WOW so many reviews! Thanks for putting up with me and thanks to so many people who reviewed, favored, alerted or just plain read it. You guys are awesome, and I'm sorry for taking so long. And I'm sorry if I didn't respond to reviews. I also changed the ending to the last chapter. Nxyelestica kindly pointed out that Britain has national healthcare and that Crawely's point for hating Blunt is now moot. So I went back, changed it up and now I believe that his new reason is much better and will be used in the following chapters.
Oh and to those who read my comments about another author before I deleted it… Ignore it. I was being a bratty idiot. Plain and simple. I'm guilty of doing the same, really. So I'm sorry and I deeply, deeply apologize. If there's anything I can do for the author I insulted I will gladly do it.
Warning: Mild cussing. It will probably tone down next chapter, but I apologize in advance to those who are offended. Thanks. (And yes, all the 'damns' are intentional.)
Eighteen Months Later:
Javier Gomez-Cortez was obsessed with the military and he no longer cared who knew it. He always knew it was filled with enough adventure and excitement and enough glorious physical activity that a child with ADHD loved to dream about. Of course, over the years, his inattentiveness had been controlled with medicine and even faded away enough for a normal life to be possible but the hyperactivity still held Javier captive. It was a good thing with everything that needed to be done.
But sometimes Wolf wished that the SAS hadn't programmed him to be such a damn effective solider. His own personal bed had damned hospital corners at the moment. He had redone them five times in the hopes that if he remade the bed enough, the rest of the two months of leave would pass by faster.
It was not only his bed that was made up. It was also his whole apartment that had seen the wrath of a bored Special Forces man, along with all his overdue paperwork, his now balanced checkbook and all the cans in the cabinet were now organized alphabetically.
"Damn hospital corners!" He whispered, making those two words sound like the Devil's own personal curse.
His dog, a lovable and slimy St. Bernard whined from his corner and simply looked at Javier pleadingly. Wolf rolled his eyes and stroked his dog's gigantic head when it bumbled over. The poor bugger was not going be on the earth long anyway.
Something exploded on the telly and the SAS man rolled his eyes. He didn't know why he was watching this attempt at a military movie. They either portrayed the characters as depressed shells, psychopaths, supermen, incompetent fools or an unhappy blend of a few of those traits.
They never portrayed them as normal humans and it annoyed Wolf to no end. Sure some things about his job were depressing and gruesome. Watching your friend's head explode from a sniper bullet and have his coppery blood get into your eyes, mouth and nose was nothing to be happy about. Damn, it was more than just depressing; it was life shattering. But that was what Wolf signed up for and goddammit, he was going to see it through because he enjoyed every dammed second of it.
Being in the military was not about being a douche or an annoyingly patriotic person. It was about loving your country so much that you would seriously die for it. No matter the politics, no matter the opinions. Wolf would rather die in pain and agony then die and know he could have done something better in life. His self-indulgent fellow Britons would probably never know his name or what he did for them and they probably wouldn't care. But as long as they were safe enough to be self-indulgent that was enough for him.
Of course, the close friendships that would last a lifetime that he formed were worth more than gold. Even Andrew (Coyote) had become close friends with everyone. Ben even liked him.
Mocoso grunted and Javier realized he had ceased his petting. Wolf apologized and resumed petting and thinking.
Anyway, back to the military obsession. He had always dreamed of being a NCO (or Non-Commissioned Officer), even while everyone else wanted to be an astronaut or a doctor. His father had been in the Columbian Air Force and raised his son to be proud of whatever country they ended up being citizens of. Javier had followed his father's wishes to a fault. It annoyed his unit mates to no end.
The telephone suddenly rang and Javier's gut twisted in warning. He recognized that his finely tuned instincts were telling him something was about to go down and his heart stopped for a second out of anticipation. A smile slowly spread itself across his face. Finally. He was going crazy with nothing to do and his unhealthy obsession with his profession was going to eat him alive.
The phone rang again and Javier would have jumped up and snatched it up, if not for the beast that had pinned Wolf's legs to the couch.
"Ay, Mocoso, muevete! Move!"
The dog only shuffled closer and Wolf realized that he hadn't been able to feel his legs for a while now. He let out a stream of curse words in English and the dog wouldn't budge no matter how loud Wolf got or no matter how hard he pulled Mocoso's collar. Soon, the phone quit its shrill alarms and Javier sunk back into the couch, fuming. His dog looked up at him then walked away, disinterested.
"Gah!" If the man wasn't so attached to his pet, he was sure to have strangled it.
