tagRomanceCarrying On Ch. 04

Carrying On Ch. 04


Author's note:

This is the conclusion to the series. I know is been over two years and I apologize for that. Life has really gotten in the way, but things are a bit back on track now. I want to thank everyone for their support throughout this journey, especially my editor, Rnebular. Once you've finished with it, please rate and comment. I love to hear from you guys. Enjoy!


The dusty mirror behind the bar reflected my image, though at this point I barely recognized it. My face was partially obscured by a row of liquor bottles sporting the typical metal pour spouts, which I was, admittedly, happy about. I had taken 30 days off, claiming stress, and was granted it with no questions asked. Now I dealt with that stress in the most self destructive way I knew how. I drank myself stupid.

Over, and over. Day after day.

My phone had stopped buzzing at night a few nights ago. I had sent out a text to the group explaining that I was taking some stress time and that I would get back with them soon. My phone had been one giant buzzing noise for the twelve hours following that text. I muted the conversation after that, choosing inebriation over dealing with my problems right away. Can you blame me? My heart had just been torn out, in homage to the Temple Of Doom. That was days ago now, though how many it had been, I didn't know.

Now, in this smoke filled room, I sat at the bar, blending in with the anonymous patrons who visited just a frequently as I have been. Folks of all walks of life gathered here for a myriad of reasons, probably, I mused, for the same reason I'm here. The bartender had been moving back and forth with practiced grace, filling beers and making cocktails for patrons who had come for them, as well as getting together the orders that had been brought to him by waitress. He passed by me about ten times, watching the level in my glass get low, then empty.

"Get ya another one?" He asked, his workload calming down for a minute.

"Sure thing, Sam," I replied, pushing the highball glass, along with the cocktail napkin it was resting on, toward the bartender. He grabbed the cheap whiskey, filled the glass half way and then topped it off with sweet and sour mix before pushing it back to me. I nodded, and he moved off.

I drank deep from the glass, the abundance of whiskey burning slightly as it worked its way down. Sam went back to working the bar. He was older, maybe in his sixties, with an impressive grey mustache that he would surely have to rake out after he ate. His hair was thin and matched his mustache, hanging down almost to his shoulders. His face was rough like old leather, creased and pock marked with age. Sam pulled away a bottle from the back shelf, a large bottle of scotch, and I could see myself clearly for a moment.

Gods, did I really look that bad? It was no wonder Sam had been generous with the whiskey, though whether that was because I looked like I needed it or if it was to hurry me out of here, was entirely up for debate. I looked down at my glass as Sam put the bottle back in its place. As I stared into the amber liquid I could feel the world begin to fade. I could hear the sounds behind me dying away, the sounds being replaced by those of a time long past.

"Anderson." The voice was distant and hazy, as if the speaker were on the other side of a thick door. "Anderson," the voice came again, noticeably closer now. My view changed right before my eyes. I was back in the thick of it, out of the Humvee and crouching against a rock. I could hear the rhythmic, throaty bark of the M2 .50 cal coming from the Humvee behind me, which blended with the shouts and softer, more high pitched snapping of rifles. "Anderson!"

I grabbed the radio mic from the right shoulder of my flak jacket, the source of the noise. One of the men in my squad calling for me to report in or ask for support. "This is Anderson, send it."

"Anderson, it's Adams. Enemy reinforcements coming down the east road. Looks like two trucks with combatants and a Technical," His voice was scratchy, the transmission laced with static. "This must be the group we've been waiting for, over."

"Roger that, I'll call it in. Get ready, if they get through then the Army's left flank is gonna be in trouble." I switched channels to contact the Battalion HQ. "HQ, this is Beastmaster 2-3. Enemy convoy moving down MSR Independence, two Victors with ten men each and one Technical with mounted .50 Cal. Request permission to engage."

There was a short burst of static before a voice came through. "Roger Beastmaster 2-3, you're cleared hot."

"Roger, Out." I switched my radio back to our channel and passed the word along. "Cleared hot, gentlemen. Just like we trained for."

