The First of Many

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Chapter 38

Coronado beach was bright, sunny, and mostly empty. The SEALs were already there, headed by a muscular redhead, who grinned and tackled Aedan to the ground the second he arrived.

“Come on, James, knock it off!” Aedan yelled. “Just one day without an ambush, is that really too much to ask?”

“You’re getting old, big brother!” James laughed, letting Aedan up. He glanced at Hannah, stunning in her plain shorts and white shirt, showing off miles of creamy skin that gleamed in the sunlight, with a knife strapped plainly to each forearm.

“Who the fuck are you?” James asked bluntly. “Aedan, seriously, you brought your girlfriend? I didn’t even know you had a girlfriend!”

“We’re not dating,” Hannah snapped. Aedan grinned at the dozen men staring confusedly at Hannah. “Guys, this is Rosie,” he said. “She’s a Delta operator.”

All the SEALs Hannah didn’t know – that is, all the ones on James’ team, who hadn’t been at the funeral – jumped back a solid three feet, all wearing various expressions of terror.

Hannah blinked. “My reputation precedes me,” she said. “Now, this is great, but what did you guys hear about me?”

“Well,” one said uneasily, “we saved this Ranger’s ass this one time. He was in pretty shitty shape, coded twice on the table. But when he woke up, the first thing he was worried about wasn’t the whole ‘you may never breathe like a normal person again’ part, it was ‘holy crap, Rosie’s going to shove a knife down my throat, please kill me now’,” he said. “Later on, he told us Rose was an old teammate who left for Delta. Add that to a few other stories…”

Aedan grinned. “Did I forget to tell you that, Rosie?” he asked. “Right, you’re a legend. Shit, I thought you already knew this. Delta’s Knife? Not even a little familiar?”

Hannah shrugged. “This is news to me,” she answered. “But that’s nice, it saves me the trouble of threatening you. Now, how about some beer?”

As the party progressed, Hannah found a place on the sand, staring out into the water where some of the men were swimming.

She was sitting on the beach, beer in hand, when Aedan surfaced, sun gleaming on his skin and turning him to bronze and gold. Hannah stared, mouth going dry in appreciation, eyes raking up his chest.

Damn, Solomon, those abs…

Not again…

But those abs… and those arms… you’re so fucking screwed.

Like you’d mind.

“Hey, Rosie!” James shouted, grinning as he noticed Hannah’s obvious interest. “See something you like?”

Hannah managed not to blush as she was caught staring. “Hell yeah!” she called back, trailing her eyes up Aedan’s torso again. Aedan flushed red, dark color spreading down his neck and almost to his chest.

Yum.

You’re a child.

Forcing herself to remain calm, she grinned at Aedan, who had made it within speaking range. The men were grinning at her, laughing.

“Damn, Aedan, where’ve you been hiding that all this time?”

“Under seventy pounds of tactical gear,” Aedan answered with a raised eyebrow.

“Not fair,” she declared. “You’re not allowed to wear shirts in combat anymore.”

"What if I get shot? Blood will spatter my chest," he said as he sat next to her.

“Then I’ll just have to lick it off,” she answered with a cool smirk. Aedan sputtered in shock, turning, if possible, even redder.

“Can’t be staring at your teammates like that, it’s indecent,” one teammate said.

“I’d believe that if you’d stop staring at my ass,” she shot back without looking at him, standing up to prove her point.

"You can't blame him for having great taste," Aedan said, taking a long look at the skin she was showing in her tight shorts and small shirt.

She snorted. “You’re a pig,” she muttered.

“You stare at me, I stare at you. It’s a good system. Stick with it.”

“Hey, quit the eye-fucking, you two!” James called. “Get a room, nobody wants to see that!”

"Hey guys, are we going to do this thing or what?" Aedan asked as he took a box out of his bag.

The SEALs gathered together in front of Hannah, and it was Aedan who held out a small black box to her.

“The team and I got together, when Snake died,” he said. “We didn’t know who to give his things to. All of us, we got bits and pieces of him through the years, but you don’t have anything.” He handed her the box. “We decided you should be the one to have this.”

Hannah took the box and opened it, revealing Snake's trident nestled in the worn fabric. She staggered back as she stared at the metal. She ran her fingers over the eagle, the trident spear, and the pistol before taking it in her hands.

“I shouldn’t have this,” she said softly. “I… This should go to his family, his next-of-kin. Someone else. I don’t…”

“-You mean you don’t know?” Blackburn asked, frowning.

“Know what?”

Wraith sighed. “After the battle of Yekaterinburg, the United States sent ambassadors to Russia to help with the peace talks, to try to make some concessions to the Leninists. They didn’t appreciate the intervention.”

“What do you mean?” She asked.

“They rigged an explosion in the embassy,” he said. “Burned the place to the ground. Snake’s parents were the ambassadors. Snake and his little sister, Rosalie, were in the building when it came down. His parents were in the middle of the blast, they died on impact. Snake was seventeen, but his little sister was only seven. He carried her through the building all the way from the top floor, over his shoulder the whole way down, but by the time he made it down to the street, she’d already suffocated.”