Just as soon as Wolf thought all hope was lost, his cell phone began to vibrate in his pocket. He jumped up and fished the flimsy plastic toy out. He fumbled with the small buttons before bringing it up to his ear.
"'Morning, Cortez." The calm voice of Javier's Commanding Officer intoned.
"Morning, Sir." Wolf replied formally. He had a great deal of respect for his CO but the man could be cryptic and it felt like it was going to be one of those times.
"Well, Cortez, I'm calling because we have a mission we think you might be interested in." The voice on the other end sounded vaguely amused.
"Sir?" Wolf swallowed the smile that threatened to consume his whole face in case he came off too excited.
"It will all be explained in good time. Show up Monday at 0630 hours and we'll see if you want to involve yourself with this."
"Sir, permission to ask what 'this' is?"
"Any other day, I'll tell you, Javier. But I don't even know what's going on. All I know is that you and your mates need to be here Monday. Shame that it's cutting your vacation short."
"I like to think it's a blessing in disguise. The military knows they didn't make me to sit around all day."
The man on the other side of the phone laughed. "See you Monday, Cortez."
Damn, what was Wolf going to do with two days to kill?
Around ten in the morning, The Englishman sauntered into a house that was supposed to be his. It was all so surreal. The house was in his name but he still needed to climb back through his window and borrow Jack's house key to get in the front door like a normal person. He was supposed to be a stealthy agent but the sight of a sleeping Jack took his breath away. He had even wanted to reach out and touch her just to see if she was real and that it was not just a trick of his mind, but thankfully he still had enough self control to keep his hands to himself.
Nevertheless, he had stepped on a treacherous floorboard he shouldn't have stepped on right outside her room and bumped into the wall when his legs suddenly started shaking.
Ian sighed at the memory and rubbed a hand over his face after he set the groceries down and returned the key to Jack's room. She wouldn't trust him if she knew that he was sneaking into her room. The Englishman frowned and returned downstairs and started making "harmless noise" to signal to Alex that the person moving around the house was indeed a friendly. Alex would be even more suspicious if his supposed uncle was slinking around the house. It didn't matter that sneaking around was all Ian knew anymore.
Oh well. Going back to the dorms at MI6 would only bury The Englishman into more debt to Blunt. The more Ian owed, the tighter the grip would be. Ian could not compromise at this point in the game. Alex's freedom depended on it.
That was why The English-Ian had gone into his bathroom to take out the spare money he had hidden in a dud pipe he had installed a long time ago. When John had been sent off to jail, Ian realized how important having a back-up plan was. Alex and Jack needed food and he could now provide it.
He did not know that Jack did not have any food in the household. He was ashamed to admit that he had not really cared to notice. But after he had crawled inside the window that morning, he had suddenly had a craving for banana slices covered with peanut butter and honey. But when he got to the kitchen, he discovered that the cupboards and kitchen were empty except for an empty gallon of milk and a few boxes of instant oatmeal. It was like his heart had shattered as he remembered something Jones had told him.
"Jack's been trying to get a job for…" Jones trailed off as she lovingly blew out a ring of smoke with a soft phwwwww. "She's been trying to get a job for months now. Blunt doesn't allow it of course."
The woman had said it so flippantly that The Englishman had not realized the ramifications of it until he saw the bare kitchen. Poor girl was in deeply in debt and she had not even told him about it when she was informing him about what was going on in her life. How could he have been so stupid?
The Englishman swallowed the lump of tears in his throat with much difficulty. He had never been a crying man but this whole situation warranted strong emotion. His job as a man was to provide, to protect, and to love. He had failed miserably at all three and never ceased to be reminded of it.
He began to put the groceries away and had to pause when the emotion coupled with his familiar dizziness caused him to swoon a bit. His right hand balled into a fist that he lightly brought down onto the counter in barely contained frustration. No matter how much physical therapy he would have to go to, this ordeal would always plague him.
It grated on his nerves. He just wanted to be healed and whole. He never let himself be weak in the past.
The Englishman took a deep breath. He gave himself a goal, just like his trainer had told him. His goal was to finish putting the groceries away and then he could collapse on his bed. Ian nodded to himself and reminded himself that he was trying.
But damn it, trying was still not good enough.
It would be impossible to truly document The Englishman's frustration with himself because to do that, one would have to understand that Ian now felt like two different men. Maybe three if he looked at it correctly.
