern Flu has on the elimination of cancer cells in the human body. He picked up where Dr. Clayton left off.” General Dreyfus responded clamly. My mind was going a million miles a minute. “Wait a second. Are you saying that this guy found a cure for cancer using Northern Flu?” I was completely bewildered. It sounded like crazy science fiction. The doctor in me was screaming with delight, on the other hand, the realist in me was screaming in fear. “We don’t know. That’s why we need you and your team to go in there and get him and his team out.” General Dreyfus paused. I could sense there was more to it. “At 0200 this morning Dr. Grimm and his lab went dark. All methods of contact have failed, satellite feeds show there’s heat signatures so we know people are in there. We’re afraid that this might be another Clayton Outbreak situation.” He stood up and faced me, staring directly into my eyes, and I stared back. “You and your team have the best track record, and I trust you with this. Don’t let me down.” General Dreyfus finished. “Yes, sir.” I said. General Dreyfus grinned. “Good to hear it.” I turned to walk out, but General Dreyfus began talking again. “Oh and by the way, you have a new member of your team.” I turned back around to face him. “Who?” I asked. The office door opened and in walked Ryan, who looked just as shocked to see me as I him. He was wearing his military police uniform, his tight t-shirt clung to his biceps and chest. His pants were slim and were tucked into his combat boots, they had an assortment of pockets that ran down the sides. My dick began to get hard at how sexy he looked. He settled next to me, standing straight with his hands behind his back. I tried not to look too awkward standing next to him. How was I going to complete an assignment with him? “Dr. Pierce you know Sergeant Ryan Riggs don’t you?” General Dreyfus asked. “We’ve crossed paths sir.” I responded. I fought the urge to grin, and won thankfully. “Good, well then Ryan, Dr. Pierce will fill you in on the assignment. You and your team leave at 0600 tomorrow morning.” General Dreyfus sat back down at his desk and began digging through more files. “Yes, sir.” Ryan and I both said. I tucked the assignment files under my arm and walked out of the General’s office, with Ryan hot on my trail. Once we were out of the building Ryan spoke up. “So, this isn’t going to be weird is it? I continued walking towards Ryan’s truck, which was some 20 feet away. “No, it should be fine.” I said shortly. Although I wasn’t quite sure, would our feelings get in the way of the assignment? We reached Ryan’s truck and I sat against the back bumper crossing my arms. Ryan joined me and nudged my shoulder with his. I looked over and smiled at him, maybe everything would be okay. Maybe our feelings wouldn’t affect the assignment. I rested my hand on his, which was resting next to him on the bumper. Our fingers intertwined together, I still couldn’t get over how soft his hands were. “Everything will be okay.” I said in a reassuring tone. I could tell that he was worried about how my being team leader would affect what we had going on. “We just have to remember to not let our feelings interfere with our work.” I added. Ryan nodded his head in approval, staring at the dirt underneath his boots. “I don’t know what this is turning into.” Ryan gestured between him and I. “But all I know is that I want it to continue.” He finished. He gazed into my eyes with a hopeful expression. “So do I.” I smiled and gave his hand a squeeze. He smiled back at me, leaned in and gave me a kiss. I kissed him back and we held our gaze for a few seconds. I messaged the others to meet Ryan and I at my house to go over the details of the mission. We all stood in my kitchen surrounding the island which contained a map, the satellite images and the picture of Dr. Grimm. “Where are we dropping in at?” Riley asked leaning over the map. “The Embarcadero here, at Pier 7.” I pointed my finger at a red x. “From there we’ll make our way here.” I pointed to another spot on the map. “This is where Dr. Grimm’s lab is. We’ll get him and his team and get to the extraction point here, at Telegraph Hill.” I pointed to another spot on the map. “Something tells me that it’s not going to be that simple.” Alex piped in. “No, it’s not.” I began. “The General was vague about the details, but we could be dealing with another Clayton Outbreak situation. Plus since the city was abandoned 7 years ago there’s no way of telling if there are survivors there. If there are survivors, they might not be so willing to help us.” I explained. “Why’s that?” Ryan asked. “A government scientist accidentally spreads a deadly pathogen, then the government destroys any way in or out, essentially condemning everyone inside. You do the math.” Boomer explained. He looked bothered, but I knew why. “Boomer, I could understand if you're not up to this assignment.” I stated, glancing over at him as he hoisted himself onto the kitchen counter. “I’ll be fine.” Boomer said. Ryan shot a confused look at me but I ignored it. I would explain to him later. “As you all know, Danvers left us after our last assignment in Vegas.” Boomer gave a chuckle and I grinned. Boomer hated Danvers, but Danvers was arrogant and had it coming. “So Ryan,” I placed a hand on Ryan’s shoulder. “Will be taking his place.” I finished. Alex cheered and gave Ryan a hug, everyone else gave him a slap on the shoulder, Boomer gave him a grin and a nod from his perch atop the counter. I smiled, Boomer didn’t make friends easily, he was the grumpy one of our group, but it was nice to know that he liked Ryan. “Alright guys, so transport leaves at 0600 tomorrow. Make sure to bring your gear, and only essential items.” I stated. I began folding the map and putting everything back in the file. “See you tomorrow Ell.” April waved and smiled at me as her and Riley walked out of the front door. “Hey Ell, I got a question.” I could hear Boomer’s heavy footsteps approach me from behind. I turned around to see Boomer with a look of excitement on his face. “What is it bud?” I asked. “So, there’s this new explosive I’ve been wanting to try out-” Boomer began but I cut him off. “Nooo, no, no. I promised the General, no collateral damage.” I said. “Ah c’mon! It’s just a tiny little experimental device that may or may not have the power to take out a tiny little city block.” Boomer spoke fastly at the last part, probably hoping I wouldn’t catch on. “Boomer, remember when we went on that reconnaissance mission in Portland?” I asked. Boomer nodded in acknowledgement. “You had a tiny little experimental device that time too, which blew up a section of the Hawthorne Bridge which moments later collapsed into the Willamette River.” I felt like a parent scolding their child. But in all reality, I thought it was kind of funny, but I wasn’t going to let Boomer know that. Boomer scoffed. “It was an ugly bridge anyway.” “It was a historic landmark for the city. It survived a nine point seven earthquake, only to be destroyed by one of your devices.” I stated. “Well it’s not my fault they like ugly things in Portland.” Boomer pouted, crossing his arms. I shook my head and laughed. “See you tomorrow Boomer.” I said holding onto the edge of the door. Boomer sulked through the doorway and I watched as he made his way down the pathway towards his jeep. I chuckled and closed the door, Boomer may have been a grouch but he was also a big kid at heart. I hoped he would do okay on this assignment. “Quite the big kid ain’t he.” I heard Ryan say behind me, which made me jump slightly. “Sorry did I scare you?” Ryan chuckled softly. He was standing in the kitchen with his hands in his pockets, except for his thumbs, which rested on the outside. “No, just startled.” I responded, walking over to the couch and plopping down on it. “Isn’t that pretty much the same thing?” Ryan asked sitting on the other side of the couch. “Whatever.” I chuckled. Ryan chuckled back. I swung my legs onto the couch, and bent my right knee resting my arm on it. “Why do you ask if Boomer would be okay on this assignment?” Ryan asked. I was hoping he would have forgotten about that, but apparently he didn’t. “Boomer is from San Francisco.” I said. A look of shock spread across Ryan’s face. “Oh, did he ever hear from his family?” Ryan asked. “No, During the Clayton Outbreak Boomer was away at college. He tried to get a hold of his family after the bridges went down, but he never could. For all he knows his family is gone.” I explained. Ryan’s look of shock was replaced with sadness. “Wow, I definitely seem to understand him a little bit better now.” He said and I nodded in agreement. I looked at my watch and noticed the time read 10:20. “We better get to bed. Gotta be up bright and early in the morning.” I stated, standing up from the couch. Ryan stood up too and began walking towards the door. “Where are you going?” I asked. “Hooome?” Ryan said questioningly. “Why don’t you just stay here? You can sleep in the guest room, the bed is all made up.” I jabbed my thumb in the direction of the guest bedroom. “I don’t want to impose on you Elliott.” Ryan said, a look of kindness glinted in his eyes. “I wouldn’t have offered if it was going to be an imposition.” I stated. I gave him a look that said “Are you kidding?” which Ryan seemed to pick up on. “Alright, show me the way.” Ryan smiled. I smiled back and led him to the bedroom across the hall from mine. It was a relatively simple set up, a queen bed sat against the far wall with a quilt and many pillows. Just looking at it made me sleepy. The drapes were semi-sheer and grey, just enough to let a small amount of light in. On the opposite wall of the bed a tv hung on the wall, below it was a six drawer dresser. “It’s not much, but the bed is comfy.” I said. Ryan stepped in the room and took in his surroundings. “I like it, it’s simple.” Ryan stated with a grin. I blushed and looked away, clearing my throat. “I’m right across the hall if you need anything.” I said jabbing my thumb over my shoulder to the door across from the guest room. “Okay.” Ryan walked up to me and gave me a soft kiss on the lips, which almost made my knees buckle. “Goodnight Elliott.” He added. “Good night Ryan.” I said breathlessly. I backed out of the room and crossed over to my bedroom door. I flicked the light on and turned around with my hand resting on the door. Ryan gave me a smile and closed his door leaving a slight crack where a sliver of yellow light was shining through. I cracked my door similarly and began undressing leaving only my boxers on. I slid into the crisp cold sheets of my bed and the lights dimmed out. I laid there thinking about the assignment tomorrow. A new assignment always made me nervous, that's why I was glad Ryan decided to stay. Even though we were in separate rooms, his presence seemed to calm me slightly. It was a new feeling I had never experienced before, it was almost like I felt myself becoming attached to him, like I never wanted to let him go. "Thats crazy, you just met the guy a little over a week ago. It's just new, it'll wear off." My thoughts began to ring out. I stared up at the dark ceiling. But what if I didn't want it to wear off? What if I wanted these feelings to last forever? When I'm with Ryan I feel alive again. Before I felt like I was on autopilot, just going through the motions, never wanting more or less. Now I want more, I want more for my future, a future I had never thought about until recently. Whether Ryan was in it or not was too early to tell. The last thing I thought of before drifting off to sleep was kissing Ryan, which made me smile. I awoke to the sound of a faint voice coming from outside my room. I strained my ears and recognized the voice immediately as Ryan's. He sounded in distress. I pulled the covers back and stepped out of the comfort of my bed. I pulled my lounge shorts on and crept out of my bedroom and over to the guest bedroom. I poked my head in to see Ryan stripped down to his boxers, sweat beading over his body. He whimpered and tossed his head. Was he having a nightmare? "D-david no." He cried softly. My heart broke when he spoke those words. He was having the nightmare about his brother. I approached the bedside and placed a hand on Ryan's broad shoulder, his skin was warm to the touch and I could feel ridges below my fingertips. I couldn’t quite see in the dark but I squeezed his shoulder gently. "Ryan." I said, attempting to wake him up. Ryan stirred but continued mumbling. "Ryan." I said again, squeezing a little bit harder. Ryan’s eyes flicked open and he shot upright gasping slightly. "Hey, hey you're okay. It was just a nightmare." I said in a calm tone. I sat on the edge of the bed and rubbed his shoulders. His eyes settled on me and he soon realized what had just happened. "Oh, i'm sorry Elliott." Ryan said embarrassingly. "Nothing to be sorry about." I said flatly. My eyes finally adjusted to the dark and I could see what my fingers felt on Ryan’s shoulder. His eyes widened and he covered his right side quickly, hiding what I had already seen. I reached for the hem of the blanket to pull it down but Ryan’s grip tightened and fought against mine. I looked into his eyes, there was a pain behind them. Something terrible in his past was related to what I had seen. “Ryan, it’s okay.” I said resting my hand on his. “Nobody has seen them since the accident.” Ryan replied. “I want to see them.” I replied. Ryan thought for a second before slowly lightening his grip. I slowly pulled the blanket down to reveal what I already knew to be there. From Ryan’s shoulder, to his neckline, and down a large portion of his right torso were burn scars. I thought back to a conversation we had a few days back. His father had died in a