04 Wounded

Wounded

© Copyright 2009

Written by Banzai Ben and Amazing Anastasia

ben@banziben.com

 

Wounded Chapter 04

 

Wednesday 05 December

 

Present – Ben - Hospital – Ramstein AFB Germany

 

My mind slowly stops swimming in a maze of confusion as I start to wake. I wake from what feels like the sleep of the death. I think I'm very lucky this time because the Grim Reaper knocked hard on the door to my heart and I almost let him in. I chuckle as I remember one of my t-shirts, "Marines don't die. We just go to hell and regroup."

 

I start to blink and open my eyes but it's hard at first because the sleepers are thick. I try to reach up with my arms to rub my eyes. Son of a bitch, my right arm hurts like hell and I can't move it! At first I think I can't move my left arm either but something heavy is holding it down and then it comes free. I rub my eyes with my left hand and I can finally see.

 

Oh Shit! I realize I'm in the hospital again. I look down at my right arm and see it's in a splint and is all bandaged up. Oh yeah, now I remember, I was shot in Tajikistan. Thank God, Zarika and Yasmeen got me to the embassy in time.

 

I glance around the room, expecting to see them and almost jump out of bed when I see Jens! She has her head on the side of my bed and is asleep. Jens, Jens, Jens – I didn't know if I would ever see you again – and now you’re here, wherever the hell here is! She's snoring worse than I've ever heard her so she must be exhausted.

 

I reach my left arm down and gently stroke her hair. Finally I can touch the hair of the woman that has haunted my dreams for so long. I want to pinch myself just to make sure I'm not dreaming again. The dreams were so real, just as real as this is. Tears of joy and happiness fall down my cheeks and onto the bed.

 

I hear a noise to my right; I turn, look, and Liz is standing in the doorway. She's in a gown and gloves,  is putting on a mask but smiles before she covers her face. Now I'm almost sure this isn't a dream. She walks over to my bed, looks down at Jens and whispers to me, "It's about time you woke up, Price Charming. I thought the beautiful princess was supposed to sleep.".

 

"Liz, p-p-please tell me this is real and I'm not dreaming."

 

She leans over, pulls back her mask, kisses me on the cheek and then rubs my head, "Ben, this is real. You've made it back to Jens."

 

"I was worried. Almost every night I've dreamed of Jens and the dreams were so real." I continue to cry.

 

"Well hero, you defied the odds. You were captured by the Taliban and you made it back. This is going to make a hell of a news story."

 

"Where am I? Tajikistan?"

 

"No hero, you're at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany." Liz replied.

 

"What about the girls, my wives-uh-sisters? Are they here too?"

 

"Ben, are you talking about the two little girls that brought you to the embassy in Dushanbe?"

 

I start getting a little agitated, "Yes, them. Zarika and Yasmeen are now my little sisters and I promised them I'd bring them to America with me. Where are they?"

 

Liz gives me a pensive look, "Ben, the guards at the embassy didn't know and chased them off."

 

I struggle trying to get up and knock a wire loose from a monitor. It starts complaining and wakes Jens up. She jumps to her feet, looking ready to fight the world. She see's I'm awake and falls on top of me giving me huge hug. Her body shakes with sobs - like a palm tree in a hurricane. "My Ben, you're alive. You came back to me." I finally hear the voice that's been only in my dreams since I left her in Turkey.

 

I hug her tight with my left arm and rub her back. It's true, it's real. I made it back to Jens!

 

She pulls away, yanks off her mask and looks at me. I smile saying, "Remember our last kiss!"

 

"I bet it's not as good as this one!" Our lips join in the first kiss of the rest of our life.

 

A nurse comes running into the room, "What's going on here? And what are you doing in his bed?"

 

"Ben's awake and I'm getting my first hug and kiss from him." Jens announces.

 

"Well, you can't be in his bed and you need to wear your mask." The nurse grumps.

 

"Can't you give us just a few minutes?" I ask. "Liz can you help us?"

 

Liz is beaming, and I finally notice the news crew taping everything. She goes over and whispers something in the nurse's ear and the nurse smiles. "Okay, you can have five more minutes, but first I need to plug in the monitor." She re-connects the monitor and leaves the room.

 

Jens cuddles up against me, "I've been so worried about you. You're so sick this time."

 

"Shhh, don't waste our cuddle time on this. I just want to hold you and enjoy being with you. There's time to talk later."

 

I enjoy holding her close, smelling her hair and feeling her familiar body close to mine again. I try to let myself relax, but I can't because I remember the girls and worry about their safety. I start to get sleepy, yawn and fall asleep.

 

Present – Jens - Hospital – Ramstein AFB Germany

 

I was dreaming about the days after my surgery, when Ben's monitor woke me out of my deep sleep. I jump up, ready to do CPR - I'm not letting him die now. When I see he's awake I jump onto the bed and hug the hell out of him.

 

He squeezes me so tight with his left arm it hurts, but it is the best hurt I have ever felt and I'm sure not going to complain! I pull away to look at him, I want to get lost in his eyes again when he says, "Remember our last kiss." I sure as hell do and I rip off the mask to give him a new toe-curling kiss he's going to remember for the rest of his life.

 

The bitch nurse comes in and yells at us, trying to get me off my man. I was getting ready to flip her off when Ben takes care of it by getting Liz to help.

 

We cuddle together again! It's so wonderful, but then my tired man drifts off to sleep. I spend another minute cuddling beside him and the nurse comes back in the room. "Okay miss, you need to get out of the bed and get your mask back on."

 

I hug him one more time and slip back into the chair. She comes over, "Did he fall back to sleep?"

 

I nod my head with concern showing in my eyes. "Don't worry that's normal. With what he's been through you can expect this for the next few days." She takes Ben's temperature, "Good, it's down some. Maybe your kiss helped."

 

"Really, you think so? I'd be happy to give him more!"

 

She laughs, "Sorry, I was just teasing you. It was good he woke up, how did he seem?"

 

"I only talked with him a little bit. He seemed fine but was very worried about something."

 

Liz came up, "He was awake when I first walked in the room. We talked for about five minutes. At first he was extremely disoriented but became better after a few minutes."

 

"How did the monitor get disconnected?" The nurse asks.

