She brushed several stray strands of hair away from her face with the back of her hand as she repositioned herself on the couch, the Xbox controller almost escaping from her grasp as she did so.
“Nice PJ’s,” A Scottish voice calls as MacTavish enters the room and walks over to the bar fridge.
“I’m only 13, John. Perv on someone else!” She looked over to her brother sitting next to her; he too had a controller in his hands. He nodded in agreement.
The Scotsman huffed and reached in for a can of beer, “I was trying to say that they’re cool.”
“Oh. Well thanks,” She smiled as she put the controller off to the side and stretched her arms. “I’ll go for one more race bro, but then I’m going to sleep.”
He nodded his head, “I’ll be sure to beat you then.”
After the race, which she swore he rigged, she put the controller away and said her goodbyes to the two men. As she walked across base to the barracks, she couldn’t help but notice how quiet it got when most of the men were out on a mission. She looked down at her watch and heaved a saddened sigh as she realised they weren’t due back yet for several more hours. She reached the dorms and slipped inside. Usually she could faintly hear a radio blasting or water rushing through the archaic pipes or even the sound of men laughing. But tonight it was again replaced with a deadly silence. It’d been like this for the past week. Only her brother and skeleton members were left on base; and even then, she hadn’t seen or heard from them much. It was such a boring existence. At least when Ghost and Roach returned, she would have two of her mates to keep her occupied and entertained. But until then she’d just have to make do like she had been over the past couple of days.
She decided to make the most of the peace and quiet to get ahead with her schooling. Not being able to go to a normal school and live a live like millions of other children was one of the hardest things to get used to. She pulled a pile of books out of her bag and leafed through one of them. She was definitely falling behind with her maths work. With a groan she dropped the book on her desk and began working.
The next thing she knew, she was un-sticking her workbook page from her face. She rubbed sleep out of her eyes as she tried to make out the hands on her watch. When she did she turned to look out the window. Sure enough it was dark. The guys should be due back within the hour. She quickly put her work away and changed into suitable clothes, lest Sheppard see her wearing anything but military attire. She burst out of her room and ran down the hall to her brothers’ room. She knocked on the door and he answered immediately.
“I know, I know.” He cooed, “Let’s go wait for them.”
She beamed back at him and stood aside. He switched the light off and watched her skip off ahead of him.
With the pace she set it didn’t take long to reach the hangars. She looked at her watch again, there was still some time left before they’d be arriving. Her brother pointed to the sky,
“See that star up there?”
She shook her head, “Which one?”
He moved behind her and pointed, “Right…there. That really bright one.”
“Oh!” She nodded her head vigorously, “what about it?”
She turned to face him, wide-eyed and mouth agape, “No way!” She smiled back at him.
For the best part of an hour, they sat on a patch of grass as he went through various stars and constellations; she soaked every ounce of it up. She was about to inquire about a certain set of stars when the whine of a C130 could be heard off in the distance. She bolted upright and started running towards the runway. Her brother was left to scurry after her and grab her before she ran any further out.
“Calm down. You’ll see them in a minute.” She squirmed as he held her by the shoulders.
The plane touched town and slowly taxied towards the hangar. She looked behind her as she heard wheels roll over uneven ground. Her eyebrows shot skywards as she caught sight of the entire medical team pushing gurneys and equipment towards the plane. She felt her stomach drop, a bad feeling suddenly washed over her. She tried to break free from her brother but he held her firm.
“Just wait, Leila. Let them do their job.”
She shook her head but stopped as the ramp started to lower. She looked on with anticipation as two sets of boots became visible. Could it be Ghost and Roach? She shuffled forwards slightly and craned her neck to see around the medical staff. Captain Price and General Sheppard stepped down the ramp as it touched the ground. Personal questioned them if they needed medical attention but they shook it off. They continued to walk in her direction and stopped a couple metres away.