I kept low as I moved along our position. We were off the Main Service Road about 50 meters to the right. Our elevated position gave us the advantage of being able to see for miles while the rocks that populated this particular stretch gave us enough cover to set up a good ambush position. The battalion had been ordered forward to support the advancing Army and Marine Corps units heading into Afghanistan and we had drawn the short straw of relinquishing our Howitzer to some Motor transport fools who would bring it up for us. We were needed to provide route and flank security as the massive war machine moved forward.

I stayed crouched low, moving over until I found Corporal Diaz. Andrew Diaz was a young kid from Texas with dreams of being famous. He had a boyish face that looked very much out of place in this hell hole. He was the lucky one selected to carry the AT-4 rocket launcher.

"Diaz, get ready. When they come into range, I want you to waste that Technical."

"Not the lead vehicle, Sergeant?" He asked, a bit confused. We had trained to shoot the lead vehicle and disrupt their forward momentum, keeping them in the ambush zone. Now I wanted him to shoot the rear vehicle.

"Those shitty trucks can't stand up to a BB gun," I told him. "Those two trucks full of assholes who want to kill us will be scrap in a few seconds, their survivors picked off shortly after. If that Technical brings his .50 to bear, the whole dynamic changes. Kill it."

He nodded as we watched the three dirty white trucks racing down the road, with others probably behind them hoping to exploit a gap in our tactical planning. Fools. Their engine noise grew louder and louder as they came closer. Lance Corporal Davis, mounted in the Humvee turret, called out just before depressing the trigger on his weapon.


The deep bark of the .50 was punctuated by the snaps of small arms fire. The lead truck swerved, bullet holes appearing along the cab and engine compartment as those standing in the bed scrambled to get out, and died as they did. The second truck swerved to avoid the first truck and the bodies falling out of it. Those in the second truck returned fire, their shots wild and few finding the armored hull of the Humvee. The Technical pulled over to the side with practiced skill, coming to a halt as the .50 in the bed of the pickup swung toward us.


A long white cloud streamed from the AT-4 Diaz carried. As soon as he fired, he dropped the now useless weapon and grabbed his rifle, sighting down the barrel to see if he was successful.


"Hit!" Diaz called, turning to engage those from the second truck. Another explosion followed as the fuel in the first truck exploded, turning it into a burning roadblock. Davis turned the .50 toward the second truck, repeating the process as we dealt with the last of the survivors. The shooting stopped after a moment, the smell of smoke, gunpowder and sweat thick in the air.

I turned toward Diaz. "Corporal take a few men and check..."

"Drew," Tyler said softly, shaking my shoulder. The world came slowly back into focus, which, to my undying disappointment, happened to be filled with Tyler's face. "Drew, you okay?"

"I was hoping for someone a bit more attractive to come back to," I said, giving him a small smile. He returned the smile and playfully hit my arm. He looked to someone else and nodded before sitting on my right. I looked over to my left and saw Carl sitting there, looking worried.

"Are you guys okay? You look like you belong in a hospital," Sam asked, coming over and seeing us.

"The look you get when you're having a flashback is terrifying," Carl said. "It's like you've been lobotomized. The light's on but nobodies home."

"How's that different from any other time?" Tyler asked, receiving a smack on the arm for it. They ordered drinks and Sam topped me up while he was here.

"Glad to see you've returned to us," Sam said, pouring my drink. "My nephew has PTSD as well, though nowhere near as bad as you. How many tours?"

"Three," I said. "Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria."

"Syria huh? Must have been recent then. Good to have you back with us."

"Thanks Sam, though I'm not sure that my coming back was the best thing sometimes."

He began wiping the bar, like all bartenders do when they're about to give sage advice. This was no different apparently. "Problems at home?" I nodded. "Well, for what it's worth, you were meant to come back, regardless of what you think should have happened."

"It was fate?" Tyler asked.

"Fate," Sam said. "Nothing happens that wasn't meant to happen. Excuse me one moment." He moved down the bar to tend to his duties.

I thought about what he said, about how it was fate that I was here. I was about to fall down an existential rabbit hole when I stopped and looked at my friends sitting next to me. Each one was looking at me in turn, expecting something from me like dogs begging for table scraps.

"How the fuck did you find me?" I asked. Both of them laughed hard, Tyler nearly falling off his stool. "Seriously though, what the actual fuck! I was looking for some privacy out here and now you two knuckle dragging chucklefucks have found me."

