I wake up to something tickling my nose, instinctively, my hand moves up to brush it away and I feel long hair in my face. I blink my eyes open, to find my face buried in long black hair. Frowning, I sit up slightly, noticing my arm trapped under a body. From the hair and the fair skin, I know its Jane.
I lay back on the pillow, trying to remember last night, and why I would wake up with Jane in my bed. I know we didn’t do anything, from what I can tell she is fully clothed, and I still have my boxers on. Still, I’m confused as to why she is here.
Jane stirs next to me, rolling over to face me and I take the opportunity to free my arm from under her. She blinks her eyes open and I’m met with the piercing blue as she looks at me.
“How are you feeling?” she asks softly, her voice laced with concern. I furrow my brows, trying to remember last night and why she would be worried about me. Seeing my look of confusion she clarifies. “You had a nightmare last night.” She states.
“Oh.” I say, trying to remember the dream but nothing really coming to mind.
“I woke you, but then you grabbed me in a bear hug and fell back asleep, you wouldn’t let me go so I figured I’d just sleep here.” She says with a laugh. I can feel myself redden with embarrassment. Not something that I am used to.
“Sorry.” I mumble.
“It’s alright.” She says with a shrug. “It’s nothing you wouldn’t do for me.” I smile at her. She’s right, I would do the same thing for her. For any of my friends really. Jane slowly sits up and stretches her arms above her head, moving her t-shirt up exposing the delicate skin of her back. I won’t lie, Jane is incredibly sexy, even if she doesn’t know it. I shake the thought out of my head as she climbs out of my bed.
“I’m going to get ready for work.” She states as the stumbles out of my room. I watch her leave before flopping back on my pillow and running my hand down my face. I can’t help but wonder what my nightmare was about.
I eventually move from my bed and take a shower, getting ready for the day. Jane has already left for work when I enter the lounge room, instead I find Ethan, Chris and Seb sitting on the couches talking in a quiet conversation. They stop when I enter the room.
“What’s going on?” I ask as I sit down on the couch next to Seb. They share a look between them before Seb turns to me.
“Ethan told us about your nightmare last night, anything you want to talk about?” he asks, watching me carefully. I look over to Ethan who stares down at the floor, not making eye contact.
“I don’t even remember what it was about…” I say, my eyes not leaving Ethan. I’m not mad he mentioned it, part of being on the team is talking about anything that is bothering us so that it doesn’t affect us when on a mission. I know I have let the team down in that respect. In more ways than one.
“You were yelling out for Chris.” Ethan states, finally looking up and looking me in the eye. “You said it was your fault.” My entire body deflates as I sink back into the couch, all eyes are on me and I can feel the guilt bubbling up inside of me.
“It was my fault. I led you all down there when I knew another team should have went.” I said, trying not to look at the ground and appear weak. I hate this shit, though, deep down, I knew it would come to this. I look to Chris who is just shaking his head, his hands in a fist.
“Go over what happened that day.” Chris states. I look at him, wondering if it’s a good idea to dredge all of this up for him, but he just nods his head, encouraging me to talk.
“We infiltrated the base, kicked their ass, and then started the search of the compound.” I start, giving the abridged version of what happened before opening that door. No one talks, just sits quietly as I say what happened from my point of view.
“We came across a door, I opened it and was hit by a stench. There were stairs leading down, and so I started down them, you all followed. I ignored my instincts, which told me not to lead you down there. I went down anyway.” Everyone was silent when I stopped, my eyes on Chris’s hands that shook when he wasn’t clenching them.
“You’re forgetting something.” Chris states, looking up and into my eyes. I think back to that day and shake my head, knowing that everything I said is how it happened. “You are. After you opened the door, you hesitated.” He states, I go to interrupt but he continues. “You hesitated, and looked back at us. You may not have said anything, but you asked the question, and we all agreed to go down there. We all knew what we were walking into. It wasn’t your fault what happened to me down there.” He trails off at the end, his hands shaking more even with them fisted. I remain silent, unsure what to say. I don’t remember hesitating, but then, guilt clouds your memories when you feel you have caused a friend harm.
“I’ve been in therapy long enough to know that anything could have triggered me.” Chris states. “It could have happened at home, on a mission, in public… I was a ticking time bomb. It just happened on that mission, but, it in no way, was caused by you.”
I don’t respond, I honestly wouldn’t know what to say. I know what he says is true, that’s the thing with PTSD, everyone assumes that during the trauma, or straight after is when it will affect you, but that’s not always the case. You can be fine for years, going about your life, when just one thing will trigger you and put you in a downward spiral. I’ve seen it plenty of times in soldiers who have returned from war. It’s the nature of the beast.
“You good now?” Seb asks and I nod my head. I know it will take me a while to get rid of the guilt, but I also know that what they are saying is the truth. It wasn’t my fault, I just have to convince myself of that.
“Good.” Chris says, relief evident in his eyes. It’s obvious that it didn’t sit well with him that I was carrying around a guilt over his condition. “I have something to tell you all anyway. Tammy and I are moving back to the east coast.” He says quickly.
All eyes are on Chris. Both he and Tammy grew up just south of Sydney, though they met in Perth, their families only live a couple of hours away from each other. Their family is still there, and I knew that they wanted to go back eventually, I just didn’t think it would be this soon.
“When do you leave?” Ethan asks.
“After Kate and Chase’s wedding, Tammy already has a job lined up over there.” He states. It’s obvious that this was planned for a while, I just wonder why he didn’t tell us sooner.
“Well, you have to do what’s right for you and your family.” Seb says with a nod of his head. “We will all be here, you know that, whatever you need.” Chris nods his head in acknowledgement.
I can’t help but feel like everything is changing. Chris leaving the team and now the state, Jane coming into our lives, Kyle being on the team. It’s not all bad, but it’s obvious in the last six months, our lives have changed a lot.