Title of One-Shot:Russian Roulette
AH or AU: AH
Summary or Description:The darkness and solitude created an escape, a silent competition. Or was it all a game of epic proportions?
Russian Roulette by kas90
Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. The days of the week passed by like Russian roulette revolver, never knowing when the shit storm was going to embark on our ignorant asses. I was constantly preparing for the sounds of the gun, taking each breath as if were to be my last.
The wheel continued to spin faster, the chances of survival decreasing with each missed bullet. Thursday. Friday. It continued… death inching forward.
"Are you ready?" I took a steadying breath, feeling the medal of my gun pressed against my skin, and nodded to my partner.
"As I'll ever be," I responded, my tone bordering the line of confidence and how-the-hell-did-I-get-myself-into-this-mess.
"Masen!" my partner snapped. I looked over, confused.
"What?" I whispered, shrugging my shoulders.
"Get your shit together!" So apparently my tone leaned more towards the what-the-hell than it did confidence. "If you get me killed, I swear I'll come back in my next life and kill you myself, slowly and painfully. And I promise to enjoy every minute of it. Clear?"
"Yeah, crystal. Now stop stalling and get a fucking move on," I retorted, suddenly angry and ready to go.
"Hold on…" My partner eased up on the gun and leaned in to kiss me. "I love you."
"Don't say that as if you won't get to tell me later." I warned.
"Just make sure we both get out of here alive."
"I always do."
And in we went, the sounds of bullets being released deafening.
6 Months Earlier
"You're not serious?" I asked, spitting out my stale coffee all over my Captain's cluttered desk.
"You need the training, Masen. Don't push me on this. This is non-negotiable."
"Like hell it isn't!" I exploded. "I'm the fucking best man you got on this line!"
"Yeah, use that tone with me and you'll be the first one off it!" He slammed his oversized, burly fist on the desk, causing the whole structure to shake in aftershock.
"Look, Masen," he leaned back in his chair, regaining his calm demeanor, "this will be good for you, for the whole unit."
"I don't need this," I said in a much more peaceful but determined manner. "Training like that is for boys' first coming into this. I've been here for five years!"
"We all need training. Consider this an opportunity. Not everybody gets to improve themselves in this way. You'll become quicker, stronger, more focused. You need to become more focused. We can't have a repeat of what happened last month."
"Are you talking about the Smith incident? Come on¸ that was one time, and I already paid my dues for that."
"You're not paying any dues, you're working yourself, becoming the best."
"I'm already the best," I spat forcefully.
"And I'm hoping this program wipes that attitude right off of you. You need work. And like I said, this is non-negotiable."
I ran my fingers through my hair like a petulant child. "This is bullshit," I said under my breath.
"You leave tomorrow," he said, choosing to ignore my last comment.
"Tomorrow?" I shouted.
"Pack your bags, Masen. It's going to be one hell of a ride."
"Name?" he asked, not even looking up at me.
Before I could finish he cut me off, lifting his head to glare at me. "What? Do you think this is some tea party event that we're going to become best friends? I don't give a shit about your first name. Last name, pretty boy."
"Masen," I snarled at him.
He found my name on file and used his dying pen to cross me off his Welcome to Hell check sheet. This whole training program was a load of shit. I was Edward motherfucking Masen. I didn't need to be alongside new recruits, I should be training them, not the other way around.
I took the keys from the sprite behind the desk and was told where my lodging was for the next six weeks. Six weeks. I sulked the whole way across the courtyard of the Whitlock Training Center. There was a whole range of men around, carrying their bags, all giddy and excited as if this were the first day of college. Only there would be no beer fests or football games. Instead, there would be a whole lot of ass whopping, hopefully done on my part.
I didn't talk to anyone after I bitterly relayed my name to the officer. He made it very clear that this was SWAT training, not cheerleading camp. My residence building was a large, brick structure that was, to my dismay, very well kept. I was hoping the housing would match my mood towards this awful place. Whoever owned it obviously took pride in their work.
I grudgingly walked into my room – pissed that it was like a damn labyrinth to get to – and threw my bag on the bottom bunk. Bunk beds. It just kept getting better.
"Uh, I already got bottom," a scrawny blonde kid mumbled from the desk towards the door. Without a second glance, I continued to unload my belongings, choosing not to move my bag, or even respond for that matter.
"Dude, really," he began.
I turned to glare at him, my hatred for this place, this situation, being removed from my squad, my girls back home, and my hate for bunk beds penetrating through my eyes. Poor kid looked like he was about to piss himself… oh, wait… yup…there it goes.
The corner of my mouth turned up into a menacing smirk.