“Price! Sheppard!” She said with a salute. The two men looked at each other before Price stalked away. Sheppard took a couple steps forward and crouched down in front of her.
“Leila, you should go back to the barracks with your brother. It’s not a pretty sight in there and the men are…tired.”
She shook her head, “That’s ok. I just want to say ‘hi’ to them.” She smiled at him.
It was his turn to shake his head, “No. Let Harrison take you back. You can see them in the morning.” He stood up and nodded at her brother. He understood the message. It wasn’t a scene a child should witness. He tried to turn her in the direct they’d come from but she resisted.
“Leila, c’mon. You heard the General.”
She shrugged his hand off her arm, “I’m not a child. I can handle some blood and gore.” She flashed him a smile before darting into the flurry of medics and equipment.
“Someone stop that girl!” Sheppard shouted into the night air.
She slipped past prying hands and around gurneys as her goal neared closer. She’d go straight to bed after she said goodnight to the two men. She successfully reached the ramp and clambered up it. It took her eyes a moment to adjust to the lighting but the stench hit her nose before she saw it. The air smelt putrid. Like burnt flesh mixed with iron and an acidic aftertaste. She clamped a hand over her mouth to stop her spewing. Just what happened to these men? She continued deeper into the plane. She knew all these men but yet she couldn’t identify half of them. Heck, she couldn’t even tell who was breathing and who wasn’t. The medics inside the plane didn’t notice her. They were too busy trying to resuscitate, and apply pressure to wounds. Her foot slid on a puddle of blood and she fell forwards. She slowly sat up as she realised she’d just placed her hands in more blood. She wiped them on a towel next to a nurse and took a shaky breath before continuing even further into the plane.
So far, she hadn’t seen either of the two men she was looking for. She feared the worst. She was so focused on looking at the faces of the people she passed that she walked straight into Yuri and Nikoli.
“Leila?” They both asked in unison. She looked up in shock. “Where are they?!” Tears started to well up in her eyes. Yuri looked over his shoulder at the two forms nearest the cockpit. She pushed past the men and collapsed between the two men’s beds. She could only tell she was looking at Ghost by his glasses. His trademark balaclava wasn’t on his face and his skin was so pale. The tears now willingly spilled from her eyes. She spun around to look at the other form. Thankfully it was Roach. But he didn’t look to be in a good way. He had a makeshift splint on his leg and so much blood. It was everywhere. His clothes were stained and he moaned softly as she reached out to touch his arm. She choked back a sob. He was alive. She turned back to Ghost. She couldn’t see his chest rise and fall. She tried to feel for a pulse but someone pulled her back.
“Is…Is he…” She trailed off as the waterworks started again.
“No. He’s alive,” A heavily accented voice reassured her. “But you should leave. This is no scene for a child.”
She broke free from him and crouched back down next to Ghost, “I’m not a child, Yuri. I can handle this.” She spat back in Russian.
He hurled an insult at her before pushing past the other Russian and exiting the plane. She gently ran her hand through Ghost’s hair, praying that he woke up. She spoke random nonsense at him, wishing that he’d respond. She grabbed his hand and gave it a squeeze. He didn’t respond. She sunk down onto her haunches and buried her face in her hands.
“L…eila?” A hoarse voice no more than a whisper reached out to her.
She spun around at the sound of her name. Roach had his eyes open and was looking at her.
“Gary!” She crawled over to the man. “I…” She trailed off, not even sure as to what she wanted to say. He smiled weakly at her as he extended his arm towards her and gently cupped her cheek. She put her hand on his and smiled at him. Her reunion was cut short as her brother ran through the plane to her.
“Leila!” He called as he neared her, “Come here!”
Reluctantly she moved away from Roach and looked at Ghost one last time before she threw herself into her brother’s arms. He rubbed her back as he tried to calm her down. He picked her up and started heading out of the plane. Upon heading back to the barracks, she saw Sheppard smirking at her whilst taking a long drag of his cigar.