The boat ride to the nearest island was tense as we were thrown around by the waves. The silence that surely would have been there was chased away by the roar of the motors and the ocean trying to swallow us whole. It was worse than just the cold shoulder Tango was giving us. At least we had left a dent on Everest base, making the feeling of satisfaction outweigh the guilt of having blood on my hands and the sense of shame as once again we were running away with our tails tucked between our legs.
Sitting around a fire now, tangled amongst the dense vegetation, I gazed into the flames as Tango paced a trench into the ground. Fox and Rooi were cuddled together near the tree Taylor slept against, cap over his face. Rook and Rylan were out cold with their heads resting on Kingston’s bag and sharing a small blanket. Magnolia used Murphy’s thigh as a pillow, their raccoon snuggled close to her chest. The rest were wide awake.
“Alpha, Echo, you should get some shut-eye. Tomorrow is going to be a long day,” Axel muttered, giving the fire a poke, sending sparks up. The fire crackled in protest, casting shadows over his face.
“I’m okay. Alpha?” Echo bumped my shoulder with his. Leaning against him, I focused on the fire, adding my own flames to its source.
“We don’t mind taking the first watch. You guys need the rest more than us anyway,” I stated, glancing up. The flames reflected off Tango’s eyes dangerously. “Or do you not trust us anymore?”
All of them tensed up. Neo cleared his throat, putting away his things in his bag. Tango came to stand between Neo and Axel, glaring down at us.
“It is not about trust, Alpha. It is about disobeying a direct order from your CO,” Tango growled, somehow making his voice hushed yet fierce. “I understand tensions were high and the chance to get back at the people who took your leader was in your grasp but these men, they were only following orders and you killed them, took them away from their families.”
“Following orders to kill kids you mean,” Echo snapped, eyes turning their spiral of faded green and solid red as cold began to waft off him. “All we did was rescue our own and they wanted us dead. Back at the beach, if it weren’t for Alpha and me, you all would have been dead. They wouldn’t be talking about how they killed you, they would be dragging your corpse to a fire.”
“So, what, you want a thank you and a pat on the back for a job well done?”
“No, I’m just stating the facts is all. Also, we don’t all have your gift of being bulletproof now do we?”
“Tango,” Murphy cut in. “They just lost their leader, their friend to men you said they could trust. They aren’t even soldiers, you can’t treat their deflection like normally. Back down.”
“Maybe... Maybe you two should rest somewhere nearby,” Kingston offered, standing up. Nodding, we stood up and grabbed our bags, following him to a palm tree just out of earshot to the muffled argument between Alpha team and Tango. Kingston lay down a blanket for us, a sad smile on his lips. “I’m sorry for doing this but it’s only for tonight. By morning, everything should have calmed down. Do you want to make a fire here?”
“No, we will stick with our blankets, thanks Kingston,” I said, giving him a small smile before dropping my bag and digging through it for my blanket. Kingston whispered something to Echo before walking back to the main group. Echo slumped down onto the blanket, moving his bag against the tree. Stopping my actions, I tilted my head at him.
“Vince, huh?” Echo glanced at me, a sheepish grin on his face. “Never would have taken you as a Vincent, maybe a Gray or Ace though.”
“Funny, but I prefer Echo, that’s why I never told you my real name. I think it suits me better.” He shrugged, the grin disappearing as he turned his gaze to the dark sea. “We did the right thing right, killing those men? They would not have stopped, would they?”
“Those men shot at us. The first bullet was aimed at my head, the second yours. If we had not stopped them, they would have continued. They smelt like metal, they wanted blood,” I explained, going to grip his knee. He looked at my hand before gazing at me, searching before sighing.
“It’s getting late, you coming to sleep or not?” He slumped down, stretching his right arm out. Snatching my blanket from my bag, I went to make myself comfortable in the space, my head on his shoulder as his arm came around my waist. Echo pressed a kiss into my hair, turning so he could hold me to him under the blanket.
Echo and I had woken up before everyone else, choosing to watch the sunrise on a new day. It was pretty, peaceful. The lulling of the waves rushing up the beach, crab shells glinting the sun’s rays as they hurried about. The boat swayed gently where it had been moored, rocked by the water. The scene only made my heart heavier in my chest while I leaned into Echo’s side, his soft sobs breaking me all over again.
“Hey,” Came Rooi’s whisper from behind us. Glancing over my shoulder, her and Fox were making their way slowly towards us before coming to sit on my side, faces pointed towards the horizon.
“Any of the others awake?” I asked, rubbing Echo’s back as he dried away his tears with the back of his hand.
“Tango and Taylor are, the rest are half-conscious,” Fox answered, stretching his legs out. “Where’s Victor?”
“On the boat. I formed a protective coat around him that should keep him safe until we put him to rest,” Echo explained, a stray tear running down his cheek. Leaning forward, I brushed it away, letting my hand rest on his jaw before dropping to my side.
We were all quiet after that, waiting for the others to start getting up so we could find another base that could take us in or a new game plan where the government had no part in. When the light mumblings of good mornings began, we turned our backs to the horizon, watching as the packing of bags and stretching of weary bodies signalled the start of a new day. The only people to break that regime were Rook and Rylan as they stood with serious expressions on their faces.
“We wanted to say something since you saved us. We have a base we want to take you to, it’s the least we can do.”