"I'll take top," he mumbled, leaving the room – hopefully going to the bathroom to clean up.
There was a knock on the door and I turned my head slightly, noticing a tall, slender, middle-aged looking man, dressed in an officer's uniform. "Ten minutes, center field. I suggest changing into your uniform provided."
And sure enough, I looked over at my dresser and noticed a large stack of black gym shorts and gray t-shirts with Whitlock written in yellow across it. I begrudgingly slipped off my shoes and removed my jeans and blue button-down. I stood in my boxers, about to step through the first leg in my shorts when piss-boy came back into the room and gasped at my appearance. Great.
"You…um…you…got a six pack…and, oh, God, are those v-lines?"
I spared him a questioning look.
"I mean, uh…You got the memo about changing. Good, good. Yeah, I'm, uh, just, uh, going to go, um, change as well. Yup, in the bathroom… again. Yeah." He picked up his new outfit and fluttered, yeah, fluttered, out of the room.
I smacked my head with my hand and closed my eyes in frustration. I was twenty-six years old. I did not need to be roomies with anybody, especially one who blushed at the sight of me half naked. I did not need to train with new recruits. I did not need to run laps or lift weights to prove myself. This whole situation was ridiculous.
I found about fifty men huddled around center field, chatting like school girls. I took my stance in the back and didn't mutter a word to a soul. I recognized the older guy who knocked on my door standing up in the front, talking with a guy who looked about my age, maybe a little older, with brownish blonde, curly hair. I should have been up there with them, instructing these men, teaching them.
"Hey, roomie." Pisser smacked my shoulder in acknowledgment and mirrored my crossed armed posture. I chose not to respond back.
"So, you know, I didn't get your name before. I'm Mike." He stretched out his arm to take my hand.
"Listen, Pisser, I'm not interested in being friends. I'm here to get in and get out as quickly as possible."
"Is that your motto with the ladies, too?" he joked.
"You are kidding me, right?" I asked with no humor.
"Lighten up, man." He shrugged his shoulders and began stretching. "This place is going to be fun."
"Yeah… fun," I muttered sarcastically.
"Okay! Listen up!" the blonde officer called from up front. "This is day one of training, and I don't plan on wasting any time. My name is Cullen, I'm you're instructional officer for the remainder of the program. If you have a problem, you come to me. This is McCarty," he nodded his head towards the massive creature of a man to his left, "He is responsible for all of your personal workouts and gym use. And finally, this is Whitlock. He is responsible for this entire facility, and if you mess it up, he will have your balls in his easter basket, dyed all different fancy colors, so I suggest you take care of your surroundings. There will be other officers filtering through; we expect all of you to give each of them your full respect. This is a privilege to be here, and I will throw your ass out if I so see fit."
He continued on with instructions on the dining facility, curfew, and other various components of the Training Center. Even though I hated being here, I had a strange feeling that that man, the older blonde, needed to be respected. He seemed so familiar to me, and I wondered if I had met him before. The other two men drew no recognition, and even though across my chest was Whitlock's name, Cullen was the one that I wanted to impress.
Time went on, McCarty took the stage, and I was getting fidgety, itching to get a move on with these workouts so I could stop being lessoned like a second grader. My fidgets gradually became more profound until I was practically jogging in place.
"Enough. You look like a jackrabbit. I suggest you save your energy," a sharp female voice filtered through my rambling thoughts. I turned quickly to see a fantastic looking woman standing behind me, wearing an officer's uniform, no less. I roamed my eyes over her figure before landing on her face.
"I'm not too concerned about my stamina, thanks," I retorted, turning back around while continuing to bounce on my heels.
I heard her laugh bitterly behind me. "Something funny?" I turned around again, not at all discomposed from her obvious beauty. Her light blonde hair was pulled up into a ponytail, the length of it spilling over her shoulder.
"I'm just excited to emasculate you, that's all," she relayed smoothly.
"Masen!" I heard my name being called from up front. I turned around and saw all eyes on me. I recognized the burly man, McCarty, trying to grab my attention with his penetrating stare.
"Sir?" I responded the only appropriate way I knew how.
"Would you care to repeat what I just said, or were you too busy bullshiting, wasting my time, to pay attention?"
"Something about having my balls in an easter basket?" I shot back. I would have smacked myself at my tone.
"Funny," he deadpanned. "You just earned yourself five extra miles."
He returned his attention back to the group, and I groaned under my breath.
"Don't be too upset, princess, I'm sure with all your stamina, you'll be just fine," the blonde snickered from behind me. I didn't even bother to turn around and give her a response.
