The First of Many

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Chapter 37

Snake's funeral was held on a dull spring morning. It was overcast, but there was no rain.

Aedan stood in his black Navy dress uniform, feeling as though he was burying a part of himself. Beside him stood Hannah in her Army dress uniform.

The minister stood in front of the casket. "...Death is not an end, it is merely a new beginning. Benjamin Fraser was a man who never wavered in the face of certain death. Now, before we bury him, would anyone like to say a few words?" The minister asked.

Aedan took a deep breath and spoke up, squeezing Hannah's hand as though his life depended on it.

“Snake was more than a teammate to all of us,” he said. “He was a friend and a brother, and I am honored to have known him. He's saved my life more often than I can even count. He never once got angry, or restless, or tired. I've never met a man more proud to serve than him. He's the reason why I made it through SEAL Qualification. He mentored me, molded me. I owe everything to him." He laid his hand on the casket. "Goodbye, brother," he said softly. “I'll see you where you're going.”

One by one, each of the men hammered their tridents into the coffin. Hannah stood at the end of the line, sticking out like a sore thumb as the only one in an Army uniform. There was a long pause, after Aedan had gone, and Hannah was the only one left, the only one without a trident.

She pulled a knife out of the sheath on her shoulder, the one that she’d used to kill him, and stood before the coffin for a second, sizing it up. She lifted the blade and drove it into the wood so hard that a wave of pain made her arm crack painfully and drove her to her knees, cutching white-knuckled at the knife, hilt-deep in her brother’s coffin.

She stood, saluted snake one last time, and crossed over to the other men. Silently, they made room for her in the center of their ranks.

After the funeral, Hannah looked around for Aedan, but to no avail. She searched around the cemetery for ten minutes until she found him, sitting on a bench and staring at an invisible point in the distance. "Aedan, are you okay?" She asked softly.

Aedan took a deep breath and nodded. “I'm fine,” he said, sounding very much not fine at all.

Hannah sat down next to him. "Now, I know that’s a lie, because you look like shit.”

Aedan shook his head without a word, his throat tight with grief.

"What's wrong? You can tell me," she said softly, offering silent comfort as she took his hand.

"Look, Rosie, I get what you're trying to do. It’s not working."

She sighed. “Let me help you,” she said. “Please, Aedan. Tell me what I can do.”

"There's nothing much that you can do, Rosie."

She sighed heavily, leaning her head on his shoulder. “I know,” she said. “That’s what it was like when Teddy died.”

“I can’t do this again,” he said softly, choking on his words. “I can’t bury more teammates.”

"Aedan, this is combat. Some people live, some people die. It’s up to the living to move on. Look, I'm here for as long as you need me." She pulled him close as he leaned his head on her shoulder.

“I don’t understand,” he said finally. “Tex… we all knew he was a little off. I knew what he’d done to that woman, and what he tried to do to you… but killing Snake? I just… I don’t understand how he could have done that. To his own teammate.” He sighed heavily. “I don’t know, I thought we were a fuckin’ family of some sort, and then he went and fucked that all to Hell.”

"He was mentally ill. I don't know how he ever made it to the team. Sometimes, the crazy ones slip through the cracks. Look, let’s focus on something else."

"What shall we focus on?"

“Your team,” she said. “You have a duty to them, now. You’re the leader, you have to bring them through this.”

"I guess so. Thanks for all your help. You really helped," he said as he pulled away, tears in his eyes but a small smile on his face.

She smiled, tears in her own eyes.

“Hey,” he said. “The guys and I are going down to Coronado beach, we’re meeting my brother James’ team there. We’ll go swimming, have a few beers, a toast for Snake. If you want to come with, I can give you a ride.”

Hannah smiled. “I'd love to, as long as you guys don't mind having an army girl in squid central."

"We don't. It would be great to have you."

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