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    Celian
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Ink and Flowers - 8. Finley

Some talk about military trauma.

After a while of relaxed chatting about this and that, later accompanied by pizzas, the mood was pretty good. At least the mood of the others. I myself got a little nervous and offered to take down the accumulated trash directly during my cigarette break- no one objected.

When I stepped back into the apartment, Emmett was standing in the corner of the kitchen and even before I saw what exactly he was doing, I smelled the enticing sweet scent of peaches.

"Hey, would you like a bite?" he wanted to know without looking up. "I figured before they go to waste, I'd better cut them up. I'm sure a few vitamins will do the others good."

My mouth watered. "Sure." Honestly, I'm not a fan of fruits and vegetables, but I'd even ditch a world-class steak for peaches. As I took a piece from a plate, I got one of Emmett's gentle smiles that triggered a strange yearning inside me. I couldn't have put it more accurately into words, but as we both took a bite at practically the same time, that feeling was overridden by a rather clear desire and I felt my cheeks grow warm.

Hastily, I turned away and instead toward the large L-shaped couch where the others were already sitting. Mo was talking about his sister and I settled at the far end of the couch, wondering where Emmett was going to fit in now.

"So guys, vitamins for everyone.", Emmett announced at that moment and Mike groaned in annoyance while Ben laughed.

"Thanks, Mom."

"You better get a girlfriend.", Jake returned, rolling his eyes in representation of Emmett.

"Or a boyfriend.", Mike- already in a good mood again- followed up, making a dismissive gesture as Emmett set the plate of peaches down on the coffee table.

I chuckled and then was quite surprised when Emmett dropped between Mike and me, even though Jake and Mo had made room between them, and on top of that he pulled an ankle under him so that his left knee rested on my thigh. I mean, I didn't mind the physical contact, on the contrary, but it did seem a little strange.

From Jake came a clearing of the throat. "So, Finley... you said you worked with SEALs?" The opening might be a little clumsy, but it worked.

"Right. Several times." Somehow I was reluctant to go into more detail, but I looked to Noah, who was looking back curiously.

"What was the most impressive mission with my comrades?" he wanted to know, and I grimaced because it wasn't a hard question.

"Southeast Asia. We were searching for something on the coast of don't-know-where and were out on small boats and I was so sick to my stomach I wasn't any good for anything. We were also supposed to sleep on the boats for various reasons, but the constant rocking meant I could keep absolutely nothing down - until the SEALs took pity on me in the end and let me sleep on land."

"You're really not one for water, huh?" Emmett asked with gentle mockery, even before Noah could comment.

"Absolutely not," I answered honestly.

"This was a SEAL mission with magical support?" it came from Noah after all, and I nodded.

"Was only a subunit of ours involved, too." Whereas I had been selected to provide air support if needed, but for quite a while I was so seasick that I probably couldn't have flown.

Noah nodded and Ben asked: "How are MORRTIMER units structured? Well, if you don't mind me asking..."

With a little research, he would have found the info on the Internet, too, so I didn't give away any big secrets with my answer: "A unit consists of 16 to 24 people, divided into two subunits. Usually a unit is built around one or two particularly powerful members."

"Isn't that dangerous?" Mo interposed critically. "I mean, taking one person as a center point?"

"You forget that the MORRTIMER are the elite," Noah said before I could, but admittedly it sounded less conceited from his side than it would have from mine. "That's where all individuals are to be taken with some caution."

That elicited an amused snort from me, and Emmett looked at me questioningly.

However, Noah was already continuing to speak. "I don't think this is common knowledge, but there is a MORRTIMER team codenamed Alpha Destruction. They've already reduced several cities to rubble."

The name made my face contort. Reason one: we had been Beta Destruction. Reason two: my sister Bethany, Call Sign 'Storm', was part of it. "That's mostly because of Messy, though."

"Lionel Messi?" Mike quipped.

"No, definitely not." Jake rolled his eyes, but Noah laughed as I screwed up my face even more.