A few minutes later, they had us all in lines, stretching as a group. I felt like I belonged to a damn high school football team. I saw her legs move through the sea of men as we were bent down from the waste, trying the whole nose-to-your-knee maneuver. I pushed her from my mind, focusing instead on the task ahead of me. One step at a time, I reminded myself. One day, one activity, one mile at a time.
We finished rolling out our ankles, and we were ready to being our jog through the path in the woods. McCarty led, and I was quick to make my way up to the front, naturally a fast runner.
"You trying to impress someone, Masen?" he huffed out to me, a few miles in.
"No, sir," I responded. "I'm just one fast motherfucker." He picked up his speed and I followed, making sure I stayed on equal footing. The woods were hell to run through, though. We had to constantly make sure we didn't trip over a root, rock, or stub and land face first on the ground. The trees blocked the heat from the sun, but nonetheless, we were drenched in sweat by the time we stopped. Men were falling on the field, some puking in the bushes, at the end of the run. I admit, I was tired, worn out, and incredibly out of breath.
"Let's go, jackrabbit."
"Excuse me?" I turned and saw the blonde female officer from before, jogging in place, her breath still intact."
"You got five more miles to go," she reminded me.
McCarty, who I had mentally renamed Beef Jerky, laughed from beside me, shaking his head and tossing me a bottle of water from the cooler beside him. "Have fun, Masen," he sounded.
I groaned and started up again, opening the bottle of water and pouring it in my mouth as I ran. We entered back into the woods, and I cursed this whole situation all over again.
We ran in silence, and I no longer tried to push and show my speed. She ran beside me, her body obviously in good shape.
"You do this everyday?" I muttered.
"Do what? Babysit petulant recruits? No."
"I meant running fifteen miles," I said bitterly.
She laughed. "Why? Surprised that I can keep up?"
"Truthfully? Yeah, I'm surprised."
"Don't be. I wasn't kidding when I said I was excited to emasculate you," she retorted before bounding off ahead of me.
"Damn-it," I muttered to myself and picked up my speed.
The five extra miles went by quickly, my drive to keep my balls and pride in tack pushing me forward. The runner's high helped too. Ignoring my one little trip up, involving a hidden root catching my foot, and my face hitting the mud quite nicely, things went smoothly. She pushed me and I pushed back, no more words needed in our silent competition. We both emerged from the woods at the same time, this time both of us equal in our exhaustion.
She rested her hands on her knees, panting heavily, while I just threw myself onto the soft grass, looking up at the clouded sky. She straightened herself and looked down at me.
"Try not to get yourself into anymore trouble and we won't have to do that again. Now, go wash up, I'm sure you're late for dinner," she said in as strong of a voice as she could, considering she had yet to fully catch her breath, and then walked off, leaving me on my back.
A few minutes later, I was on my feet and striding back to my makeshift dorm room to shower. She was right, though, I was late for dinner and I shoved as much food as I could in the ten minutes I had left to eat.
After dinner was strategy training. We were all split up into different classrooms, desks and chalkboards included. I was excited to see Cullen walk in, setting different papers on the desk. He was the one man I wanted to learn from. I didn't know what I would have done if I had Beef Jerky teaching me strategy skills.
Cullen was smart, that was certain. He was calm, collected, driven. But mostly, he was admirable. He had experience that showed through the wrinkles in his face and the dullness behind his eyes. I was sure he had seen things in his lifetime that beat out the armature scenes I had been a part of. There was no light left, just blackness, experience piercing through. I was immediately envious.
That night was the first time I heard of the Russian Roulette analogy. He talked about how each assignment we were given, each time we went out into our particular field, it was a gamble of life or death. The literal guns that went off could be the one that pierced us, ending our game, our life, our being. We were all players, but were we pulling the guns on ourselves? Were we the flick of the trigger that rolled the dice of our humanity? That was where strategy was involved in the SWAT unit. We had to be smart. We weren't burley men… or women… with guns. We were fighters, not gamblers. However, each round was a game in the big scheme of things. Games that sometimes were based off chance, if we weren't careful.
A complex game of Russian Roulette.
It was dark. The night encased me like a shield, oddly protective in my strange mind. The previous week was brutal. Workouts beat us down, but kept us wanting more. I felt like a horse with an attached carrot on a string, just out of reach. It pushed me to become stronger, better. I hated that I found this place so difficult. The runs were more intense, the boxing kicked my ass, and the classroom lessons were oddly informative.
My initial pretenses of not needing this place were quickly dissipated. This place showed me just how weak I was, but also just how strong I could be. My potential was powerful, stimulating. We trained in all special areas of SWAT. I became steadier with my gun, more deadly in my actions. I was taught control, speed, precision. It was both mentally and physically exhausting.
