Chapter 12: Unbridled Fear
It was the second week in October, and Jake and I have been together and in the new house for four months now. I've been back to Denver twice, taking care of business and getting my life there packed up and squared away. I'd decided to keep the house there and just rent it out. Jake wasn't going to re-up and we'd need a home if we decided to ever return from Germany. I did take the opportunity to tell my parents about Jake; though leaving Sean out of the equation. I felt bad about that too, but presenting my parents with one twenty-something boyfriend was enough; I don't think they would ever understand having two of them. There was very little said about Jake's age and they said they were pleased to finally see me so happy and content.
We had become a family. It was a strange, dysfunctional, loving, erotic and never-boring family, but a family none the less. We really only had our `week-ends' once or twice a month, but we did live as a family a lot of the time. Sean was at home with us as often as not, but just as a member of the family; sharing our daily lives with us. I had grown to love him as much as I loved Jake; as much as Jake loved him. Neither Jake nor I were in-love with him, we saved that for each other, but he was everything else to us. I had started this adventure with them never truly believing it would really work; now I couldn't ever imagine being without both of them. Sean had a birthday two weeks ago and Jake's was coming up in a week. My guys were getting older, and I was so proud of the men they were and the men they were becoming.
Sean was just as girl-crazy as he'd ever been; we all knew that would never change, and we loved him more because of it; he always stayed true to himself. Kevin and Gretchen are still together; Gretchen still leading poor Kevin around by his balls, but that was there dynamic and we all tried to respect it. The guys had set up their foot-ball field in the back yard, and Kevin spent a couple of Saturdays a month, hanging out and playing football with us. He was never any the wiser about what went on in our house on some other weekends. I had my home office, but every once in a while I missed going to work every day. There were days I had trouble filling in the time. I'd never been one to do home projects but I found myself taking on more of them, just to stay busy. Jake and Sean were always supportive and cheering me on whenever I did something new to the house.
It was Wednesday, October 9 and Jake and I were sound asleep in bed. Sean hadn't been there; he'd been out chasing women. In my sleepy, cloudy brain I heard the phone ringing. Fuck. Maybe it would go away. Two more rings and it stopped. Good. Then I heard Jake say hello. He listened for a few seconds and told the caller to hold on.
"Mike! Are you awake? Somebody's babbling German to me and I have no idea what the hell they're saying. Here."
I took the phone from him and said hello in German. The voice on the other end sounded official and sure enough, he identified himself as a doctor. I was awake instantly. This is never good when you get a call from a doctor in the middle of the night and one of your family members is not at home. I listened to what he was telling me; the fear in my gut rising exponentially as he spoke. He finally stopped talking and I sat there disbelieving for a few moments. I snapped myself out of it and asked for the name of the hospital and where it was. He told me and I told him I'd be there in ten minutes. He rang off and I sat and stared at the phone for a couple of seconds. I'd never felt fear in my stomach like the fear I was feeling right now. I finally snapped out of it, threw the covers off me, chucked the phone against the wall and bolted out of bed.
"Jake! Get up and get dressed! Now! We gotta go!" I started running around the bedroom looking for my clothes.
"Mike, what the fuck is going on? What's wrong!?" He jumped out of bed and stood there not knowing what was going on or what to do.
I stopped dead in my tracks. How do I tell him? I walked up to him and grabbed his face in my hands and looked him in the eyes. He saw the look on my face.
"It's Sean!! What the fuck happened to Sean!? Mike!! Tell me what happened to Sean!" A sob escaped his throat.
"Baby... Oh God... Baby, he's been shot."
"What the fuck do you mean he's been shot!? He wasn't on any patrols! What the fuck do you mean Sean's been shot!?"
He slapped my hands away from his face, pushed me out of his way and scrambled for his clothes. He was dressing and hopping towards the door at the same time. I was right behind him doing the same thing. We both finally managed to get our shoes on and sprinted for the garage. I grabbed the car key off the counter as we hit the door, Jake slamming his hand on the garage door opener button and sliding around the car to get in. I jumped in and pulled my seat belt on while I was starting the car.
"Get this fucking thing moving. Now!!" He had tears streaming down his face.
