Jason leaned back against the netting and briefly closed his eyes. They were once again on board a C-17 and on their way to one or the other godforsaken place in Africa. As the file on his lap threatened to slide off, he quickly grabbed it. He took the file and placed it next to him on the narrow bench. He looked around.
The plane’s lighting was dimmed, barely anyone was still awake at 0200. Movement at the back caught his eye. Jason stayed where he sat and looked on as the rookie of his team balanced himself in his hammock before he swung his legs down and came wobbling to his feet. He looked on as Clay continued to rub his eyes and then slowly moved away from his hammock.
Jason frowned. From where he sat, he could clearly see Clay’s face. The rookie had a vacant glazed over look in his eyes. He came to his feet as Clay shuffled forward. Clay managed to descend the narrow iron stairs to the main level. Jason kept on looking at Clay’s face. There was something wrong, but for one or another reason he couldn’t place his finger on the problem.
Jason watched as Clay moved towards the coolers that stood to the side. For a moment the thought that Clay might be thirsty. Jason closed the distance between them and came to a halt next to the cooler. He looked on as Clay went down on his knees, opened the top of the cooler and then lazily started running his hand through the ice filled water. He didn’t say a word or even acknowledge Jason’s presence next to him.
“Seriously.” Jason rolled his eyes. It was just his luck. Clay was sleepwalking. Mikey had gone through the same thing a few years back. He’d given him and Alana a huge fright when he’d managed to open the front door one night and walked out of the house. Luckily, they’d been seated on the front porch and seen the whole incident. He’d guided Mikey back into the house and tucked his son back into his bed. The following morning he’d installed an alarm on Mikey’s bedroom door as well as on the front and back door.
Jason could go and wake up Trent, or he could take care of the problem himself. He chose the second option. “Come on, Spenser. Time to go to sleep.” Jason gently grabbed Clay’s arm and pulled him to his feet. He wiped Clay’s wet hand dry with a rag he found next to the cooler.
“The soup’s not ready yet,” Clay mumbled.
Jason managed not to laugh out loud. “Don’t worry. I’ll keep an eye on it.” Clay mumbled something he didn’t catch, and really didn’t care about. He needed to get the kid back in his hammock.
“Come on, let’s go,” Jason spoke up again and guided Clay back to the narrow stairs. “Up you go.” He pushed Clay up and followed behind him. At Clay’s hammock, Jason sighed when Clay stopped and didn’t move.
“Clay.” Jason sighed. He turned his brother and with ease guided Clay into the hammock. At least he didn’t let the kid tip over. He grabbed the sides and pulled them over the youngest SEAL. Clay’s eyes were closed, and it was clear he was asleep again. He looked around. The rest of Bravo team was still asleep. Jason looked at his own hammock next to Ray’s. He would make sure that for the next flight he was right next to Clay and Trent on the other side. Jason sighed again. He’d have to speak to Trent about this as well. It wasn’t very safe for Clay to go sleepwalking. Especially if they were on a mission. But he wasn’t worried. They would sort it out.
Jason looked at Clay again. He looked even younger than his twenty-eight years. He still couldn’t believe that Clay had been with them for the past three months. The kid had guts. He wasn’t afraid of anything, in fact, he took some unnecessary risks. They were addressed and he made Clay run hills as punishment. The kid’s attitude improved as well. He always followed orders. But only after he asked questions. Clay really asked a lot of questions. Luckily, they were all relevant. He was going to be a great SEAL one day.
Jason yawned and dragged his hand over his face. He looked at his hammock and thought about the mission brief that was still on the narrow bench. “It can wait.” Jason walked around Clay’s hammock and lowered himself into his. He dragged the sides over him and closed his eyes.
“Boss, soup’s ready,” Clay’s voice sounded up from his hammock.
Jason laughed. “Sleep, Clay.” He couldn’t help but to wonder why Clay was so obsessed with soup. He would have to ask the kid when he was awake. However, from past experiences with Mikey the possibility that Clay would remember was almost zero. Finally, Jason also drifted off to sleep.
“Need to talk to you,” Jason said as he flopped down next to Trent. Their medic was busy chomping on what looked like a granola bar. Jason shuddered. He hated those things. They tasted like cardboard and it didn’t matter how long he chewed, it always felt as if it would get stuck down his throat.
“About?” Trent asked with suspicion.
“Clay.” Jason took a swig of his water. He looked over to where Clay stood between Ray and Sonny. It was clear from his hand motions that he was entertaining them with one or another story.
“Okay.” Trent shoved the last part of the snack in his mouth and looked at Jason.