A new tradition came to me this past week; it was strangely perfect and originally unseen. At night, after classroom lessons and curfew, I would run. The dark woods became a needed escape from my ridiculous roommate, Beef Jerky, and the stunningly annoying female officer. She taunted me effortlessly, it seemed. Everything was a competition or a snide remark. She treated me different than the others, as if I was a pain in her existence, an unwanted nuisance. She mocked me in front of the other officers, constantly remarking on my masculinity, or lack thereof, as she liked to put it.
Her games got old after just a few days, and now, I hardly acknowledged any of her tactics. I kept my composure neutral, unmoving, unaffected. She would not break me.
So I pushed harder. I proved myself in my ability. I ran faster, I lifted more, I studied harder. I became better, the best, unstoppable, unbeatable. My nightly runs aided me in that. The solitude they provided kept my sanity in check and in return, my senses, endurance, and fluidness all improved, side payments for my effort.
The nights were cold, bitter cold that hurt everywhere. My bones protested when I would emerge in the darkness, begging to stay in the warmth. However, by the end, sweat overtook my skin, soaking through my clothing, causing the material to stick to my body like a horny female. I laughed at my own analogy. It had been too long without a woman.
Tonight was especially dark, the clouds preventing the moon from penetrating its light. I hesitated before entering into the woods, unsure of how to proceed. I couldn't give up the high the runs gave me. Weighing the pros and cons took significantly less time than they should have, and I was deep into the forest in no time.
The darkness proved to be more of a struggle than I thought, and the normally natural sounds of the night were intensified and started to get to me. I tried to remind myself that it was just nature, harmless. The snaps of branches that were obviously not caused from my own feet were normal, not from a bear…or mountain lion. I berated my childish thoughts. I was a grown man, I repeated in my head.
I was busy chanting "Grown-ass-man" in my mind that I was taken off guard when something jumped out in front of me. I stopped dead in my tracks, grabbing my heart in surprise, and I admit, a small noise might have had escaped my lips. My eyes were adjusted to the darkness, but the shadow of some… creature... was unidentifiable.
"Who's there?" I asked out loud to the forest.
"Come on, be a man, show yourself!" I demanded, amping myself up for a fight. My muscles flexed in preparation, my adrenaline coursing through my veins.
Another sound make me jump back again, and my eyes were drawn to the right, and I watched as a squirrel run up a tree.
"You have got to be kidding me," I muttered to myself, automatically relaxing.
"You truly are pathetic," a voice caught me off guard, and I whipped around again.
Hale, the female officer of my demise, appeared out of the darkness from behind me. "What are you doing here?" I asked angrily.
"I could ask you the same thing, Masen. You know you're breaking curfew right now."
"Did you follow me out here?" I asked, ignoring her curfew bullshit.
"I'm not a follower. You should know that by now," she retorted.
"Yeah, then why the hell are you following me?"
She walked up, closing the distance between us. She lightly pressed small frame up to mine, teasingly, running her finger down the side of my face. My breath hitched. What was happening? I asked myself. My brain lost all function as my body took in her close presence.
She stood up on her toes so her mouth was right next to my ear, her breathing heavy. My hands instinctively found their way around her waist, feeling her delicate curves. I was certain she was going to kiss me. I licked my lips in anticipation, willing to lose some of this pent up tension towards each other. Her breath was warm in the usual cold night, and it sent a shiver down my spine.
"Oh, Masen," she breathed seductively. "Don't flatter yourself," she relayed flatly, removing herself from my vicinity.
"What?" I asked, stupidly, shaking my head.
Her voice was back to normal, icy. "You shouldn't run alone at night. It's not safe." Without another glance, she took back off running ahead of me.
I had nothing else left to do but follow.
I didn't know why she did it. I didn't know if she secretly wanted to, or felt obligated. It frankly pissed me off. But every night, from there on out, I had a new running buddy. I groaned internally at the word. It was like I had to be escorted. I tried to remind her that I was not little red riding hood, and that there was no big bad wolf out to cook me for dinner. She scoffed and not so politely reminded me that she was no escort, and that I would be getting no Tiger Woods treatment, either.
We really were a messed up, bitter pair.
"So what's going on between you and Hale, Masen?" Pisser asked from his top bunk as I entered the room, fresh from my nightly-post-run shower.
"We gonna have girl talk, Mike?" I asked sarcastically.
"Don't be a smart ass. People are talking."
"Yeah, well, let 'em talk."
"So, it's true then?"