 

Liz replies, "He tried to hug Jens and knocked the cable loose." I could tell she lied and I’ll ask her why later.

 

"So should we let him sleep or should we try waking him up?"

 

"If he's asleep I'd let him sleep. Please call us the next time he wakes up so we can evaluate him." The nurse replies and leaves the room.

 

I look at Liz, "Liz, kill the cameras so we can talk."

 

"One minute Jens." She does a quick intro and exit spot for the video and Jon and Bernie take off with the cameras. She comes over and sits beside me, "Okay sis, what do you want?"

 

"What was the lie about on how the monitor cable became disconnected?"

 

She looks down at the floor and then back at me, "Jens do you have the picture Ben brought with him?" I remember the picture of Ben and the two girls, I reach in my pocket and hand it to her.

 

"Jens, I'm not sure Ben's mind is right. He called these girls his sisters, one is Zarika and one is Yasmeen."

 

"What the hell do you mean Liz!" I interrupt in a shout, Ben starts stirring in the bed and we go back to whispering. So these are the two he was mumbling about earlier."

 

Ben moans, "Zarika, Yasmeennnn." We both look at him and I sense Liz didn't tell me everything so I grab her arm and squeeze the hell out of it. "Ouch Jens that hurts."

 

"Liz, if you tell me one more lie I'm going to kick your butt so hard you'll have to ride your lovers cowgirl style for a month."

 

She blushes, "You know about that?"

 

"Liz, I'm not a prude and I wasn't born yesterday. Being with you the last few days has just confirmed my suspicions. You sometimes use sexual favors to get information. Quit stalling girlfriend!"

 

She looks down at the floor, her face is bright red. "Jens, I didn't want you to know about the sexual favors. I'm ashamed I do use sex to get information - it's a long story and you don't need to hear it right now."

 

I squeeze her arm tighter, "Liz, you're still stalling."

 

She looks at me with tears, in her eyes, "Jens, I'm not going to tell you. Not until I have a chance to research this more. You can kick my butt now if you want to."

 

I let go of her arm and look at her, this has to be serious if she is willing to get her ass kicked. I hold out my arms, she falls into them and I hug her while she sobs on my shoulder. "I'm sorry Jens, I can't tell you right now."

 

I shush her, "I'm not happy about this and you really have my curiosity going. But I'm not going to beat this information out of you, at least not yet. But someday you will tell me." I try to sense her feelings to see if I can figure it out, but it doesn't work.

 

I let go of her and she shows me the things she brought for me, including the laptop and new mobile phone. "Linus will be here later to scan the room and your clothes." Liz tells me.

 

I look at her - she's a good friend and has been a rock for me during these times. "Thanks Liz, you're a great friend and I really love you like a sister."

 

"Jens, I'm going to need to go away for a couple of days. Will you be okay without me?"

 

"Where are you going Liz?"

 

"Sorry Jens, that's NALTS1."

 

1 Not At Liberty To Say.

 

My anger flares for a moment, but then I control myself, "Liz, I don't like this. You've never been this secretive from me."

 

"I have to this time sis. Please trust me." Liz replies. Nobody is more worthy of trust than Liz. "Liz, can you stay by Ben while I go shower again and change into some new clothes? It'll take me less than thirty minutes."

 

"Please, I wish you'd change out of those clothes." She laughs. I'm in no mood for humor and start walking out of the room with my clothes. At the door I run into Glen and Evelyn.

 

"Jens, is it true Ben's awake?" Evelyn asks.

 

I push them apart and walk right between them, "Why the fuck do either of you care?" I turn and say, "Liz make sure they don't bother Ben or wake him up." And then I storm off to the shower.

 

Flashback Jens - Incirlik Airbase in Turkey - Sunday 14 October

 

Liz was a real lifesaver. I'm not going home until I find Ben but they won't let me out of this fricken hospital right now so she's going to help bust me out of here. I ran, well maybe really just moved quickly, into the bathroom and checked what Liz brought.

 

The first thing I did was hop in the shower and dye my hair. Oh if Ben saw me now he'd be upset. The blonde hair he loved so much is now an ugly, mousy shade of brown. I stepped out of the shower and looked at myself in the mirror - I hated the hair but the scar was going to look great.

 

I stuck my head out the door, "I'm ready Liz." She came in the bathroom, took out the scissors and cut my hair. It ended up shorter than I wanted but looked pretty good. I turned and caught her looking at me and she blushed. I ignored her and said, "Thanks Liz, if you ever lose your job you can always become a beautician."

 

I jumped back in the shower and rinsed all the hair off. I was feeling great and nothing was going to stop me now. I dried off again, making sure to leave no sign of the hair color change and pulled on my undies, a blouse and new blue jeans. I checked myself in the mirror and looked funny, so I stuck my tongue at the new and definitely not improved Jens. I pulled on my socks and mary janes and stepped out of the bathroom.

 

Liz looked at me and smiled, "You certainly look different."

 

I stuck my tongue out at her, "Don't worry I'm still the same annoying Jens. Let's get out of here." But before I left, I held up four boxes of feminine products and said, "What the hell are these for? I don't need them right now and it's a weird selection no woman in her right mind would ever use."

 

Liz giggled, "Let's move it and I'll tell you on the way out."

 

While I was in the shower, she'd loaded up everything, including my smelly t-shirt and the computer. She stood up, went to the door, checked the hallway and motioned for me to follow her.

 

As we slipped out in the hallway, Liz took my arm closest to the nursing station and we walked right past it. She told me the story about the feminine products and I almost blew it by laughing, "Liz, sometimes you're evil."

 

"Natasha, (that was my new code name) you should have seen the look on the salesgirl face, she was doing her best not to laugh."

 

We made it to the elevator, nailed the button and waited for it to come. I turned, faced Liz and we kept gabbing like girls. The elevator opened, Liz held my arm, a man walked past and then she pulled me in the elevator. It was empty and she said as the door closed, "Natasha that was Jens's doctor."

 

The ride down seemed to take forever but the door finally opened and we headed right for the front door. This time no one stopped us and we walked outside to freedom.

 

Liz leaned close, "Natasha, they have surveillance cameras and they might be able to figure out your disguise from them, just by seeing us together."

