Explosion & I'm Good

SRU HQ - Dispatch Desk

It was only four forty-five am and technically the team did not need to be at SRU HQ until six am. Holleran had sent out the text early this morning that changed up the time the team needed to be here. Greg approached the front desk upon entering "Morning Winnie" he said as he stopped and handed her a cup of coffee.

She smiled "Thanks. How'd you know this is what I needed right now?" and took a long slow drink. "Ahh caffeine, the true nectar of the gods. You are in early. Holleran said you guys were not due until six" she said.

"Force of habit, five am workout and all" he replied as she gave him an 'I don't believe you look'. "Actually wanted to see if I could catch the Commander before the meeting. Is he here yet?" Greg asked.

"He's in the briefing room. He was here when I got here. I think here's been here since he left the hospital" Winnie answered.

"Thanks" he nodded and headed towards the briefing room. He had a few questions for Holleran he wanted answers to before the team showed up. First why did he move the time up from one pm to six am? His team was exhausted and needed time to recoup.

Second, just how well did he know Sam? His understanding of the incident with Sara implied he knew him a long time, at least 20 years. Greg hadn't pushed for an explanation of why Sam joined the way he had. But with all that had happened yesterday, he needed to know more about the rookie's past.

SRU HQ - Briefing Room

As he walked in he found Holleran seated in a chair with his arms folded on the table and he head on his arms. Asleep. The man looked drained and wrung out even in sleep. Understandable with the day all the officers under his command had had yesterday. It was hard to be the one in charge when an officer was injured or worse died. Both had happened yesterday.

Greg did not really know Aaron and hadn't liked hearing he had said foul things about Sam and questioned his commands putting Bravo team at risk. However, he was still an SRU officer, a man, someone that put his life on the line to help others and in the process had paid the ultimate price.

Aaron would still be considered an honored member of SRU. His behavior would be forgiven. Everyone had a bad day every now and then. They were human after all and life was many shades of gray.

Had it been a few months ago, everyone on Team One, sans Sam, could have been vilified if something like that had happened and they lost their life. Luckily they had gotten the opportunity to fix their error. He'd like to think Aaron would have too if he had had the chance. It was sad he had died. Greg hoped his family would heal from the loss and find solace knowing their son was protecting others.

Greg had been standing there in deep in thought for several minutes. He was deciding whether or not to wake the Commander when Eddie sidled up next to him.

"He looks awful, we should let him sleep until absolutely necessary to wake him" Ed quietly said.

"How do you always know what I'm thinking Eddie?" Greg responded with a smile.

"Guess I'm just special like that" he intoned with a quirk of his head and glint of mischief in his eyes. "Let's talk in the locker room" he said as he started down the hall.

SRU HQ - Men's Locker Room

When they entered the locker room the rest of the team, including Jules, minus Sam, were already there sitting on the benches. Greg thought they all were creatures of habit; all here by five am as would be on any normal day. Greg had a feeling that today was going to be another not-normal day for his team. He just hoped it didn't bring more pain to his family. Some looked more rested than others but there was still a look of fatigue on each.

"So, I guess the debriefing puts our Care and Feeding discussion with Sam's buddies on hold" Spike stated.

"Looks that way" Greg responded.

"Any idea why they rescheduled for so early?" Jules asked. She was really upset when she got the text telling her to be here at six am. She had wanted to stop by the hospital to check on Sam before coming in and visiting hours didn't start until nine am.

"None. It is odd. I just wish I had had time to check in on Sam" Greg replied. There were nods from everyone indicating that had been the plan for each of them. "Maybe Winnie can get an update for us while we debrief" he offered. Spike and Jules looked at him with hopeful wide eyes and shook their heads yes.

Wordy remarked "It would be great if she could, been very worried about him all night." Another round of nodded heads showed they all had the same feeling. "That was one awful day for him. I don't know how he does it?"

"Does what?" asked Lou.

"Processes his emotions, tucks things into slots. Must be a special ops training thing. I'd be a wilted mess, would lose my fucking mind, if I had to go through everything he had to yesterday. I'm just really sad it occurred yesterday. It tainted what should have been a great day" Wordy said shaking his head.

He was pinned by a chorus of confused looks but it was Spike that queried "What do you mean?"

Wordy looked at each of them and he saw the nod of recognition in Ed and Greg's faces. He clarified for the others "Did you notice that Sam had a 'real' smile yesterday morning. Not just one he puts on, but one that went deep and could be seen in his eyes?"

Looks of contemplation crossed their faces and then slow nods.

"I think he finally felt like he was a true member of this team, part of the family. That he was accepted and belonged here. It was like he had already figured out how the day was 'totally awesome and unique'. Sam had a look of profound happiness as we all offered up ways it could be. Then the day happened. I'm worried what that has done to him" Wordy finished.

Just then Brett, of Team Five, opened the door and looked in "Hoped to find you in here, there's two guys in fatigues and one in civies at the desk, looking for you. Said they were told to be here at 0600. By the way, how's Sam?"

Greg checked his watch, 5:45 am. He wondered why they were here so early. "Coming. As for Sam he should be okay, a bit beat up" Greg did not want to share the full details. Especially about Sam being stuck in unspeakable pain for two hours and no one knowing. So he just continued "They kept him over for observation last night. Hoping to get an update soon."

"Glad to hear it. He was all the news could talk about last night" Brett chortled. "Bet he's gonna love that. Get all those ladies swooning over him? My sister had a few friends over last night and all they could talk about was Sam and how sweet it was when he kissed that little girl. They all fought about who would be the best girlfriend for him" he hooted with laughter.

