The flight to the US was calm. BA was too worried about the unusually quiet younger man to think about himself. Since they left Hannibal’s home outside the base, Hannibal and Face hadn’t had any chance to express their real feelings and only when Face was about to get on the plane did the older man hug him, holding him close, whispering words no one other than the LT heard. There were rumors at the base about the two men being a couple but they had always refused to admit anything, not because they were afraid of it, they just felt it wasn’t the right way to live their relationship in that particular “background”. However nobody thought it was strange to see both men teary; they had been “together” for so many years and it was perfectly understandable now if they felt sad to separate from each other.
Bosco supported his friend as best as he could, even if he knew he couldn’t give him what he really needed. When they landed at the O’Hare airport, after the captain’s usual announcement, Face made a little distressed sound. The big guy couldn’t fully understand how his friend was feeling but he was determined not to let him fall into depression or worse; with his big hand, he lightly massaged the younger man’s thigh, a simple gesture of friendship and comfort that actually brought a little smile to the man’s features. A small “Thanks, BA” was all he could manage at the moment but Bosco considered it a start.
Adele was waiting for them with a huge poster, on which big black letters in a neat handwriting formed the word “Scooter”; Face laughed at the expression on the Corporal’s face as he read it. Bosco frowned a little but soon enveloped the petite woman in his arms, kissing her soundly, and many people turned to look at them: it was always emotional to see a mother meeting her military son at the airport. They eventually disentangled and it was Face’s turn to hold her; the woman smelled of biscuits and homemade apple pie, and the LT couldn’t imagine the amount of food she had prepared for them.
Once Bosco parked their rental car outside his mother’s home, Adele hurried to retrieve Face’s luggage; the young man insisted it was too heavy for her to carry but she didn’t listen to him. “It’s good to have you back, Face! Now let me take care of you!” she said, caressing him. Face blushed at her sweet manners and escorted her inside. She had already prepared the guest room for him, the same one he and Hannibal shared last time they visited her, but resisted the instinct to put his clothes in the drawer and left the younger man alone, busy with that task. Her son had obviously explained the situation to her beforehand and she was happy to help him, but she needed to understand exactly how to do it.
“It’s good to have you around, baby. I missed you!” she kissed the big guy and went to sit beside him. “How is Face really doing?” she asked earnestly.
Bosco smiled back at the older woman. “Physically, he is doing well. Emotionally, I don’t know how to help him. He had a rough time after he told Hannibal but it seems they came to an agreement finally. I don’t know what they decided but Face seemed more relaxed the last days at the base, calmer. Being separated from Hannibal is a big trauma for him, though.”
Adele nodded her head. “Is he going to come soon?” she asked then.
“Hannibal? I didn’t ask him but from what I heard he is going to be busy for at least two months until he can get some time off.” Bosco sighed, the prospect of his mother dealing with a highly annoyed Face alone wasn’t appealing to him; he doubted his mother really understood what she was getting herself into.
As if she read his mind, the woman patted the big guy on the shoulder. “Don’t worry about me, Scooter! We will be fine. I just need to know one thing: what if he needs a doctor, is there someone in particular I should call?”
“Yeah, Hannibal gave me the number of this… doctor Lipinzski…” and he handed her a small business card. “He works in a specialized institute and has treated other men in the same condition as Face. You can call him and fix an appointment. Ask him everything you need to know. Hannibal told me he is a good and caring person, very professional in his work. If you have a problem, call him.”
Again, she nodded.
“I’ll do it. So, Hannibal is coming in two months. Is he going to stay?”
“I don’t know, mama. It’s not an easy situation and the Colonel is in a delicate position right now.” BA paused and closed his eyes. He was tired from the long trip and was hungry too. “Anything else?”
The woman frowned a little. She had a million questions to ask but at the moment she was just happy to have two of her boys at home with her, and she decided it was time for them to have a real homemade meal. She urged Bosco to call Face and waited for them, sat at the kitchen table. Once she was satisfied they had eaten enough – in her opinion – Bosco asked the younger man if he wanted to rest for a while.
Face hadn’t known he was tired until BA talked about “having a nap” and gladly accepted the offer; timidly, he asked the older man if he could stay with him, he missed Hannibal and needed someone to hold on to at the moment. The Corporal joined him, happy to be there and to be helping his little brother, and Face felt immensely relieved. He fell asleep in a few minutes in the protective arms of his friend.
The following day they visited Dr. Lipinzski. Face reminded Bosco that he should spend his time with his mother in another way since he was far from home most of the time and his chances to see her had been very rare lately. But BA insisted that he wanted to know if this doctor really was an ok guy, as Hannibal had declared, for his own peace of mind. Of course, the Colonel was right. The doctor greeted them warmly and they exchanged the usual pleasantries before examining Face.
“I think I’m ready to examine our young man! Follow me please!” Bosco and his mother watched as a very nervous Face reluctantly followed the doctor into his office, closing the door behind him. Once inside, he mimicked the older man’s gestures and sat in front of him in a comfortable leather chair.