 

"It's a risk we'll have to take. How are we getting out of here?"

 

No sooner had I asked when an MP pulled up in a Humvee. I started to tense up.

 

"Hello Liz, did you need a ride." The young MP asked.

 

"Thanks, it'd be great if you gave Natasha and me a ride." Liz answered.

 

I sat in the back, Liz sat up front and flirted the hell out of the MP. He took us most of the way to where we were going and dropped us off. Liz gave him a hell of a kiss and I even saw him feel her up a little.

 

She walked over to me, I gave her a disapproving look and she blushed. "Hey it's not like I slept with him. Come on, we'll walk the rest of the way so they don't know exactly where we're going."

 

Current - Liz - Late Tuesday 04 December - Hospital – Ramstein AFB Germany

 

Seeing Ben awake and stroking Jens's head makes me so damn happy! I walk over to his bed and look into his dreamy eyes, shit the little school girl is coming out again.

 

He's so disoriented at first and thinks he's dreaming. Until I kiss his cheek (I want to play tonsil-hockey with him, but Jens would kill me) and rub his head. He is becoming even more awake and things are fine until he starts asking about the "girls" and accidentally calls them his wives. My knees almost buckle when he says that and I grab the rail to hold myself up.

 

He starts fighting to get up, I pull the wire off for his heart monitor and it wakes Jens up. She jumps on top of him and I start crying as I watch their reunion. But I wonder in my mind about Ben. Is he crazy? Did he really marry those two little girls? If he did Jens will just die. I look at both of them and I can't believe Ben could ever be unfaithful to Jens. It just doesn't seem right or make sense.

 

A nurse comes in and yells at Jens, but I sweet-talk her, and Jens gets to cuddle with Ben until he falls asleep again. The nurse comes back in the room, grills us about Ben, and leaves us alone. Then Jens lays into me about the lie I told the nurse. Son of a bitch - I hate that I can't lie to her! This damn sense thing she has going drives me crazy. It'd be so much easier if I could just lie to her.

 

She's so upset at me, but I'm not going to tell her anything about the girls possibly being Ben's wives until I can check it out. I finally get a reprieve when she leaves to shower but she meets her bastard parents as she leaves the room. She lays into them and I silently laugh - the bastards both deserve it.

 

They get into the isolation crap and walk over to me. Evelyn smiles and asks, "We heard Ben woke up, is it true?"

 

She didn't whisper and Ben stirs some, "Shhh, you need to whisper so you don't wake him up. Yes he was awake for about five or ten minutes."

 

"How was he?" Glen whispers.

 

I glare at him. Damn, I don't even like him, "What the fuck do you care? You left him to rot in Pakistan."

 

"Young lady, don't use that tone of voice with us!" Evelyn yells and it wakes up Ben. I stand up and slap her across the face, "I'll use any damn tone of voice with you I like, you pompous, self-righteous bitch. Jens is going to be so pissed you woke Ben up."

 

"Hey, what the hell is going on?" Ben says. He sees the General and tries to sit up and salute him forgetting about his right arm. "Ayeeee," he yells and then passes out from the pain.

 

The nurse runs in the room, "What's going on in here?"

 

I look at her and decide to take Glen and Evelyn down a notch or two, "These two came in here and started yelling and it woke up Ben. He saw the General and tried to salute him and passed out."

 

The nurse looks at Ben, "Shoot! His arm is messed up again. I think when he tried to move it he messed it up. All of you out of the room right now!"

 

We walk out of the room and Glen and Evelyn tried to nag me. I hold up my hand and flip them off. I need to find myself a doctor. I walk up to the nurses' station and ask to see the doctor on call. He comes out and I flirt him up a little, then we head back to his private office for some friendly persuasion and I get him to write an order: Jens, I, and the news crew can see Ben, but no one else, especially Glen and Evelyn.

 

I walk back out of the office and Glen and Evelyn are still standing outside of Ben's room. I start getting on my isolation crap to walk in the room. "Hey you can't go in there," they tell me. "Oh yes I can, it's you two that can't see him anymore." I walk by and Glen grabs my arm. I turn around and say, "Get your grubby paws off me or I will have you brought up on charges of assault."

 

"Like hell you will!" He says.

 

I see the doctor and go over to him sniffling and holding my arm like it was hurt, "Those two are the ones you said aren't supposed to see Ben. You see that fat fuck; he just grabbed my arm and bruised it."

 

The doctor said, "That bastard, I'm calling the MPs."

 

I held his arm as he made the call. It only took about five minutes for them to show up; they walk up to the doctor. "I witnessed the General physically assault this young lady. I want you to arrest him and take him to the brig. I need to examine this young lady to substantiate the bruises."

 

"But Sir, that's General Donaldson. We can't just arrest him." One of the MPs complains.

 

"Like hell you can't! He assaulted her. Call the OD2 and get his ass up here."

 

2 Officer of the Day.

 

I look at the MPs as I sniffle and carry on, "I want to press charges, he bruised my arm."

 

"I witnessed it and we also have the tape from those security cameras," the doctor says.

 

Glen noticed all the commotion and comes over, "What's going on here."

 

One of the MPs says, "Sorry sir but this lady says you assaulted her and the doctor corroborates her story. She wants to press charges."

 

Glen's anger rose and he turned red in the face, "Why you little slut! I thought you were our friend." I cower back from him, "Please don't let him hit me again."

 

That's all the doctor needs to hear, the OD shows up and the doctor lays into him. The OD lays into the MPs and they haul Glen's sorry ass off to the brig. Evelyn comes over, "Please don't let her hurt me," I whine.

 

The OD looks at her, "Ma'am I'd be very careful right now about what you say or do to this young lady. We've already taken your husband away for assault and it would be a shame if you joined him."

 

Evelyn starts to open her mouth, decides against it, turns and walks out of the ICU. "Thank you doctor," I hug him. "Thank you Sir," I hug the OD, they both get a little embarrassed.

 

"Let's look at that arm and photograph it." The doctor says and takes me into an examination room. The OD follows to maintain the chain of evidence. I take off my shirt and at first they're busy checking out my breasts, then they see a huge bruise on my arm (it was bruised earlier by Jens), "Wow look at that. He must have really grabbed and yanked your arm. I even see nail marks," the doctor remarks.