I turned around from the dresser, having just put my shorts on, and faced him. "Listen, I will say this one time, so I suggest you listen nice and good, there is nothing going on between Hale and I, and if I hear you suggest otherwise again, we're going to have a very pleasant conversation involving my fist and your throat. Clear?"
He swallowed sharply. "Sounds like you're hiding something to me."
"Yeah, well, you're not the smartest one in the bunch, so it doesn't surprise me that you have it wrong, once again." I sufficiently ended the conversation by flipping out the light and crawling into bed. Tomorrow would mark our halfway point through the program.
Three weeks gone, three more to go. I wouldn't allow myself to worry about the gossip. We were at SWAT training, not a retirement home, or middle school slumber party, for that matter.
However, it wasn't only Pisser that brought the topic of Hale and me to my attention. I got whistles and pats on the back from the men in the cafeteria, head nods from guys in the gym, and plenty of ass holes decided to verbally congratulate me on 'scoring one for the home team.' Idiots.
I ignored it all, not a smirk or acknowledgement or a high five given in return. I decided it would be best to isolate myself from the other men, sitting by myself at meals, working out alone, and running further ahead than the others so I could enjoy my solitude.
Hale took pretty much the same approach as I did. She blew off the comments, her icy face staying still as stone, her eyes continuously burning a whole through men who passed by her. This continued for another week, and I was ready to snap.
The sun set, classes ended, and it was time again for buddy and me to go for our run. I stretched and jogged in place by myself outside, trying to warm up. She was late.
I waited a good fifteen minutes past our usual meeting time before she appeared. She didn't even say a word, merely running off into the forest, instead. Okay… I thought questioningly.
I followed suit, catching up quite easily. We went for a while in silence. The only sounds were our hard breathing and small animals passing by. My mind once again became focused, in tune with my activity, concentrating on the task at hand, feeling my muscles as I pressed forward, and enjoying the wind as it whipped my face and through my hair. I steadied my breathing, in through my nose, out through my mouth. My eyes adjusted to the blindness of the night and stayed glued to the ground, off of Hale's very toned ass.
I wouldn't even give my eyes the satisfaction.
I ran right smack into her, not noticing that she stopped. I instinctively threw my hands out to steady her shoulders. She whipped around and violently shook herself from my grip.
"What's wrong?" I asked, obviously panicked.
"What did you say to them?" Her voice cut like a knife.
"Say what to who?" I asked back, raising my voice.
"Why the fuck did Cullen pull me into his office today asking if I was sleeping with you? I gave him my word on these runs, and you go off and spew your bullshit to your little boyfriends, and now I'm in deep shit. Why did you do it? Why would you lie?"
She was out of breath and on the verge of tears by the end of her rant, her accusing only escalating my anger.
"I didn't say anything! I'm getting just as much shit from the guys in this place as you are!"
"No, Masen! You get the high fives and 'that-a-boys'! I get the degrading stares, the slut whispers, the sexual offers. My status and respect automatically goes down. Do you know how hard I've had to work to get here? What I've been through?"
"Of course I don't know! We never actually talk! I wouldn't have anything to talk about with any of those guys. They aren't my friends! I don't hang out with them! I'm here because I have to be, and I've been doing a pretty damn good job of keeping to myself. You're the one who insisted on running with me, you're the one who put yourself in this situation. I didn't do a damn thing. You have no room to be angry with me!"
"He fired me," she said with eerie calmness.
"What?" I asked, shocked.
"I guess fired isn't the right term," she subtly corrected herself, turning her back to me and running her fingers through her hair. "Relocated, reassigned, back in the field and off the training center are the words he used instead. Still… the point came across clearly."
"Wow, Hale." I had no words.
She turned back around and wiped the tears from her cheeks. "Promise you didn't say anything," she sharply relayed.
"I promise," I muttered weakly.
She just shook her head up and down in response, apparently accepting my denial. We didn't continue running that night. Instead we walked, slowly, silently, through the forest, back to the center.
She was gone by morning.
I didn't go for my run the next night. Instead, I waited. I was a predator, and he was my prey. I was going to kill that motherfucker.
"What's up, roomie?" Mike walked in, fresh from his shower, surprised by my presence.
I allowed him to dress himself as I waited patiently from the opposite end of the room. He looked at me confused when he was done.
"What's wrong with you, man? Miss your lady?" he snickered.
"I know it was you." My voice was steady, calm, laced with wickedness.
"I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about." He turned to meet my stance.
"No one knew about my runs, except for Cullen. No one could have known that I was even out of this room. You, however, knew that I wasn't here. What? Were you upset that I didn't come back to keep your bed warm for you? So you decide to follow me? You see Hale and me out one night and you automatically accuse us of sleeping together. How dare you make those assumptions!" My voice grew steadily louder, deeper in its anger.
