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Chapter Nineteen

It had been two weeks since the night Op. Two weeks of restless sleep and plaguing nightmares. At some point during the previous week, the idea for a communal sleeping zone was made, all our mattresses were placed in the middle of the dorm, the close proximity of our bodies allowed us some reprieve. It worked for three days until the nightmares kicked back in and the whole idea was scrapped, pushing us back to our original sleeping areas. It then became the norm to hear someone wake up with a gasp, yelp or muffled scream shortly followed by the sound of padding feet to the bathroom where rushing water would echo out into the dorm.

Echo and I would almost take it in turns waking up with a jolt before being soothed back to sleep by the other. To follow our new sleeping patterns were the existing demons locked in our minds from before.

To add to the agony, our practice hours were increased with Instructor Oswell, Tango and some new instructor by the name Reed who thought of us as fragile cases. We would spar in hand-to-hand and with combat knives, followed by the obstacle course with added elements for our gifts and end off with so many exercises that focused on every muscle that at the end of the day we were bruised, sore and starving. Talking was replaced by simplified gestures such as nods and raised eyebrows. Even laughter had abandoned us.

During my sessions with Murphy, I allowed myself to ease open the wounds that only Echo had been allowed to see and know of. He allowed me to open up at my own pace with each session we had, didn’t ask me pestering questions, just got to the point.

As the trust grew, Murphy would bring up some of the ways he handled his PTSD, how he dealt with it head-on while running or screaming at the top of his lungs when he reached the highest point when hiking. Another thing he did was speak to his girlfriend, Magnolia. She was one of his rocks and he thought it important for her to know how he was feeling or what was on his mind. Magi was his lifesaver, coming into his life when he hit the lowest point in it. The only thing Murphy regretted though was making her feel like she had to stay with him when there were so many other men for her to go for, to have a better life with but she always responded with the sentence I love you too much before giving him a kiss and embracing him.

It was amusing to think that a brute like him managed to hook such a quirky, loving woman like Magi but then again, the way he spoke of her with a glint of admiration and pride in his eyes spoke enough for me to know he treasured her and it was a side I thought impossible for him.

When the session was over, we both left for the mess hall. Once there, we would split into different tables with our teams. Alpha team would always be laughing and having a good time where the Gifted were solemn, tired. Today, there was no laughter from any soldier around us, rather a dark cloud had settled over everyone.

“W-what’s up with everyone?” I asked, frowning as some distrusting looks were thrown our way.

“I don’t know, but it seems to have brought everyone’s mood down,” Victor observed, glancing around before catching an older soldier’s attention by calling him over. “Sorry to bother, but what has everyone on edge right now?”

“I’m surprised your lot don’t know,” The man started, looking at us with slight disgust. “A Gifted totalled an entire residential city block last night trying to get away from the authorities in Chicago. Some of our families lived there.”

“Was the Gifted caught?”
“No, their getaway was captured on camera though. Must have been earth-related since as they fell off a bridge, the ground under them opened up and swallowed them.”
“And the families, how many casualties?”
“Ten casualties and twelve sitting in the hospital. If we are done here, I’d like to eat with my own kind.”

At his choice of wording, I flinched, wanting to hide. Did the people around us now see us as inhuman? Monsters among men? So much for the envy, they showed about us being deployed with each glance at our table.

“Fucking Tango had all day to tell us this, to keep some of the burns away from us, instead he kept quiet even when we were training with him,” Fox growled, slamming a fist onto the table and gaining even more unwanted attention. Rooi moved to lean her head on his shoulder, trying to cool him down.

“Then we ask for a monitor to be placed into our dorm. We only need the major news channels to keep up with the outside world,” Echo stated. “Seven months without contact of the outside is enough leverage to give us that.”

“Totally. I know Tango is scared of us being found out here but a TV monitor doesn’t mean we would be sending out messages or posting photos. He should understand,” Rooi said, her brother’s arm coming to rest over her shoulder.

When we were done eating in comfortable silence, we dropped our dishes off at the kitchen before trudging our way to our dorm. The soldiers around us seemed to evade us even more, darting away when they saw us coming. Once in our dorm, Rooi grabbed her towel and headed to the showers. Victor and Fox fell into their beds with muffled goodnights. Echo and I changed into our pyjamas, having already had showers before supper, then crawled under the covers.

“Tomorrow’s Relief Day, I want to leave the base for once like the other people here,” Echo muttered as his arm came around me, his heart a steady beat under my ear.

“I know a mansion that has been abandoned for years. We could convince Tango to go with us? Though, there is no electricity and hot water so it’ll be rustic,” I said, stretching out before sitting up so I could stare down at him mischievously. “We would have our own room too.”

Echo smirked, a low chuckle leaving his lips as he pulled me down on him. We were both studying each other, minds working at the possibility.

“We can tell him tomorrow. For now...”

Echo’s hand came to delve into my hair, lips coming to attack my collarbone. Laughing softly, I let my own hands wander around his torso, feeling myself becoming lost in the feather-light kisses he left until he moved so they were pressed to mine and it was soft, tender like a promise was being made. When we pulled away, our lips inches apart, his hands on my hips and mine on his broad shoulders. He smiled, corners of his eyes crinkling, forest-green eyes no longer showing that untrusting glint but that of adoration. If I might say, love.

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