Title: Dark Alley - Chapter 20

Disclaimer: This is intended as a fan fiction, on characters owned by their original creators and I am not making a profit out of it.

It was silent, the wind moving gently over fields of grass. It was pissing down with rain. Grey was drenched, rivulets of rainwater running through his short curly hair and trickling off his nose and from his chin. A lone tree stood over him, its branches reaching into a sullen sky. The tree would provide the shelter.

The wind rushed through his ears. It was cold. So cold. So dark. He could hardly imagine a worse scenario. It was a weird terrain in itself, totally flat, grass recently cut around the level stones scattered around and there was the strong smell of rain-wet earth. The storm was full fledged now. He felt totally exposed. His night vision blurred as he looked down at the stone before him. An intense fear took him by surprise; a fear unknown to him before then. And yet, yeah, it was right there. He was right where he wanted to be.

In his journey back from Baz-el-Had he had felt lost and desperate, detached from the rest of the unit in hostile territory, without a map or a weapon, and no hint of which way to go but looking past a bright Moon to a gleaming Milky Way. Maybe it was the first time he felt like a believer. Only in the desert you could feel like that, one with the Universe, by just looking at the sky by night, studded with stars, mirroring with its sparkling the phosphorescence on the jungle floor so many thousand miles away.

All the places in the world he had been had their own particular soul. In all the places he had felt connected somehow, part of it. He would hear his teammates complaining about all the little creepy-crawlies on the forest floor ticking their sanity away with their continuous biting, and yet his curious eyes were only focused at how such tiny little beings would be so perfect and beautiful in his own particular way.

But every place I had been it had been with a purpose: to kill or to learn to be even more proficient in killing. Blood spoilt on the soil makes mud too. In the dark, you can't even tell the difference.

Everything about his job was wrong. He knew, even being the brutal, reckless bastard he was. He knew. A man that was no better than a beast. That was his task, that was his duty. Fuck the moral framework Ryan had forged for all of them to look like heroes. He'd heard all that crap a million times before over the years. Such a lie. You can't train a hunting dog and then expect it to live like a poodle.

He was a war dog and would never do anything else in this world. This was the naked truth: He liked doing what he was doing. He couldn't help it. He liked it, and he was one of the best at it. He had made that hard choice long time ago and it had been final. No revisiting. Not now. Not never. He wasn't proud of himself, but had placed that feeling in his mental garbage can with the lid back on.

That same trash can held the emotions around the death of his mother. Grey knew then he would never have a proper family. His mama was right. He could love anyone that didn't kick him in the head, women and men alike. Particularly women 'cause he craved for the feeling of some warm comforting arms around him. So Army had been OK. But Hector, his best friend, he had been the real thing. For long difficult years, the keeper of Grey's independent republic of self in one piece.

He forced himself to look directly below him to that stone at his feet, that one that would remain when he would be long gone. The only one to bear witness of why it was worth living for. To mark the dead end of a destiny.

The tears finally caught him at that point, under the silent tree. He dropped to the ground, squatting with his back against that lonely tree, in the middle of that vast plain, filled with grass and the bare bones of all living things stripped of life by the unrelenting pass of time.

Looking up to see that stone silhouetted against the glow, Grey's eyes were glistening with tears and his breathing was increasingly sharp and quick as he swallowed hard. "Oh, brother...Dude..." He was having a moment with his thoughts, not even realizing he'd spoken as he rubbed his stubble with shaking hands, scrubbing the tears off his face.

Time passed; he had no idea of how much time. He had made himself calm down. The tears eventually stopped, as if his body had no more to give. He could still feel the ache, the void inside, but the tears themselves were gone. He couldn't remember when or if it was the blowing wind that dried them away, like it had dried his clothes. Like tears had flushed out the dirt in him, cleansed the open wounds to start healing.

The wind got stronger, but with his back against that big oak it didn't matter much. He dared another look at the stone but instantly he looked away and he tried to focus on the darkness above. He didn't want to but it was unstoppable now, he would have to get up and face the new day - first light was starting to edge its way past Hector's tombstone.

Hector Lucian Williams. His friend. His brother. November 6th 2007. Two years already. A hell of a lot in the middle. It seemed like yesterday.

Charlie Grey knelt down and caved a little hole on the wet ground behind the grave stone with his hands. Then he dug into his left pocket and got out the new silver star he had been awarded with and buried it there.

"This is to you. This is for you, Hector."

He pulled himself upright. A primeval mist blanketed the ground. A flock of some hundred black crows took off ahead of him. Way back to the Life. As he climbed out the little cliff behind, all the birds were in full song: daylight was nearly there. A new flock of white doves lifted from the treeline beyond flapping their wings free.

Yin Yang. Seemingly contrary forces interconnected and interdependent in the natural world giving rise to each other. Time to face a new day for him too. Like birds. And flowers. Out of the blue. Nice and easy. Till time comes the night should engulf him again. But that would be then, not before.

Yeah, back to The Life... And he walked out the graveyard, his boots and the rim of his trousers wet from the grass and his jacket collar turned up against the cold, only stopping on his way back to the car to fish the cell on his pocket. It must be 9 am back in Bellevue.

"Hiya, Molly. Charlie." (...) "I was wondering. Would you be up for a meal on my pad next Saturday? With everybody and kids. Maybe Betsy can make it too." (...) "Wow, no! Just a friends' reunion. I can cook too, you know? I can pull some favourites for you all. Have faith..." (...) "So, that's a Yes. Great. 6,30 pm. Next Saturday. Nope. Don't bring anything. I'll take care of all. Tiffy, Kim and you get a rest, just bring your goodselves."