 

The OD takes pictures, I lean over so I'm sure he gets a good look down my bra and I notice a couple of photos aren't of my arm. He looks at me. I smile and bat my eyes, "I don't know how I can ever thank both of you."

 

"It's okay miss, I'm just doing my job. But you will have to come to my office and fill out the paperwork."

 

I think for a moment, I really don't want to get Glen in trouble because there are times we can really use his help. "Sir, I think it was just a little misunderstanding. Perhaps if you just talked to Glen he would understand he can't do this." I put my hand on his arm and smile.

 

He looks relieved, "I wasn't looking forward to processing this paperwork. And I think a little talk might just work. Thank you, Miss for being so reasonable."

 

I jump up and hug him tight, then turn and hug the doctor even tighter. "Thank both of you! You two are my heroes. I'm going to see Ben." I walk out the door, blow them both a kiss and notice the tents in both their pants. I giggle silently to myself and I head back to Ben's room.

 

I hate doing all the isolation crap, but I don't want to make more waves than I already have. So I put on all the junk again and head into his room. I go over, look at Ben, sit down beside him and hold his hand. Ben, Ben, Ben, did you marry those little girls? Were you forced to marry them? And why do you call them your sisters? What the hell happened to you for all those days?

 

I keep mulling those questions in my mind. I try to decide on the best way to investigate this when I notice Jens. As she's getting into her isolation crap I see she looks much better.

 

"Greetings sister, has he been awake again?" She asks.

 

"Your parent woke him up. He saw Glen and hurt his arm trying to salute him."

 

"Those bastards! I told them not to wake him up." She angrily says.

 

"Don't worry Jens, I took care of them for you." I replied and told her what happened.

 

"You are sure devious when you want to be." Jens remarks.

 

"They aren't allowed in the room so you shouldn't be bothered by them anymore. I'm going to take off and I won't be back for a while." We hug and I head out of the room to figure out what the hell Ben did in Pakistan.

 

Flashback - Liz – Hospital - Incirlik Airbase in Turkey Sunday 14 October

 

Well I'm in deep shit now. I just helped Jens escape from the hospital. I wonder what will happen to me if I ever get caught.

 

The MP gave us a ride almost to where I wanted to go and I decided it would be safer if we walked the rest of the way. I kissed the hell out of him and he grabbed a handful of my tits before we said goodbye. I walked over to Jens and she gave me her prude act and some crap.

 

"Where are we going Liz?" Jens asked.

 

"First, we're picking up the rest of my stuff. Then we're getting off the airbase and catching a flight to Kabul."

 

We got to the room on base where I had been staying - don't ask me how I got it. We grabbed my gear and I called an MP, "Hey sweetie, I was wondering if we could get a ride off base?" He was more than happy to help.

 

Jens looked at me, "Don't tell me you have all the men on this base eating out of your hand?" "Not yet, but that's just because I haven't been here long enough." I laughed. She gave me a dirty look. "Hey, this girl just does what she needs to do to get by."

 

I told the MP we'd meet him at an intersection so we took off. I carried most of the gear because Jens was still recovering. "Hey, I can carry some of gear," she complained. I stopped and looked at her, "I'm not having you break those stitches open again, I’ll manage."

 

As it turned out I didn't have to. We ran into a couple of Airmen who were more than happy to assist two helpless females. Jens didn't flirt with them, so I flirted enough for both of us. When they dropped us at the intersection, one tried to hug Jens and she about decked him. "Sorry miss, I was just trying to be friendly." He said.

 

"I'm engaged to a Marine and he wouldn't appreciate you trying to hug me." Jens said.

 

"Sorry again miss," he said one more time. So I hugged him to make up for it, "Don't worry, she's just a little grumpy right now because she's on the rag." I said.

 

Jens gave me a nasty look and turned away from me as the Airmen left. I said to her, "Hey, if you're going to act PMS then I might as well give you an excuse."

 

"I'm not PMS, I don't get PMS, and I just didn't want him hugging me." Jens grumped.

 

I laughed, "You know, in this case denial isn't a river in Egypt." She looked at me and started laughing, "Sorry Liz if I've been grumpy. I'm really worried about Ben."

 

I went over and hugged her, "Jens, I promise you I'll either find him or die trying."

 

She pulled back, "Liz, you'd better not do something stupid and die. You're my only support."

 

I felt the tears in my eyes and turned away. Jen came over and hugged me. "Liz, it's okay if you cry. Look I'm a Marine and I still cry."

 

I was able to get myself under control and fixed my face before our ride showed up. He jumped out and loaded the gear into the back of the Humvee - he even opened the doors for us. I sat in the front and Jens in the back. He climbed in and asked, "Where to ladies?"

 

"Thanks so much for picking us up, we need to get to the Sakirpasa airport at Adana." I answered.

 

"Oh, are you two leaving?" He asked in a sad tone.

 

"Unfortunately, we have some news to go cover. But we'll be back soon."

 

He leaned over and asked about getting a three way on the way. I told him we were both out of commission because Aunt Flo was visiting but someday I'd make it up to him. He smiled and drove up to the gate. They were stopping all the traffic, but because he was an MP they waved us through.

 

"What was that all about?" Jens asked.

 

"I guess some Marine Sgt., the daughter of the General, escaped from the hospital today and went AWOL. So they're stopping and searching all the vehicles to keep her on the base." He replied.

 

It didn't take long for him to get us to the airport, he even carried the bags inside and I gave him a big hug and kiss. "Thank you so much. We'll see you when we get back," I said.

 

When he left Jens said, "Liz, I don't have a passport with me. How am I going to get a ticket, let alone board the plane?"

 

"Jens, you sit here and just leave that little problem up to me." I took off to find us a ride to Kabul.

 

Flashback - Zarika and Yasmeen – Tajikistan Day Seventeen

 

"Zarika, wake up!"

 

"Yasmeen, I want to sleep. Leave me alone."

 

"Zarika, we fell asleep and did not take care of Ben. Now his arm looks and smells bad."