More laughter followed, each of them taking great heaving breaths to try and calm down so they could speak. Carl managed it first. "Did you really think we'd be unable to guess where you'd gone? Your more predictable than an episode of Law and Order SVU."

"Yeah dude," Tyler said. "You were bound to be within 100 miles and at a bar. The most difficult part of finding you was narrowing down the bars you could possibly be in, which wasn't too hard. Once we had it narrowed down to bars within walking distance of a hotel, we just had to drive around and look for your truck, which sticks out pretty well on its own."

I looked back and forth at each of them, then hung my head. "Fuck."

"Don't worry bud," Carl said. "I don't think Becky has figured out exactly how easy it is to find you."

"She will," I replied softly. "She's a smart cookie. She'll figure it out soon."

"I don't think that's her priority right now. She's been pretty occupied with Lauren lately." I shot him a quizzical look. "She's been tearing into her about how this is all her fault and that she needs to fix this." He must have seen what I was gonna say and beat me to it. "We've all told them both to chill and that it wasn't Lauren's fault."

"Goddammit." I took a big gulp of my drink, draining the contents of the glass and setting it down hard on the bar. "I'm thinking I may have to return to the world of the normal before I'm ready."

"Why?" Tyler asked, draining his drink.

"Because I can't let Lauren be Becky's punching bag. She has a mean streak in her and her sister shouldn't be the outlet for that wrath. What about Jeanna? Is she working on them or is she staying out of it?"

"Jeanna is pretty much running damage control whenever she's home," Carl answered. "It takes a lot out of her, but the angry sex is amazing." He stopped for a second and then smiled. "On second thought, stay gone as long as she will keep this up." Tyler and I laughed while Carl finished his drink. Sam refilled us and we sat quietly for a minute.

"Is this really the most healthy way to deal with your issues?" Carl asked seriously. "I mean, this self destructive path can't be the answer to getting you two back together."

"I happen to disagree, good sir," I said, taking a drink. "I happen to know from experience that this method is the best at this particular stage."

"What does this accomplish?"

"Making me feel better about her. She tore my heart out like I was a human sacrifice. Am I supposed to just forgive that?"

Carl didn't look like he liked that answer. "I think the only way you two will fix this is to talk it out."

"Thanks Mom," I chided. Carl shot me an angry glance. "Listen, I know this won't get better until we talk it out. I'm just not ready yet, is that acceptable?"

"Well, while you guys do your destructive things on your own, the rest of us are suffering. Think that over before you come back here tomorrow." Carl stood and turned for the door. Sam came over and before he could say anything I held up my hand.

"I got his drinks," I told him. He nodded and went to the computer to add them to my bill.

"Uh, Drew," Tyler said, "Can I crash with you tonight?"

"I guess," I said reflexively as I finished my drink. I then looked toward the door, which had stopped moving moments before. "Let me guess, he was your ride?" I looked to Tyler and he just smiled. I laughed to myself and went back to my drink. "Some things never change," I said.


There was a knock on the door, waking me from a sleep that I shouldn't have been able to wake from. I prayed it was just a terrible dream and turned over. Tyler had passed out in the chair, his feet up on the desk and unresponsive to the incessant knocking. I looked at the clock and really prayed it was either a dream or that the police had come for me.

3:15 AM. Not cool world, not cool at all.

The knocking came again and I finally couldn't ignore it anymore. I stood on unwilling legs and crossed the room, grabbing my coat and making sure my smokes were in it. I looked through the peephole and saw Becky standing outside. She was wearing her coat with the hood up, the fur that lines it poking out around the edges and moving in the breeze. She reached up and knocked again, hanging her head for a moment. When she brought it back up, tears ran down her face. I opened the door, unable to see her suffering, even if I thought she deserved it.

I stepped outside, flipping the latch so the door would stay cracked open and lit a cigarette. She waited a minute, obviously expecting me to talk first. Unfortunately for her, I was still mad at her, I was still drunk and I'd been woken up at 3 AM. Sorry sweetheart, your move.

"Andrew, I just wanted to say that I'm sorry." Tears streaked her cheeks, which looked like they were about to freeze in the cold night air. "I... I made a mistake, and I just wanted to apologize for the hurt I've put you through."

