Boys Club Final
There were times when Bridget Sullivan really admired Colonel Tom Ryan and was proud to be on his team. He challenged his staff to be at the top of their game and he expected excellence from them, In the face of obstacles, he allowed the team to problem solve on the fly and figure out a better way. His accolades were hard earned and always well deserved, and ignited a renewed sense of motivation and determination. Other days, Bridget Sullivan thought Colonel Tom Ryan was a bastard. In the year that Bridget had worked in the unit, she had accumulated a laundry list…the events of the past two weeks only confirmed it. Between his request to her that she stand down from her pursuit of Sergeant McBride to the cover-up regarding Molly Blaine's disappearance, it more obvious to more than just Red Cap that he had master-minded this operation from the start.
No one budged an inch when Jonas marched into the TOC and pinned the colonel to the wall. The sound proof glass couldn't mask their raised voices as Jonas called Ryan out on everything Alpha and Bravo teams had endured the past few months, the trumped up missions, the risk thrust upon the Alpha team wives and Sam's rogue assignment. The crushing blow hit Bridget square in the face when she watched Jonas point her out in the middle of the room and forced the Colonel to admit he ordered Sam to assault her. Despite she suspected the ruse for months, the truth nearly blindsided her. A line had been drawn in the sand and Red Cap's tenure hung in the balance.
"Bridget, Colonel Harmon wants to see you in his office."
Bridget hesitated at her desk before she looked into the eyes of her friend, Sergeant Kayla Medawar. "Okay," she muttered pushing back from the desk. This was her moment, she had struggled with her decision for days… stay or leave and now that the moment was upon her, the answer was as clear as mud.
"What are you going to tell him?" Kayla asked putting a hand to her sleeve.
"I haven't exactly made my decision yet," Bridget replied standing up from her desk.
"Bridge, you can't harbor a grudge on an order that came from above," Kayla reminded her. "I don't like anymore than you. It was a shitty thing for the Colonel to do, but…" her voice trailed off as she tried to get her friend to reconsider. "None wants to lose you," she added in a whisper.
Bridget nodded and scanned the room. A casual glance gave the illusion that everyone was working, but Bridget knew this team too well. These people in this room … an extension of the teams in the field … were waiting and watching for her next move.
The trip down the hall to the Lieutenant Colonel's office was the longest twenty seconds of her life. The memories of her time flashed before her eyes … the missions she coordinated, the assets she had built, the friendships she had forged, all things that had been missing from her life up until a year ago. She slowed her gait just outside the door and exhaled slowly as she turned the corner into his office, into her life.
"You wanted to see me sir?" she asked as she stood just outside the doorway.
"Warrant Officer Sullivan, come in," the lieutenant colonel beckoned her from where he stood behind his desk. "I've asked Sergeant Major Haney to sit in for this discussion. Have a seat."
The butterflies twitching around in Bridget's stomach went into overload with impending doom, but one would never know by the stoic expression on her face.
"I've been tasked with determining your fitness to remain part of the team," he said with a tone as dry as dust. The elder man took a seat behind his desk and cleared his throat. "Since you were the unfortunate victim of Sergeant McBride's mission, it would be understandable and warranted if you transferred to another assignment. I have found comparable assignments in Washington, Texas and overseas."
"I don't understand sir," Bridget replied with a perplexed tone. "It sounds like the decision has already been made."
The Lieutenant Colonel glanced at Haney to his left and leaned forward on his seat. "The decision has not been made Warrant Officer; however, considering the Sergeant McBride will be remaining as part of Alpha team, I assumed that you would be requesting a transfer."
"Before you even discussed it with me?" Bridget blurted out accidently. "Respectfully sir, if there some other element of my fitness that is in question here?" She trailed her gaze from the Lieutenant Colonel to Haney, who stood in the corner with an odd smirk on his face.
"No Warrant Officer," Harmon remarked shuffling some files on his desk. "I have reviewed mission reports and requested evaluations from each team lead about your abilities and performance over the past year and have not received one negative report. In fact, Sergeant Major Haney and Sergeant Major Blaine have filed official letters stating the unit would suffer a substantial loss if you were to leave."
No one wants me to go, Bridget realized as she sat in the chair. If I can't work through this thing with him, then I'm no better off than I was the day I got here. She swallowed hard and pushed her insecurities away. "Then I believe you have my decision sir," Bridget replied firmly.
"And what exactly would that be Warrant Officer?" the older man prodded her.
"I'm staying," Bridget replied flatly.
"And your relationship with Sergeant McBride?"