 

I sat up and looked around - it was daylight again. I yelled to the front of the truck and found out we slept all night. I looked over at Ben's arm: It had leaked a lot, it wasn't blood, it looked like something else and it did not look good. The whole cloth below his arm was soaked. I felt Ben's head, he was very hot. "Yasmeen wet this cloth and try to cool Ben's head with it."

 

I started taking off the cloth on his arm and I almost got sick because it smelled very bad. When the bandage was off I looked at it. Parts of it looked dead and there was goo coming out of it. I looked at Yasmeen, "What do you think we should do?"

 

"Maybe we can wake Ben up and ask him." Yasmeen answered.

 

I shook Ben a little and he didn't wake up. "Try harder Zarika." So I shook him hard and he opened his eyes finally.

 

"Uhhh, hey, stop shaking me. That hurts." Ben said.

 

"Ben, I am happy you are awake. Your arm looks very bad, and we do not know what to do."

 

"Water, I need some water." Ben asked. So I gave him water and he drank four glasses. After drinking he said, "Where are we?"

 

"We're in the back of the truck on the way to Dushanbe." Yasmeen answered.

 

"Help raise me a little so I can look at my arm," Ben requested. Yasmeen and I put our hands under his back and slowly raised him and he made bad noises as we moved him. "Be gentle Yasmeen, you are hurting Ben." "I am being gentle, it is you that hurts Ben."

 

Ben yelled and scared us, "Girls, if you fight anymore you will not be my sisters. Do not make me yell again." He looked down at his arm, turned his head and threw up. Yasmeen let go of Ben, he fell back against his bed and went to sleep.

 

Flashback - Ben – Tajikistan Day Seventeen

 

Zarika woke me up and I was sick as hell. I'm not sure what happened but it seems like I've been asleep for a very long time - too long. I'm thirsty as hell and drink a bunch of water but it makes my stomach upset. I ask the girls to raise my head because I'm too sick and weak to do it myself but they start fighting with each other again.

 

They raised my head and my arm looked terrible with dead skin, infection and a putrid smell. I turned my head, and threw up. Yasmeen freaked out and dropped me. The jolt made me pass out again.

 

Flashback - Zarika and Yasmeen – Tajikistan Day Seventeen continued

 

"Yasmeen, look at what you did. Now we can't ask Ben what to do. Get out of here and get up front!"

 

"I will not, it is your fault Ben is sick. You did not take care of him."

 

"You did not either you little suka3."

 

3 Bitch in Russian.

 

Yasmeen threw water on me and we started fighting again. I grabbed her hair and pulled it very hard. She punched me in the stomach and I felt sick. We ended up on top of Ben again and he woke up.

 

Flashback - Ben – Tajikistan Day Seventeen

 

I woke up again, the girls were on top of me fighting again, and I was wet all over. I yelled, "Stop the truck!" and felt the truck slow to a stop.

 

"Zarika and Yasmeen, you two go up front and send two of the men back here. You are both very bad and are hurting me more than you are taking care of me."

 

"Please Ben, do not send me away. I promise I will be good," Yasmeen said. "Who will take care of your arm, if I am not here?" Zarika asked.

 

"I will tell the men what to do. They will listen and won't fight and hurt me."

 

"I will not leave." Zarika defiantly said. "If she is staying then I am staying." Yasmeen added.

 

I yelled up front and told the men the girls needed to be taken up front and two of them should come in the back. They looked in the back and one said, "Are you sure?"

 

"Hell yes I'm sure. Get your asses back here right now! "

 

Two men came in the back of the truck and the girls started fighting with them. It wasn't much of a fight and they shoved the girls up front. The girls were very upset and crying but I ignored them. The truck started moving again.

 

"I am Oleg and what you did for our village was very good."

 

"And I am Sasha. I know some about medicine. Let me look at your arm." He looked at it, "Ben, it is in very bad shape and is infected. I thought you were getting antibiotics."

 

"I was supposed to, but I don't remember the last time was I was given any." He yelled up front to the girls and Zarika answered. They talked for several minutes. "I have terrible news for you, it seems your little wives were very bad. They slept all last night and did not do anything for you. Do not worry. I will take the best care of you I can."

 

He looked in the medical bag and pulled out a syringe, "Ben is this morphine?"

 

"Yes Sasha it is."

 

"I know you do not like it, but I need you awake while I work on your arm. So I am going to give you one injection." He gave me the morphine and while we waited for it to work he held up other things. "Is this antibiotic powder?" I nodded my head. "And is this more antibiotic?" "No Sasha, that's medicine for an upset stomach." "How about this Ben." I nodded my head.

 

"How do you feel Ben, is the morphine working?"

 

"Yes it is." I dreamily said. Sasha said, "This is going to hurt very bad, but I need to clean up your wound." He took a knife, Oleg poured vodka over his hands and knife, then he rubbed them making sure they were clean. I could feel him scraping with the knife but even with the morphine it hurt like hell and I almost passed out. Then I felt him pull something out. He showed it to me, "This piece of cloth was stuck in your wound and was one of the reasons it is so infected."

 

"Ben, this is going to hurt you very bad, but I need to do this." He took the bottle of vodka and poured it on my arm. I clenched my teeth, let out a gasp and passed out.

 

Flashback - Ben – Late 1999 Jack's house after first mission the next day

 

My head pounded like a bass drum when I woke up. I had a headache and felt like hell. I scratched my head and remembered seeing Susan with those men yesterday. God damn her, I hated her for what she did to me. Boy do I owe Jack big time. He kept me from making a huge, terrible mistake.

 

I opened my eyes and didn't recognize the room. Hey, where the heck am I? I'm in a different house and a different bed and someone took off all my clothes except for my shorts. They even folded them and put them on a chair. I glanced around the room. Huh, all my stuff is here too. Where am I?

 

I looked out the window and recognized the neighborhood. Then I realized I'm at Jack's house and this is his second bedroom. I don't understand how all my stuff got here, did he break into my room at Susan's apartment.

 

Oh my God, I gave him my keys and he went to the apartment! He saw how she lived, he saw how we lived, he saw how I lived – I hung my head in shame, embarrassed anyone knew, let alone the man that's become a father to me. Our relationship is damaged now. Far too damaged for repair! I imagined Jack and Anna have already laughed at me. I realized it’s time to face the music and stop feeling sorry for myself.