I put the car in reverse and hit the gas, flying backwards out of the garage and spun the wheel to the right, then yanked the lever into drive and spun out of the driveway on to the road. We came to a screeching halt at the stop sign where our road meets the road going to the base. I was looking for traffic.
"What the fuck are you stopped for? Go!!"
I nailed the gas to the floor and we shot across the intersection. I had a vague idea where the hospital was and headed in that direction. I didn't want to, but I knew I had to slow down or we'd get pulled over or get killed. We made it to the emergency entrance at the hospital in record time. We got the car parked and both of us bolted for the entrance. When we got inside Jake headed for the first official looking person he saw and started yelling at them asking where Sean Andersen was. I came up behind him, grabbed his shoulders and pulled him away. He wasn't getting us anywhere screaming in English to a German nurse. I looked at the nurse and tried to apologize with my eyes, but I was just as scared as Jake was. I told her I'd just received a call from the doctor that Sean Andersen had been brought here with a gunshot wound. She nodded and pointed across the room. Jake started running that way as soon as her finger popped out. I caught up with him and started talking to the orderly that was outside the emergency room doors. He told me I'd have to see the doctor.
By this time Jake was ready to kill. We both ran through the emergency room doors and came up on a nurse's station. There were three people standing there, and all spun around as Jake came up yelling about where he could find Sean. A guy about my age walked up to us and put his hands on both of our shoulders.
He spoke fluent English. "Calm down! Sean's all right. Just calm down, son."
"Where the fuck is he? I have to see him; I have to be with him; we promised each other..."
"He's in the operating room, son. You can't go in there."
"But we promised each other! We took a blood oath that we'd be there if one of us was hurt!" The tears were just pouring off Jake's face. He looked so inconsolable my heart just wrenched out of my chest.
"Jake! We can't go in there. Sean will be alright, they'll take good care of him. He'll be OK, Jake."
"I promised him, Mike, I promised him... I told him I'd never let him be alone... He can't be alone in there, Mike!"
He threw him arms around me and just sobbed uncontrollably. I held him tight and let him get it out of his system. I had tears streaming down my face too. I couldn't lose Sean any more than Jake could and I was terrified. Even the doctor had a tear running down his face. It's hard to see someone in that much anguish and not be affected by it somehow. The doctor stood there quietly, his hand on Jake's shoulder, while Jake cried into my neck. I just kept rubbing his back and telling him Sean would be okay.
When he thought Jake had calmed down enough to hear him the Doctor started talking to him.
"Jake? Jakob? I know it's scary as hell not knowing, I really do. But I promise you we won't let anything bad happen to Sean. We're going to take really good care of Sean for you. There's an excellent surgeon in there with him; he's not alone Jakob, he has lots of people in there with him keeping him safe. The doctor will get him fixed up in a while and you'll be able to see him, all right? But for now I need you to be strong for Sean. He needs your strength right now."
Jake nodded his head on my shoulder, still crying.
"I know it sucks Jakob, but you have to wait out here for him. You have to stay strong for him and wait out here. I promise we'll take good care of him." He rubbed Jake's shoulder and looked at me. "Are you all right?"
"Not really, no. What happened?" Jake pulled his head back to listen, looking at me with fear and anguish, and then looked at the doctor.
The doctor took a second trying to evaluate if we were ready to hear this. "According to the police and ERT there was an altercation between Sean and another man. I was told they were in a club and had started arguing with each other over a young lady. Well, actually, I guess the young lady was the other man's girlfriend and he thought Sean was trying to pick her up. The arguing turned into blows with each other. The other man then pulled a pistol out and fired into Sean's abdomen." Jake let out a sob. "He was about two meters away when he did. It sounds close, but it was actually to Sean's advantage; the bullet just went straight through him. The other man turned and ran, but everyone in the club knew him so the police already have him in custody. The bullet didn't hit any vital organs, Jakob. He's going to be just fine. We just have to patch a couple of holes." He smiled at Jake trying to make it sound like it was nothing more than a punctured tire.
"How long ago did this happen?" I asked.