house fire, their house. Slowly the pieces began to fit together as I soon realized that Ryan had been gravely injured in that house fire, leaving burn scars on his body. I ran my hand over Ryan’s right peck, he shuddered slightly at my touch. From his peck the scars fanned out, almost like an explosion, and ran down towards his waist line at an angle and right side and appeared to wrap around slightly to his back. His left side was completely untouched. “It was worse before.” Ryan spoke up, he had a calm look in his eyes and a stoic expression. “Skin grafts have come a long way.” I responded. I continued observing the scars. “Do they wrap around to your back?” I asked. Ryan nodded his head and turned over slightly so I could see his back. I ran my hand over his shoulder blade and he shuddered again. He turned back on his back, avoiding my eye contact. “I was 16 when it happened.” Ryan started, but I stopped him. “You don’t have to tell me.” I reassured him. He shook his head and looked up at me. “I need to.” Ryan said shortly. I nodded my head. “Okay.” I replied. Ryan took in a breath before he started. “We lived in a manufactured home, just a two bedroom one bath, it was all we could afford after my daddy was laid off. My momma was at work, so I was watching my brother. We were in our bedroom at the front of the trailer when we heard the smoke alarms go off.” Ryan took a pause. I could see tears start to well up in his eyes. I took his hand in mine with a firm grip and Ryan reciprocated my grip. “I told David to crawl through the bedroom window and call for help while I went and got our dad. He was a bastard but I couldn’t let him die. But the fire reached the gas line and at that point the whole trailer blew. The next thing I knew I woke up in a burn unit. They told me that I was lucky I was further away from the explosion or I probably would have died. To this day they still don’t know what caused the fire. The assumption is that it was bad electrical because the circuit breaker was completely fried. But I don’t know if I buy that. I guess we’ll never know.” Ryan wiped the tears from his eyes with his free hand. I reached up and placed the palm of my hand on Ryan’s cheek, gazing into his eyes. “How come you’ve never talked about this before?” I asked. Ryan let go of my hand and gestured to his torso. “Look at me Elliott. Most of the burns healed because of modern medicine, but I will always have to look in the mirror and see these scars. I was afraid of getting seen as ugly, and rejected.” I let my hand fall from Ryan’s cheek and rested it over the scars on his chest. “Ryan, these are the scars of a hero, and they tell the story of how you saved your brother and tried to save your father. You should wear them as a badge of honor, not fear them.” I explained. “How can you look at these and not run the other direction?” Ryan asked. “Because, it’s not about what’s on the outside. It’s about what’s in here.” I pointed to Ryan’s head. “And what’s in here.” I rested my hand above his heart. There were so many feelings floating around inside of me, most of them for Ryan. We looked into each other’s eyes for what seemed like forever, I wish I could just look into his eyes forever. Ryan reached a hand up and brushed my cheek and I leaned forward and pressed my lips to his. I parted my lips and he kissed me back, sliding his tongue into my mouth. When he pulled his tongue out he bit my lip slightly and my dick immediately began to get hard. We started kissing more feverently, picking up the pace. Our breathing began to quicken, and Ryan lowered me on my back and came to rest on top of me, never breaking contact from my lips. My cock at this point was rock hard, it rubbed against Ryan’s inner thigh through my shorts. I could feel Ryan’s own cock rubbing up against my thigh through his boxer briefs, it felt big, and I was anxious to lay eyes on it. We continued making out, feeling each other's bodies, running our hands over each other. Ryan’s hands felt so good, as they ran over my chest and found my nipples. He gripped them lightly between his fingers. He broke apart from our kiss and grinned. “Are those nipple piercings?” He asked looking down towards my nipples. “Yeah.” I said with a devilish grin. “Hmm, that’s hot. Is it true what they say?” He asked, brushing his fingers against them. My nipples were a huge turn on, even more so after they were pierced. “Is what true?” I asked breathlessly. “That they get more sensitive after they get pierced?” Ryan asked further. He gripped my nipples more tightly and I let out a soft moan. Ryan lowered his head to my neck and kissed softly, he brushed his lips against my earlobe and twisted slightly on my nipples. I let out another soft moan. “I take that as a yes.” I could hear the smile in his voice as he spoke. Ryan pressed his hips into mine slightly, his breathing becoming more ragged. He ran hands down my sides until he got to the waistline of my shorts. He kissed my neck, teasing his fingers along the waist of my shorts. This man knew how to drive a guy crazy. He pulled down slightly on my shorts and I lifted my hips in permission. He slid my shorts off and tossed them aside. My rock hard cock smacked my stomach, pre-cum dripping from the tip. Ryan sat on his knees in between my bent knees, taking in my form. “God you're so beautiful.” He said. My breath caught slightly when he said that. No one had ever said that to me before. Ryan leaned back down and began kissing me on the lips. His left hand ventured down and found my dick. I let out a soft moan as he wrapped his hand around my girth. “Wow, you're packing some heat there.” Ryan grinned. “Look who's talking.” I replied. Running my hand over Ryan’s underwear, feeling the outline of his hard cock. Ryan ran his thumb over the slit of my dick and brought it up to his lips, licking the pre-cum off. “Mmm, you taste good.” He stated, kissing me deeply. He began stroking my cock slowly, using some of the pre-cum as lube. I moaned into Ryan’s mouth with every stroke. He broke apart from the kiss and began kissing my chest, taking a second to nibble and lick my nipples which sent me over slightly. He began kissing me down the center of my stomach, still stroking my cock in his hand. Once he got down to my pelvis he ran his tongue up the underside of my dick, once he got to the tip he slid me into his mouth. I let out a sharp moan at the sudden warm and wet sensation that enveloped my cock. I rested my hands on Ryan’s head, running my fingers through his disheveled sandy blonde hair. Ryan took my dick all the way to the hilt, without so much of a gag, keeping it there for a second and then working his way back up. This felt better than the dream I had of him. Ryan began bobbing up and down on my cock, working it with his lips and tongue. It was the best blowjob I had received in quite some time, even better than Jon. I could feel myself starting to get close, but I didn’t want to cum yet, I wanted to save that for the end. “Mmmm, Ryan. Ryan, I’m gon-I’m gonna cum.” I moaned. Ryan immediately stopped to my delight and began kissing his way back up towards my mouth. When our lips met, I could taste my pre-cum on his tongue slightly. “My turn.” I said in between kisses and I rolled over, pinning Ryan underneath me. Ryan chuckled and I leaned down kissing him some more. I positioned myself between his legs and hooked his underwear with two fingers and pulled them off, tossing them on the floor. My jaw dropped slightly at what they concealed. Ryan’s cock stood perfectly erect. It was probably a good 7 or 8 inches, but what was more impressive was his amount of girth. I instantly wondered if I would be able to take it, if I were to bottom. I leaned down and kissed Ryan. “You are the beautiful one.” I stated. Ryan blushed slightly. I began kissing Ryan’s chest, I kissed his scars and Ryan shuddered slightly. He ran his hands across my shoulders as I explored every inch of his body. The area I most wanted to explore was between his legs. I made my way down to dick and noticed a drop of pre-cum begin to run down the side of his head. I instantly licked it up, which made Ryan take in a sharp, ragged breath. I slid the head of his penis over my lips and slowly made my way down his shaft until I felt my nose touch his pelvis. Ryan let out a long moan, and grabbed a fistful of hair. I began slowly bobbing up and down on his cock, giving it great care and attention. WIth my left hand I cupped his balls and began rubbing them slightly, Ryan arched his back and began moaning louder. “Oh fuck!” He exclaimed. I kept my pace and reached up with my other hand and began playing with his left nipple. “Mmm, fuuuck!” He moaned. I chuckled to myself, I had him right where I wanted him. I began to quicken my pace slightly and Ryan’s moans became louder, and more pronounced. He began bucking his hips slightly, I could tell he was getting close. Just then his hand left the top of my head and I felt his two hands grip around my biceps, pulling me up. What was he doing? “I don’t want to cum yet, I want to make this last.” He said breathlessly. He rolled me over so that he was on top and positioned himself between my legs, leaning down to kiss me some more. We stroked each other’s cocks gently, enjoying the experience we had so desperately wanted since laying eyes on each other on my birthday. We broke apart for a second and I gazed into his eyes, he knew what I wanted, he was just waiting for me to tell him. “I want you to fuck me.” I commanded. Ryan’s face softened slightly. “Are you sure?” He asked. I nodded my head. “How about I make love to you instead?” Ryan asked. I felt my heart explode as he spoke those words. “I would love that.” I said. We kissed passionately and I crawled out from underneath him and grabbed his hand. Leading him into my bedroom. I opened the drawer of my nightstand and pulled out a bottle of lube, tossing it on the bed. I laid down on the bed and Ryan climbed on top of me, we began to kiss some more and I reached for the lube. I lathered his cock with a lot, with the amount of girth he had, we were gonna need all the lube in the world. “First things first.” Ryan said, squirting some lube on my hole. He pressed a finger against my hole and I moaned softly. He slid his finger in and I moaned louder, arching my back in response. He began sliding his finger in and out, gradually working up to 2 fingers. We kissed and he stroked my cock as he did this, pushing me closer to the edge of what was going to be an explosive orgasm. Ryan pulled his fingers out of me and positioned himself in between my legs, I wrapped my legs around his lower back and guided his cock towards my hole. I could feel his head push against my entrance. Ryan pushed a little further and I could feel the head of his penis slide in slightly, he left it there for a little bit before pushing more. Ryan was incredibly gentle, and my hole was accepting his cock as if they were made for each other. Ryan pushed a little more and his cock slid in the rest of the way. I let out a gasp of pleasure at the feeling and Ryan moaned. Ryan’s cock filled me, I didn’t know if I could fit anymore in me. In all my previous sexual encounters I was the top, so having someone as large as Ryan in me was a new experience that I for one did not hate. Ryan pushed in more and I could feel his thighs make contact with my ass cheeks. “Ohh fuuuck.” We both moaned in unison. Ryan began kissing me, sliding his cock in and out of me gently. I was in absolute heaven. Everytime Ryan pushed in he hit my prostate, which sent a bolt of pleasure all throughout my body. “You okay?” Ryan asked, his breathing quickening along with his pace. “Mmmm, yeah. Don't stop.” I moaned with pleasure. Ryan kept a steady rhythm, his thighs slapping against my ass as he drilled my hole with every inch of his cock. I stroked my cock as he fucked me, with every stroke I could feel myself getting closer and closer to the edge. Sweat began to form on both our bodies, our breathing quickening as we both reached our inevitable orgasms. My hole squeezed Ryan's cock every time he pulled out, milking it for the cum it so longingly desired. I could feel the orgasm begin to rise up in me as Ryan leaned down and kissed me passionately. “O-oh, oh fuck Ryan! I’m gonna cuuum!” I shouted. “Me too!” Ryan moaned. I let out a long and loud moan as rope after rope of cum began shooting out of my dick, landing on my chest and my stomach. Ryan let out a long moan and pushed his cock deep into me. I could feel his cock pulsating inside of me as warm cum flooded my insides. Ryan collapsed on top of me, his cock still throbbing and pulsing deep inside of me. I wrapped my arms around him as he continued to moan into the pillow beside my head. Our breathing was deep and our bodies spent at the explosive orgasms we had both just experienced. A mixture of sweat and my cum was layered in between our bodies, but we continued to hold each other. In all honesty I wanted to stay in this position with him forever. “That. Was. Amazing.” Ryan said in between breaths. “Holy shit.” Was all I could muster for a response. We both chuckled and Ryan gave me another kiss, his cock slowly going soft inside of me. He rolled off of me after his now flaccid cock slid out of me. I laid my head on his chest and he wrapped his arms around me and kissed the top of my head. “Can we just stay like this?” I asked, not wanting this moment to end. “We can stay like this for as long you want.” Ryan replied, rubbing my shoulder. I listened to Ryan’s heartbeat and breathing, the combination of the two lulling me slowly to sleep. If I didn’t have deep feelings for Ryan before, I sure did now. I didn’t want whatever was going on between us to ever end. I hope it never does.