One was a weary and tired Ian who wished he could have died in that place. He had heard somewhere that heaven was actually very nice and that God did take in those who repented. It seemed like every second of the day now that Ian was repenting for all the mistakes he made.
Then there was Ian the agent who was calculating his every move. Ian the agent was on edge every minute of the day. Ian the agent was not human, because last time he had let himself be a simple, dying human, a terrorist organization had snatched him up. Ian the agent was not human because he was never trained that way. Ian the agent had destroyed everything that Ian the human had loved.
Lastly there was The Englishman. The Englishman was all that was left of both Ians. The Englishman was wild, crazed and the tattered pieces of what used to be a man. The Englishman was the only thing that Ian knew himself as because when everything else had failed him his Englishman persona held on. When Ian the agent had failed and tired Ian gave up, The Englishman was the only thing that insisted that survival was still a viable option.
"I'm a loony…" Ian whispered as he lay on his bed and stared at the colors whirling and writhing on his white ceiling.
He pinched the bridge of his nose as the beginnings of a migraine blossomed from behind his eyes. He had fallen onto his bed and just laid there for a good ten minutes. He had paperwork to get to. He had to take a shower. If he was decent, he could have started breakfast.
But his hand was too shaky to start cracking eggs and his limbs to wobbly to stand upright in a shower for that long. So he designated himself thirty more minutes of rest and then he would go downstairs and join his soon to be rising family.
Who was he kidding? Alex and Jack weren't his family. They had their own customs and traditions. Their nuances were perfectly tuned to each other and not an outsider. It was obvious by the routine Ian overheard. Jack got up to take a shower and by the time she was out, Alex was downstairs making coffee. There was a sound of coffee cups clinking against the cupboard. Since when did Alex start drinking coffee? Murmuring followed with the squeak of one of the metal chairs against the linoleum floor. There was a sigh from Jack and then more murmuring.
Ian suddenly felt a strange feeling of anger. How dare they go on with their life. What gave them the right to create their own traditions without him? What were they thinking?
What were you thinking when you left them each time, knowing you might not come back?
The Englishman pinched the bridge of his nose again. He needed to stop acting like such a woman and accept reality. Life went on, whether he liked it or not. He needed to stop complaining and pretending he was this damaged soul when he had plenty of time to pout during his sleepless nights.
With that in mind, he stumbled to the shower in hopes to wash away his migraine.
The Englishman slowly and quietly walked downstairs where Alex and Jack were waiting. They made no move to hide their stares as they paused their eating. He mentally winced. Their gazes felt like hot pokers in his back and no amount of deliberate movement would stop it.
He slowly made his way over to get a glass of water. When he turned to face them again, Alex slowly began to eat again. They made eye contact and it was all Ian could do to keep himself from falling to his knees and begging for forgiveness. He didn't and Alex didn't break his gaze.
It was awkward. Tense. Horrible. For one sickening second, The Englishman even wished he was in his old uncomfortable cot again. At least he knew that cot better than he knew his nephew.
He felt like he was going to retch at that thought. He stared miserably in his cup. He glanced up at Jack. She met his gaze then looked away as if locking gazes was dangerous.
Finally, The Englishman snarled and set down his cup firmly. This was ridiculous. He crossed his arms and looked Alex and Jack straight in the eye, daring them to do something. If anything was going to get done here, it was going to happen when everyone stopped being such pansies.
Alex froze and his eyes narrowed at Ian. Ian glared back. The air now popped and sparked with such sudden electricity that it was almost soothing. This kind of environment was like a second home.
"Yes, Alex?" He asked almost testily.
The boy glared for a few seconds. "Why the hell are you here?"
"Alex!" Jack gasped.
"Because it's my house, Dumbarse."
The fact that Ian had cursed at Alex for the first time in his life left everyone in the kitchen silent. Then The Englishman's mouth and cheek twitched slightly in what he realized was the beginnings of a smile. It only grew wider as he saw the overly offended and shocked look on Alex's face. The boy had probably never been called a "dumbarse" before, and it seemed to really, really bug him.
For some reason this had Ian laughing out loud before he could stop. It felt good to laugh, and the petulant anger Alex plastered on his face was worth its weight in gold. Ah, it was good to be back home.
I hope you liked it. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, things you would like to see, don't be afraid to review.
I must say, I loved this chapter if only for all the military terms. Time to be the military geek I am. :D
Terms you might not recognize:
Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO): NCOs are enlisted people who have an officer job, even though they did not go through the typical officer training.
Commanding Officer: Basically the officer or enlisted person who is in charge.