004: The Way of Things
January 23d, 2017 - 10:31:20
Derek "Frost" Westbrook
Manhattan, New York
To the best of his knowledge, the conflict - or his part in it - was over. Vladimir Makarov was dead, John Price was "Missing in Action" and the world was better for it for the most part.
It didn't make the truth any easier to swallow as compensation for the prize. Death was the natural order of law; it was the way of things, acting as a contrast to life and happiness. Soldiers fought and died every day, American or otherwise noted, "good" or "bad". But no matter what you told yourself, you'd never be ready for death when it hit you or the people you loved. It would crush you and you would be helpless to stop it.
Resolve didn't count for anything; the five stages of grief were a process of self-torture and acceptance wasn't so much defeat as it was realizing the cycle was a war you'd never win and you'd lose one day. Acceptance was swallowing your pride and putting one foot in front of the other once you've realized the world doesn't stop because someone you knew isn't there anymore, it can't afford to.
Delta Force, or rather, Team Metal, was dead. His commanding officer and his friends were gone, all of them crushed underneath tons of metal and rubble, lost to the ages. Alena Vorshevsky and her father was safe, but at the cost of his comrades. Frost harbored no ill will against the family, they deserved to live just as anyone else, but it didn't make their deaths any less sour on his tongue. He should've been there, helping them, instead he was held up in this bed recovering from self-inflicted stupidity.
Why did he have to go barging into that room? Idiot.
The enormity of his own guilt made him feel sick and awkward; here he was sitting safe, on the cusp of recovery and feeling sorry for himself while people around him needed him to be strong. Guilt for all the times he'd been a regular asshole to Grinch and Truck because he could get away with it, gnawed at his mind like the sear of a bullet grazing the skin.
He was no recluse, but there were times where his desires to be alone and think in a quiet spot tended to override his common curtsey to his fellow man.
That desire to rebel from interacting with his comrades was often nasty, leaving more than a few quarrels in its wake. Truck understood it well enough, but Grinch? Well, Grinch was someone who didn't take no for answer and when he felt like bothering you, you were screwed unless Sandman was around to keep him in check.
"Yes…. sir?" He looked up from his arm encased in a plaster cast and paused. Dunn stood in the doorway of his quarters looking better than he'd last seen him via crappy video transmission. He wasn't dressed to impress, but his attire in comparison to his own made Westbrook feel criminally underdressed and a bit stir crazy. How long had it been since he stepped foot outside of the halls of the hospital, let alone his bedroom if it wasn't for a piss? He rose from his desk and nodded to the corporal. "What is it that you need, Corporal Dunn?"
"Somebody on the phone for you, sir," Dunn replied, fingers tapping against the frame of the doorway.
"Did they say who?"
"Uh, I think it's a family member or something, Foley just said it was urgent," Frowning, Westbrook stepped out of his bedroom and followed Dunn down the crowded hall of passing bodies and stagnant conversation.
It was too early to start talking about reconstruction or 'life after war'; there was hardly a concept in the minds of the soldiers here to work off. There was the past life of the routine before the gun was thrust into their hands, then there was as of yet defined life afterward. The day when they would be allowed to rest or on their laurels, ruminate and rebuild from the ruin that was the United States, UK and Middle East.
Consciously, though, he knew there would be no rest for any of them. They were too hardwired to rebel against that better nature.
Dunn led him into a small office, on the desk there was a phone off the hook, lying on its side next to the cradle. Westbrook gave the inoffensive brown color of the room a once over then shifted his gaze over to Dunn. "I'm not expecting a call; did Foley say who it was?" He inquired again. The corporal shrugged his shoulders, a little annoyed by the repeated question.
"Foley said the call came from here, just take it," He said. Derek had half a mind to argue with him, remind him he was speaking to someone who ranked above him, but he just shook his head and rotated one arm in a manner he hoped was menacing to the corporal.
Crossing the short distance between himself and the table, he lifted the phone to his ear at the same time he snapped his fingers and pointed to the door. "I'll just be outside," Dunn relayed to him, making a quick beeline for the door. "Lemmie know when you're done, sir." Dunn's voice was background noise in Derek's head before he got around to shutting the door.