  12. zanoGreen

    The Date

    About a week had passed since my birthday, and the onslaught that followed. There was a funeral, people mourned over the loss of their comrades, their friends, their family. I wondered when this was going to be over. After the civil war was over, we all thought that things would start returning to normal. But they hadn't, they had just stayed the same. Ryan stopped by and visited medical every now and then, we seemed to be getting closer following the events that took place. I wondered why he kept doing that, why he kept hanging around me. Riley kept pushing me to take the leap, make a move on him. "I mean c'mon, he's a hunky piece of Texas sirloin and you need to pour your sauce all over him." Riley stated as we sat in the mess hall during breakfast. "That is incredibly graphic." I replied. "And incredibly true." Alex said, she and Cody sat next to me. Riley pointed at her in approval. "See, even Alex agrees!" Riley shouted. "What are we talking about?" Cody asked intrigued. "Nothin-" I started but Riley cut me off. "Ell, and the fact that he is avoiding the obvious chemistry between him and Ryan Riggs." Riley stated. Alex flicked her head in my direction with her mouth open slightly. "Oh my god! You guys would be so cute together!" She squealed. "It's not happening." I said with a hint of annoyance. "Why not? He's a total hunk." Alex questioned. Cody cleared his throat. "Well except for you of course Cody." She added patting Cody on the shoulder. "And how long has this been going on?" Riley asked. I was glad the conversation was steering away from me and Ryan. "When Cody left medical after the incident last week, we ran into each other. We had dinner and then.." Alex trailed off, with a grin. "You guy's played monopoly?" I asked sarcastically. Alex punched me in the arm. "Well it's about damn time anyways. You guys were annoying, dancing around each other. Kinda like two other people I know." Riley landed his gaze on me. Great, now were back to me. "Will you just leave it?" I asked, getting slightly annoyed. "Nope." Riley said flatly. I rolled my eyes. "Oh, here comes your guy." Alex teased, nudging me in the rib. I followed the direction of her stare and spotted Ryan walking towards our table with two mugs in his hand. He had a slight limp from the arrow he took to the leg last week. A gorgeous smile split across his face as he met my gaze. I saw out of the corner of my eye, Alex and Cody scoot down the bench to make room for him as he drew closer. Riley looked as if he was watching his favorite soap opera unfolding in front of his very eyes. "Hey Elliott." He said. "Black, just how you like it right?" He handed me a steaming mug of coffee. "Oh thank you, you didn't have to get me coffee." I said blushing slightly. "Hmm, he knows your coffee order. Imagine that." Riley said. I shot him a threatening look. "Well it's the least I could do after your pulled an arrow out of my leg." Ryan stated, taking the empty space on the bench next to me. Our shoulders were touching, and I melted into the warmth of our skin touching. I could feel Ryan relax into me slightly, and I accepted it willingly. Did Alex and Cody leave barely any space on purpose? "It was no biggie." I shrugged taking a drink of the coffee. There was a moment of silence and then Alex piped up. "Well I gotta go to the shop and get some work done." She stood up with her tray and eyeballed Cody. Cody gave her a confused look and then realized what was going on. "Oh! Oh yeah, Riley is gonna go through some gun training with me." Cody said looking over at Riley. Riley gave him a confused look. "What are you-OUCH!" Riley exclaimed as Cody kicked him under the table. "Fine, lets go." Riley said grumpily as he grabbed his tray and sauntered off with the others out of the mess hall. I looked over at Ryan, and he looked back at me with those amazing blue eyes. He budged a little bit to his left so we weren't crammed into each other, but he still stayed close enough so I could feel his touch. I noticed he was still wearing that longhorns baseball cap. I loved the way his hair just barely poked out around the sides. "So what's the story behind your hat?" I asked. I wanted to know more about him, but didn't know where to start. "Besides the fact that the Longhorn is a state symbol of Texas?" Ryan looked at me questionably. "Okay, besides that." I grinned. "My father gave it to me when I was a little boy." He replied shortly. There was a kind of pain, and almost rigidness behind his answer. I didn't know if I should press further. "Were you both fans of the team?" I pressed. Not knowing how this was going to go. Ryan gazed down at his coffee mug, turning it in hands. "Yeah, he took me to my first game." A grin split across his face as he recalled the memory. "It's actually what made me go to University of Texas." He added. "Really? I actually got accepted to University of Texas' medical program." I replied. "Really, which campus?" Ryan's eyes brightened a little. "Houston, but I didn't go." I replied. Ryan looked appalled by this. "What could possibly be better than U of T?" He questioned. "UCLA." I said with a smile. "Nooooo." Ryan had a pained look on his face. "Your a bruin?" He looked crushed. I chuckled. "Yep, you know it! Bruin for life!" I exclaimed. "Oh man, I wish you wouldn't have told me that." Ryan took a drink of his coffee. "Buuut. I guess I can look past it." He shot me one of his famous smiles. "I wanted to stay on the west coast. Plus I felt like the SoCal sun would do me some good." I replied. A memory of when I first met James in our first day of med school flashed into my thoughts, and my smile immediately fell. I had almost forgotten that UCLA was where we met, where we fell in love. "You okay?" Ryan asked, placing a hand over mine. The touch was warm and inviting, and enough to pull me away from my memories. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just memories." I replied, pulling my hand out from under his and then immediately regretting it. "Walk with me." Ryan said. He climbed out of his seat on the bench and downed the rest of his coffee. "Where?" I said looking confused. Ryan laughed, shaking his head. "Do you always need all the details?" He asked. "How do I know you wont take me out into the desert and murder me?" I asked sarcastically. "You don't." Ryan replied shortly, shrugging his broad shoulders. "Fair enough." I said as I climbed out of my seat. I followed Ryan across the mess hall and we put our mugs in the dirty dishes pile before walking out into the hot desert air. It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky, but that was to be expected in the middle of the desert, during the summer. We walked through the base and then through the parts of the base that were being remodeled from the ruins of Bakersfield. I was still trying to figure Ryan out, he was a nice guy but they all were in the beginning. I still didn't understand why he was taking such an interest in me. I mean, I know I'm good looking, but besides that he must have picked up on the fact that I'm damaged goods by now. Maybe he was too? "So lemme see if I got this so far?" I asked as we walked the perimeter fence for the base. "You're from Austin, you went to U of T where you majored in Criminal Justice and you were a cop for the city of Austin until you joined our little slice of heaven over here?" I ran through all the things that Ryan told me. "Yep, pretty much covers it." Ryan replied. "What about you?" He added, shoving his hands into his pockets. "There's not much to know about me." I lied, blushing slightly. "I know for a fact that's not true." Ryan rebutted. "Well I got my medical degree from UCLA-" I started. "Yes, we've established your poor choice in school's but continue." Ryan smirked. "Anyyywaaay." I said with a hint of annoyance. "After medical school I moved to Seattle and worked as a trauma doctor for Harborview, it's a really big trauma hospital probably the best in the Northwest." I added seeing the look of confusion on Ryan's face when I mentioned Harborview. "Then after the Clayton Outbreak I was conscripted into the Army to fight the civil war. Then they offered me the position of Chief Medical Officer for Fort Bakersfield and I took it." I finished, folding my arms across my chest. "That last thing I already knew, tell me something I don't know about you." Ryan stepped in front of me, his arms still in his pockets. "Like?" I asked. "Liiike. Is there someone special in your life?" His brilliant blue eyes flashed at me as he spoke that last line. "Is this why you brought me out here? To see if I was available?" I asked with a hint of annoyance. "No. I brought you out here to get to know you. But I feel like there's stuff your not telling me." Ryan stated, folding his arms across his chest. "Well is there stuff your not telling me?" I asked defensively. Ryan thought on the question for a second and then nodded his head slightly. "Your right. I shouldn't pry so much." He stated in a slightly defeated tone. I felt bad for being so guarded with him. He turned to start walking again but I reached out and grabbed his forearm, spinning him around to face me. "No, your right. I need to stop being a dick and so guarded." I stated. "I never said you were a dick." Ryan had a look of confusion on his face. "No, I know it's just-" I took a deep breath and exhaled sharply. "I did have someone, but I lost him. I'm not ready to talk about yet though." There was a shakiness to my voice and I could tell Ryan picked up on that. He placed both hands on my shoulders and gave me a sympathetic look. "I'm sorry. I wont pry so much from now on." He stated. I loved having his hands on me. "No your fine. Honestly if you didn't pry so much I would probably never come out my shell." I confessed. Ryan laughed and let his hands fall, much to my dismay. "That's the first time I've hear that, but I'll take it." Ryan turned and began walking along the fence again, and I followed. We made our way back to the main part of the base and Ryan escorted me back to medical so I could begin my shift. It felt weird but also nice, I had never had a guy walk me to any destination before. "Well here you are." Ryan stated smiling. "You know you didn't have to walk me here." I replied. "Now what kind of southern gentleman would I be if I didn't do that?" Ryan kept his smile. I rolled my eyes and chuckled. "Your so corny." I said. "Yeah but you like, don't lie." Ryan replied. I just laughed and shook my head. "So there's been somethin I've been meanin to ask you." Ryan added. "What's that?" I asked. "How would you feel about goin on a date with me say, tomorrow?" Ryan asked, looking hopeful. Wow, was he really asking me out on a date? Every bone in my body screamed yes. "Yeah, I would love to." I replied smiling. "Great!" Ryan smiled back. "I'll pick you up at your place at 1800?" He asked. "1800 sounds perfect." I replied. My heart pounded in my chest and I had butterflies. "Awesome, I'll see you then." Ryan said. "Have a good day at work." He backed away, not breaking eye contact. "You too, stay safe out there." I said. "Always am." Ryan replied with a grin, and at that moment he backed into another soldier who stumbled sideways as if they were hit by a truck. "Oh shit, sorry!" Ryan exclaimed. "Watch it buddy!" The man shouted. I laughed and made my way into the medical tent. Riley and Cody scurried away from the door and pretended, rather horribly to be busy. "What did you guys hear?" I asked, walking past them in the direction of my office. "He asked you out?!" Riley shouted. "And you said yes!" Cody piped in. They both looked energetic over the news. "That seems to be the consensus." I replied sarcastically. I opened the top drawer of my desk and pulled my stethoscope out, draping it around my neck. "Oh c'mon, there has to be more than that?" Riley questioned. He rested his hands on the desktop in a wide stance and leaned in slightly. I crossed my arms across my chest and scowled slightly, he wasn't getting anything out of me. "Fine, don't tell us." Cody said with a pouting expression. I rolled my eyes and grinned slightly. "You two are ridiculous." I stated, walking around my desk. Riley and Cody stood in front of the doorway in an attempt to block me from leaving. I reached over and grabbed Riley's nipple giving him the ultimate titty twister. He yelped and jumped aside and I pushed past them with a grin on my face. "Not fair!" Riley shouted. I turned around and continued walking slowly backward playing a small violin for Riley, who flipped me off. I turned my gaze towards Cody. "Shouldn't you be on your way to LA to take your boards?" I questioned, placing my hands on my hips. Riley's eyes widened. "Shit! I'm gonna miss my transport!" He shouted. He gathered up his duffel bag and sprinted towards the door. "You better pass!" I yelled after him as he disappeared outside. The day went by super slow, with hardly any patients. Sometimes I missed working at Harborview, there was always a gun shot, a stabbing, a car accident, something traumatic to keep my hands busy. With the position of Chief Medical Officer came a lot of bureaucracy and red tape, and running the joint. Which sounds awesome on paper, but if your like me and you can't sit still for more than 5 minutes, it can be a nightmare. Why did I take the position then, you ask? Well they were going to discharge me from the army because of my years of service. Earning a Silver Star and saving a bunch of my fellow soldiers in the field will get you a lot of praise and a nice discharge home. The only problem being, that I didn't have a "real" home to go back to and I didn't want to go back to that large empty house on Queen Anne. So they offered me this position, at one of the larges Army bases in the Pacific Republic, as a reward and thanks. If it were up to me I would be out there in the field. My cell phone started buzzing in my pocket and I looked at the screen. 