"Less than an hour; Sean was brought in here twenty-five minutes ago."
"And he's really going to be alright?" Jake asked.
"Yes Jakob, he's really going to be alright. He's gonna be out of commission for a while, but he'll be fine. No permanent damage. He might lose a little weight during recovery, the bullet grazed his stomach, so he won't be able to eat like normally, but he'll be just fine."
"How much longer will he be in surgery?"
"Probably for another thirty or forty more minutes, Jakob. Are you going to be OK?"
"Yeah, I'll be OK. I have to be for Sean." His Marine training and his love for Sean seemed to be taking over.
"That's the right way to look at it." He looked at me, then back at Jake. "I wasn't really sure who to call. We found your number in his wallet, with an `in case of emergency' label, but we also found a military ID. I take it Sean's in the military?"
"He's a United States Marine." Jake answered him.
The doctor smiled at him. "And you as well?"
"Yes Sir." The doctor smiled and nodded. "So what is your guys' relationship to Sean? Are you his family?"
Jake didn't hesitate. "Yes Sir, we are."
The doctor looked at me. I just held his gaze, I wasn't going to confirm or deny or add any information. We were his family as far as we were concerned. He nodded at me and smiled.
"We will let you know as soon as Sean's out of surgery and you can see him. Do I need to tell the military what happened, or will you take care of that?"
"It would probably be better if you informed them about the incident. They seem to like things to be official over there. His commanding officer is Major Andrew Benton." I replied.
"Thank you. I'll go and give him a call. You guys can have a seat in the waiting room and I will keep you informed. There should still be some coffee out there; help yourselves to it. Jakob? I won't let Sean be alone; we'll take good care of him. Now go have a seat before you collapse."
Jake nodded. "Thank you, Sir."
"You're welcome. If you'll excuse me..."
He turned around and went back to the nurse's station while I steered Jake back out the door to the waiting room. We found a couple of comfortable looking chairs and collapsed into them. We were both still terrified, but the initial rush had worn off a little. I felt emotionally exhausted and Jake looked like he'd just fought off the entire Afghan army single handedly. I'd never seem him look so scared and worried. I never wanted to see it again. I asked him if he wanted some coffee. No. I didn't know what to say to him; how to make him feel better.
"I love you, Jacob. I love Sean too. We'll be OK. I promise. We're all going to be OK."
"I love you too, Michael. I'm sorry."
"What on earth for?"
"For slapping your hands and shoving you; I'm really sorry."
"Baby, no. Don't apologize for that. You were scared and needed me out of your way. I would've done the same thing, Jake. Don't think about it. We just have to stay strong for Sean."
"OK." He gave me a small smile and laid his head on my shoulder. "I'm so scared. I don't know what to do... I don't know how to help Sean."
"I know, Jacob. I'm scared too. We just have to be strong for him and be here for him. We have to believe that he'll be alright and we can take him home in a few days."
Jake just nodded his head on my shoulder. I felt so helpless. We were still sitting like that, Jake's head on my shoulder, my arm around him, when there was a presence standing next to us. I looked up. It was Major Benton.
"How is he?" Jake recognized the voice and flinched, then started to get up. The Major put his arm on Jakes shoulder. "No son, stay seated. I don't need you poppin' up like a jack-in-the-box right now."
I answered the question. "They say he's going to be alright. The shooting was at close range and the round went all the way through. Nicked a couple of things and grazed his stomach, so he won't be eating as much for a while. No permanent damage, they say."
"What the fuck happened? I don't like it when one of my Marines get's shot. I take it personally."
"He was in a night club and got in an argument with some guy about the guy's girlfriend. He thought Sean was trying to pick her up. They argued, then threw punches, so the guy pulled out a pistol and shot him. Sean must've been getting the best of him and he panicked."
"Goddamn right Sean was getting the best of him; he's one of my Marines. Where's the son of a bitch that shot him?"
"The police arrested him and put him in jail. I guess he took off after the shooting, but everyone in the club knew him, so it didn't take long to track him down."
"The fucker's lucky my MP's didn't track him down; he'd wished he'd never been born. Goddamn!! How the fuck could this happen? I just don't understand people anymore. You have to pull a fuckin' weapon because you're losing a fight? What the fuck kinda chicken-shit stunt is that? Fuck!"