Hannah looked away. “That’s awful,” she said.

“It’s why he joined the Teams,” Aedan said.

“Only, here’s the thing,” Wraith said. “Just before this last deployment, Blackburn, Snake, and myself went to a bar. Snake got more than a little drunk, and he started talking about you.”

Hannah frowned and waited for more.

“He said you looked just like Rose had,” he said. “That he was honored to know you, and that he hoped that Rose would have grown up to be as brave and strong as you are. That’s why he always called you Girl, you know; calling you Rose would have been too much for him.” He shrugged. “Look, ever since Snake took command of this team, there’s been an extra spot here for Rosie Fraser. I guess that makes you an honorary frogwoman.”

"Welcome to the Wolves," Aedan said as he put his arm around her shoulder.

The men answered with a resounding “HOOYAH!” and Hannah tacked on a grinning “Hooah” at the end.

Dead silence from all the men. She frowned, glancing at them.

“What?” she asked. “What’d I do?”

“Well, Rosie,” Blackburn said with a grin, “I don’t know if you noticed, but you’re in Coronado now. That’s our turf. And that means you say Hooyah, not that Hoo-ah Army bullshit.”

"How about you make me?"

Aedan grinned. “Go get wet and sandy,” he ordered.

Hannah blinked. “What?”

Another shocked pause.

"Go get wet and sandy. Keep going and I'll make you do it twice for arguing."

Hannah cocked her head. “Two questions: One, since when can you make me do anything since you don’t outrank me, and two, what the hell is wet and sandy?”

"Go take a dive in the ocean, come back, and cover every inch of that nice body with sand."

Hannah smirked. “It’s a white shirt,” she said. “You might prefer me without the sand.”

"Well, how about you go get wet and get even more wet?"

“What’s the practical purpose of wet and sandy, anyway? Sounds stupid.”

"It’s a tradition we all go through in BUD/S. Now go get wet and sandy."

Hannah shook her head. “Guess you’ll have to make me,” she said. “Not happening here.”

"Oh come on. Consider it a little inauguration as an honorary member of SEAL Team Two."

“Not happening,” she said again.

“All right, fine,” Aedan said with a shrug, reaching out and hoisting her over his shoulder before she could react.

She fought like a banshee, but to no avail. He finally threw her into the ocean with a laugh.

Once he’d gotten her out of the water, he tossed her in the sand. “Come on, say Hooyah and it’s over,” he said. “Or else it’s pushups in the sand until you do.”

"Never. You can't make me do pushups."

"Actually I can. Command combined our teams and made me team leader."

“That’s absolute bullshit and you know it, we’re both leaders, you only command the SEAL portion of the team.”

He shrugged and flipped her over so that her face landed in the sand. “Come on,” he ordered. “Hooyah, Rosie!”

"Never. I'm an Army girl first, and you can't change anything. Do your worst."

He grinned. “Pushups, then.”

She obeyed and did pushups for a full thirty minutes before Aedan pulled her back up. "Still don't want to cooperate?"

She grinned. “Hooah,” she laughed, and let him push her back down.

She did pushups for another thirty minutes before Aedan pulled her back up. "Concede," he ordered.

Her eyes rolled back and she closed them, falling back onto the sand of her own accord, panting hard. “Hooyah,” she managed, curling up and retching.

"There you go," he said. "Welcome to the family."

“Fuck you,” she muttered.

Aedan grinned. “Don’t I wish,” he answered ruefully.

The party wound down a few hours later – Hannah was out for the count during the half hour after the pushup debacle. She lay down in the sand and refused to move, until James had the bright idea to try burying her in the sand. Hannah didn’t find it very funny, and after retaliation, James didn’t either.

As people began to trickle away, Aedan and Hannah returned to Aedan’s truck, an old sixties pickup in bright red.

“So, where’re you staying, while you’re stateside?” he asked with a smile.

Hannah managed not to grimace. “Not sure,” she said. “I’m sure I’ll find a place.”

"Look, you can come stay with me if you want? My apartment is big enough for the two of us."

She frowned. “I don’t want to put you out,” she said.

“Please,” he said. “Rosie, I don’t think either of us should be alone right now.”

She nodded slowly. “Okay,” she said.

"Well, how about we have some cocoa and relax tonight, maybe watch a movie?" Aden asked as he led her to his truck.

“Sleep, tonight,” she said firmly. “Where do you live, anyway? We’re in Coronado, remember? How the fuck is your truck here if base is all the way back in Virginia?”

Aedan grinned. “I thought maybe we could take a road trip,” he said. “Ever crossed the country in a big red truck?”

She rolled her eyes. “Can I put on some dry, non-transparent clothes first?”

Aedan smirked. “I like you better this way.”

“Too bad,” she answered, pulling clothes out of her bag.
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