'Chloe Hernandez' flashed across the glass display, my property manager. "Chloe, what can I do for you?" I answered, knowing full well what she needed. "Hello Dr. Pierce, there's a little bit of a problem with your rental. The water heater is going bad, and the tenants want it replaced. Do I have the go ahead to get it replaced?" She asked, she always had a professional demeanor about her over the phone. "Of course, I'll send the payment right away. Just message me the details." I stated. "Excellent, have a great rest of your day Dr. Pierce." She replied in a chipper voice, then she hung up. I couldn't bring myself to get rid of the house yet. James loved that house, and it took us months to find one that we both liked. So instead of selling it I rented it out, thinking one day I would be able to go back. That day hasn't come yet. My phone buzzed again and it was an invoice from Chloe for the water heater. $1,500 for a new water heater?! I apprehensively sent her the payment and tucked the phone back into my pocket. The doors swung open and in walked Ryan. Carrying a brown paper bag. I smiled when I saw him. "Figured I would find you here." He said setting the paper bag on the counter. "What's that?" I asked gesturing at the bag with my pen. "Lunch." He replied. I glanced at the clock, it was 12:15. "Did you forget what time it was?" He asked. "I guess so." I replied. I pulled out the chair next to me and Ryan plopped down in it. He pulled two chicken salad sandwiches and 2 waters out of the bag. He handed one to me, and began opening his own. I stared at the chicken salad, I wasn't particularly fond of chicken salad but I didn't want to hurt his feelings. "Don't tell me you don't like chicken salad." Ryan asked, already devouring his own. "Weeellll." I started, trying to think of what to say. Ryan raised his hand to stop me. "Before you say anything, try it. It's my Mommas recipe and she would be crushed to hear that you didn't try it." He said. I grinned at how he said "Momma" it was adorable. "What are you grinning at?" He asked with a little grin of his own. "Nothing." I lied unwrapping my own sandwich. Ryan watched expectantly as I took a bite. It was like nothing I had ever tasted before. I don't know what his mothers secret was but it was delicious. "It's delicious!" I exclaimed. "This has got to be the only chicken salad sandwich I have ever liked." I added, taking another bite. Ryan beamed at me and took another bite. "Told ya." He had a hint of pride in his voice. It was nice to see that Ryan was able to enjoy a family recipe. I don't think my family had any special recipes, as a matter of fact my mom didn't really cook at all that much growing up. She was too busy working, so was my dad. "So what are your parents like?" I asked. Ryan's face fell slightly. He took a drink of water and swallowed the bite of sandwich he had in his mouth. "My Momma is great. I call her at least once a week, if I didn't she would probably come over here and rip me a new one." Ryan chuckled and I laughed. "My daddy." Ryan started, shaking his head slightly. "He was a son of a bitch. He drank all the time, beat my Momma even beat me a few times." He took another drink of water and continued. "He died when our house caught fire. Good riddance if you ask me." Ryan had a hint of spite in his voice at the final sentence. "I'm sorry you had to go through that." I replied. The reaction he had at breakfast when I asked him about his dad and his hat all seemed to make sense now. My heart went out to him, although I didn't deal with abusive parents I often took of pediatric patients in Seattle with abusive care givers. I even had a best friend in high school with an alcoholic father who used to beat him. "What about your parents, what are they like?" Ryan asked. "Their boring." I said shortly. "C'mon really?" Ryan said, not seeming to believe me. "No really!" I exclaimed chuckling slightly. "We never went on family vacations, I was always put on the back burner because my sisters caused so much mayhem that my parents had to deal with them. My mom worked a lot, my dad was checked out half the time. Pretty typical white suburban household." I finished. Ryan's mouth was ajar slightly. "That sounds awful, you were like the invisible one in your family." Ryan said. "It really wasn't that bad. I had to mature fast and learn how to solve my own problems. Because of that I turned out better than my sisters." I laughed taking a drink of water. "Your lack of family love worries me." Ryan joked. "I have family. Riley, Cody, Alex, and Boomer are my family." I stated. Ryan smiled at that and took another drink of water. "Lunch is over." He said glancing at the clock. He started gathering up trash. "Leave it, I'll get it." I said stopping him. Our hands touched and we looked up at each other for what seemed like minutes. I moved my hand away and cleared my throat. "Have a good rest of your day." Ryan grinned, turning on his heels and walking out the door. "Yeah you too." I said softly after he had already left. After lunch we only had one patient come in. A gunshot to the leg. He had to stay overnight for observation, and since the night doc called in sick I was on night shift duty. I didn't mind night shift, it was like a whole different world. The people were usually more snarky and had a dark sense of humor, my kind of people. I was beginning to get tired so I notified the night nurse that I was going to take a nap, and to wake me if anything changed with our over nighter. I went into my office and closed the door. I peeled off my shirt and collapsed on the cot that sat in the corner of my office. As soon as my head hit the pillow I was out. I woke up to the feeling of something warm and wet below my belt. I opened my eyes and looked down to see Ryan sucking on my cock. "Ryan, what are you-" I began to ask but he silenced me with a finger to my mouth and continued to work my meat with his mouth. I had to admit it felt pretty good. He was better than Jon. I grabbed a fist full of his hair and forced him down on my cock more, making him deep throat it. He gagged slightly and I grinned devilishly. Ryan reached up with one of his hands and began playing with one of my nipples which sent a pleasurable sensation through my body like a lightning bolt. I arched my back slightly and moaned, letting the pleasure take over. Ryan stuck on of his fingers in his mouth and got a decent amount of spit on it before sliding it in between my legs and finding my hole, pushing on it slightly. He continued working my cock with his mouth as he slowly slid his finger into my hole. I moaned even louder this time and arched my back again. I shot a glance at the door to make sure no one heard me, but it was quiet out there. Ryan made his way up my body, paying particular attention to my nipples, licking and nibbling them. I was close to the edge but I wanted this to go on forever. "Are you ready to cum baby?" He growled in my ear, nibbling on my ear lobe. "Mmmm just a little longer." I pleaded. Ryan smiled and continued stroking my cock in his hand. "I want you to cum for me baby." He said again. He enveloped my cock in his mouth, it felt even better than before if that were possible. "Oh fuck... I'm gonna... Fuck I'm gonna cum!" I roared as I could feel my balls contract and the cum made it's way out of my cock and into Ryan's mouth. I bolted upright, gasping slightly. Sweat beaded on my body as I breathed heavily. Did I just have a sex dream about Ryan? I looked down at the rock hard cock I could feel pulsating in my pants, waiting to be released. I plopped back down on the cot, my breathing slowly returning to normal. I chuckled to myself slightly. "That was a hot dream." I though to myself. That was the first time in a while that I hadn't had the nightmare about James. It was nice to have something different for a change. "Well, while I still got the image in my head." I thought. I reached my hand into my pants and began feeling the rock hard erection that was contained within. I felt the tip and it was slick with an exuberant amount of precum. I swiped my thumb across it, getting a decent amount and brought it up to my tongue licking it off. The bitter taste of my precum made me even harder as I slid my pants down around my thighs and began stroking my cock, using my precum as lube. With one hand wrapped around my cock and the other playing with my nipple, it didn't take me long to get close. I could feel my balls begin to tighten and then a pulsating feeling as I shot ropes and ropes of thick cum all over my chest and stomach. I gasped at the powerful orgasm, not wanting to alert anyone who may be outside my office. After the throbbing stopped, and the last of the cum leaked out of my cock, I grabbed my shirt and used it to wipe off my body. I pulled my pants back up and tossed the shirt in the dirty clothes bin next to my filing cabinet and relaxed back on the cot. Sun was beginning to come through the blinds and there was a slight knock on my door. I sat up on the edge of my cot and rubbed my face. "Yeah." I said. The door opened and Julie poked her head in. "Dr. Pierce? Oh sorry!" She said realizing I wasn't wearing a shirt and pulled her head out of my office. I chuckled. "What can I do for you Julie?" I asked pulling another shirt form my bottom desk drawer. I draped my stethoscope around my neck and walked across my office to the door, pulling it open. "Oh, hi! Good morning Dr. Pierce." Julie said nervously. "The patient that came in last night with the gun shot wound to the leg. He is ready to discharge we just need your signature." She handed me a tablet with discharge forms on the screen. I took the tablet and went to the patients chart. Vitals were normal, labs came back good, no bullet residue. I opened the discharge papers and signed them with the stylus and handed the tablet back to Julie. "Will that be everything Julie?" I smiled at her. I really liked Julie, she was my favorite nurse. "Yes, Dr. Pierce that is everything." She said hugging the tablet to her chest. "Excellent." I said walking past her. "Dr. Pierce!" She called out and I turned around. "Sorry about coming into your office and seeing.." She said gesturing at me. I laughed and shook my head. "You have nothing to be sorry about Julie. You didn't see much." I said. Thanking god she didn't come in 2 minutes earlier and catch me cumming my brains out. I turned around walked out of medical. I began making my way to the mess hall to get breakfast. When out of the corner of my eye I saw a little red head advancing on me. "Hey there!" Alex shouted, jumping on my back. I caught her and wrapped my arms around her legs carrying her on my back. "Hey Alex. Have you heard from Cody?" I asked, curious to know how Cody was doing on his boards. "He called last night after he took his first exam. He's a nervous wreck, but I calmed him down." She smiled devilishly. "Did you use your god given talents." I asked with a smirk. "You know I did." She replied with a laugh. "The kid's taking his boards?" Boomer joined in from the left. "Yep! Next time you see Cody he'll be a full blown Trauma Physician." I stated proudly. "If he passes." Boomer said skeptically. "He'll pass!" Alex and I shouted in unison. Boomer held up his hands as a sign of peace. The breakfast hall was packed this morning, voices and laughter could be heard all around. Riley was already there and of course he pressed me with more questions about Ryan. Which I dodged at every chance I could get. "Just tell me one thing." Riley pleaded holding a hot cup of coffee in his hand. I looked over at him expectantly, waiting for the question I knew was coming. "Is he a good kisser?" Riley asked. Everyone looked at me waiting for a responsive. "We haven't kissed yet." I replied taking a drink of coffee. "Are you serious Ell?" Riley looked appalled. "I've only known him for like a week!" I exclaimed, laughing slightly. "You move slower than my 80 year old grams." Boomer teased. "Shut up." I said tossing a potato piece at Boomer who shielded himself and laughed. The day seemed to go by even more slowly. I spent some time with Alex in the shop, keeping her company while she worked on a surveillance drone. She didn't press me for juicy gossip about Ryan, but instead had a real talk with me about it. Which is something I really needed. "So what are you afraid of Ell? Ryan seems like a sweet guy." She asked while she worked over the drone with her tools. "Yeah that's the problem." I started, I got up and began pacing. "They all seem nice at first and then they only want one thing. Which is fine, but I don't want that from him." I explained. "Do you think maybe the reason why you won't let go and make yourself vulnerable is because of James?" She asked, still not looking up from her drone. This is what I loved about Alex, she wasn't afraid to ask the serious questions. "I mean, maybe." I said, Alex looked up her drone and cocked an eyebrow at me. "Okay. Yes." I admitted sitting back down at the stool opposite her. She smiled and pulled her gloves and goggles off, putting them on the table next to her drone. "Look, I'm not denying that what happened to you isn't completely fucked up." Alex began, "But you need to move past it." She finished looking into my face. I sat there in silence, thinking about what she had just said. "I mean Ell c'mon!" She threw her arms up and let them fall to her sides. "You were in a gun battle with the guy, he saved your life, you pulled an arrow out of his leg, he's been shamelessly flirting with you since you two met and he's been hanging around ever since. The guy has got mad feelings for you." Alex counted all the things on her fingers as she went. "I know, I know." I said, putting my hands behind my head. I felt defeated. "Here's the real question you need to ask yourself." She said pointing at me. "Do you like him?" She added placing her hands on the workbench. I thought about it for a second. I did like Ryan, I liked his corniness, his laugh, his cute drawl when he spoke and the fact that he seemed like a nice and genuine person. "I do." I admitted. Alex smiled and pulled her gloves back on. "Then that's all that matters." She said, and began working on her drone again. Alex was right. If I liked Ryan then what's the harm in testing the waters? Later that day I heard from Cody, who was still in the process of taking his boards. He was a nervous wreck and I had to talk him down. "Cody, I wouldn't have kept you around if I thought you were an idiot." I stated firmly staring at him on the video monitor. I had just gotten out of the shower and I was dripping wet, with a towel hanging loosely around my waist. "Well the last exam I feel like I bombed it, what if I fail?" Cody had a hint of panic in his voice. "Well then you better pack your bags because your going home." I laughed. "What?!" Cody shouted a look of panic crossed his face. Apparently he didn't get my joke. "Cody, I was joking. You'll be fine, you got this. Just remember everything I taught you." I replied reassuringly. Cody looked over his shoulder at something and then turned back to face the screen. "My name just got called, I gotta take my last test." Cody looked like he was going to throw up. "Good luck buddy. You'll be fine." I said. Cody didn't look reassured as the video call ended. I began drying off and looked at myself in the mirror. I felt like I was gonna be sick, I was so nervous. Ryan was going to be here in an hour and all I wanted was to just disappear so I wouldn't have to face him. It had been so long since I had been on a date. What if I screw up? What if he realizes he actually doesn't like me? What if he tries to kiss me? That last thought stopped me dead in my tracks. While I have thought of the possibility of kissing him, and the thought alone made me get butterflies in my stomach. I didn't know what I would do if I was faced with the moment. "You'll be fine." I said to myself as I got dressed. "It's just a date..." I stopped dead in my tracks. "A date with a sweet, handsome Texas boy, who is both rugged and charming..... I can't do this." I panicked walking back to my bedroom. At that moment there was a knock on the door. I spun wildly around for my clock hanging on the wall. It was 6. "Don't panic, don't panic, don't panic." I repeated over and over in my head as I approached the door. My hand reached out for the handle and before I knew it I was opening the door to welcome a sight I was both looking forward to and dreading all at once. Ryan was dressed in a pair of jeans, with boots, a nice short sleeve button down that hugged his biceps. Atop his head was his signature Longhorns baseball cap. I smiled at that and stepped aside to let him in. He walked through the threshold and took in my small home. There wasn't much to it. The front door opened to a tiny foyer, beyond that was the living room which contained a fireplace I never used, a couch and an oversized arm chair I sometimes read in. The kitchen was attached to the living room, separated by a small island that I ate breakfast at. The cabinets contained glass panes and there were stainless steel appliances. There was a tiny little breakfast nook with a small bay window on the far side of the kitchen. Opposite the foyer was the hallway which led to a guest room, my bedroom and the only bathroom. Ryan looked around with a slight grin on his face. His eyes landed on a portrait of downtown Seattle at sunrise, with the Space Needle in the foreground. "This is really nice." He said taking in the picture. "Where did you get this?" He asked. "Oh, I took that." I said with a hint of shyness. Ryan looked at me wide eyed. "You took this?" He asked, looking surprised. "Yeah, it was at a park that was close to my house." I explained. "It's beautiful." Ryan stated, he looked at me and there was a glint in his eye. "Thanks." I said with a grin. I looked him over again and smiled. "You look nice." I added. "So do you." Ryan smiled back. Compared to Ryan I felt under dressed. I was wearing a pair of jeans, with boots, and a plain olive green t-shirt. Which was my favorite color. My mom always told me green brought out my hazel eyes more. "Thanks." I said again. Ryan looked at his watch. "We should probably head out, we don't wanna miss it." He said. "Miss what?" I asked opening the door and letting him pass through, I caught a whiff of his cologne and it nearly made my knees buckle, how did he always smell so intoxicating. "It's a surprise." He replied, stepping down the front steps and walking towards his truck parked in front of my house. I locked the door behind me and followed him. He drove a black Chevy with a slight lift on it. Not too much to send off douchebag vibes, but enough that