I was getting the impression the Major really did take it personally; he was mad. I could understand that; I was mad too. First fear then anger; isn't that the usual progression?
"If the dirty motherfucker ever gets out of jail he'd better hope I never catch him. I know sixteen different ways to kill the worthless fuck in less than ten seconds, and I'd use all of `em. Arrrgggghhhh. FUCK!! I hate this!! I hate not knowing what the fuck is going on!" This all came from Jake.
"Marine! Keep your fuckin' cool. We're not going to help Sean by making battle plans and yelling. I expect you to act like a Marine at all times. You got me?"
"Yes Sir. Sorry Sir. I'm just frustrated. I'm scared and I'm frustrated and I don't know what to do." He exhaled loudly.
"I know, son, I know. The not knowing is always the worst part. All you can do is pray, stay positive and be strong."
The Major walked over and grabbed a cup of coffee from the machine and came and sat down next to Jake. He tasted the coffee, made a face and went `eeewww'. He set the cup on the table next to him and tried to relax. He wasn't any better at it than Jake. It didn't escape my attention that not one look or one word had been said about me holding Jake with his head on my shoulder. I guess even Marines are allowed to be comforted in times of crisis. Not two minutes later he was back on his feet and pacing the room; Jake joining him not two minutes later. If I wasn't so scared I would've almost found it comical. I'd never been a pacer, but I did understand the need. It was activity. It was something to do while you waited. The two of them walked back forth across the room for the next fifteen minutes until someone came out of the door. They both stopped dead in their tracks and turned. It was the doctor that had talked to us.
"Jakob, Sean is out of surgery and resting comfortably in intensive care. He's still a little out of it so I want to give him a few minutes before I send anyone back there, OK?"
"OK. How is he? Is he going to be alright?"
"He's going to be fine, Jakob. The surgery went well; we did everything we needed to do and got him sewn up. He's going to be in some pain for awhile but that will ease as he heals, and we'll control it with meds."
"How long will he be in pain?"
"Depending on his recovery speed and his strength I'd guess a couple of weeks, maybe a little more."
"He's a Marine; he's stronger than anyone I know. He'll be back on his feet in less than two weeks if strength is all that's required." There was a catch in Jake's voice. I saw the Major look over at him and smile.
"I know, Jakob. He'll be fine. He has you to help him."
"How long does he have to stay here; when can we take him home?" The Major raised his eyebrows a little but then turned to listen to the answer.
"If he's feeling alright, and his surgeon and doctor's agree with his progress, I would say in three to four days."
Jake nodded. The Major walked over to the doctor and introduced himself.
"I'm sorry I had to drag all of you out of bed, Major, but it's nice to see that people care about him even when he's far from home."
"He's a Marine under my command, doctor, no apologies are necessary to get me here. Thank you for taking care of him."
He nodded at the Major, looked at Jake and nodded and smiled. "I will be back out to get you when he's ready for visitors." He excused himself and went back through the door.
"When's the last time you had chow?"
"Sir, last evening."
The major pulled some bills out of his wallet and held them out to Jake. "Go find a machine and get yourself a candy bar or something."
"I'm not hungry, Sir, I'm scared."
"That wasn't a suggestion, Lance Corporal."
Jake took the offered bills and went in search of the vending machine. The Major walked over to me and sat down in Jake's chair.
He looked over at me. "Is he going to be OK?"
"I think he will be once he sees for himself that Sean is out of danger. He was incredibly distraught that they wouldn't let him be in there with him; said he'd promised Sean; that they'd taken a blood oath to always be there if one of them was hurt."
The Major nodded. "I've known a few Marines who have made that same blood oath; they live and die by it. It's hard to convince them there's any other way. I've always known those two were incredibly close. They're like two sides of a coin; one doesn't seem able to exist without the other." That one sentence made so many things spring to clarity for me. I was grateful to this man for saying it.
"Thank you, Major."
"In one sentence you've managed to define what I've been trying to see in their dynamic for four months."