Jules tensed, for some reason that comment made her angry. She didn't understand why so just smiled and laughed with the others as they rose to go meet with the JTF2 buddies.

SRU HQ - Dispatch Desk

Blaze was the first to see them exit the locker room and addressed his comments to Greg "Sergeant Parker, good to see you looking a bit rested this morning." Then extended his hand to shake Greg's as he said "Is Commander Holleran here yet? I was ordered to be here at 0600 for briefing on the new situation?"

To Greg, Blaze sounded extremely tired and was exuding a high level of concern. He was using a formal carriage of his body, indicating he was here on business and asked directly whether the Commander was here. He had just clearly said 'briefing on the new situation'. Something was up, Greg was worried. He'd bet it had to do with Sam. The question was what was the 'new situation'.

Greg responded "Commander Holleran is in the briefing room. How about all of you go grab a cup of our wonderful coffee then meet me in the briefing room. I'll let Holleran know we are all here and ready. Hey Ed, would you grab one for me and the Commander while you're at it?"

Ed nodded as they headed to the break-room. He knew why they were sent to get coffee. Greg wanted to have an opportunity to wake Holleran first.

SRU HQ - Briefing Room

The Commander and Greg were standing next to the windows looking out as the team plus the JTF2 guys entered. They dispersed around the table and took their seats.

Patch leaned over to Spike and said "You're wonderful coffee tastes like it was made of boiled boots" making a grimace.

"That's why we usually take turns on Timmy runs. It was Lou and my turn yesterday. Sam and Jules were up for today. Things changed so we gotta make due" Spike shared as he took a sip and grimaced too. Boiled boot he thought, yep that would be pretty descriptive.

Commander Holleran cleared his throat to get everyone's attention. This was not going to be pretty, time to get it over with. He took a deep breath and exhaled. That combined with a look of someone made to chew on glass shards made everyone tense before he began speaking. "I want to start off by saying Sam is resting securely again." They all registered the 'again' word but held their tongues.

Holleran then proceeded to explain every wretched detail of what had happened to Sam after they had left. The looks of fury and worry were in line with what he expected but he had also expected the room to roar. The dead silence totally disconcerted him.

Ed, Greg and Blaze shared looks that all leaders would understand. The guilt, the feeling they had failed someone under their charge was etched in their faces.

Wordy and Winds looked directly at each other. Warriors of different style. But both fiercely trying to find the right words to describe the brutal emotions they were feeling and coming up blank.

Lou was dumbstruck. He liked being 'less lethal Lou' but what he wouldn't give to go back to that waiting room and kill Donner before he had the opportunity to attack Sam.

Patch's and Spike's faces were revolving so quickly through so many emotions it was hard to pinpoint one.

Jules had one look. Hard razor sharp fury. It rolled off her in waves and threatened to engulf them. If looks could actually cut, Holleran would be sliced open to the core and bleeding out.

SRU HQ - Outside

As Jules was winding up for detonation, just outside a young officer was gathering up the courage to face his teammates. Unsure of the reaction he would receive. Would he be accepted or reviled? Would they condemn him as a failure and murderer for Aaron's death?

Sam had worked really hard with Matt guiding him to rebuild his safe place, the thick walled structure that held everything that hurt. He was still very confused and needed to sort his emotions and conflicting thoughts. But he had been ordered to debrief which meant facing them.

So even though it terrified him he would face them. He would not run away, he was no coward. He had promised Matt he would be strong, so he would shoulder the blame for all the blood on their hands.

If they hated him he would walk away. He would find somewhere else to be because he had promised Matt to heal, to live, to laugh and to smile. He knew that if he was rejected again it would hurt, hurt real bad but somehow, someday he would find the beauty of life. Sam just desperately hoped it could be here.

Hand on the door. Breathe, just breathe …

SRU HQ - Briefing Room

Sam opened the door and entered SRU Headquarters. The dispatch desk was empty. Winnie must be in the copy room he thought. Sam stopped just outside the briefing room unnoticed by the distraught occupants.

Jules exploded. She stood, knocking her chair back and slammed her hands on the table eyes drilling into Holleran.

"What the hell were you thinking to put him at such risk in his condition? He was bait that couldn't defend himself. You let that sick twisted son of bitch Donner hurt him badly, to stab a knife into his heart and soul. That bastard almost killed him."

Her rage continued "You should have told us, we would have protected him. WE PROMISED TO KEEP HIM SAFE. He is FAMILY. WE PROTECT FAMILY! Yesterday, he risked himself to save so many. He took a horrible burden on his soul to save others."

Gesturing to her teammates she yelled "We we know the pain that comes with taking a life. Sam willingly accepted that pain to save others five times yesterday. He saved Greg. He saved two wounded souls. He saved a little girl. He saved Frank and me and he nearly died trying to save Aaron."

Tears of fury streamed down her face "We need him, he is family, we trust him. It was a trust hard fought for and only won yesterday morning. If we lose him it will be on your hands. WE BETTER NOT LOSE HIM, HE IS FAMILY, HE BELONGS HERE."

All fury and energy spent she dropped into her chair and mournfully said "I promised to keep him safe. I need him to be safe."

Everyone in the room was dazed and silent. All agreed absolutely and completely with all she said but were stunned at her outburst.

The deafening silence that followed was broken by a familiar calm and steady voice.

"I'm good. Nowhere in the world I'd rather be."

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