 

I checked my watch and it's early, 0335. I get dressed in my workout gear, throw a towel and change of clothes into my pack and grab my military ID. I know Jack's close enough to the base so I can run over and do my morning workout. Then I can come back and find a new place to live, perhaps I'll just move back into the barracks. Damn, I fought to get out of the barracks and if I went back it would be like a failure - and I don't like to fail. I notice a key on the nightstand, as I get ready to leave. Wow this is nice, now I can lock the door.

 

I headed outside, locked the door and ran towards the base. It's a beautiful day but my mind lingered on thoughts of last night. There's only one way I know to get rid of those thoughts and that's to exercise them out of my mind. I sped up until I'm running like a maniac and it even surprised the guards at the gate.

 

They checked my ID, let me through, and I ran to the gym to do my work out. I sure liked working out by myself rather than having to do PT with a group or squad. Jack fought for me and somehow pulled it off. I did have to go through the obstacle course three months after being on my own. However, I kicked butt and the brass left me alone.

 

The workout helped in more than one way: I didn't think about Susan once, I sweat like a pig and I cleaned out the toxic effect the alcohol had on me. Unfortunately I can’t work out forever and when I stopped the image of Susan came back into my head. I went to the showers, cleaned up and headed back to Jack’s. I needed to pack.

 

I took my time getting back because I really didn’t want to face Jack and Anna. Losing them would be just one more of many losses in my life. They were still asleep when I got to his house so I decided I should at least make them breakfast. I threw my gear in the second bedroom and went to the kitchen. It was a bit messy so first I decided to clean it up. Thirty minutes later it was sparkling clean. Then I hauled all my gear to the front door.

 

I rummaged around in the fridge and found some eggs, milk and bacon. I looked around some more in the kitchen but they didn’t have bread. They did have flour and baking powder, so I decided to do pancakes from scratch, eggs and bacon. I found the coffee and put on a pot while I started making breakfast.

 

Flashback - Anna – Late 1999 Jack's house after first mission the next day

 

I always enjoyed it when Jack came home from missions. It was almost as nice as when he left on missions. I liked it when we weren’t always together because it gave us some breathing room. And he usually wasn’t gone long enough that I really started missing him. I know we’re not going to last, but he’s a good man, treats me well, and we have fun.

 

Last night was great, especially after I woke his ass back up. I couldn’t believe he fell asleep and didn’t help me with Ben - sometimes he’s a funny old fart. I was in bed next to him listening to his snores, (that’s one thing I don’t miss when he’s gone - he snores like hell), and I’m hearing someone banging around in the kitchen. They’re trying to be quiet, but I can still hear things.

 

I checked my watch, damn it’s early. I smell the coffee and some food and my stomach tells the rest of my body it’s time to get up.

 

I shake Jack’s shoulder, “Hey old man, time to rise and shine.”

 

“Muffh,” He says.

 

"Come on old fart, I think your boy's made breakfast." He opened his right eye, looked at me, then he smelled the coffee and breakfast, "What time is it?"

 

I held my watch up and he looked at it. "I guess he's an early riser, let's get up and see what he's doing. Hey, did he sleep on the couch all night?"

 

"No, I hauled all his stuff into the spare bedroom and then got him into bed. I even helped him out of his clothes." I gave him an evil look.

 

"You didn't corrupt him did you?"

 

I spanked his ass, "Hell no! I told you we're mutually exclusive. I did see some nasty scars on his back though. Someone has really beaten him."

 

He had both eyes open and gazed deep into mine, "Anna, we need to be careful with Banzai. He's going to be deeply embarrassed about what you saw last night and what we both saw at his apartment yesterday."

 

I thought for a moment, "I think the best thing would be if we acted like we always act and we don't even mention it. Come on let's go eat."

 

We walked out of the bedroom, into the kitchen and I had to stop and blink my eyes. The damn kid had not only made breakfast, he'd cleaned the whole damn kitchen and all his stuff was sitting by the front door.

 

Flashback - Jack – Late 1999 Jack's house after first mission the next day

 

I was still pretty groggy when we walked out of the bedroom. The first thing I noticed was Ben had the kitchen table set. There were placemats, silverware, coffee, and a big plate of pancakes. I looked at Anna and she smiled at me. Ben was still at the stove cooking.

 

Anna grinned at me and said, "How come you never make breakfast for me. I think you should take some lessons from Ben."

 

He spun around and almost spilled whatever he was cooking, "Morning you two. Hope you don't mind but I didn't have anything to do so I made breakfast." He blushed a little.

 

Anna replied, "Mind hell! I think it's great. I'm so hungry I could eat a horse. And it looks like you did a little more than just make breakfast."

 

I wasn't sure what she was talking about, and then I noticed. The kitchen looked cleaner than ever and Banzai's gear was by the door. We sat at the table and Banzai brought over a skillet full of eggs and bacon. "Hope you like your eggs sunny side up." He said as he sat down.

 

"Thanks Banzai, I like my eggs inside me," I laughed and I started digging into the food. It was quiet for several minutes while we all ate. I looked at his gear by the door and finally said, "It looks like you're planning on going somewhere."

 

He looked down at the table, "Jack and Anna, thank you for bringing my stuff here and for letting me sleep in the spare bedroom last night. I'll leave and find someplace to stay today."

 

Anna looked at me and I shook my head, "So my spare bedroom isn't someplace and it isn't good enough for you?"

 

He looked at me and I could see him fighting with a few tears. He won this time and I was proud of him. "I couldn't impose on you and Anna that way."

 

Anna broke in, "Impose hell, if you can cook and clean like this I'd be foolish to let you leave. Jack can't you order him to stay?"

 

I looked at her; sometimes she amazed me, "It wouldn't be right to order him to stay. The only thing I can do is let him know he always has a place here if he wants it."

 

Banzai looked at both of us and Anna said, "Well, what do you say Ben? You moving in with us?"

 

He looked down at the table, "I guess I'd really like to. I'll try not to be any bother and I'll stay in my room most of the time."

 

"Well, it's settled. You're staying here. Let's finish breakfast before it gets cold."