it looked nice. He opened the passenger side door for me and climbed in. I had never had a guy hold a door open for me before. It felt kind of weird. He closed the door and walked around to the driver seat and hoped in. He fired up his truck and we drove off down my street. I looked around his truck. It was immaculately clean, which was crazy seeing as we lived in the desert. I looked in the backseat and spotted a blanket and two pillows. My gaze paused for a second. He didn't think we were going to be doing anything sexual tonight did he? Did I get thr wrong impression from Ryan? Ryan turned on a dirt road and began driving out into the blackness of the desert. It kind of worried me that we were going out so far. What was he planning? I looked in the mirror as the lights of Fort Bakersfield got dimmer and dimmer as the night enveloped us completely. The only source of light now was from Ryan's headlights. I glanced over at Ryan who kept looking up at the night sky through the windshield. I tried to see what he was looking at but all I could see were stars, which wasn't anything special. At the Fort we could see them all the time. "This should be good." Ryan said as he stopped the truck and put it in park. He killed the engine and flashed me a smile. "Just wait until you see this." He added. He hopped out of the truck and opened the back door, grabbing the blanket and pillows. He glanced at me from the back door and noticed I was still sitting in my seat. "C'mon, your gonna love it. Trust me." He said. I climbed out of the truck and met him at the back, he dropped the tailgate and threw the blanket down and handed me a pillow. He climbed into the bed of the truck and offered a hand for me. I took his hand and climbed up into the bed of the truck with him. He sat down on the blanket and laid down with his head to the front of the truck and placed his pillow under his head. He patted the spot next to him and grinned. I tossed the pillow down and put my hands on my hips. "Listen, I don't know what your plan is but I don't do this sort of thing on the first date." I said. Ryan's grin quickly melted and turned to a look of confusion. "What are you talking about?" He asked. "Seriously dude? Blanket, under the stars, in the bed of your truck. I'm not gonna sleep with you." I explained. Ryan started laughing. Why the fuck was he laughing? "Seriously? Why are you laughing? It's not funny!" I shouted. "No, it is." Ryan continued laughing. "Fuck this." I said turning around. "Wait, wait, wait." Ryan said quickly, springing to his feet and taking my hands. "I brought you out here, to get to know you. In the peace and quiet, where you could feel like you could be yourself without having to worry about who needs saving and I don't have to deal with the pressures from the Fort. That's it, I promise. No strings attached." Ryan explained. I didn't respond, I couldn't tell if he was telling the truth or not. "Look up." He commanded, not letting go of my hands. Reluctantly I looked up, and to my surprise I saw two bright objects flash across the sky before breaking up on the horizon and disappearing. "A meteor shower." I whispered, my mind in awe over the beauty. "Yeah, this is why I brought you out here. I love meteor showers, and I was hoping that you would too." Ryan explained. I looked at him and he had a hopeful expression on his face. "Truthfully, I've never seen one before." I admitted. Ryan looked shocked. "What?! Oh, your gonna love it!" He said excitedly. He let go of my hands, to my disappointment, and laid back on the blanket where he was before. I laid next to him and placed my own pillow under my head. The sky was absolutely stunning, every star in the sky was out, shining bright and putting on it's best display. A few more meteors shot across the sky. Ryan was right, I loved this. "Out here I feel a slight freedom." Ryan broke the silence. I looked over at him. "On the base I feel pressured all the time. Being a sergeant of the base police isn't easy. Some of those guys that died last week were men that I patrolled with all the time." Ryan continued looking up at the sky as he spoke. My heart went out to him, losing fellow men had to be hard. "I'm sorry. That has to be difficult to get through." I said sympathetically. "It sucks, but it's the reality we live in right? Good people die, and there's nothing we can do about it." Ryan responded. He looked over at me and smiled. "Look up, your gonna miss the shower." He added. I chuckled and looked up toward the sky. "So why did you leave Austin?" I asked. "I know it's because you wanted to start over, but what were you starting over from?" I added. There was a long pause and then Ryan finally spoke. "My brother, David." He said softly. "You have a brother?" I asked. "Had, a brother." Ryan hung onto the word "had" placing emphasis on it. "Oh." I said shortly. "What happened?" I asked. "David and I led completely different paths. He was a little bit of a trouble maker, didn't go to college, worked a dead end job. But he seemed happy, so I didn't think anything of it. Growin up our daddy was more rough on him than me. There was a couple of times I had to save David from our father, take the beatings for him, or pull our dad off of him, that sort of thing. One morning I got a call on the radio, my partner and I were the first to respond. The report was a gunshot, just a single gunshot. We almost didn't go because the call came from some small community in the outskirts of Travis County. I mean it's Texas, everyone owns a gun and a single gun shot could be anything. But we decided to head out there anyway." He paused. "You don't have to tell me." I said, I had a feeling I knew where this was headed. "No, it's okay. I wanna tell you." Ryan sighed and continued his story. "So we showed up at the scene. We were out on some country road way out in the boonies and I spotted my brothers truck. My heart immediately dropped, and I knew something was up. I ran to his truck but it was empty, his pack of cigarettes sitting on the dash. I looked out in front of the truck and that's when I spotted him. Lying on the ground in a pool of his own blood, with a gun lying next to him. I ran over to him and grabbed him, holding him in my arms. It wasn't until a few moments later that I realized he had shot himself in the head." I looked over at him, I could see a single tear fall down the side of his face. I had never seen a man as tough as Ryan shed a tear before. "I had no idea that David was dealing with those demons. I wish he would have told me. But I guess it wouldn't have made a difference anyway." Ryan paused again and then continued. "After that I couldn't go anywhere, I couldn't do anything without thinking about David and seeing him just lying there. So when the Army of The Pacific Republic reached out to me to come over here and lead my own unit, I decided to jump on the opportunity." Ryan wiped the tears from his eyes, he hadn't noticed that I was watching him. Which was probably for the best. "I still have nightmares about that night every now and then. Sometimes my brother will even talk to me." Ryan finished. I reached over and grabbed his hand, interlocking my fingers with his. His hand was warm and rough, but slightly soft at the same time. Ryan looked down at our hands, then at my face. I gave him a slight smile. "I'm sorry that happened to you." I replied with an empathetic tone. His pain resonated with me on such a deep level. I don't know if it was his sharing that made me share, or the fact that I felt connected to him that I decided to open up to him a little more. "That ex of mine that I lost. He died." I said shortly. I stared up at the sky and watched as a couple more meteors passed over. If I was going to tell Ryan this, I couldn't look him in the face or I would probably lose it. Ryan started to turn his face towards me. "If you look at me I won't be able to talk about it." Ryan's face looked back up at the sky and he gave my hand a slight squeeze. "I had just worked an extra shift at the hospital. I needed all my hours before I could take my boards and they needed the help because of the Northern Flu. I missed our anniversary because of it and James wasn't too pleased with me. He had been feeling sick and neither one of us thought anything of it because nobody knew anything about the Northern Flu when it first emerged. I came home after working a 24 hour shift and found James in the kitchen dead. He had bled out, and went into respiratory distress. I remember thinking why not me too? Why did James get sick, but not me? They tested my blood and it turns out I'm immune. Unfortunately James wasn't so lucky." I wiped a couple of tears from eyes with my free hand. Ryan was squeezing my hand, still staring up at the stars. "Like you, I sometimes have nightmares about finding James. But it's always the same. I go downstairs, get coffee, go back upstairs and he's dead. Except, he attacks me and I always wake up when he lunges at me." I confessed. Wow, I couldn't believe I just told him all of that. Any tI've now, he's gonna let go of my hand and tell me it's time to go. Then he's gonna drive me home and I'll never hear from him again. "Wow. I'm sorry about that." Ryan said keeping his hand interlocked with mine. Wow, this man surprised me at every turn. "It's okay. It feels nice to finally open up to someone else about it. The only person I have ever talked to about it was Riley." I confessed. "I'm sorry." Ryan grinned. "Hey!" I punched him on the shoulder and he laughed. "He's a good best friend." I added defensively. "I know, I'm just givin you a hard time." Ryan replied still laughing. I laughed with him and looked back up at the sky and began to see several bright objects start flashing across the sky. "Hey look! It's starting." I said nudging Ryan. It was incredibly beautiful, each of the meteors shot across the night sky and broke apart, it was like watching a firework show put on my by the cosmos. "Isn't this the most beautiful thing ever?" I asked in amazement. "Hmm, well I would say second to something else." Ryan replied. I looked over at him and he was staring at me. "God, you are so corny!" I shouted, and started to laugh. Ryan just smiled and began moving his face closer to mine. My breath caught in my lungs as I realized what was happening. He was coming in for a kiss, was I ready for this? Our faces were inches from one another, I could feel the heat from his breath dance across my lips. I mean there was that time at medical when I caught him from falling on the floor, but we didn't kiss that time. Wait was I meeting him halfway? Maybe I was ready for this. I closed my eyes and I felt his lips softly press against mine. His stubble tickled my face, but I liked it. I parted my lips and invited his tongue into my mouth, which he obliged. Our tongues danced around in our mouths, like they had been doing it their entire lives. I wrapped my arms around his neck and he grabbed the back of my head, pulling me closer to him, his other hand resting on my waist. Kissing him made me feel like I was flying. I had never felt that with anyone else. Not even James. We broke apart for a second and we looked into each other's eyes. Behind his bright blue eyes I felt like I could see inside him, inside his heart. "Is this okay?" He asked. I grinned and nodded my head. "It's better than okay." I replied and pulled him into me for another kiss.
  13. zanoGreen

    The Aftermath

    Sorry this chapter is not finished yet. Idk why it keeps trying to publish it when I'm still working in it. Stay tuned guys!
  14. zanoGreen

    The Aftermath

    Here's the thing about the world we live in, it changes you. I used to be happy, content, never having to worry about dying from a killer virus, being blown up in a war, or worrying about whether I would ever see my fiance again. But if the past decade has taught me anything, it's taught me that I was fortunate with the life I had before everything went to hell. "Keep pressure on that!" I yelled at a wide eyed young woman, as she held a piece of bloody fabric to a mans leg. The man was writhing around, moaning in pain. I looked wildly around for Cody, there was so much chaos that I couldn't see him. Where the bonfire was, now lay a smoldering pit with splintered wood. Flaming logs lay scattered across the desert along with the lifeless bodies of the people who were once enjoying a fun party. Screams and yelling were echoing across the desert as people ran in multiple directions. "Ah, my leg! My leg!" Groaned the man I was tending to. I observed his leg, a piece of splintered wood was sticking out of it, just narrowly missing his femoral artery. He was lucky. "You'll be fine." I told him splinting off the injury. I looked at the young woman who was assisting me. "Get him up to the jeeps now, evac should be here any minute." I commanded. She nodded her head and helped me raise the man to his feet who yelped in pain. I turned and ran to the next wounded person, who lay some 10 feet from where I was originally. It was a woman, probably in her 30's. 3rd degree burns covered her body, her eyes frozen open. I checked for a pulse, nothing. I hung my head for a second then looked up when I heard a war cry. Running towards me was a Rager, holding a hatchet above his head. I pulled out my sidearm and shot him straight between the eyes, he fell to the desert floor with a thud. "Everyone fall back to the jeeps!" I heard a man yell. There was a loud boom from a grenade that someone threw at the group that was advancing on us. I looked around while staying crouched to the ground. Most of the people I could see were lifeless. I couldn't help them, especially if I were dead too. I sprang to my feet and began running towards the jeeps some 400 yards away. Explosions went off around me, spraying dirt and sand at me, but I just kept running. An explosion went off close to me knocking me to ground and knocking me out of my senses. My ears were ringing and everything seemed like it was going in slow motion. "This is it. I'm gonna die." I thought to myself. I felt a set of arms wrap around my middle and help me to my feet, I slumped against a solid but yet soft and warm surface. I glanced over and a blurry face came into focus, and I recognized the person as Ryan. "Elliott, are you okay?!" Ryan yelled, concern in his voice. I nodded my head slightly. "Y-yeah, I'm fine." I stood up straighter, resisting the urge to let myself just be held by this handsome man. "Okay, now run!" He yelled, grabbing my hand in his and continuing the path I was on towards the jeeps. Shots rang out as people fired towards the group of Ragers that weren't far behind us. I knew once we got to there, we would be safe. Once we reached the infantry line Ryan let go of my hand and turned to join the line, pulling out his sidearm and assisting with holding back the horde. I immediately began assessing people. Most of them just had cuts and scraps, but some of them had impalement injuries, blunt force trauma, or were missing entire limbs. I attended to the most critical first, splinting off a man's severed arm to prevent him from bleeding out. "Ell!" I heard someone yell. I turned to see Riley running towards me, the left side of his face was bloody from a gash he had received. "Riley!" I yelled jumping up and embracing him in a hug. "I thought you were a goner, I couldn't find you." Riley said releasing me from his bone crushing bear hug. "No, no I was in the trees when the first explosion went off." I explained. Riley gave me a confused look. "What were you doing in the trees?" He asked. "Nevermind that," I waved my hand. "Where's Cody?" I asked a hint of worry in my voice. "Over here attending to wounded." Riley said pulling me past the jeeps where wounded were hunkering down until help arrived. Cody was performing a procedure on a man who gushing blood from his leg. "Cody what have we got?" I asked kneeling across from him. "Oh Dr. Pierce! Am I glad to see you!" He shouted. "Shrapnel to the femoral artery. I'm trying to stop the bleeding but I can't get it." Cody continued. I looked at the man, he was losing consciousness fast as he lost precious blood out of his leg. "Slow the bleed, he needs to be able to make it back to medical." I commanded. "Yes Dr. Pierce." Cody acknowledged. About 20 yards away a helicopter began to