"Messy is a mage with great talent for offensive magic. He's rumored to have an artifact that amplifies his strength, but honestly, all he has to do is walk into a room and things start to mess up," I sighed, pushing the memories of our thank-the-gods unique collaboration far away. Bethany and he were a duo that actually belonged forbidden.

"A call sign, then. Really, they're totally cool." Mike grinned widely. "What's yours?" The question went to Noah, who grinned sheepishly.

"Dolphin."

"Fitting for a SEAL." Ben said, impressed.

"Well but it has nothing to do with my swimming skills." In fact, Noah was softly blushing.

"Are you allowed to tell the stories behind the call signs or is that bad luck?" Emmett wanted to know. Given Noah's already missing arm, the question seemed a bit odd.

"Oh. No. It's just..." Noah shrugged asymmetrically, for a moment his gaze twitched around. "We've been training in different waters, and at one point we were in Florida, not far from a dolphin therapy center. Well. That's when a dolphin escaped and came to us out of curiosity, I guess." Now Noah was really blushing. "And I guess he found me the most interesting. I felt a bit like the mouse being played to death by the cat, really."

While the others laughed, I had to at least smile. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Emmett's happy face, which put me strangely at ease.

"There was quite a bit of commotion because the dolphin was massively disrupting our training, and our instructor and the guy from the therapy center who came in then had a nice argument. It ended up," Noah sighed a bit theatrically, "that I had to escort the dolphin back to his home, swimming of course. And well, that's where my call sign comes from."

"That's a nice story," Ben said, intrigued.

"Absolutely," Mike chuckled.

"What about you?" Mo asked, turning to me.

I shook my head. "I'm a civilian, my call sign has no relevance anymore." And yet, even after two years, it still sounded strange to hear my real name.

Noah snorted. "Once a MORRTIMER, always a MORRTIMER. You're a reservist for life." There was a certain bitter undertone to the words, but then he added, a little uncertainly: "Isn't that right?"

With a deep sigh, I sat down a little differently- more to stall than because the couch was uncomfortable- but ended up resting my forearm on Emmett's knee as if by itself. The fact that it felt strangely familiar and completely normal was something I would think about later, including how he put his hand on my forearm and squeezed gently.

"Yes," I said then, the sigh echoing in my voice, "technically I'm a first-class reservist and can be called back into service at any time."

"That sounds unfair," Emmett said quietly. As I looked at him, he radiated something I couldn't put my finger on, but which grounded me very thoroughly. And then there was something hidden deeper that spoke to me on a deeper level as well. Something I wanted to protect.

"That sounds fucking unfair!" Mike said uncomfortably loud.

I had dialed down my senses for the meeting, the air just tasted like way too many things, but that sweet fruity smell still got to me. It definitely wasn't peaches, but similar, and that similarity triggered the already familiar unease in me, but it was strangely distorted and muted.

"Once a MORRTIMER, always a MORRTIMER," Noah repeated, and I nodded weakly.

"To let me live as a real civilian, I'd have to be missing more than an arm."

Emmett's hand on my arm twitched.

"Ugh, seriously?", Jake wanted to know with a contorted face and Mo remarked critically:

"You can't even fire a gun like that."

I deliberately curled my lips into a bitter smile. "Some of us don't need a weapon." I stifled the addition of 'they are one themselves' at the last moment, but Emmett's hand twitched again, and if I wasn't mistaken, he had gone pale.

Noah was the only one grinning, even Ben, who had been so fascinated at first, seemed a little uncomfortable now that such a powerful dangerous being was sitting on the same couch as him.

I wanted to apologize, because it certainly hadn't been my intention to scare them, but something like a warm breeze brushed my face and the gloomy mood faded away, as if the sun suddenly broke through the clouds on a gray rainy day. Dragons are not very receptive, if not immune, to most types of magic, but here it was working, relaxing me. And it could only have come from Emmett. However, now was not the time to think about it.

"You said your unit is dead," Noah took the floor after a moment of silence. His dark eyes sparkled and a half-smile still played around his mouth.

Emmett frowned and let his hand slide to my wrist. "You don't have to talk about it, Finley, really."