"All I know is that you would come back in here, sweating and panting, all flushed. And yeah, I saw you and Hale. Don't you even try to deny you weren't hitting that shit, man."
I crossed the room in a second and had him pinned to the door by his neck. "Watch it, Pisser. I'm so close to breaking your skull against this door." I gave his head a nice smack against the wood for good measure. "You know nothing," I spat and released him.
"Stop trying to cover it up, Masen! Gigs up, man! Just admit it and move on. People in this place think you're a god. Embrace it!" he said, rubbing the back of his head.
"I didn't ask for that. I didn't want any of that! Now she has to take the punishment for your big mouth!"
"There is no punishment. You're clearly overreacting."
"No," I said, "this is overreacting." I lifted my fist and hit him clear in the jaw, the force sending him to the ground.
The next day probably wouldn't be listed in my top five. I was chewed out by McCarty for hitting Pisser. I decided not to explain that he was lucky that was all I did. He said that it didn't help validate my protests of Hale and I. I shut up pretty quickly after that.
By the time I reached Cullen, I was a sulking, angry, ticking bomb.
"I should remove you from this program right now," he said as I sat across from him in his office.
I didn't respond.
"What you did, with Newton and with Hale, are both worthy of termination."
"Look, Cullen… uh, sir," I added after his glare shot through me, "you can remove me for hitting Newton. I take full responsibility for that. But nothing happened with Officer Hale and me. Honestly." I tried to convince him the best I could.
"Word says otherwise."
"Word with what premise, though? Newton saw us come back from the woods, but you knew full well that we were there, running! Nothing else happened."
"The quality of this program is at stake, Mr. Masen. People will question the effectiveness of this facility if they hear our officers our sleeping with recruits. Do you understand that?
"And to set the record straight," he continued, "Officer Hale never gave me any prior knowledge of your late night runs. There was no permission given. I wasn't even aware of it until word about the two of you was leaked."
I sat, dumbfounded. "She told me that I could continue running at night if I was escorted by an officer."
"We have rules about curfew, Masen. There was no special exception given for you."
"Why did she lie?" I asked, more to myself.
"The question that I'm worried about right now is whether you are lying."
"Nothing happened. We just ran together," I said, looking him straight in the eye.
"Very well, then." He rose from his seat. "You will be reprimanded for your incident with Newton, however, you will not be released early. You will finish this program, but I warn you, Masen, any more slip ups and your good as gone."
Good as gone, I repeated to myself as I laid in bed without having gone on my run. Gone. I wondered silently where she had gone. I mentally wished I was gone. Gone from this program, this messed up situation. The innocence of it was what angered me the most. Nothing happened, ever. There was no late night kiss, caress, glance. All it was was an escape, a competition that kept us fueled.
I didn't know why she lied. Maybe the runs became something to her, kept her here like it did for me. The adrenaline, the high, the darkness.
Maybe all of this was just a game. We all had our gun, she took a chance with me, pulled the trigger, this time, though, we were both shot.
"Masen! Welcome home, buddy!" I walked back into work the Monday after the program ended two weeks later, being nodded to and acknowledged by my fellow unit men.
I brought my bag into the locker room type area and changed into my jogging shorts and tshirt.
"So, how was fat camp?"
"Fat camp? I thought he went to rehab."
"Nah, it was definitely ballet academy."
"Nice, man! Got any new skills to show off? Did they provide the too-too or did you have to bring your own?"
I let them all joke, allowing them to have their fun. I would get to show them just how many skills I learned later that day in the gym. They wouldn't be laughing when I lay them out in the boxing ring, or destroy their shooting averages in the range.
"I'll tell you what guys," I turned around and spoke, "you all have it wrong." I finished lacing up my shoe and began walking out. "It was Beauty school. Chew on that one, fuckers," I said, laughing.
"Masen!" my Capitan called from across the facility.
I headed in that direction, not even bothering with a verbal reply, automatically sobering from the locker room exchange.
"Capitan," I said, walking into his office, having a seat in front of the desk that he was behind.
"I take it the program went well?" he inquired.
I nodded. Truthfully, I was glad to be out. Ready to be back in the line of fire. The last two weeks were dreadful. The only verbal interaction I had with anyone was the grunts and cuss words that spilled from my lips in the gym. My nights were lonely. I never realized how much her presence in the forest aided to my sanity. When she left, my drive for competition, greatness, dwindled. I didn't quite notice that she was the push to my pull.
