The First of Many

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Chapter 19

Teddy's funeral took place on a gloomy, overcast summer afternoon. Hannah was surprised by how many people had shown up, then decided that Ted really did make an impression on everybody he met.

She tried to speak a few words before the grave was covered over, but after the first few sentences, her tongue turned to lead and she just let herself lean against Hunter, who held her tenderly in his arms. It was only his arms around her that kept her from collapsing altogether.

As they each said goodbye to Teddy, Hannah felt tears spring to her eyes, but shoved them back.

At the reception was a petite auburn-haired woman, tears streaming down her cheeks as she clutched a folded flag to her chest. In a stroller by her side was a baby, sitting quietly with an expression of childish confusion on its face.

Hannah turned and left, unable to face the mourners any longer. She made her way to a nearby bench and sat, staring dispassionately at the lake.

Teddy was dead.

Teddy was dead, and she was alive, and now Will would grow up without a father, and Abby would have to find a way to raise him alone, and would one day grow bitter and cold from grief, all because Hannah hadn't taken the controls.

Hannah was knocked out of her reverie by a vaguely familiar voice.

“Hey, are you okay?” asked Aedan, sitting beside her.

“What're you doing here?” she muttered.

"Teddy was a close friend of mine. We would go bar hopping whenever we were back from deployment. He came to my graduation from SQT."

Hannah nodded. “He was a good man,” she said.

“He was,” Aedan answered.

There was nothing more to say at the moment, and the pair sat together in silence.

“Why aren't you with your brothers?” he asked after a moment. “They're all together, they could help you.”

“I don't want their sympathy,” she said.

“Well, I'm here,” he said, pulling her into a hug.

Hannah pushed him away. “Don't touch me,” she said stiffly.

“Why not?”

“I don't like to be touched,” she said.

"Why?" he asked.

"I just don't."

“You know, that's the sure-fire way to make me ask, right?”

"Please don't ask. It's a long story."

Aedan sighed and nodded. “All right,” he said, pulling away. “But whoever it is, he'd better hope neither me nor your team gets our hands on him.”

"Thank you," she said with a smile.

"Look, if you ever need someone to talk to, call me."

She nodded. “I know,” she said. “I have to go now, okay?”

Aedan nodded, squeezing her hand once. “Hang in there,” he said.

Hannah stood and left, making her way to stand beneath the large oak a few yards away. She stared impassively at the trunk.

Teddy is dead, she thought. Teddy is dead. Teddy is dead. TeddyisdeadTeddyisdeadTeaddyisdead...

She was suddenly very grateful for the large, sweeping branches of the tree, which shielded her from view.

It was important for an operator to be seen as a hard case by his teammates. It was especially important for a female operator to be seen as a hard case.

It was vitally important that none of her teammates see her crying.

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