descend on the site. I slapped Cody on the shoulder to get his attention. "Get this man on that chopper and go with him back to medical! I'm gonna round up all the injured that can walk to go back with you!" I shouted. "What about you?!" Cody asked with worry in his voice. "Don't worry about me! Worry about these patients!" I commanded. Cody nodded his head and him another burly man, who I recognized as a Nurse, helped the man to his feet and began dragging him across the ground towards the chopper. "If you are injured and can walk, get to the chopper!" I shouted pointing towards the helicopter. With that half a dozen people began slowly progressing towards the chopper. I looked around for more wounded but I couldn't spot any. I pulled my gun from my holster and ran back to the infantry line. They were holding the horde back as best as they could, but backup would need to arrive soon or they would overpower us. "Launching RPG!" I heard Boomers voice yell out, followed by a large explosion in a group of Ragers. I settled next to Ryan, taking aim at any head that was running towards us. It was odd how Ryan's presence in that moment made me feel calm and at ease. No one had ever had that effect on me besides 2 people. Riley and James. "Argghhh!" Ryan yelled out, his right side buckling slightly. I could see him reach down for his leg and I followed his arm down to see an arrow sticking out of the front of his thigh. "Your hit!" I yelled dropping to one knee observing the wound. "I'm fine, I'm fine!" Ryan growled. I gripped the hole the arrow made, tearing it apart to get a better look at Ryan's leg. I inspected the wound closely, it looked as though it just hit muscle. "You'll make it!" I yelled with a smirk. Ryan grinned back and kept firing at the Ragers. Not even a minute later explosions began to go off in front of us. Laying waste to the last remnants of the Ragers that were advancing on us. "About goddamn time!" I heard a woman yell as 2 fighter jets screamed overhead. Everyone, including myself cheered throwing our fists up in the air, glad to be alive. Nothing remained, except the occasional body parts strewn here and there. Ryan stood there, trying not to put all of his weight on his right leg, arrow still sticking out. He winced slightly at the pain and I quickly ducked under his left arm, wrapping my right arm around his waist. We began walking towards one of the jeeps, while the others searched the area for any remaining Ragers. "I gotta get you back to medical and get this arrow out of you." I said. "I can't believe I got stuck by an arrow, how archaic." Ryan laughed slightly. "Well no one is allowed to have guns in the Republic. Only Police and Military." I explained. "How sad. In Texas everyone has a gun." Ryan stated. "Yeah I know, remind me to visit someday." I joked and Ryan chuckled. We made it to my jeep and I helped Ryan into the back seat, he laid down and I closed the door. I hopped into the driver seat and fired up the jeep, her engine roaring to life. The drive back was quick and bumpy, but Ryan stayed quiet most of the ride. I checked on him in my review mirror frequently. His perfect chest rising and falling at a gentle pace. I stole the opportunity to look at him more. His sandy blonde hair was mostly flat and unkempt, curling slightly upward around the ears, which were met by a full beard. His lips looked soft and kissable, I wondered what it would be like to have them pressed against mine. I shook the thought away slightly, not wanting to have that distraction. His skin was an olive complexion, and his arms had veins that were very noticeable. I followed one down his arm until it terminated at his forearm. He had tattoos on his hands, which I was surprised I didn't notice upon our first meeting. "If your gonna check me out you could always take a picture." Ryan stated. I jumped startled as his deep drawl broke the silence in the jeep. I was immediately embarrassed that he caught me. "In your dreams redneck." I retorted back. Ryan just smiled, closing his eyes. That smile, it was killer. The same two guards as before waved me through the gate, I waved as I passed and they tipped their helmets at me. The base was surprisingly calm, except of course for medical. A chopper took off and headed back in the direction of Hart Park, presumably to pick up the dead that were left behind. I screeched to a halt in front of the medical tent and hopped out of the jeep. I opened the back door and gripped Ryan under the arm to help him onto the ground. "I got it, I got it." Ryan said in an annoying tone. "You don't got it, you can barely put weight on it." I stated. Ryan rolled his eyes. "Stop being a stubborn asshole and let me help." I commanded. Ryan shot me a look of surprise. "Yes sir." He grinned. I ignored him, and we crossed through the threshold of the tent. It was complete and udder chaos. Doctors and Nurses were scrambling around, trying to take care of patients. I spotted an empty gurney on the other side of the tent and motioned towards it. "Over there." I said pulling Ryan towards the direction of the gurney. He limped along side me and once we got to the gurney he hoisted himself onto it and laid back. I took out my trauma sheers and begun cutting up the leg of Ryan's pants, starting at the leg cuff. "Whoa whoa what are you doing?!" He asked grabbing my hand. "I need to be able to visualize the wound." I explained. "You can't just visualize through the hole that's already there?" Ryan asked, his cheeks were flushed. Was he being shy? "Do you want to lose your leg?" I asked placing my hands on my hips. He thought for a second before speaking. "Fine, but no checking me out." He joked. "Oh I'll fight the urge." I said sarcastically. He chuckled and positioned himself up on his elbows, observing me as I worked. I cut the rest of the way up his pant leg until I got to his upper thigh, I set my trauma sheers to the side and placed my hands on his leg around the arrow. His thigh felt muscular and tight in my hand, it had to have the same circumference as a redwood tree. Light blonde hairs dusted his legs and thigh. "Your lucky, it looks like it missed any major blood supply." I explained. I stood up and walked over to a glass medicine cabinet where we kept all of the heavy narcotics. I held my thumb to the lock pad and it gave a cheerful beep as the door popped open slightly. I found a vial that read 'lidocaine' and grabbed it, shoving it into my pocket. I closed the medicine door and waited for a beep to signal it was locked. I walked over to the bedside table next to Ryan and opened the top drawer grabbing a pair of gloves, a needle, and syringe. I pulled the gloves on and opened the package containing the needle and syringe. I held the vial upside down at eye level, sticking the needle into the bottle. Pulling back on the plunger for the syringe, I began to see the clear liquid begin to fill it. Ryan watched me work the entire time, paying particular interest in the vial. "What is that?" He asked. "Lidocaine, its a local anaesthetic. If I give you the right amount it'll block the nerve receptors in your leg so you won't feel any pain." I explained. I pulled the needle out of the vial and pushed any remaining air out of the syringe. "Is it gonna work?" Ryan said, a nervous tone in his voice. I looked at him with a grin on my face. "Well if it doesn't then we'll definitely know." I chuckled slightly. "That's not funny." Ryan said, but his face said otherwise as he fought back a grin. I sat down on the edge of the gurney and placed a hand on his knee. "It'll be fine." I had a calm expression on my face. Ryan met my gaze, I could definitely get lost in those eyes. They were like oceans, calm and warm. I cleared my throat and broke the gaze. I held the needle in my right hand and held his leg steady with my other, I began to aim the needle at a patch of skin just to the right of the arrow's entry point when Ryan grabbed my gloved hand. "Wait." Ryan spoke, a twinge of nervousness in his voice. "Ryan, I have to do this. If I don't the pain will be worse when I take the arrow out." I explained. "I know, I know I just," He paused hanging his head. "I get a little anxious with medical procedures." He met my gaze again and had a look of embarrassment on his face. "Fear of having no control, it's very common." I explained "That's not the reason why." Ryan stated. I racked my brain trying to think what kind trauma he had in his past that would make him anxious. He was calm and collected during the gun battle, but when it came to a minor procedure he seemed almost scared. "Hey. Your gonna be okay." I stated in a confident tone. Ryan let go of my hand and nodded his head. I picked up where I left off, aiming the needle close to the arrow entry point. I pushed the needle into Ryan's skin and he jumped slightly. "Sorry." I apologized. "It's fine." Ryan responded shortly. "Dr. Pierce!" I heard Cody shout from a couple gurney's over. I looked in his direction, still pushing the lidocaine deep into Ryan's tissue. "You need help over there?" Cody asked. "No I'm fine, you help the other patients." I ordered. Cody gave me a thumbs up and crossed the room to assist a patient with a head injury. "Your apprentice?" Ryan asked. "Yeah, he takes his boards next week." I said. I pulled the needle out of his leg and tossed it in the sharps container attached to the bedside cabinet. "He's an energetic kid ain't he?" Ryan looked amused, as Cody zipped from gurney to gurney. "Yeah but he's good." I defended. "I don't deny it, I'm sure he has a good teacher." Ryan grinned. "Your so corny." I responded. Ryan just chuckled. I grabbed my trauma sheers and cut the arrow shorter, throwing the tail in the bio-hazard trash. I grabbed a scalpel and began poking the site. "Can you feel this?" I asked, poking in different areas. "No." Ryan responded with a surprised expression. "That shit's amazing." He added. I chuckled slightly. "It's only gonna dull the pain, it's not gonna to get rid of it completely." I explained. "Roll on your side for me." I instructed. Ryan rolled to his side exposing the back of his muscular thigh. To my relief the arrow had went all the way through, the bloody arrowhead poking through the back shining in the fluorescent light. I reached into the bedside cabinet, producing a pair of hemostat clamps. I clamped onto the arrow, just below the tip. The clamps clicked as I tightened down, locking the clamps into place. "This might hurt a little bit." I stated. Ryan balled his fist and looked at me, nodding that he was ready. I pulled hard on the hemostat clamp and the arrow slid out of Ryan's leg in one quick motion. "Arrgh." Ryan groaned squeezing his eyes shut. I immediately grabbed handfuls of gauze and pressed down on either side of his leg, attempting to stop the bleed. "You okay?" I asked. I felt bad for causing him any pain. Ryan looked at me, nodding his head. "Yeah, I'm fine." I looked over at a Nurse taking inventory. "Hey Julie, can you grab me a ClotQuick please?" I asked. She looked up from her tablet and nodded, before turning around and disappearing into the supply closet. "So, come here often?" Ryan joked, a cocky tone in his voice. I just shook my head and grinned. "Why do I feel like there's more to you?" He asked. I knew he was just trying to get to know me, but I wasn't what you would call an open book. I was a closed book, with chains, and a lock with a lost key. "What you see is what you get." I said in a matter of fact tone. "Why do I get the impression that is not true?" Ryan peered into my eyes. I swallowed hard, no man has ever made me feel like this. Nervous, but not in a bad dangerous kind of way. I don't know if it was his eyes, his charm, or the fact that he seemed like a genuinely nice guy. But I just wanted to bury my face in chest and let him hold me while I told him my incredibly long, incredibly sad tale. "Here you go Dr. Pierce." Julie was back, and handed me the stitch kit. "Oh thank god." I thought to myself in a relieved tone. I wanted to end the awkwardness as soon as possible. I pulled the package open and pulled a smaller pouch out of it. The label read 'ClotQuick', it was a powder that we used on wounds. It immediately clotted the skin and the inside of the wound so it could heal, it was pretty amazing stuff. "Alright so this might sting, so bare with me." I said. I removed the gauze and tore the 'ClotQuick' open with my teeth. I poured the contents on Ryan's thigh, first the front side and then the back. It fizzled and bubbled as it worked, leaving a crusty white scab on the top of where the arrow hole once was. The entire time Ryan kept his gaze on me. I could tell he was trying to figure me out. "Stop it." I said, looking up at him. "Stop what?" Ryan grinned. "Staring at me like your trying to read me." I explained annoyingly. "I don't know what your talking about." Ryan still had a grin on his face. Damnit if he wasn't adorable and handsome. I began examining Ryan's leg. The ClotQuick appearing to have done a good job. "How does your leg feel?" I asked. "I don't know. I think it would feel better if you kissed it maybe?" Ryan smirked. I rolled my eyes. "Your fine." I stood up and began rounding everything up, tossing it in the bio-hazard bin. Ryan just chuckled and shook his head. He swung his legs out and began to stand up not realizing that his leg was still numb from the lidocaine. His leg gave out and I quickly caught him in my arms, our faces inches apart. I could feel his breath on my lips, it was intoxicating. Ryan cleared his throat before he spoke. "Thank you, I guess I still got my sea legs." We both chuckled slightly. We just stood there frozen, looking into each others eyes. My arms wrapped around him and him holding onto my waist for support. "Should I kiss him?" I thought. I could tell Ryan was thinking the same thing. I cleared my throat and spoke up in a low tone. "You need to stay until the lidocaine wears off." "I can do that." Ryan replied in a low, gruff, southern accent. Was our faces inching closer together? I jerked myself out of my thoughts. "Here you better sit back down." I said, assisting Ryan back onto the gurney. I was sad to break away from him, his body was warm, comforting, and even though he was muscular, soft. "Thanks, sorry." Ryan apologized settling back into the gurney. "That's okay. Just wait for the feeling to come back, once it does let me know and we can get you outta here. Okay?" I explained. "Yes sir." Ryan replied with a grin. I felt my stomach get butterflies, wow it's been a while since I felt that. I smiled back and turned on my heels, heading in Cody's direction. "Cody, how are things looking?" I asked. Cody looked up from his tablet and smiled. "All in all things are looking good. Most of the injuries sustained were minor, with a couple of impalement's mixed in there. The only losses were sustained out in the field." Cody had a cheerful tone in his voice. I smiled at him. "Good work Cody. Take the rest of the night off, go see Alex." I grinned taking Cody's tablet. "Alex?" Cody laughed nervously. "Why would I go see Alex?" He asked. "C'mon dude." I cocked an eyebrow at him. "You don't think I didn't notice you guys at the party tonight?" Cody blushed. "Is it that obvious?" He asked. "Yes, yes it is." I laughed. "But I'm happy for you." I added. "Thanks Dr. Pierce- I mean, Ell." He corrected himself after I gave him a stern look. He flashed a smile at me, turned, and walked out of the tent. I began flipping through the tablet to see the damage. 6 injured, 20 dead. I hung my head and ran my fingers through my hair. All because people wanted to celebrate my birthday, and looked what came of it. I looked over at Ryan, who looked up at the same time and gave me a grin. I grinned back and closed the tablet, docking it on the charger. I walked over to my desk and took a seat in the old chair, it creaked under my weight. I pulled a glass and a bottle of whiskey out of the bottom drawer. I uncorked the bottle and poured some of the amber liquid into the glass, watching as it sloshed around slightly. I took a drink, letting the liquid slide down my throat, burning as it went down. I relaxed back in my chair and stared up at the ceiling of the tent. "Happy Birthday Elliott." I thought to myself, and with that I downed the rest of the glass and slammed it on my desk.