"Good, good, Masen. I suspect that you're ready to be back with your unit."
"Yes, sir," I replied.
He sat still, looking at me, searching.
"Is that all, Captain? I asked, feeling uncomfortable.
"Yeah, that's all."
I stood and left, finding my way back to the guys.
The days passed quickly. I got back into my routine, a cycle of normalcy. I enjoyed having my own room, no bunk beds involved. I ate my own food, set my own curfew. And I ran. At night. Without penalty. Stupid fuckers.
I laced up, stretched, and began. Reacquainting myself to the thrill of running in the night, leaving humanity behind for a while, escaping to the contents of my own mind. Uninterrupted bliss, granted, it was rewarded with a killer runner's high.
My soles hit the concrete below me, wishing for the softness of the dirt of the forest. I no longer had to worry about roots, rocks, or squirrels; however, I did have to keep an eye out for light posts, vehicles, and the occasional bum. It wasn't the same, but it was better than the constraints the facility instilled after she left.
My body was in the best shape of my life. I felt every muscle work in correlation with the others, working together, pushing harder. I could go for miles. The past six weeks were intense, but rewarding.
My nights and days continued forward, always moving. However, Captain didn't put me back into the field right away. It was unnerving. I was itching to get back. I could help, I could save people. This was my job, my calling. I killed to protect. I protected those that were sought out by killers. We both had guns. Mine were used as a shield to take down those who used it as a weapon.
It was a month after I returned that I found myself back in Captain's office.
"Captain, why!" I questioned. "I've been back for four weeks! When are you going to send me out, I'm dying here!"
"We're just busy doing some restructuring, Masen. You'll go back. All in time."
"Time? You're wasting time. I'm sharp, skilled, ready."
"Time, Masen. Time."
I groaned and pushed myself up from the chair, turning around to leave.
"One more thing," he said, halting my steps.
"What' that?" I asked bitterly.
"I want you to go into Special Teams."
This perked my attention. "Yeah?" I asked eagerly.
Special Teams was a separate unit within SWAT. It was more precise, smaller groups, higher stakes.
"What's brought this on?"
"You've been proving yourself. You have what it takes, Masen. I want you on this unit. Starting today."
"Wow, Captain, I don't know what to say."
"You don't need to say anything, just keep doing what you've been doing. Oh, and you get a partner now. She's getting here this afternoon. Just moved to the city."
"She?" I asked incredulously.
"She's the best," he scolded.
There was a knock at the door, interrupting our conversation.
"Oh, Masen," the voice sounded from behind me, "I get to emasculate you all over again."
Life with Rosalie was… hard. Fierce. Always a competition. She was the push to my pull. The fight in my battle.
She was the best and worst partner someone could ask for.
She was also my girlfriend that drove me insane. But I loved her. Everything about her. When she first got to the unit, after the program was over, I was elated to see her. I lifted her up into a hug in the Captain's office. She then continued to push away, slap me across the face, and told me to never touch her again.
We had a great relationship.
She kicked my ass in training. I ignored her for a while after that. It drove her nuts. I loved it.
We eventually became friends. It's impossible to not become friends with your partner. My life depended on her, as hers did on me. We talked, hung out, ran together. But it wasn't until a month after she came on board that we talked about what happened in the program. I think that was the same night I fell for her.
"Why did you lie?"
"Lie about what?" she asked. We had just finished our nightly run and were sitting on a bench outside her building.
"Don't play the ignorance card," I chided, taking a sip from my water.
She sighed, her fingers pushing back the golden hair that had fallen from her ponytail.
"It's a long story, Masen."
I sat silently, patiently, urging her with my silence to continue.
When she turned her head and her eyes locked with mine, my heart automatically broke. The unshed tears swam in her eyes, and her blue eyes danced with pain.
"I was raped when I was seventeen."
My eyes widened and my mouth dropped opened accordingly. "Rosalie," I murmured. She raised her hand to stop me.
"I don't want your pity. Please just let me finish." She waited for my conformation before beginning again. "His name was Royce King; it was the typical high school jock, cheerleader relationship. I was so smitten with him." She shook her head, remembering, feeling ridiculous.
"One night, after the homecoming game, he wanted to go for a walk with me in the woods behind the school. I didn't think anything of it. He was my boyfriend; he would never hurt me, right? Right," she scoffed. "Anyway, he said it would be romantic, just a walk, sightseeing.
"We got pretty deep in, I asked if we could turn around and go back, he pushed me up against the tree, I said no… and I guess you can put the rest of the pieces together," she added softly.
"I'm so sorry," I consoled with sincere remorse.