 

We finished breakfast. As Banzai took the dishes and started washing them, Anna said, "Hey the cook doesn't wash the dishes around here."

 

He looked at her and smiled, "You make Jack wash the dishes?"

 

"Uh no, I don't make Jack wash the dishes."

 

"Then you're not washing the dishes, leave them for me." Banzai replied.

 

"Banzai, you need to let Anna do the dishes this morning. We need to get over to the BCO's office and report in on our mission. I was able to put him off until today but I'm sure he's chomping at the bit to hear all about it. Plus we have another mission to go on tomorrow."

 

You should have seen the look on his face when I told him about having a new mission. He looked just like a kid getting a present. He was so impatient to get there.

 

"Banzai, hump your gear back into your room and get in your uniform. I need to go and take a shower."

 

"Yes Sir!" he sassed me knowing I hated to be called sir. And he started moving his gear.

 

Anna laughed and added in a sarcastic voice, "I'll go and do the dishes Sir!" When she stood up I swatted her on the butt. "You I can spank so you'd better be a good girl."

 

She wiggled her butt at me as she walked the dishes to the sink, "I'm better than good, I'm fabulous. Just remember if you hurt this you have to kiss this."

 

I wondered for a moment what I'd gotten myself into. I was becoming a "family man." Then I decided it wasn't so bad since I needed to just enjoy my life. I started on a shower and Anna joined me after she took care of the dishes. We took turns "washing" each other until the hot water ran out.

 

I jumped out and left her in the cold shower, "Hey that's not nice, I'm going to get you for this!" she yelled after me.

 

I thought about how lucky I was as I toweled off and put on my uniform - lucky to have a girl like Anna not like Susan. Damn! I hated that bitch. Anna was a hard worker, she worked her rear off at a local restaurant, took care of the house while I was gone, and she didn't even ask me for any money, other than for food.

 

I walked out of the bedroom and Ben was ready to go. It was almost comical to see how excited he was. We walked to the car and headed to the base and the BCO.

 

Flashback – BG Donaldson – Late 1999 BCO's office after first mission the next day

 

Little Jennifer has become hard as hell to handle sometimes - like today. For some reason she didn't want to stay at home with Evelyn, she wanted to be with "daddy" all day. I let her come with me and had her sit in the corner of the office. She's such a funny kid and I don't understand her at all. Most days she wants to wear BDU's but not today. She spent all morning putting on her best dress and messing with her hair. She even talked Evelyn into helping her put on makeup. She looked like a much younger version of Evelyn.

 

I shuffled papers and took care of all the boring crap I normally do, killing time until my recent sniper team reported. I'd seen a bunch of teams in my career, but this team might be one of the better ones.

 

Jennifer was really bored and was humming a song. "Jennifer, if you're not quiet you can go back to the house."

 

"Sorry Daddy, I'll try to be a good girl." She sat back, crossed her legs and smiled at me.

 

My secretary announced the team's arrival. I noticed Jennifer looked really excited. She sure is confusing. "Jennifer, you need to go into the back office while I have this meeting."

 

She started throwing a huge fit, "But Daddy, I want to be by you all day. Can't I please stay?"

 

"No Jennifer, not today. I have to talk to two men about things you can't hear."

 

She pouted (damn I hated it when she pouted) and walked into the back room. I set their files out on my desk and told my secretary to let them in. They walked in, saluted, and I almost laughed at how excited the kid was.

 

"Marines, I want to congratulate both of you on a mission well done."

 

"Thank you Sir!" They both replied.

 

We reviewed the mission and the kills, the kid had done a good job. "LCpl Blaine, you did an excellent job of following orders."

 

"Thank you Sir!" He replied.

 

"Because of your success a branch of the government has requested both of you for another mission. You will be briefed on it later." They stood up getting ready to leave and I heard Jennifer behind me.

 

"Daddy Sir! Will you introduce me to your men?" I turned and saw her standing in the door with a big smile on her face. Damn I was upset at her.

 

"Jennifer!" I yelled, "I told you to stay in the other room." She started crying a little and closed the door.

 

The men left and Jennifer came back into the room, "Sorry Daddy for interrupting you. Is there some work I could do for you to make up for being a bad girl?"

 

"Jennifer, would you take these files to Sally, my secretary and help her for a while."

 

"Okay Daddy." She said and took the personnel files out of my office. At least she was going to be out of my hair for a while.

 

Five minutes later she came back into my office, "Daddy Sir! I'm bored and cut my finger on some paper when Sally let me play with the copy machine. I want to go home." I thought, finally she will be out of my hair, "Wait one minute and I'll have Sally find someone to take you."

 

"How about that nice young Marine I saw earlier?" She asked.

 

I looked at her, "No, young lady he's already gone."

 

"But you could order him to come back and take me? You're the general and he'd do it if you told him." She argued.

 

"No young lady, I won't order him to do that. It would be silly. Now go tell Sally to get someone to take you home."

 

"Thank you Daddy Sir for letting me come to work with you today." She kissed me on the cheek and walked out of my office humming the same song again. I went back to my important paperwork.

 

Flashback – Jennifer Donaldson – Late 1999 BCO's office after first mission the next day

 

I tricked Daddy into letting me come to the office with him today. I knew Banzai Ben would be there because I heard him tell Mommy about it. I wanted so bad to see him again since I know someday we will be married.

 

I hoped Daddy would let me stay in the office while he talked to Ben, but he didn't. So I listened very close at the door and heard every word. It was so exciting when I heard he would be going on another mission and really wished I could go with him.

 

Right before he left I opened the door and when he looked at me, my heart almost melted. I even smiled and tried to flirt with him but I didn't know how to do it very well. Then Daddy yelled at me and embarrassed me so I went back in the room.

 

After they left I talked Daddy into letting me help. He gave me Banzai Ben's file so I took it to the copy machine and made a copy of it and put it in my book bag. I knew I shouldn't have done it, but I also took his picture from the file. I wanted to keep it by me at all times so I would feel close to Ben.

 

Flashback – Banzai – Late 1999 headed back to Jack's house after reporting to the BCO

 

I felt funny again as we walked to Jack's car. At first I was excited by meeting the old man, but then I saw that little girl again and this time she was all dressed up. I almost laughed because it looked like she was trying to flirt with me. When our eyes met I was aware of the same cold emptiness in my heart. It was just like the first time we met, but at least I controlled myself better this time.