“Seriously, how the fuck can you eat that crap?” Jason held up his hand. “No, I don’t want to know.” He took a deep breath. “Clay sleepwalks.” When Trent chocked, Jason repeatedly patted him on his back. “You okay?” He asked when Trent finally managed to take a breath.
Trent nodded. “Thanks.” He frowned at Jason. “Did I hear you correctly? Clay sleepwalks.”
“Found him myself. Guided him back to his hammock.”
“Fuck.” Trent’s shoulders slumped. “It’s not in his file.”
Jason cocked his head. “The file Armstrong gave you?”
“Why would it be in there?” Jason asked with a frown.
“Meant he got treatment for it before.”
“Now, it either means it’s something new, or no one managed to find out about it before.”
Jason nodded. “Do you think the Kid knows?”
Trent shrugged. “Only one way to find out.” He looked at Jason.
“What? You want me to ask him? Why can’t you?”
“Because you’re the one who found him walking around.” Trent responded as if it was the most logical thing in the world.
Jason shook his head. “You’re the medic. Not me.”
Trent sighed. “Fine. But you’re staying right here.”
“You want to speak to him right now?”
Trent rolled his eyes and he made sure Jason saw him. “What? Did you want to wait for it to happen again?”
Jason huffed. “It’s not going to stop because we spoke to him, Trent.”
“I know, but the sooner we do something about it the better.” Trent didn’t give Jason a chance to respond. “Clay!” He called out and indicated for Clay to join them.
Clay came over and came to stand before them. “Trent. Boss.” He looked at them.
“Boss wants to ask you something.” Trent grinned when Jason growled at him. He knew he should be more concerned, but it was still funny to see Jason struggle to find the right words.
“How’s the soup?” Jason asked.
“What?” Both Trent and Clay spoke up together.
“What soup?” Clay asked.
Trent looked at Jason. He wondered if he should be concerned about his team leader.
“See? This is why I wanted you to talk to him.” Jason crossed his arms.
“Talk to me about what? Soup?” Clay inquired confused. “What’s going on, Boss?”
“Fuck.” Jason lowered his head. “Do you know you sleepwalk?” He looked up and locked eyes with Clay.
Clay visibly blanched and took an unsteady step backwards. Jason grabbed him by the arm and pushed him down between himself and Trent.
“Boss?” Sonny’s voice sounded up.
Jason shook his head. “Later.” He didn’t even look at Sonny. His 3IC would know by the tone of his voice that now was not a good time to ask questions.
“Am I off Bravo team?” Clay’s voice sounded soft as he lowered his head.
“What?” Jason frowned. He looked at Trent. When the medic didn’t respond, Jason knew he would have to. “No. You’re not off the team, but it is something that we needed to know.” Jason managed not to grind his teeth. They had this type of conversation with Clay before. Especially since he became an official member of their team and they all knew he had the tendency to hide his injuries.
Clay nodded his head but didn’t look up.
“When was the last time this happened?” Trent spoke up.
“That I know of?” Clay looked up when a finger under his chin made him bring his head up.
“Yes.” Trent made sure he kept his focus on Clay.
Clay shrugged. “About four months ago.” He looked at the medic. “Woke up in my apartment’s bathtub.”
“This was after Brian’s death?” Trent asked softly.
Clay nodded. “Yes.” He provided no further detail.
Clay snorted. “Yeah, he did. Bit difficult to keep something like that secret from your best friend.”
“Does it happen often?”
“No.” Clay shook his head, then shrugged. “Brian didn’t always tell me. He said he didn’t want me to worry about something that I couldn’t control.”
Trent nodded, he understood, but at the same time he didn’t agree with what Brian had said. “Except for the bathtub, was there any other incidents lately that you’re aware of?”
“No.” This time Clay looked at Trent. “Thing is, I normally find my way back to my bed. And since I don’t remember it happening, I can’t tell.”
“Did he pick up on any possible stress factors that made you sleepwalk more?” Trent had a feeling that was something that Brian would do. He was still baffled that it wasn’t in Clay’s file.
Clay shrugged, but Trent had a feeling that there was something Clay wasn’t telling them.
“Clay?” He asked again. When their youngest brother remained quiet, he looked at Jason. His gaze said it all.
“Spit it out, Kid,” Jason ordered.
Clay’s shoulders sagged. “Coming down from an intense adrenaline high. Can’t mix certain types of alcohol.” He looked up and swallowed. There was one other thing. Something he figured out just now.
Jason cocked his head. “You’re not telling us everything, Spenser. Spit it out, or I swear I will whip your ass.”
Clay looked at Jason and at Trent. He knew they were not going to be happy. “The Ambien.”
Trent groaned and Jason frowned. Jason found his voice first. “Wait. Run that by me again.” He looked at Trent who came to his feet and paced in front of them. He also saw Ray, Brock and Sonny all looking at them. Jason was surprised when it was Trent, who spoke up.