  15. zanoGreen

    The Party

    I opened my eyes to see a handsome man lying on my chest. The morning sunlight peaked through the wood slats of the blinds and danced off the walls creating a peaceful atmosphere. I ran my fingers up the spine of the man making me his pillow. He breathed softly as I started at the base of his spine and traced the intricate rune tattoos that traced his vertebrae all the way up to his neckline. I ran my fingers through his thick brown hair and he stirred slightly. I looked over at the clock on the nightstand, the time read 7:45 AM. "Jaaames." I whispered in a deep sing song voice. "Honey, wake up. Your gonna be late for rounds." I said a little louder. James let out a long, low groan. "Coffee." He muffled into my chest. I chuckled. "Okay, I'll start coffee but you need to wake up and get dressed." I slid out from underneath him and retrieved a pair of boxer briefs from beside the bed. I gave him a soft smack on his bare ass before exiting the room, all James could muster was another groan. I chuckled again and shook my head. I made my way down the stairs and into the kitchen crossing over to the coffee maker. I grabbed the carafe and walked over to the sink to fill it with water. "Alexa TV on." I commanded. "TV on." A soft voice echoed back before the small LCD monitor on the kitchen wall flicked to life. "Still no news yet on a potential vaccine for the Northern Flu, which is estimated to have killed over 200,000 people worldwide..." The anchorman reported. I walked over to the coffee maker and filled it with the water from the sink, and then began scooping grounds into the filter before flipping the lid closed and turning the coffee maker on. "Military presence is still heavy in Los Angeles, which has been a hotbed for the virus since its first occurrence in the United States 2 months ago..." The anchorman continued. I glanced out the kitchen window where downtown Seattle was being bathed by a gorgeous sunrise, even Mt. Rainier was visible. That was the nice thing about living in Queen Anne, the views never disappointed. The coffee maker beeped pulling me away from the view. I grabbed two coffee mugs out of the cabinet in front of me and poured coffee into both of them. I put cream and sugar in James', he didn't like black coffee and could never understand how I liked it black. "I like it black like my soul." I recalled telling him sarcastically on our first date. He laughed and slapped my arm shaking his head. I smiled at the memory and grabbed both coffee mugs in my hands. "Earlier today the national guard moved into Portland, which has been the site of numerous, violent protests..." An anchorwoman began to report. I made my way out of the kitchen and up the stairs, the steps creaked under my weight showing the age of the house. James loved this house, "character" is what he called it, to me it was an old house with repairs in the foreseeable future. I walked into the bedroom and noticed James was still lying in bed, I chuckled and set his coffee on the nightstand next to him. I took a drink of my own coffee and crossed over to the window. "C'mon babe, time to get up." I opened the wood blinds, letting sunlight poor into the bedroom. James didn't stir. "C'mon James, if your late for rounds Dr. Cross will give you scut work. You'll be knuckle deep in rectal exams all day." I laughed as I sat down next to him. I placed a hand on his shoulder and shook him slightly. "James." I paused, no response. My pulse quickened as I shook him again. "James." I said again a little louder. James' opposite hand quickly reached up and grabbed my forearm. He had a death grip on me, his hand was bloody with slight cuts on the back. "James what are you doin?!" I shouted, his grip tightened. I tried to pull away but his grip was too strong for me. His breathing sounded raspy and crackled as he turned his head around to face me. Every muscle in my body tightened as I stared horrified at him. There was blood coming from his eyes, it ran down his cheeks and dropped off his chin. "James, l-let go!" I stammered pulling away from him. His grip only tightened more. I was helpless, I pulled and pulled against him with all my might, but somehow I was getting weaker. The more I pulled and fought him, the weaker I got. He lunged at me and I yelled falling to the floor. "Dr. Pierce! Dr. Piercel!" I heard a stern voice yell. I jerked awake, bolting upright. I was covered in a sweat and my breathing was quick. It was a nightmare. "Dr. Pierce. Are you okay?" The voice asked. I felt a rough hand on my bare shoulder and I jumped, my head bolting in the direction it came from. "Whoa relax. It's just me, Cody." He said in a calm reassuring voice. I exhaled, the warm touch calming me. I looked up at him weakly and my eyes met his. A look of care and concern floated around his bright brown eyes. "Was it another nightmare?" Cody asked, still remaining crouched next to me. I nodded slightly. "Yeah." "The same one?" Cody asked. "Yeah." I replied shortly. I rubbed my face with my hands and swung my legs out of the bed. Cody walked off to the other side of the room and began pouring liquid into a mug. He came back clutching a steaming black mug in his hand that I soon recognized as coffee. "Cody I've told you, you don't need to fetch me coffee." I said annoyingly as I took a drink. The warm liquid passed down my throat radiating warmth as it went down. "I'm your Apprentice, it's what I do." Cody replied winking at me over the rim of his mug as he took a drink. Cody Park was my best Apprentice. I've had 3 in the past and he's the only one that's made the cut, you could say I'm a little strict. But when someone's life is in your hands, there's no playing games. Cody came to the United States when he was just 8 years old. His parents sent him to Los Angeles to live with an Aunt to pursue a better life. His Aunt was killed in the big earthquake of 2023. Since the Pacific Revolution all traditional medical and nursing programs became oversaturated with applicants. So the military stepped in and began offering free apprenticeship programs, free of charge. When Cody finished his Pre-Med he joined the Army and became my Apprentice. I was protective over Cody, he was like the little brother I never had. "What are you doing in here anyways, your shift hasn't started yet." I eyed Cody curiously. "I was studying for the boards." Cody replied taking another drink of his coffee. "You need to take a break, your gonna fry your brain." I grinned, standing up. I crossed over to the sink in the corner of the room and splashed some water on my face. I peered at myself in the mirror, my hazel eyes looked tired being held up by thick bags. My short brown hair was disheveled, I ran my fingers through it, straightening it as best as I could. "I should say the same to you. Are you even supposed to be sleeping in here?" Cody questioned. "Do you think all these patients will mind?" I said sarcastically, gesturing around the tent at the empty gurneys. "True, but I worry about you boss. These nightmares, the sleeping in the medical tent-" "I like sleeping in here it's comfortable." I cut Cody off. "The only thing you need to worry about is passing your damn boards. Otherwise all your training and hard work is for nothing." I added sternly. I walked into my office, Cody hot on my heels. I came up to my desk and pulled a khaki shirt out of the bottom drawer. I pulled it over my head and it fit snug to my torso. That was one thing the Army did for me. I used to be out of shape, a bit of a belly on me not very big. But after a few years of being in the service I packed on muscle, lost the belly and became the type of man I used to stroke my cock to every night. I opened the top drawer and pulled out a thin silver chain, with two engagement rings attached to it. I put the necklace on and tucked the rings inside my shirt, they rested in the center of my chest. "Medical come in, over." A rough southern drawl came over the radio. I picked up the radio off my desk and clicked the button down on the side. "This is Dr. Elliott Pierce, over." I replied. "Get down to the river in the old Hart Park, we need medical, over." The voice replied shortly. "Could you be any more vague? Over." I questioned, sarcasm dripping from my voice. There was no response. I rolled my eyes and clipped the radio to my belt. "Grab the bag Cody, we got work to do." I said walking towards the doors. I grabbed my navy blue scrub jacket on the way out just in case, tying it around my waist. "Your the only person I know who ties their scrub jacket around their waist." Cody chuckled following close behind with the medical backpack. "It's hot outside, and this is my last shirt. I don't wanna get shit on it." I replied. Cody just laughed. I pushed the heavy metal doors open and the hot desert air hit my face like a brick wall. It always felt like the inside of an oven here in Fort Bakersfield during July. A light breeze blew threw, rustling the leaves on the desert palms. I hopped in the Jeep and fired up her engine, she roared to life. As soon as Cody got in the passengers seat I pressed down on the accelerator and we drove off down the gravel road towards the highway. "Where are we going?" Cody asked. "Hart Park." I replied. We came to the gate and two guards waved us through after I flashed my badge. "Safe travels Dr. Pierce." One of the guards said as we drove past. I turned right and began racing down the highway. "Isn't Hart Park Rager territory?" Cody asked, a hint of nervousness is his voice. "Yep, so keep your head on a swivel." I replied. Bandits, or Ragers as we like to call them, are mostly outcasts of society. Most of them were homeless people and drug addicts who had no place to go after the big earthquake of 2023. They like to use this drug called Rage, a type of amphetamine that is cooked up using common household chemicals similar to meth. They're crazy, barbaric, and have no civilization left in them; traveling in packs robbing, raping, and killing. I glanced over at Cody, his short black hair whipped slightly in the wind coming through the window. There was a slight look of worry on his face, as he stared out the windshield. "Something on your mind bud?" I asked. "I've never come in contact with Ragers before." He replied. "It'll be okay, just make sure your sidearm is loaded and ready to go at any moment." We turned down a single lane road. "You'll be fine." I chuckled, giving him a couple of slaps on the chest. He turned his head and grinned at me. 15 minutes passed and we turned down a dirt road and came to a halt behind a humvee parked underneath a tall shaded tree. Cody and I hopped out of the Jeep and made our way down towards the river. I couldn't see anyone in the distance. 'Something's not right.' I thought to myself. I pulled my sidearm out of it's holster on my side. I released the clip into the palm of my hand, full clip. 'That'll do.' I thought, pushing the clip back into the gun and loading one in the chamber. I holstered it on my right leg and kept my steady pace toward the river. There was a grove of trees to my right, I watched them out of the corner of my eye staying prepared. I stopped and retrieved the radio off the back of my belt. "This is Dr. Elliott Pierce, we are on sight, over." Cody appeared next to me, his sidearm drawn. I motioned for him to keep an eye on the trees, he nodded in confirmation. "This is Dr. Elliott Pierce, where the hell are you guys? Over." I commanded into the radio. I looked around in every direction but there was no one. The terrain was relatively flat, so I would be able to see if there was someone advancing. "Ragers?" Cody asked, still watching the trees like a hawk. "No, this isn't Ragers. This place would be a disaster if it were Ragers." I explained. A rustling came from the grove of trees, I spun around pointing my gun at the direction of the noise. "There's something back there." Said Cody, pointed his gun in the direction of the noise. I began walking towards the trees, cautiously. I held my gun tight in my grip, my muscles tightened and I kept my breath calm. 'Please don't be Ragers, please don't be Ragers.' I kept saying to myself as I got closer and closer. Nothing really scared me, but Ragers, they scared the hell out of me. As I approached a large boulder just before the trees a hand reached out, grabbing my wrist. I panicked and jerked my grip away but I lost my gun on the ground. I turned around and began running in the opposite direction but I was tackled by something large and human like. We wrestled around on the ground for a little bit until the person thrust their forearm into my chest pinning me on my back. I looked around wildly for Cody, who was just standing there. "Cody what the hell are you doing?! Blast this fucker!" I yelled. But Cody just laughed, holstering his sidearm. 'What the fuck?!' I screamed internally. I looked at the person who tackled me, they were wearing a scarf wrapped around their face and had a buzzed head. The man pulled the scarf down around his neck and I instantly recognized the man as Boomer, our demolitions expert in the team. "What the fuck Boomer?!" I yelled, my blood beginning to boil. "Happy birthdaaay!" Boomer said in a teasing tone. "Fuck you!" I yelled struggling to get out from underneath him. I had forgotten today was my birthday. "Aww come on, upset that I finally bested you?" Boomer teased a little more. "You caught me off guard." I argued still struggling. Boomer was a large guy, 6'3" and stacked like a brick shit house. "Mmhmm." He grinned rolling off of me and retrieving his LA Dodgers cap, which had fallen off in the scuffle. "Y'all can come out now!" He hollered in the direction of the trees. "SURPRIIIISE!!" I bunch of voices yelled as I saw more people from my platoon and friends from the base start to make their way out of the trees. "Fuck off! You can all go home now!" I yelled back with a grin. I heard laughter as they approached me, some of them pulling me in for a one armed hug, others just slapping me on the back. I saw Cody leaning up against the large boulder that Boomer had hid behind. He was grinning ear to ear. "You knew about this?" I asked approaching him. "Yeah, well you never give yourself a break from medical and I figured you would forget your birthday." He replied. I smirked and threw my arm around his neck grabbing him in a headlock. "C'mon Dr. Pierce, let go!" He shouted in between laughs. I started giving him a noogie. "How many times have I told you to call me Ell?" I questioned, laughing as Cody attempted to escape. People were watching chuckling and pointing in our direction. "Fine, fine! Ell let go!" Shouted Cody, still laughing. I let him go and he stumbled backward slightly. "Happy birthday Elliott." I heard a familiar voice say. I turned around and came face to face with Jon. "Hey Jon." I said, rubbing the back of my neck slightly. Jon folded his muscled arms, his tan skin dazzling in the sunlight, left arm covered in tattoos. He was essentially a desert god sent from above, only he had a shit personality. A memory of me plowing my cock into his tight hole flashed across my mind, making the crotch of my pants tighten slightly. "I have a birthday present for you. Why don't I swing by medical later and you can open it." He stated giving me a wink. I saw Cody raise an eyebrow out of the corner of my eye. I chuckled shrugging my shoulders, "Maybe." I said shortly but he knew what I really meant was 'Yes.' He smiled before flicking his attention on Cody. "Maybe your Apprentice can join us? He'll be screaming Japanese expletives by the time I'm done with him." Jon had a cocky tone in his voice. I tensed up, my protective instincts kicking in, but before I could say anything Cody piped up. "The only Japanese I know comes off a take out menu." Cody crossed his arms across his chest, "And I'm Korean, you asshole." He added. Jon laughed, "Feisty, I like that." "If you come near me with that thing I'll slice it off with a scalpel and bury it somewhere in the desert. How's that for Feisty?" Cody had a challenging tone in his voice. I smirked, apparently I was rubbing off on him. Jon laughed louder and shook his head, "I like this one Ell." He began to walk past Cody and stopped next to him, leaning down and lowering his voice to a mutter that I could still hear. "Stay frosty kid." And with that he walked off. Cody scoffed, "What an ass." He said. "Yeah," I sighed "But he's a really good lay." Cody chuckled as I threw an arm around his neck, "C'mon let's get something to drink." I commanded, Cody just nodded. I didn't care much for surprise parties, even before everything went to hell. Maybe it was the trauma physician in me, that would be enough to get rid of your love for surprises. Maybe it was because the last person to throw me a surprise birthday party was James. "C'mon let's get some music out here!" I heard someone yell. "Hold yer horses, I'm working on it!" A thick southern drawl yelled back. It was the man from the radio. I looked over, letting Cody go from my grasp. The man was standing next to a large speaker, he wore a rustic orange baseball cap on his head that had a longhorns insignia on it. His green, 3/4 inch sleeve baseball tee, showing every muscle in his torso and biceps. He was flipping through what looked like a cell phone. He was a pretty hot guy, I could only imagine what the rest of his body looked like. He looked over and saw me staring, giving me a smile and a wink. I smiled back and