"It's kind of hard sometimes for people looking in to see everything that's in front of them; not really seeing the things behind the scenes, so to speak. I've seen it a couple of times with combat veterans before so I recognized it when I saw those two together. They have a bond and a love for each other that goes deeper than anything you or I can conceive of."
"Believe me, I've noticed." Something didn't seem right here. "Wait a minute; Jake's not a combat veteran. When I asked him about his service he said he'd been lucky and hadn't been sent to a combat zone; that his mom had been relieved about it."
"Well then he lied to you; twice actually. He and Sean were in Afghanistan together, right out of basic, for a years' tour. Their Humvee got struck by an RPG; four other Marines died. Sean and Jake got out of the vehicle with mostly minor wounds; though Sean had a serious leg injury. They found cover and spent four hours in an off and on firefight, waiting for rescue. The rescue team put in their report that they found Sean and Jake behind a shot up wall, Jake holding on to Sean, screaming."
"Holy shit. I didn't know... That also helps to explain a few things even more." I paused for a minute trying to put it together. "I don't know how much you know about our relationship, or how much you even want to know, but at least let me say this. I love that man more than I've ever loved anyone in my life, and when we first started out he seemed to be missing a part of himself; he was a basket case most of the time. By the end of the first week he'd brought Sean into the relationship, as a member of the family he said. He sees us as a family. After Sean was there he changed before my eyes. He was more outgoing, he was happy all the time, he was relaxed. I knew they had a bond. I knew they loved each other deeply. But the change in Jake was just mind blowing. I don't carry any doubts about Jake's love for me, but I know without the shadow of a doubt that Sean comes first.
"You're OK with that?"
"I am. If it means Jake is there, yes. And I've grown to love Sean too; he's an incredible person. He's always true to himself; he always says what he means and means what he says. He takes no shit off anybody, but he's got this huge heart, and he truly cares about the people close to him."
"I've noticed that too. I have a hellva lot of respect for that boy." He paused for a few moments trying to word his next statement. "I sometimes wonder what I'm gonna do if the time ever comes that I have no choice but to split those two up; different posts or whatnot, for whatever reason. I only have so much control over what happens to them. It will destroy both of them. In the meantime, I'll do whatever I can to see that it doesn't happen. I don't pretend to know how your new family works, but if it does, then keep it that way. You're not the only one who's noticed a change; in both of them. It's been a good change too."
"I hope you never do have to split them up, I don't want to witness that. I thought Jake was inconsolable tonight; I can't even begin to imagine the worst case scenario."
"Like you said, apart they are basket cases, but together they are fine men, excellent Marines and pretty much un-stoppable. I don't know your living arrangements for your new family, but if you have the room it would be better for both of them if Sean recovered at your home."
"Sean has his own room there, and I work from home so I can take care of him while Jake's on-duty."
"Good `nuff. Jake won't be on-duty again until Monday. Sean will be on medical leave until he's able to return to duty. If all of this is OK with you, then we'll call it good."
"It's fine with me. I really don't think any other way would work."
"You're probably right." He stood up and started pacing again.
"Major? What's the other lie? You said he'd lied twice."
"Jake's mother died three years ago; a year before he joined the Corps."
"Oh my God..." I felt sick. I felt such pain for Jake. "I don't know how to process that... I..."
"Give yourself some time, Mr. Adler. You need to have a serious talk with Jake, but I would suggest waiting until Sean is back on his feet." I nodded. He went back to pacing.
A few moments later Jake returned carrying a half-eaten candy bar. He walked up to the Major and tried to give him the change.
"Keep it, son. You might want another one before you get outta here."
"Thank you, Sir." The Major nodded at Jake and smiled, then went back to his walk.
Jake came over and sat down next to me. He offered me the half-eaten candy bar but I really didn't want it anymore than he did. I took it from him and set it aside. "You OK?"
"No. Not until we see Sean."
I saw the Major smile at that. We waited another twenty minutes before the doctor came back out to get us. We all followed him to Sean's `room' but when we got there the Major and I stopped. Jake turned and looked at us like `what the fuck, let's go'.