 

We reached the car to head to the briefing and Jack said, "Shoot, I forgot to ask the old man about you staying at my house. Stay here and I'll go ask him." He left the keys so I turned on the radio, leaned back in my seat and remembered Susan. A couple tears fell from my eyes.

 

"Excuse me Sir." I heard, turned my head and the little girl was standing by my car door. She was holding a book bag.

 

I looked at her and she gave me a big smile, "You shouldn't be talking to me, I'm a stranger."

 

She giggled, "No you're not! You're a Marine and you're Banzai Ben."

 

I sighed, not wanting to be bothered, "Yes miss, what can I do for you?"

 

"First you can call me Jennifer, and I was wondering if you could walk me home?" I looked around and didn't see anyone else.

 

"You shouldn't be out here by yourself."

 

She giggled, "I'm not by myself, I'm with you."

 

"I don't know if it would be a good idea for me to walk you home."

 

She pouted and replied, "I know it would be okay with Daddy. You do know he's the General?"

 

The last thing I wanted to do was walk the General's young daughter home, but she insisted. "Okay, but I need to leave Sgt. Reynolds a note." I looked around for some paper, she reached in her bag and handed me a sheet of paper and a pencil. The pencil had a bunch of bite marks and hearts on it.

Jack,

The General's daughter has insisted I walk her home. I've tried to get out of it, but she won't let me. I will be back in a few minutes."

BB

 

"You can keep the pencil," She said and grinned as I put it in my pocket.

 

"Okay, let's go." I got out of the car and we started walking. "I hope you know you're way home because I don't have any idea where you live."

 

"I'm a big girl! Of course I know my way home." She replied, "It's this way."

 

She was sure smart for a little kid and asked a million questions all about my life. It ended up being a very enjoyable walk. We reached her house and her mother came out, "Jennifer, haven't I told you not to go off with strange men?"

 

I blushed and looked at the ground, "Sorry ma'am she insisted I walk her home."

 

Jennifer replied, "He's not a stranger Mommy, this is Banzai Ben. I met him with Daddy a while back. That's why I knew it would be safe for him to bring me home."

 

"Well young lady. I was worried about where you were. Glen called and said you had disappeared, don't you ever do it again."

 

"Yes Ma'am!" She said and giggled, "Thank you Ben for walking me home and for talking to me like I was an adult. My mother still thinks I'm a little girl."

 

She skipped into the house, humming a song, it sounded like the wedding march. "Sorry again Ma'am, I didn't know it would be any trouble."

 

"Well, I'm just thankful you brought her home safely."

 

I didn't know the protocol when you talk to a general's wife and couldn't wait to leave. Jennifer came back to the door, "Mommy, Ben was so nice to walk me home I made a glass of lemonade for him." She walked outside and handed it to me, "Thank you so much Ben!"

 

I took a long drink from the glass and saw her watch in anticipation, it was the worst lemonade I'd ever had and it took all my strength not to spit it out. "Thank you miss, this is excellent lemonade. It's so good I can't finish it all." I handed the half-empty glass back to her, she beamed at me.

 

"If both of you will excuse me, I need to get back to my car." I turned and walked away and heard behind me, "Bye Ben, I hope to see you again soon."

 

"Now Jennifer, go right in the house and get out of that dress and good shoes before you ruin them." Evelyn barked at her.

 

As I left, I realized that for the brief period of time I was with that little girl, Jennifer, the coldness left my heart. The further away I walked from her, the more the coldness returned.

 

Flashback – Jack – Late 1999 headed back to Jack's house after reporting to the BCO

 

I was upset! The kid was talked into walking the old man's daughter home. He should know better than to be alone with a young girl. He left me a note and I made sure the old man didn't see it when he came out looking for her.

 

The old man was getting ready to call out a search party when he had a call from his house - his little girl was safe at home. Unfortunately, his wife told him Banzai walked her home and the general was waiting by my car as we watched Banzai approach.

 

"Excuse me Sir! Permission to speak before LCpl Blaine gets here."

 

He looked over at me with some fire in his eyes, "Granted."

 

"Sir, he's just a kid with poor social skills and didn't know any better than to walk your daughter home. How about you cut him some slack?"

 

He looked at me, "I should bust his balls for walking her home, but my Wife said Jennifer told him he had to. And she said Jennifer's been very happy since she returned home. But I do want him to know he shouldn't be walking young girls home alone."

 

"Sir, I would be happy to teach him."

 

"Just make sure he understands it and never does it again," the General said as he turned and left.

 

I watched Banzai walk up and he seemed better than I'd seen him look for a while. I decided I needed to be careful about how I talked to him. "Hey, good to see you made it back. Did anything interesting happen on the way?"

 

"Nah Jack, the little girl drove me crazy until I agreed to walk her home then she talked my ear off the whole way," Banzai said.

 

"Let's head over for our briefing." We both jumped in the car.

 

He was humming the Richard Wagner bridal march, "That's a funny song for you to be humming."

 

"Oh yeah, I guess it is. Once I hear a song it gets stuck in my head, sorry." And he shut up.

 

"Banzai, I don't know how to talk to you about this, so I'm just going to be frank with you."

 

"Okay, Frank." He sassed me.

 

"Hey, I'm serious here and you need to listen."

 

He looked at me with concern, "Okay Jack, what did I mess up this time?"

 

"You need to be careful when you're around little girls. The old man was upset you walked his daughter home."

 

"Jack, stop the car right now!" I pulled over and he bailed out the door and started puking by the side of the road. He got back in the car and was shaking like a leaf, "What was that all about?"

 

"Sorry Jack, it makes me sick that someone would think I'd mess with a little girl. If I wasn't a Marine and he wasn't the General, I'd go back and kick his butt. I would never physically hurt a woman and that goes double for little girls."

 

I looked over at him: Sometimes he was the strangest person I'd ever met. "It's okay,” I told him, “you were fine and I guess his wife said their daughter had been happy ever since she got home. It's a shame the world is this way, but it is. Just make sure you're never alone with a little girl."

 

We continued to the briefing for our next mission.