“Certain medications can also induce sleepwalking. Including those used to help with insomnia. Like Ambien.” Trent glared at Clay. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
Clay opened his mouth to respond, but then closed it again. Instead, he got to his feet.
“Clay,” Jason growled.
“I just took the Ambien from Davis and drank it. I didn’t even think about it. Only thought about it now.” Clay tried to explain.
Jason cocked his head. “Not the first time you used Ambien, Spenser.”
“First time he used this brand with us.” Trent opened his hand and held the small bag with the two blue pills in them.
Clay nodded. “Normally got those in Team three. Brian swapped mine out for something else when he realized it made me sleepwalk.”
“You’re going to run hills when we’re back home for a whole fucking month. Do you hear me?” Jason came to his own feet and looked at Trent. “You can swap his out for something else? Swap the whole team’s?”
“I can do that.” Trent nodded and walked over to his med kit. He would make a note about it and also speak to the medical team back on the base to make sure they stocked something else.
“Good.” Jason turned to Clay. “In future times, you will make sure that your hammock is between mine and Trent’s. You got that? Same will count when we’re in the field.”
“Roger that, Boss.”
“Good.” Jason turned away and faced the rest of Bravo team. They’d managed to all come closer. Jason grinned. “Remember when we made the rule about Clay hiding injuries from us?”
Sonny grinned and rubbed his hands together. “First round of drinks is on him.” He looked at Clay. “What did you hide?”
Clay gaped at Jason. “I didn’t hide an injury, Boss.”
Jason looked at Clay over his shoulder. “Might not be an injury, Spenser, but it has to do with your health, and you failed to inform us. First round of drinks on you, Kid.”
“Boss.” Clay groaned even as Sonny swung his arm over his shoulder.
“What did you not tell us, Spenser?” He said it with a grin, but his eyes held worry.
“Nothing,” Clay answered.
“CLAY!” Both Jason and Trent yelled out his name.
“Hills for two months, Kid. Two months.” Jason held up two of his fingers.
“And it’s not nothing. It’s serious.” Trent pushed through Brock and Ray and came to stand directly in front of Clay. “You can go walk out into the night and step on a fucking IED and be blown to pieces, Clay.”
“Wait.” Sonny pushed Clay down and looked at Trent. “Someone want to explain to me what’s going on?”
Ray cocked his head. He looked at Trent and then at Jason. “Clay sleepwalks.” Trent’s comment on walking out into the night gave him insight on what was going on. He knew Mickey also sleepwalked for a while, but it seemed he had outgrown it. Clay, well, it seemed Clay wasn’t so lucky.
“What?” Sonny stared at Clay as if he’d grown a second head. “What?” He repeated the question and looked at Trent.
“Yep. Our kid brother sleepwalks, and he didn’t tell us. Jason caught him this morning.” Trent explained.
“Well, blow me a popsicle.” Sonny slapped Clay on the shoulder. “You ever peed in a closet?” He frowned. “If you ever piss in my boots, Clay, I will kill you. Is that clear? It will not matter that you’ve been sleepwalking. If you piss in my boots, you’re dead.”
Clay couldn’t help but to laugh. “If a man has to go, Sonny, a man has to go.” He ducked when the larger man took a swing at him.
“Trent is right, Clay. It is serious.” Brock spoke up for the first time. “It is something that we needed to know, brother. You know we’ve got your back and by keeping something like that from us, you’re making it difficult for us to keep you safe, Clay.”
Clay lowered his head. “I know. I’m sorry.”
“Good. As long as you know.” Brock slapped Clay on the back and Ray nodded in agreement.
“Does this mean he has to be handcuffed to the bed, or to one of us? Because I’m not volunteering for that job. We all know he doesn’t lay still for more than ten minutes at a time. He’s worse than having ants in your pants.” Sonny moaned.
Bravo team laughed. “No, Sonny. We’re not going to handcuff him to anything. We’ll make sure he’s covered should something like this happens again.” Trent put Sonny at ease.
“Cerberus will guard him as well.” Brock indicated to their pup who had come over and was currently sitting next to Clay. “He will alert us if Clay goes walking at night.”
“Good.” Jason clapped his hands. “Gear up, we’ll be landing in less than an hour.” He stepped up next to their rookie. “We’ve got you, Clay.” He slapped Clay on the back. “Still waiting for my soup, Kid.” He laughed when Clay only gaped at him. They had a mission to run, but after the mission, he would sit down with the kid, hell, they all would sit down with him and make sure Clay was once again made aware of the fact that they had his back. It didn’t matter if he sleepwalked or not. He was part of Bravo team and that was the way it would stay.