His concern touched me, and I suppressed the impulse to touch his cheek and say that everything was fine. Instead, I merely nodded slightly at him and then turned to Noah. "Out of twenty, only two have returned."

"You and...?"

"Me and Bomb." The images crept up inside me, settling in front of my field of vision, causing Noah to disappear. Noah, who was displaying an almost spiteful expression- because someone was worse off than he was. It was probably his own way of coping with the trauma, and I couldn't blame him.

Emmett gently squeezed my wrist, it felt like it was far away.

"Our destination was a cave. Or rather, the terrorist-like cultists inside it. On the plateau in front of the cave I got a strange feeling and I told Bomb about it while the others were already rushing inside. We discussed, much longer than was good, and in the end Bomb laughed at me and called me a coward." For a moment, Bomb's voice echoed in my ears. "Two seconds later, a blast wave of black magic rolled out of the cave. I grabbed Bomb and fled."

Even as I blinked away the memories, Mo asked incredulously, "You left your comrades to die?"

They were harsh words, but it wasn't the first time I'd heard them, so I merely nodded, partly because I felt them to be true myself.

"How can you say that?" Emmett hissed, however, his hand shaking.

"It's true, Emmett.", I said gently, turning my arm and now holding his wrist in turn. "And yet I got a medal for it."

Completely flabbergasted, he looked at me.

"For saving Bomb. Bomb has a very rare magical talent, which makes for an incredibly valuable asset to the special forces."

"That's perverted!"

"That's the American military." Noah countered, still with that slightly crazed smile.

Emmett, on the other hand, had a helpless rage on his face that made me want to hug him. And for what I had briefly seen earlier, I now found a name: Innocence.

Protect.

The dragon in me revolted, wanted to curl up around Emmett and roast anyone who got too close.

"Beer, anyone?" Jake asked uneasily, and automatically I shook my head while being unpleasantly surprised at myself; the last time the dragon in me had made itself known so suddenly and violently was during puberty.

The evening had not gone as I had expected, and even the unpleasant ending was different than I had imagined, but nonetheless I wanted to get out of here.

The others had risen and made their way to the kitchen corner, perhaps fleeing from the mood, only Emmett still sat like a heap of misery next to me on the couch.

"Do you want me to take you home?"

"Please."

Copyright © 2024 Celian; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Finley told the hard story of his last painful mission where only he and one other individual lived after a magical explosion in a cave. Noah seemed to understand. The others were aghast.

Emmett kept sending other magical feelings of calm and helped to drive away Finely's worry and pain. Finley's dragon evoked a strong feeling--protect--which was new to him. Finley was special to him. After his  military stories, Emmett wanted to go hime. He asked and Finley is leaving with him. What is going to happen next?

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Emmet was using his magic to help Finley be calm during the discussion. There are growing feelings between them.

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Misery loves company; until you try to prove your misery is greater than someone else's.  People that have never served in the military or been around those that have, can't really have any idea what it can be like.

I was hoping this would go better; but even with Emmett pushing all his magic out into the room, it did not end well.

I am glad that Finley at least tried to help Noah, but it will take much more than one visit to try and establish something that might help them both; plus, might work better without so many people that have no idea what they have been through..

 

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4 hours ago, centexhairysub said:

Misery loves company; until you try to prove your misery is greater than someone else's.  People that have never served in the military or been around those that have, can't really have any idea what it can be like.

I was hoping this would go better; but even with Emmett pushing all his magic out into the room, it did not end well.

I am glad that Finley at least tried to help Noah, but it will take much more than one visit to try and establish something that might help them both; plus, might work better without so many people that have no idea what they have been through..

 

I think it's safe to assume already Jake's request for this meeting was a desperate try to do something, seeing his brother suffer for sure is not easy.

But this evening did something. It brought Finley closer to this group, closer to Emmett. Enforcing what he felt already the week before, that they like him, Finley, not the dragon-soldier. After the way he grew up- surrounded by his huge dragonfamily, military academy- and then the service itself, it for sure has a sort of therapeutic effect. Because running away like he did is not the solution either.

Thank you!

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