"Jake, you go in first by yourself. You need to be with Sean alone for a minute before the invasion force arrives." I looked at him and smiled and nodded towards Sean's curtain. He turned and walked into the room.
"You do understand them."
"Sometimes, Major. Not always, but sometimes." The doctor heard our exchange and smiled and nodded at me. I just nodded back to him.
We stood out in the hall while Jake went to see his brother.
Jake stood just inside the curtain and looked at Sean on the bed, with tubes running into him. His breath caught and a small sob escaped his throat.
"Jakey... Don't do that, man, you'll scare me..." Sean said quietly from the bed, looking at Jake, seeing the fear in his eyes.
"Oh Sean... I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. I tried to be here for you; I tried. I'm so sorry, Sean."
"Jake... Please don't say that. You didn't do anything wrong. You didn't. I knew you were here, Jakey, I could feel you here. Don't worry about it, brother. Don't be so sad. Please, Jake, don't be sad."
"I'll be strong... I promise you I'll be strong. For you." Jake let out another sob, then caught himself, squared his shoulders and looked at Sean.
"Come here, Jake. I need my brother beside me."
Jake walked over to the bed, looked at Sean with tears streaming down his face, then bent down and hugged Sean's head into him. He let out another sob, but caught himself again, and fought to maintain control.
"That feels good, Jake. Thanks, brother. Hey, I'm going to be OK. They said I'd own this place in a few days. It's not that bad, Jakey, they just put a tire patch on a couple of holes and then they'll send my ass back home in a couple days."
Jake tried to laugh at the joke, but was having a hard time making it happen. He squeezed Sean's head a little tighter instead.
"Jakey? How's Michael? Is he OK?"
"He's scared. He's worried about you. We're both scared, Sean."
"Don't be scared anymore. I'm gonna be just fine. I'll be outta this joint in a couple days and we can hang out at home together. OK?" Jake nodded his head. "I'm OK now, brother. This isn't Afghanistan, Jakey; they're not shooting at us anymore... It was just a dumb fight in a bar over some chick, OK brother?"
"Don't worry anymore, Jake; I'm gonna be fine. Besides, dude, they have me on some killer drugs; you should try some of this shit. I'm not in any pain, that's for sure. So don't worry about me so much, OK?"
Sniff. "He's out in the hall with Major Benton."
"No shit!? Really? The Major actually came here to see little ole me, huh?"
Sniff. "Of course he did, Sean. He cares about all of us."
"Well I'll be... Learn somethin' new everyday around here. I always figured he was just a hard-ass."
"He is. But he still cares about us."
"Yeah, he does, Jake. I know he does, I just like givin' him shit sometimes."
Jake finally let himself smirk. Sean smiled at him.
"Well, are you gonna let `em come in and see me sometime today?"
"Maybe. Check back with me later."
Jake smirked again, and Sean gave him a big smile.
"Why did you get hurt Sean; why did you have to get hurt?"
"I'm sorry, Jake. I didn't know I was gonna get hurt. I was just tryin' to score on some big-titted blond. No harm no foul, I figured. Who knew she had a psycho fuckin' boyfriend?"
"Yeah, but why were out there in the first place? We love you at home; you don't have to go somewhere else for it. We love you, Sean, and we'd do anything for you."
"Jake, we've had this talk before, man. I'm not like you guys, I need pussy. I'm sorry if that's not what you wanna hear, but it's who I am, brother. I love you guys with all my heart, but until you both grow a pair of tits and a tight pussy, it's just not enough."
"But we love you; that should be enough. You're safe at home with us. It's our family, Sean; it's supposed to be all you need."
"Oh Jakey... I don't know how to make you understand this. I do love you both, you know I do. And I love our family more than you'll ever know. But I have needs that you guys can't fill. Come on, Jake, I've been chasin' pussy the whole time we've known each other; how many times has it gotten me shot? The odds are against it, brother. I'll be OK. Now let me see you smile. Please?"
Jake tried his best at a smile and finally achieved sort of one.
Sean smiled at him. "That's better. Thank you." Jake sniffed. "Now bring in our other third and that tired-assed Major." Jake smirked and nodded, then walked over to the curtain.
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