"That doesn't really explain why I lied, though, does it," she mocked, laughing without humor. "I left my high school after that night. My mother home schooled me until graduation, and instead of going to college, I joined the police academy. I wanted to learn how to defend myself. I wanted to be able to kill a man with my bare hands if I needed to."
I cringed at her tone. She was violent, hardened, icy.
"So I did. Life just led me to SWAT, and when I met Carlisle Cullen, he was able to pull me into the academy. First as a recruit, and then when I got better, learned more, I became an officer.
"But you have to understand, Masen. Those runs in the woods, even with the group, were really hard for me. I was one woman surrounded by fifty men. It wasn't a nice reminder. But the day you got there, McCarty asked me to run the extra five miles with you. He wanted you watched to make sure you actually carried out your punishment.
"I didn't allow him to see the fear in my face. He doesn't know what happened; he wouldn't even think that I would be hesitant.
"But I did it, Masen. I ran with you, alone, in the woods. I couldn't believe it. I was… elated. It was a huge milestone for me. But, man, when I saw you running by yourself at night, I knew I had to do it. It needed to be dark, recreating the night Royce attacked me. I needed to prove it to myself, to you, to him, even, that I could protect myself.
"But you never went after me. You wouldn't even speak to me.
"I loved it. I craved it."
"I would have never hurt you."
She looked at me, strength now appearing in her features. "That's why I kept coming back. That's why I lied."
"I wish you would have told me sooner."
"Would it have changed anything?"
I shrugged my shoulders, unsure.
"Don't sweat it, Masen. I'm a big girl."
"You're lovely," I blurted out. My eyes went wide with my own confession.
She laughed simply. "And you're a pain in the ass."
"Would you maybe…want to… you know, go on a date sometime?"
She looked at me, her lips lifted up in a smirk. "I'm not sure you have enough stamina to keep up with me, jackrabbit."
"I'm not too concerned about my stamina, thanks."
She laughed again and patted my knee before standing up.
"Yeah, I suppose you can take me out. It better be nice though, no half ass shit."
"No half ass shit," I agreed, rising to meet her.
4 months later
"Hale!" I yelled. "Hale!"
I ran through the smoky building, my gun held securely in my hand, my bulletproof vest weighing me down.
"Where is she!" I panickly asked Andrews.
"I don't know, man. She was here a few minutes ago. She ran in looking for you!"
"She's such a fucking idiot!" I yelled, mostly to myself.
I pushed harder, tackling my way through the rumble of the fallen building. The small bombs that went off left most of it in ruins. I couldn't believe she went in without me. I was furious.
There was smoke everywhere, small flames circled through. I needed to find her and get her out. Get us both out.
"Hale!" I tried again.
"Edward," I heard from a distance.
"Edward, where are you?" the voice was laced in tears.
Damn-it. She knew better than to cry on the job.
"Rosalie! Baby? Where are you?" I raced towards the voice and found my girl, dressed in the same uniform I had on, coming through a makeshift doorway the bomb had created.
"Edward! Where the fuck did you go?" she asked in anger as she ran to me.
"No time for talk, we need to get out before the structure collapses. Come on."
I pulled her out, taking her hand and leading her back to the protection of the outside world.
"Why did you go in without me?"
"You went in without me!" I shot back.
"You never listen. I told you to wait!" she argued.
"I did wait; you're the one who went in! What happened to the whole 'partner' concept, Rose. You could have died in there."
"I thought you were dying in there," she said softly.
The pain on her face broke right through my anger. "I'm right here, baby." I took her into my arms, audience of ambulances and bystanders. "I'm right here."
5 years later
"I'm going to kill you!" she yelled, all the hatred aimed directly in my direction.
"You wanted this, Rose!" I reminded her.
"Fuck this. Fuck you and fucckkk….ahhh!" she screamed out in pain.
"Come on, baby. You can do this. Just push!"
"Stop telling me…to… push," she panted. "You fucking push!"
I took a wet towel and wiped the sweat from her forehead. "You're almost there, baby. You're so close."
"Kill…you…kill…you," she repeated through her labored breathing.
The sound of a high pitched scream broke through her chanting. We were both stunned into silence, looking directly at each other, smiling.
"I love you so much, Rosalie." I kissed her mouth passionately.
"Would you like to cut the cord, Daddy?" the nurse asked. I complied.
They wiped off our baby girl and set her in the arms of my stunning wife.
"She's so beautiful," Rose said between her tears, her breath still not caught.
"Just like her mother," I said, voice thick.
I kissed her again, marveling at the wonderful creation, our creation, which lay in her arms.
Life was a game, a chance.
And sometimes, we all emerged as victors.