"Sir, I've read the mission report and understand he was acting under orders," Bridget answered. "The incident will not cloud my judgment or affect my professional relationship with him."
"Very well then Warrant Officer," the lieutenant colonel replied with a smile on his face. "You may return to your post in the TOC."
Bridget stood up from the desk and turned to walk out of the room. A huge weight was lifted from her shoulders. This was her place and she was home.
"Sergeant?" Bridget responded turning back to look at Sergeant Major Haney.
"For the record, there are no women in the unit," Haney said stiffly. "So no frilling up the locker room."
"Duly noted, Sergeant," Bridget replied with a smile on her face.
Bridget pulled the door to the locker room and walked in, nodding to the men that were exiting. After a year, they were used to sharing space with her in her unofficial capacity in the unit. Bridget turned the corner heading toward the latrine and came face to face with Sergeant Bohrman as he exited in the shower.
"Square!" Bridget exclaimed covering her eyes. He was wearing a towel, but was dripping wet.
"Bridge," he grunted sheepishly. "Give me a second, I'll clear out."
"No, its okay," she said backing out of the shower area. "You were here first, I'll just …"
"Hey, I heard you're staying," he yelled at her once she had cleared the door.
"You heard that already?" Bridget commented. "I just made the decision an hour ago."
"Yeah, it's around," he said walking toward the door wearing shorts this time. He walked to his locker and pulled a t-shirt out.
"It's around already," Bridget repeated with a quizzical tone.
"I was in the training room, Haney told me," he shrugged. "You talk to Whiplash?"
"Sort of," she remarked opening the door to her locker.
"You can't hold a grudge, Bridge," Square commented pulling the t-shirt over his head. "We don't sign up for this job because we're going to be friendly or nice. You want to be friendly and nice? Go be a fireman."
"That's your official stance?" she questioned him, barely hearing the door opening in the background.
"Sam," Bridget sputtered feeling her face turn five shades of red.
"I ah… I didn't knaah, I can leave," he mumbled stumbling over his words. He started walking backward in retreat and nearly tripped over the top of Square.
If I could change this moment, Bridget considered when she noticed the look on Square's face. He's giving me an out, she thought, drawing up her confidence to face Sam on her own terms … alone and not in front of everyone in the TOC. "No," Bridgett said shutting the door to her locker. "Square can you give us the room?"
She watched Bohrman gather his things and leave without saying a word. He didn't even offer to kick Sam's ass … not that I'd let him, she contemplated as she tried to figure out what to say. Two days ago she had a whole speech worked out in her head, now suddenly she was at a loss for words.
"You were right," she finally said breaking the silence. "That people would take advantage of me."
"Yeah, I took advantage," he agreed. "I used things you told me in confidence against you." Sam walked to his locker and opened the door. He started to mess around with the contents just to have something to do with his hands.
"No, I meant the colonel," she said. "You warned me … and you were right. I've thought about for weeks. It's made me question a lot of things."
"What kind of things?"
"Like was the only reason the colonel let me stay was because I was a nice distraction?" she replied ruefully. This was Bridget talking from the heart that was still broken from the fork he had slammed into it.
"Is that what you think?" Sam asked.
"Sometimes I don't think it matters what I think. My roles here are always the same," she said. She chided herself when she felt her lip quivering.
"Someone plays that role on every mission," Sam said turning to look at her. "It's called evade and escape, creating a diversion so the rest of the team can retreat."
"You can just stop with the official propaganda bull," Bridget remarked putting her hand up to stop him.
"You know what your problem is? You don't want to hear the truth about things," Sam said pulling a fresh towel out of the locker and heading toward the shower. "If you just want to wallow in a pity party … then you're on your own Warrant Officer."
"Excuse me?" Bridget questioned him. He had touched a nerve with her, the same nerve that every guy on the team had bumped up against the past few weeks. Or the past year, Bridget contemplated as a flush of words raced through her mind. Maybe I can't get passed this because I don't want to get passed it. Sam turned on her like he could read her mind.
"I'm not the one that doesn't think you're part of the team." Sam pointed at his chest while he was talking. "It's you that doesn't believe it. Hell half the time I think you do it on purpose so you have something to cry about."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" she fired back at him completely enraged.
"Were you the middle child or something?" Sam questioned her. "Because the way you act out … it reminds me of my older brother getting into trouble on purpose because he needed the attention."
"You have no right to talk to me that way!" she screaming practically lunging at him. "Who the hell do you think you are?" Bridget felt the heat on her skin, but the yelling felt so good
"I'm your friend Bridget," Sam replied frankly.
