AN: Alright, another chap. Sorry this is taking me so long, but between work, class, and my mother retiring I'm a little bogged. For anyone who is still with me, thanks for sticking around. Also, for those of you who reviewed, I really appreciate it and just realized the other day that you can reply to those things (legasp). so i might start doing that... anywho. This chap. has more Will POV so I tried to stay in character... but we'll see. As always, let me know what you think. Also, I'm used to writing out an entire story and then just posting the whole thing, but I didn't do that for this one so updates will probably be slow... like this one was. terribly sorry...

(Will James P.O.V.)

They strapped… no… padlocked the bomb to this guy. What kind of sick psychos are they?

Will looked at the time decreasing on the watch as Sanborn ran to get the bolt cutters. The man kept mumbling in Arabic, probably trying to plead with him, trying to make Will save his life. The radio crackled again.

"He says please, I have a family," The translator told him for the fourth time in the past five minutes. An image of his son flashed in his mind and he squeezed his eyes shut quickly.

Will counted the padlocks and started running the numbers. Two minutes on the timer and Sanborn was still getting the bolt cutters. This was nowhere he wanted to be. So why was he here? He took the bomb out of the kid instead of blowing the place, and now he was trying to save this guy. One guy.

"What am I, a humanitarian?" He mumbled to himself as he slowly made his way around the guy, trying to find a faster way to diffuse the bomb. Them man's words were coming faster and he could see him shaking. He placed a hand on the back of the guy's head. "It's okay, you're alright, you're alright." Not that the guy could understand him. It sounded like he was praying now. Sanborn Showed up with the bolt cutters.

"Man, you weren't kidding."

"Nope." Will said through gritted teeth as he tried to cut one of the padlocks. "What are these made out of?" They were barely giving.

"That's case hardened steel." Sanborn said after he inspected one. No wonder the damn thing wouldn't budge. These bombers really had their shit planned out.

"We need a torch."

"We don't have one of those in the fucking truck, man. This guys a dead man! Just leave him!" Sanborn was loosing it.

"No, wait, I can figure this out." Will said as he went through every possible trick of the trade he had and was still coming up dry. "We don't have enough time Sanborn, We don't have enough time." He went back to trying to cut the bolts off. He hadn't felt this helpless in a long time.

"We've got a minute and a half, man, we have to go."

"Get out of here Sanborn."

"No, come on man, leave him!"

"Sanborn, I've got the suit, just go!"

"James!"

"GO!" He started cutting off another bolt and this one gave. "Alright, that's one." He could hear Sanborn yelling for everyone to get back. This blast was gonna be huge. He looked back at the watch. 45 seconds. He had nothing left. "I swear if you are the next person to go I will fall apart and never forgive you." He could hear Tess in his head like a ghost. Damn it!

He kneeled down in front of the guy he was supposed to save and started apologizing. "There's too many locks, do you understand, There's too many locks, I'm sorry." The words were flying from him and at this point it didn't even matter that they didn't speak the same language, the man understood what was going on. He took his hands from behind his head and started reaching for Will. "You understand? I'm sorry! I'm Sorry!" He turned and started running. Now there was nothing in his mind but getting out. No Tess, not his son, just him and the soon to be deadly explosion behind him.

When he heard it detonate he turned in time to catch the explosion in his chest. It knocked him off his feet, the air out of his lungs, and his face straight into his helmet. The next thing he knew he was flat on his back staring up at… a kite?

Who in the name of God was flying a kite? Was he home? No, still here in Afghanistan… and someone was flying a kite in what had to be less than half a click from a bomb that just went off. He had seen a lot of things here, but that was new.

He layed there watching the kite for… he didn't know how long, before a medic showed up and started talking to him. He blinked a few times and looked from the kite to the medic. He knew he was talking because his mouth was moving but Will couldn't hear a damn thing the guy was saying. It all came through like he was underwater with his ears stuffed with cotton. He tried to shake his head, but the helmet wouldn't let him. Instinctivly he reached up to try and take it off. The thing that had just saved his life now felt like it was trying to suffocate him. The medic saw him reaching and helped him out of the helmet.

Eventually they got him on his feet and out of the suit. His hearing was coming back and the medic had given him the OK. As he walked back to the truck he felt a little angry. Not that a man had just died, well maybe a little bit of that, but because he didn't figure out the puzzle. He couldn't figure out how to stop the bomb. He didn't like it when he lost to something he spent his life doing. He got in the truck and slammed the door shut hard. Sanborn was in five seconds later and they drove off back towards base.