"Well, you did make a mistake, and seeing as how your standing out here in the freezing cold at 3 AM, I believe you are sorry for what you did. What the fuck were you thinking?"

"I... I thought that, well, since that night you and Lauren were together, I thought she had fallen for you and was trying to get with you again. I know it sounds stupid, but I freaked out. She denied it when I confronted her about it the next day, but I figured she would. I didn't think she would be honest with me after what happened, you know, not wanting all this to be her fault."

"It was never her fault," I said calmly. "She was going through some shit and needed our help. I can't even remember which one of you suggested that Lauren and I have sex, but it surely wasn't me. I do know it was you who freaked out about it later, despite video evidence that you agreed and were smiling while agreeing to being okay with it."

"What did you expect?" she said, more tears running down her cheeks. "I know that I was okay with it then, but it still hurt to see you and her being so cordial afterward."

"Hold the fuck on. So you mean to tell me that after I had consensual sex with your sister, with all parties involved consenting, I was supposed to feel like shit and blow up at her like you did?"

"No, that's not what I meant," she said. "I just meant that you guys seemed so happy after that, it felt like you guys had planned it out all along."

I was dumbstruck. Was I really hearing this? "What!?" I exclaimed a little louder than I meant to. "Why would we plan that out? What possible reason would we have to want to hook up? I mean, I know she is your sister, so she has good genes, but I was more than happy with you. Why would I want to compromise us just for her?"

"I don't fucking know!" She cried, burying her head in her hands. "I was just so scared and reacted horribly. I was scared I had lost you, first to the military, then to my sister. I'm still scared I might lose you. I wish I could take it all back, but I can't. I feel so stupid now, having broken us up and having turned the house into a battleground. Can you ever forgive me?"

I sighed, lighting a new cigarette before tossing the old one into the ashtray next to my door. "Yes, I can forgive you." Becky smiled that smile that I love so much. "Just, not right now." Her heart visibly sank and she hung her head. I reached out and lifted her head from under her chin. "Look at it like this. You came out here to find me, presumably given my location by Carl, to talk to me and make things better. You have, but did you ever think that I didn't want to be found?" Becky hadn't, judging by that look. "It's late, it's cold and I'm still drunk. I love you, I really do. I never stopped loving you, even if I hated what you did to us, but right now I can't forgive you and have everything just go back to being normal."

She nodded and wiped the tears from her eyes. "I'm so sorry for this. I hope you come home soon, I really do. I'm gonna head home now, since I know you won't let me stay."

"Your right, I won't. I love you, but I need time to sort things out, and apparently you do to. Go home and rest, then tomorrow start making things right with Lauren. She's your sister and you need to fix this thing with her before we can be better."

"There you go," she said, throwing her hands up. "You need her and I to be back to normal before you can come back home and fuck her behind my back?"

I shook my head and tossed out my cigarette. "No, but if you're still stuck on that then I'm just gonna go back to bed. There's no point in this if you're still hung up on your paranoia."

"What the fuck!" She screamed. "What does MY relationship with MY sister have to do with you coming home?"

"If there is as big of a war zone as Carl and you have said, then me being there would straighten it right out, but only to my satisfaction. Nobody else wins if I have to fix it, I already know this and I don't want to go down that road. You go home and fix YOUR relationship with YOUR sister, then we can talk."

"Fuck you. You couldn't make things better at home, you don't know what goes on there, what with you being the patron of the month at that dive." She pointed to the bar I had been frequenting since coming here.

"I can, but I don't want to. Now, go home and fix things. When they're better then we can have a chat." I turned and headed back to the room, opening the door and flipping the latch back so it would fully close. I heard Becky's truck start a few minutes later, the sound fading out in about the time I fell asleep.


"Well well well," Carl said, walking up and sitting next to me. "Shocking I'd find you here, still."

I downed the rest of my drink and ordered another before turning to Carl. I'd been tying one on pretty hard and was not in a mood for a lecture. "Well, I've adopted this place as my home away from home." The sarcasm was so thick I could probably have physically held it.

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byBetrayer_of_Skalathrax© 2 comments/ 2778 views/ 4 favorites

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