"My friend?" she guffawed as her jaw dropped to the floor. "I have plenty of friends sergeant … friends that aren't afraid of telling me the truth. Friends that have my back and don't try to take advantage. Friends that wouldn't have followed some heinous order that hurt another."
"You have friends alright," Sam remarked walking back to where she was standing. "You have friends that know how to play your game and will only to say things that are going to make you feel better. And as for the orders that were given to me … maybe you should ask your so-called friends what orders they've followed the ended in someone getting hurt."
"My friends are honest," she retorted shoving a finger in his face.
"No, you're friends sugar coat it because they are afraid that you can't handle the truth," he replied smugly.
"You have no idea what … agh!" Bridget growled getting madder by the minute. "You're a piece of work."
"I'm a piece of work? Please! Your split personality is a piece of work," he commented throwing up his hands. "I can't keep up sometimes. Can't tell if who reported to work, Bridget or Red Cap."
"They are one in the same," she growled crossing her arms indignantly at her chest.
"No way," Sam replied. "See Bridget ... she's emotional and keeps trying to fit in … maybe too hard sometimes. But Red Cap? She's top notch. She knows how to stand up for herself, how to separate."
The words sizzled in the air as silence settled between them. Bridget was so angry with him she didn't know if she should slap him or just walk out. Sad thing was he was completely right and she knew it. How many times had Mack, Beau, Bob or Square have to repeat it for it to sink in?
"Did you ever consider that maybe the events occurred that night because I knew you could handle it?" Sam said quietly after a moment.
"What?" Bridget snapped at him.
"I knew you would fight me that night," he said crossing his arms at his chest.
Bridget stared at him in disbelief. "Are you serious?"
"When we were at the bar in Paris, what did you tell me?"
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"Just humor me," Sam replied. "What did you say about the drunk at the bar?"
"That he was drunk," she said flatly not understanding where he was going with it.
"No, you said you hated obnoxious drunk guys," Sam corrected her. "And why did you curse me out after I told him to buzz off?" "
She sighed and rolled her eyes. "I said I could take care of myself."
"Right. So a series of events occurred that night to set my plan into motion," Sam said walking closer to where she was standing. "I irritated you during the op for no other reason than to get under your skin. I drank a couple of beers fast enough to give the appearance of being drunk. I made some rude obnoxious comments that were solely directed at you and the ultimate bad idea ….I hit on you at the bar. All things that I know really piss you off … and then, the icing on the cake, which I hadn't even planned for, was when Bob swooped in to warn me off." Sam held his hands out to his side and a wicked grin crawling across his face. "So when I showed up in the parking lot of your apartment and tempted fate…"
"I was ticked off enough to fight you," Bridgett said filling in the blanks.
"You played right into the ruse," Sam said filling the air with fast talking rhetoric trying to convince Bridgett that she wasn't the victim in this whole mess.
"There was no way you could have known I wouldn't call the police," Bridgett tried to argue.
"It's not your style," he interrupted. "At least it's not Red Cap's style anyway. It's unit tradition to keep our dirty laundry in house. And for the record, I would have never taken it any farther than I did, that's why I played it out in the middle of the parking lot where anyone could see us, under the lights."
Bridget considered his words carefully as all the puzzle pieces fell into place. The conversation in Paris, his warning in the hall, the obnoxious drunk act, even the team's response to it … all made sense now in retrospect.
"What if I wouldn't have fought you?" she asked putting it all together.
"I would have stopped," Sam said flatly. "I would have retreated and thought of a different strategy for my exit. Whether you want to admit it or not, Bridge, you knew inside there was a reason for my actions. Bob and Mack told me you were starting to figure it out."
Bridget milled around the locker room in silence, trying to work through what he had said. Bob knew, she repeated silently. So what? The jokes on me? Maybe Mack was right that I was over thinking it, she mulled over in her head as he puttered around in the background. Or maybe it's just another example of how people take advantage.
"You thirsty? You wanna beer?" he asked reaching in for two. He popped both lids and held the bottle out for her to take. A few more seconds ticked off the clock before she made any move toward him.
"This doesn't make up for anything you know," she said reaching for the bottle.
"I never said it did," he replied taking a swig of the beer. "But the next time you have your head stuck up your butt, I'm not going to be afraid to tell you."
"There's not going to be a next time," she resolved. "And for the record, I didn't have my head stuck up my butt. I tripped over a crack in the sidewalk."
"A crack in the sidewalk huh," Sam replied with a laugh.
"This girl still has a lot to prove with this team," Bridget replied with a smile. "But if you try anything like that again … I'll sick my cat on you."