"Can you tell me why I am the way I am J.T.?" Sanborn just shook his head and stared out the windshield. Will turned the humvee down another sidestreet and a thought struck him. For a greenie this would be terrifying. Roadside bomb could be anywhere, snipers on the roof. A few kids started running next to the vehicle, pelting it with rocks and yelling things. To Will this was just another day, just another drive down just another street. He might as well be driving around at home, he was so used to it. He had gotten used to war.

He took a hit from the Gatorade to try and clear the sand out of his mouth and throat and remembered how much it used to bug him on his first tour, how it got everywhere. But he was used to that too, not that he enjoyed it, but he was getting used to it… Not that he really enjoyed much of anything anymore, except for maybe the adrenaline rush of being on a job.

I'm turning into a machine he thought, and felt nothing.

When they got back to base Will got checked out at the med building and was left with nothing to do so he decided to go and bother Tess. The garage was in full operation and he had to look under a few vees before he found her.

"Hey!" He yelled over the din. She shifted a bit and squinted at him from beneath the truck.

"What's up?" she yelled back and returned to what she was working on.

"Bored!"

"Mech. Crew only, James!" She yelled back with a grin on her face. He just shrugged at her. "I'll let you stay if you help me out!" He nodded at her. "Grab me that oil pan!" He turned to where she was looking and retrieved it, sliding it under the truck to her. "Thanks!" She shifted over and placed the pan where she had been and reached up into the guts of the truck. Will watched as she strained at the cap trying to get it off.

"Want me to come under there?"

"Don't pander to me, James!" She gritted her teeth. "Come on, baby!" She put all the force she had behind it and the cap finally let go as Will watched the recoil in her arm. "Good girl." She breathed.

Unscrewing the cap she let the oil drain into the pan. She shuffled out from under the truck and Will threw her a rag.

"Thanks a lot." She said wiping her hands. Her shirt was disaster and her hair was a mess. She pushed some out of her face and consequentially got motor oil on her face. Will chuckled at her.

"What?" She asked.

"Just trying to image you as a housewife." She squinted at him.

"Taylor!" One of the guys yelled from across the garage. She threw the rag at Will and walked off. Will followed.

"You seem busy." He said when he caught up.

"I'm acting head of the garage until they replace Grange." She sighed. "Which I hope will be soon. They stopped in front of a humvee where two privates were arguing. "What's going on?"

"She threw a serpentine belt." One private said. She eyed them.

"That's not really something to argue over." She looked under the hood to confirm the problem. Sure enough the serpentine belt was completely gone. "So what's the problem?" She said looking back to the men.

"Nothing Sir." The younger of the two said. The other rolled his eyes.

"You got a problem private Roff?" She said reading off the name on his chest. He was at least two heads taller than she.

"Just don't like having to check in with some butch ass little—" He didn't get to finish his sentence before Will hit him with a right hook to the jaw. After a moment of shock she turned to him.

"I would have handled that…" She stated calmly. He just shrugged and she shook her head. Roff picked himself up off the floor and the other private tried to hide his smirk. "Go get a serpentine belt from the hold, Pvt. Roff." She said.

"Yes Sir!" He yelled before running off towards the back of the garage.

"Good work private." She said to the other before turning to survey the rest of the garage. No one looked particularly lost or frazzled. "She'll take a while to drain." She said nodding to the truck she was changing the oil on. "You hungry?" Will shrugged.

They sat down at the mess hall and Tess dug into her food like a caveman, oil still on her cheek. Will shook his head at her. "We're going to have to train you to be a lady again before we put you back in society."

"Who said I was ever a lady?" She replied with a smile. "'Sides, I haven't eaten since six in the morning. I'm starving." She took another bite. "Saw you guys were out today…"

"Yeah." Will replied without much enthusiasm. "Forced suicide bomb."

"Wouldn't that be a murder bomb?" Tess replied after thinking about it.

"Guess so." He was quiet. She looked him over and noticed his nose was bruised.

"Didn't go so hot, did it?"

"Couldn't get it off him. There had to be at least six padlocks." He took a drink. "and he had four kids."

Tess gritted her teeth and forced down the rest of the food in her mouth. Her stomach twisted. "Why is it that I always have to hear about these things when I'm eating?"

"Sorry." Will said sheepishly "Didn't think about it."

"It's alright." She continued eating, but with much less zeal. "You're going home in a few days aren't you?"

"In a week."

"You don't look to excited." His gaze drifted from her face to the dog tags that hung from her neck. He reached across the table and wrapped his hand around them.

"I don't know if I can leave these here." He said. She watched his face and there was barely any trace of emotion there. "I don't know if I can be a citizen again." He let go of her tags and she thought about what he said. He was right. They had all changed, seen things they could not unsee. Even as she sat there she could sense a dulling of her emotions.

"You're not the only one."

AN: a couple more chapters, yes? we shall see...