The First of Many

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Chapter 20

Three months later, Hannah arrived at phase 1 of Delta training and began the hell that was the physical training.

It was pain on a level she'd never experienced before. It wasn't the senseless agony of Nico's ministrations, it wasn't the calculated exhaustion of Ranger school. At night, Hannah was asleep before she even hit her bed (She'd literally fallen asleep with her face on her mattress and her knees on the floor on several occasions). Every day, she wondered again what had possessed her to go so far.

Hannah didn't like it. She didn't like how much she cared. She didn't like how, no matter how much she wanted to quit, she couldn't. She didn't like how the more pain they put her through, the more she wanted to win. And yet, somehow, she enjoyed it nevertheless. She was on top of the world; a protector, a confidant. It was up to her to keep these people safe. That was the way it always had been. She pushed herself harder, fighting as well as she ever could, keeping her exhaustion at bay as her old survival patterns resurfaced for the first time since the mountain phase.

On the first night of training, Hannah dragged herself to the shower, completely forgetting where she was. She hadn't so much as seen her teammates, other than vague humanoid forms through the haze of her exhaustion.

It was Ross who saw her first, and let out a yelp as he wrapped a towel around his waist. “Umm, hey, I don't think you're in the right place...”

“Really?” she asked coolly, as the other men gaped at her from their own showers, “I see another woman right in front of me.”

Ross was too stunned to answer to the taunt.

She wore nothing at all and clearly didn't care: a towel draped over her neck showed far more than it hid.

"Um, What Ross was saying was that this is the men's shower," a man she had seen called Mike answered.

“This is the only shower,” she said casually. “You know that as well as I do.”

"There's another one for the intel chicks. Apparently, Command thinks it’s not safe to put male operators and female intel analysts under the same roof," he said.

“Boy, do I look like some kind of an intel analyst to you?” she asked, offended, a hint of a Russian accent sneaking into her speech.

“What we mean is that we're not used to seeing a fine lady like yourself in a men's shower room," another man said diplomatically.

"Well, if I'm in your team, then this shouldn't be a problem," she responded.

“There aren't any women in the Unit,” he pointed out, shocked.

“Not yet, there aren't,” Hannah answered. “Call it a trial run. Besides, I was there, standing with all the rest of you when you got here, and you didn't even notice?”

“We thought you were... I don't know, but not a teammate! Where's your bed?”

Hannah raised an eyebrow. “Three down from you,” she deadpanned. “And, sorry, but there isn't any room in it for you.”

The man turned an impressive shade of crimson and sputtered as though he were choking.

"Charming," Hannah snorted.

"That's just Cole. The man's a regular tomato," Mike said, the only one who clearly didn't care whether or not there was a nude woman in the room. Hannah smirked. The man must have sisters. That, or one Hell of a girlfriend.

“Now, if it's all the same to you,” she said, “We can stop being shocked at the fact that I'm here, and let me take a shower.”

Hannah went to one of the open stalls and started the hot water, all too aware that she was being watched.

She rolled her eyes and ignored them. “Shades of high school locker rooms,” she declared, shooting a smirk at a particularly obvious eye peering through the gap between stall and curtain.

"Wait you've been in guys' locker rooms before?" Mike said, stunned.

“Well, that's just none of your goddamn business, now isn't it?” she asked cheerily.

A low whistle from a voice she didn't recognize. “Boy was I ever in the wrong high school.”

“Leave the woman alone,” a gruff voice declared. “Rosie, just ignore them. All talk, no action, trust me.”

Athena's jaw dropped. That voice... Was he really – how hadn't she noticed him? She pulled back the shower curtain and raced to the giant of a man standing near the doorway. “Holy shit, Hunter, it's you!” she exclaimed, pulling him into a bone-crushing hug, still sopping wet and stark naked. Hunter chuckled good-naturedly and hugged her back, seeming completely oblivious.

“Lucky bastard,” Cole muttered to Mike.

“Shut up,” Hunter fired back.

“Shit, it's good to see you,” Hannah said.

“Same,” he said. “I was surprised to see you in Selection.”

“Shut it,” she snorted. “You knew perfectly well I was going to be here, stalker.”

Hunter grinned. “Maybe. Didn't have your reasoning, though.”

“Couldn't stay,” she said shortly. “Not after what happened to Teddy.”

A low growl escaped from his throat as he grasped her firmly by the shoulders. “Listen to me, Rosie,” he said. “You listen to every word I'm telling you. That. Was. Not. Your. Fault. Understand?”

Hannah glared at him and tore away. “Get your hands off me, Hunter.”

Hunter looked pained. “Rosie, you can't keep doing this to yourself-”

“-It's Solomon, Hunter. I'm not Rosie anymore. Now shut up and let me take my shower. We don't have long, in case you've forgotten.”

Hunter sighed heavily and let her go without another word.
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