“There is no need to be nervous, Face. Can I call you Face? Hannibal always calls you that when he speaks about you…”
The mention of his lover’s name brought tears to the LT’s eyes. “I’m sorry, doc, you just hit a nerve,” he explained, feeling ashamed of his constant weeping. “It seems all I can do right is cry lately!” he added, trying to justify his attitude.
The doctor offered him a tissue and reassured him quietly. He really was ok! “It’s quite common to cry, in your condition. Don’t make yourself sick over it. And I am sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“You didn’t hurt me. I just miss him very much.”
Lipinzski smiled at him. “I know. I can understand it. Now, I need to ask you some questions, just to get a picture of the situation. Please, answer me truthfully otherwise I cannot treat you properly.”
Face nodded his agreement. “I’m ready!”
“What do you know about male pregnancies?”
“Very little. I know it’s something that happens very rarely. I don’t have any idea how it’s possible. All I know is I feel like shit…”
The doctor snorted at his explicit language. “Nausea?” Face nodded.
“Mood swings? Cravings? Fatigue? Tender swollen chest area?”
“Everything you said.”
“How did you manage to hide it? Hannibal told me you pretended nothing had happened. I don’t want to remind you what could have happened to you and your child, I’m sure you got plenty of scolding for your imprudent behavior from your friends.”
Face actually blushed at the comment. “I took some herbal remedy for the nausea. About the rest, I didn’t have much time to think about it; when you’re on a mission, you have to be always at 100% even when you’re not… that’s what we were trained for…” The idea of being cut off from the only world he knew made him sick. He hoped the doctor didn’t notice his discomfort.
“How do you feel about leaving the Army?” the older man asked instead. “I know it wasn’t exactly your choice…”
The LT, now former LT, since he had been released, really didn’t want to think about it. Was this doctor Lipinzski a psychiatrist too? Was he going to pump him full of drugs in order to have him walking around losing his mind? “I don’t want to talk about it,” he replied angrily.
“Are you upset because I asked you?”
Face knew the doctor was only doing his job but he didn’t understand why he was so “curious” about his feelings. “Who are you, a shrink? Why do I have to tell you? And, anyway, I can’t go back. You want to know how I feel about it? I feel… like I’ve lost everything! Being a ranger is the only thing I can and want to do, I love… I loved being a military man, I loved the training sessions in the mountains, I loved to push my body to its limits and further… And the adrenaline when we were on a mission, I loved the feeling of it! I can’t imagine doing something different. That’s how I feel. A stranger in an alien world. What am I supposed to do now? Do you have an answer for this, doctor?”
“I don’t have the answers you’re searching for, Face, I’m sorry. I understand you are frustrated right now…”
“I’m not frustrated!”
“…and angry, but being released is not the end of your life. You have plenty of possibilities to integrate yourself in the civilian society, get a new job, have a new life…”
“Holy Christ, doc, I don’t want a new life! I want my old life back!”
“I know I can’t! There is no need for you to remind me!”
“You can’t, Face. I’m sorry.”
“Then what do you suggest? Do you have a miracle pill that will make me forget about who I was? I don’t want to deny my past, I am the person I am because of the choices I made and because of the people I met, I don’t want to lose them!”
“Who says you’re going to lose them? Please, Face, calm down.”
“Yeah, I know, it’s not good for the baby…” he replied bitterly “Oh, shit! I’m going to be sick!” He managed to reach the toilet in time to throw up all his breakfast.
Five minutes later, a pale Face was once again sat in front of the desk of his doctor.
“Do you feel a little better?” the older man asked quietly.
“Yes, sorry if I screwed up Doc, I didn’t mean to… I’m really sorry! It’s not your fault… what happened… and I shouldn’t have talked to you like that!”
Lipinzski smiled at him. “Mood swings. Don’t worry, I am used to dealing with that. Anyway, as you pointed out, I am no shrink so I can’t help you to deal with the situation, psychologically talking. But, if you want, I can give you the name of a very good therapist, she works here at the institute; can I call her and fix an appointment for you?”
Face didn’t look so happy about the idea.
“Just meet her, talk to her and then decide if you want to come back. If not, I certainly won’t blame you. It’s your choice,” the doctor suggested.
“Fine, I’ll talk to her. I know you want to help, doctor, it’s just that… the whole situation is a little scary, you know?”
Several questions later, Lipinzski asked Face to lie on the bed with his shirt off. The younger man looked at him with a questioning look.
“Have you ever heard of scans?” asked the doctor.
“Are you going to show me the baby?”
“Yes. Now lie down and relax. I won’t hurt you, you’ll feel only a little cold because of the gel I have to apply on your belly.”
The exam was actually as the doctor had promised, not painful at all. The baby was fine, it was too early to know the sex but it was there. Face wished Hannibal was with him. Suddenly, he didn’t care about anything else, the only important thing at the moment was the little miracle living inside him, part of him and part of Hannibal. He didn’t exactly choose it but, anyway, since when were Miracles a choice? He surely had a long road ahead of him but he was determined to get better and to welcome his little bundle of joy to the world with a smile on his lips.