looked away. At that moment Hypnotize by Notorious B.I.G. came on and everyone cheered as they began to dance. "I love old school hip hop!" A girl who couldn't be more than 20 yelled. I groaned and rolled my eyes turning to walk the other direction. "Happy birthday old man!" A voice called, snapping me out of my thoughts. I turned to my left to see Alex approaching me with a gleam in her eye. Her red hair flipped about in a tight ponytail. Alex Wilson was our mechanical engineer in the team. She was small and tiny, but scrappy as all hell, she could probably take me in a fight. She slapped me on the arm with a smile on her face. "Old man! I'm like 35!" I said incredulously. She laughed, "I could still take you." She turned to Cody, "Hey Cody." Cody blushed, rubbing the back of his head. "H-hey Alex." I knew that Cody had a thing for her, I tried to convince him to ask her out but he was too nervous. In fact I was almost certain Alex also had a thing for Cody. I could always tell these things, it was a curse in my eyes. "I'm gonna go talk to Riley." I announced, slapping a hand on Cody's shoulder. "You guys catch up." I walked backward away from them, Cody was shaking his head slightly. He was freaking adorable when he was nervous. "Get to know her!" I mouthed, signaling towards Alex where she couldn't see me. I gave him a wink as I turned on my heel and headed towards Riley. Riley Monroe was the weapons expert in our team. Him and I had been best friends since I walked on Fort Bakersfield 3 years ago, true we did fool around once but he was always just a really good friend. He was handsome; strawberry blonde hair, and sharp blue eyes. He had sleeve tattoos that ran from his wrists all the way up his arms. In fact he recommended the tattoo artist that finished my right sleeve last year. Riley was the only person I trusted to open up to, he knew everything about me and I knew everything about him, well at least I hoped. "Hey happy birthday buddy." He pulled me into hug, I got nose full of his scent he was wearing. It was a little woodsy, it was like one of the scents that brought a sexual nature out in you. Riley handed me a beer out of the red cooler sitting behind him. "Feel old?" He added sitting on the color with a devilish grin. "I almost broke a hip when I fell out of bed earlier." I joked. We both laughed. I took a seat on the cooler next to him. "What's the kid doing over there?" He pointed at Cody who was talking to Alex, who let out a laugh. That was a good sign, I hope. I took a swig of my beer. "Laying on the charm." I said with a grin. "Pfff, what charm?" Riley laughed. "He's got game." I replied, "What you think I teach him JUST trauma technique?" I added. Riley laughed again. "You really took him under your wing didn't you?" He looked at me. "Yeah, he's a good kid." I smiled still looking at Cody and Alex. "Do you have a thing for him Ell?" Riley nudged me with his elbow. I flashed him an incredulous look. "He's like my little brother, Riley." I replied. "Besides he's straight and he has a thing for Alex. Not to mention me fooling around with him is completely unprofessional and an abuse of my power." I added. "Okay, okay don't bite my head off." Riley raised his hands up. I grinned and nudged him with my shoulder. "Besides, your the only man I need." I said smooching my lips at him in a teasing manner. "I feel sorry for you then." He chuckled and took swig off his beer. I followed suit and stared off in the desert towards the direction of Fort Bakersfield. I could see a plane taking off, it's red lights blinking slightly. I wondered where it was going, who was in it, what was in it. "Do you ever think about going back?" Riley asked, knocking me out of my train of though. "Where? Seattle?" I looked at him and shrugged my shoulders. "I don't know, sometimes. There's too many memories there." I took another drink off my beer. "Of James you mean?" Riley asked. "Yep." I said shortly. "Well that's just as well. I heard after the war Seattle has gotten even worse with all those lovey dovey people running the joint now. You can't even flip off an asshole without getting an infraction." Riley said rolling his eyes. I just laughed and nodded my head. There was a moment of silence before Riley spoke again. "Have anymore nightmares lightly." He questioned. There was no use in lying to him, he could spot a liar from a mile away. I nodded slightly, "Yep." I said shortly. "Maybe you should talk to someone." Riley had a hint of concern in his voice. I frowned at him and he put his hands up, lifting his shoulders. "Hey all I'm saying is that every year around this time you start to have crazy nightmares about James. I worry about your man." He added. "Yeah, you and everyone else." I said with an annoyed tone. "Look, I'm always here. Next door in The Armory. I got you." Riley placed a hand on my leg. "I know, I'm just not ready to go through that right now. Things are finally starting to return to semi-normal ever since the outbreak and I just want to try and look forward to the future, instead of dwelling on the past." I explained, looking into Riley's face. He smiled and slapped my leg. "Hey, whatever makes you happy bud." He took a drink off his beer. "Oh, look at your boy!" He added pointing in the direction of Alex and Cody. I looked in the direction he was pointing his finger and I noticed Alex and Cody kissing. "See, told you, game." I said taking a drink off my beer. "I'll be damned." Riley had a hint of shock in his voice. We both looked at each other and clinked our bottles together before tipping the bottoms into the air. The cold beer washed down my throat in the most soothing fashion. Riley tossed the empty bottle over his shoulder and let out a loud belch. "Sexy." I said sarcastically. "You know it baby!" He motioned for me to stand up so he could open the cooler. I stood up and tossed my empty beer bottle on the ground. Riley dug around in the cooler but came back empty handed. "Damnit, looks like I'll have to run up to the jeep for more. Be right back." He slapped me on the shoulder and headed off in the direction of where the jeeps were parked. I took in the hot desert sun, pulling my shirt off which was sticking to my chest. "Woooo, take it off birthday boy!" I heard a woman call out. I just laughed and shook my head. I grabbed a nearby folding chair and positioned it next to the cooler facing it away from the crowd and towards the vast empty desert. "You know the party is the other direction right?" I craned my neck to see hot southern guy standing behind me. He had 2 beers in his hands, holding one out for me. "Thank you." I said taking the beer. Our fingers brushed and I felt a shiver roll up my arm. He sat down on the cooler next to me and took a drink of his own beer. "Names, Ryan." He held out his hand for me to shake. I took his hand and shook firmly. His hands were rough, but not too rough, and his grip was just right. A sexual feeling began to rise up in me, I quickly shoved it down. "Ell." I replied shortly. "Ell?" Ryan had a look of confusion on his face. "Like the letter?" He added. "Short for Elliott." I explained. "Ahh, I like Elliott. It sounds smart." He smiled at me with a glint in his eye. "Well I am doctor, so that makes sense." I chuckled. "You don't have to be smart to be a doctor." Ryan took a drink of his beer. "You calling me dumb?" I asked. "Wha-no, no." He had a look of embarrassment on his face. "Dude, it's okay. I'm just giving you a hard time." I said, laughing at how adorably flustered he looked. Ryan blushed and adjusted his hat. His sandy blonde hair curling slightly around the edges. I observed the logo on his hat, now that I could see it closer I could definitely tell it was a longhorns hat. "Texas Longhorns." I stated. Ryan flashed me a confused look. "Your hat." I added. "Oh! Yeah! Gotta show my Texas pride somehow." He smiled proudly. "Ahhh, so your a Texas boy?" I asked inquisitively. "Yep, born 'n raised. Came to the Republic a few months ago." Ryan took a drink of his beer. "I thought people in Texas hated the Republic?" I asked. "Oh they do." Ryan chuckled. "But I needed a fresh start, and the Republic was willing to provide that. Plus my record spoke for itself." He added. "Record?" I asked. "Three years in the Army Rangers, four years as Sargeant for the Austin PD." He explained. "Impressive." I responded shortly. "So what about you?" He asked "What about me?" I replied. "What brings you here?" He clarified. "Well I don't know if you've heard, but it's my birthday." I took a drink off my beer. "Ha ha ha, mister smart ass." He gave me a backhand on my shoulder and I laughed. "I was actually conscripted during the war. Then after the war they offered me the position of Chief Medical Officer and I took it. Been at Fort Bakersfield ever since." I explained. "Wow. That has got to be, the most boring story ever." Ryan laughed and I punched him in the arm. "Hey Tex! Get over here! Somethings wrong with the speaker!" Someone shouted over the crowd behind us. "Tex?" I eyed Ryan curiously. "It's a stupid nickname." Ryan explained. "Seems fitting." I replied. "Does it now?" Ryan smiled. "Tex!" The person shouted again. Ryan whipped his head around. "I'm comin!" He bellowed back. He turned his head back towards me. "I better go before they riot." "We wouldn't want that." I replied. We looked into each other's eyes for a bit, his blue eyes peered into mine like he was searching for something. "It was nice meeting you Ryan." I added. "Same to you Elliott." He grinned and turned on his heel, disappearing into the crowd of people. "What was that?" Riley was back holding a case of beer. "It was nothing." I grumbled, finishing the rest of the beer Ryan gave me. "Didn't look like nothing." Riley probed, trying to get me to spill. "We were just talking, he was a nice guy." I said flatly. "Mmmhmm, A nice guy with a hot body, a southern drawl that would make anybody wet, and the classic southern charm to boot." Riley teased. "Shut up." I chuckled slightly. Riley and I sat there drinking beer as the sun went down. He tried to get me to spill more about Ryan but I refused to. Truth be told I didn't think it was anything. Sure he was a handsome guy, and really nice. But he wouldn't want someone like me, I was like a damaged car with an expired warranty. Even if he was interested in me, I would only end up ruining him. Someone decided to light a bonfire and everyone, including Riley and I, started to gather around it. The flames rose high into the night's sky, sending off an orange glow to the surrounding area. I could see Ryan still manning the DJ role as Guns N' Roses blared out of the speaker. I had to admit, he had good taste. I observed the people around me. Most of them were laughing, drinking, and having a good time. I enjoyed the fact that even after a virus, an earthquake, and a civil war, that we were able to still find joy and happiness. Well some of them anyways. I looked towards the grove of trees to my left. They sat there empty, dark, and inviting. I just wanted to walk in them and be alone for 5, maybe 10 minutes. I turned and snuck away towards them, making sure no one would see me and attempt to stop me. Once I got past the first row of trees I exhaled. Freedom. Another year past, another year without James. True it had been 8 years, but I missed him everyday. I always thought about that day when I found him. The days leading up I knew he wasn't feeling well, but I had to go to work, my future as an ER Physician was more important. I beat myself up over that. I prioritized a fucking career over the man I loved. I kept walking until the trees enveloped me and I knew no one could see me. I sat on the ground and leaned against a tree. My cheeks were wet from the tears that flowed out of my eyes. I slammed my head back against the rough bark of the tree, growling as I did so. Why did James have to die? Why couldn't he have been immune like me? He was everything that was bright and beautiful in my dark and twisty outlook on the world. I laughed and smiled and put on a good front for everyone, but deep down inside I was dead, lifeless. That glint in my eye had faded out right after James died, and nothing had made it shine again. I heard a twig snap and I jumped to my feet, jerking my body in the direction it was coming from. I could see a tall brutish figure, the shadow walking slowly toward me. I put my hand on my sidearm, ready to fire at the first sight of danger. The figure stepped into my eyesight and I immediately recognized it as Jon. I exhaled sharply and let my hand fall to my side. "Damnit Jon! I could've shot you!" I hissed. He just grinned stepping closer to me. "Well then you would never get your birthday present." He joked. He approached me with on an inch to spare between our bodies. I could feel the heat radiating off of him as I looked into his steel grey eyes, which let out a glint, even in the lowest of light conditions. That's how he got me the first time, the eyes. "Just get out of here man." I replied. I wasn't in the mood right now. "C'mon, it's just me and you. No one is around. We could have a little fun." Jon put a hand on the tree trunk behind me and leaned in closer. I had to admit, I could use the distraction. He began running the back of his hand across my nipple through my shirt, my cock was beginning to harden in my pants. I grabbed his wrist firmly, he met my gaze with equal intensity. "What's the matter? Is that turning you on?" He whispered playfully in my ear. He licked my earlobe, slowly working his way down to my neck. I felt weak in the knees, my cock at full attention by this point. I turned my head towards the party, I could hear music and laughter but no one could see us. "Fuck it." I thought and began running my hands up his shirt. My hands glided over his firm belly and met his nipples, which I grabbed in between my fingers, pinching them slightly. Jon let out a low moan into my neck. Our lips met and we began to kiss, our tongues dancing in each others mouths. He quickly undid my belt and pants, they fell to the ground with a slight thud. He gripped all 8 inches of my cock in his warm hand and began to slowly jerk me off. I moaned into his mouth as I began to undo his pants. He grabbed my hands, placing them back on his chest. "Ah ah. Tonight's about you." Jon said, gripping my cock again. I had to be honest I liked the sound of that. He lifted the front of my shirt over the back of my neck to expose my chest. He grinned as he looked at the metal barbels in each nipple. "Those ain't regulation Doc." He said with a smile. "I won't tell if you don't." I replied with a grin. With that he took my right nipple in his mouth, licking and nibbling slightly. I tossed my head back and moaned, making sure not to be too loud. Jon always knew where my turn on spots were. He may not have been too bright, but he was a mastermind when it came to sex. He jerked my cock as he played with my nipples, I felt like I was in heaven. Jon swiped the tip of my cock and licked the precum off his thumb. "Mmm, I can't wait to have that in my mouth." He said with a devilish grin. He began licking me down my chest and stomach taking the time to kiss each scar, that I obtained from the war, along the way. I placed my hands on the top of his head as he ran his tongue up the underside of my cock, it jumped slightly at the attention it so greatly appreciated. Jon then slid the tip of my cock into his mouth and I moaned sharply. The feeling of warmth and wetness enveloped my cock like a velvet glove as Jon worked his way down to the hilt. "Ahhh fuuuuck." I moaned. Jon ran his hands up my torso and began pulling and pinching at my nipples. I had no words for the feeling that my body was going through right now. The only thing that would make this better is if Jon took off his clothes and sat on my cock. The thought of that alone pushed me closer to the edge as Jon kept sliding up and down my cock. He squeezed and worked my cock with his mouth like it was a masterpiece that needed to be finished. "I need to hold out just a bit longer." I thought to myself, wanting to enjoy this moment for a little longer. But my body and Jon had other plans in mind. Jon milked my cock with his mouth and I could feel the orgasm beginning to rise. "Oh fuck, Jon, fuck. Oh fuck Jon I'm gonna cuuum." I told him, but this only made Jon work harder as he was eager for my load in his mouth. I could feel the sensation start to travel down my cock as my balls tightened up closer to my body. "Fuuuuuck, I'm cummming!" I shouted so only we could hear. Jet after jet of hot cum flooded Jon's mouth as he deep throated me. My body convulsed slightly at the intense orgasm I just had, my cock continued to throb even though no cum was coming out. Jon milked me more, determined to get every last drop. I leaned my head back and chuckled slightly, my breathing quick. "Damn, did you get better at that?" I asked. Jon stood up to meet me face to face. "I gave it a hundred percent, just for your birthday." He winked, giving me a soft kiss. I just laughed and pulled my pants up, making sure everything was still on my belt. "I'm sure you say that to all the guys." I retorted pulling my shirt down. "What other-" Jon was cut off by a loud explosion that ripped through the air and sent a bright light across our once dark secluded space. There was screaming and yelling followed by a word that froze me to my core. "RAGERS!!!"
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