Leaning against the desk he stared down at the cast on his arm, his mind traveling back to the day that landed him in this predicament. "Westbrook," He spoke into the mouthpiece in an even tone.
"Westbrook…" The voice on the other end was dry, as though he taken in gravel and sand and his voice box never quite recovered. Whether or not it was a male he was speaking to could be questioned.
Yet, to say that Westbrook was short on patience, let alone manners, would be a kindness. Meds wearing off by the minute, Westbrook was becoming antsy and snappish. Sitting on the edge of the desk, he readjusted the phone against his ear, glared heavenward and scoffed. "Yeah, I just said that. Who the hell is this?"
"John Price," Unconsciously, Westbrook stood up, the quick movement jostled his arm, sending a spike of pain up his neck and down the side of his bruised ribs. John Price was an acquaintance of Sandman's, an acquaintance he knew only through his reputation. He never had the honor (or lack thereof) to meet the man in the flesh when Metal Team was being debriefed on their next mission objective with Task Force 141 as the official contact after their reinstatement. "Price…"
"Yeah, I just said that," The older man's voice was lacking humor, but the intention wasn't missed. "Funny, how that works, innit? How's the arm?"
"Sir, I…," Westbrook glanced toward the window obscured by venetian blinds. "Where are you?"
"Don't bother, I'm nowhere near the base," Price said.
"How did you-?"
"Second nature, moppet, we've all done it once or twice," There was a lengthy pause on Price's end. Westbrook gave the phone a shake for whatever good it would do him. A lazy glance at his arm seemed to illicit a response from the old man, finally. "I was there when Sandman and the others got the Vorshevsky's out of the hot zone… for what it's worth, I'm sorry."
Westbrook thought to say something to cut him off, to stop the condolences that were sure to follow with "they fought bravely" or something else describing their heroism, but he couldn't think of anything. Instead he zoned out, focused on his throbbing arm and tried to steady himself. "Thank you, sir. I… it means a lot, hearing you say that," He murmured.
"If you heard me of course," Price grumbled.
Ignoring the the jab, he stared at the shadows on the wall in the hopes to distract himself from the pain rising in his arm. "Price, higher ups are looking for you. They wanna know what happened in the Peninsula," He said.
"Makarov's dead, should be enough for them for now," Price deadpanned, the tone of his voice lost all of its humor.
"Yeah, he was found hanging by his neck, but that's hardly a report, sir," Westbrook persisted. "141 was absolved any wrongdoings, you don't have to run anymore."
"I'm not running, Frost. There are things that need sorting out on my end, things I'd rather not leave undone. The military can wait a while for my report."
"Sir, I don't think-"
"I'll be in touch, Frost. In the meantime, try not lean the arm," Price ordered.
"I don't-" Westbrook attempted to interject, looking to the window again.
"Knew a fellow that didn't use the sense his mother blessed him with and screwed his limb over nicely."
"Wait, Price-!" At the sound of the dial tone, Westbrook felt his mouth drop open in confusion. Placing the phone back on its cradle, Westbrook stared down at the desk at a loss for words and coherent thought. The door opened, Dunn peeked into the office with an eyebrow raised and a quizzical expression on his face. Frost frowned at the sight of him and snapped, "What do you want, Corporal?"
"Foley's on his way. Thought you'd want to know, sir," Dunn answered. Westbrook's expression softened marginally, with nod of his head he motioned for Dunn to leave. The Corporal closed the door and left the man to his thoughts, what little were formulating in his head.
'I'll see you later, man.'
The absence of Price's voice created a vacuum in the space around him; the walls suddenly grew closer to together, his shoulders felt heavy and his chest sank in on itself as he learned forward to catch the breath he never knew he lost. A shaking hand pressed itself against his forehead and he exhaled.
'Likewise, Frost. Try to get some rest, huh?'
Rest. It was all he could do now.
Maybe he'd never get over this.