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We Fight What You Fear

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Michigan

Why I decided to go this run down bar is beyond me. The bar was just like the town, worn down and on it's last leg. I knew I should have just went to the nearest liquor store and had a drink at the motel instead.

Thou this decision started out bad but ended up being the best decision I have ever made.

All I wanted was a drink to settle my nerves so I could sleep tonight and head out for a funeral tomorrow, one I wasn't looking forward to, not that anyone ever does when it comes to a funeral.

I walked in and went up to the bar, removing my leather jacket and placing it on the stool to my left. There were already two guys there standing, one nursing his beer on my left maybe middle-late 30's, tall with dark hair and nose that said he has been in one too many fights in his time and I see from his hands that looked callused and worn that he knew how to use those hands too. I could tell, my Dad has hands like that too.

Handsome, I decided to call him had a faded out haircut, I'd say former Marine. I should know that too I was married to one once, he would always keep his hair long like that when he was home.

I watched as one of the two bartenders shameless attempted to flirt with him and he wasn't really having any of it just going along with it to be nice. She probably had a kid at home and is looking for a surrogate father for him. One of her many bad mistakes that she just didn’t learn from.

I am not prefect, far from it and I have made my fair share of mistakes. But I learned never to do it again after the first mistake. You pick yourself up, dust yourself off and learn from that mistake and do better the next time and keep trying. Some people just can’t do that.

Guy number two, who I will call Drunk Dumb Ass is on beer one too many and the other bartender should have done her job and shut him off by now.

But here she goes giving him another drink and the Drunk is talking her up about her tattoos and this is when he bumps into me again for the second and is about to be his last time.

It looks as if Handsome on the left was going to say something to Drunk Dumb Ass but I got to him first.

'If you bump into me again, you and I are going to have some issues.' I said glaring at the Drunk, well I at least finally got the bartender’s attention to take my order.

‘What can I get you?' she asked.

‘Double Rum neat.’ She goes to get my drink and Handsome turns his attention to me as he leans on the bar. I pretended not to notice him eyeing me up, not that I wasn’t enjoying it thou.

She brings my drink and I put money down on the bar and take a drink and that's when Drunk Dumb Ass looks me over as it’s his turn to lean up against the bar.

'Well aren't you a cute little thing.' He takes a drink of his beer and I take another sip of my rum. 'So how about we get to know each other better and come back to my place.' He says as he goes to cup my ass.

'You know I just wanted a drink, but I guess that's not going to happen.' I put my glass down with a thump on the bar. Handsome looked at me sharply, brow furrow at my comment.

'So you're one of those huh?' Drunk said slurring his words as he moved in closer.

'One of those?' I said with questioning look on my face, like where the hell are you going with this?

'Thinks you're too good for everyone.’ The smart ass said. Oh here the fuck we go!

I finished my glass tapped for the bartender for a refill because I am going to need it after this.

‘Nope, it's just my Dad taught me to have respect for myself and not have a one night stand with someone I don’t even know and to know a deadbeat when I see one.’ I glared at him. ‘That's the type I’am.’

The bartender got a little pissed at me for my comment when she picked up my empty glass, I’ll be surprised if she didn’t spit in my next drink when she comes back with it.

Drunk still doesn’t get the hint and reaches for my ass again but I grab his left hand first, fingers digging into his pressure points of his hand as I twisted his arm behind his back so fast and slammed him face first into the bar. 

Handsome finally speaks up with a little humor in his rough voice. 'I was going to ask if you needed any help over there but it looks like you're good.'
 
I grinned up at him wickedly ‘Yup but he won’t be in a second.' I said turning back to the drunk and leaned a little closer. 'You don't know me well enough to get to touch me where only my gynecologist gets to touch asshole.'

Handsome stands up straight now and looks at the man, who's face is currently smashed into the top of the bar, he looks down right fucking pissed at my comment. But before Handsome could do anything I kicked the Drunk in the balls and he drops to the floor in pain.

The bouncer finally comes over to do his job and takes Dumb Ass outside. 'He's all yours now.' I said to him as I hand him off to the bouncer and turned back to the bar.

The bartender brings my second drink and she noticed Handsome attention is now focused on me.

'So you just passing through?' She asked me as I handed her the money.

'Yes, just here for a funeral tomorrow.’

‘Oh that wouldn't be for Matthew Shultz would it?' She asked, I have a feeling she's trying to get gossip.

'Yes that would be the unfortunate one.' I said taking another drink.

'Poor kid was in the Army and he just died from his injuries from overseas.' she said 'How did you know him?'

'68 whiskey.' I paused forgetting I am no longer in the Army and I am so use to using our call sign and she looking at me funny until Handsome next to me spoke up.

'A Combat Medic.’ Damn I love his voice, he could read a phone book out loud and it would sound fucking sexy as hell.

'Yes Sir I am.' I paused 'Or should I say I was, I am retired now.' I got his attention back from the bartender and she was done for and she wasn't happy.

'Let me guess I'd say Marines.' I said to him eyebrow raised with a gentle smile on my face.

'You are correct Ma'am, I am Pete.' He reaches out his hand to shake, I just went weak in the knees, he can call Ma’am anytime. I am a sucker for that and especially with that voice of his.

'Abigail, but you can call me Abby.’ I take his hand, he was strong but gentle with his touch, I loved how his rough skin of his hand felt on my hand.

'So Army?' Pete said

'Correct again Sir.' We laugh together and in the moment it felt to me I had known him for years and it was like meeting up with an old friend.

Just then the band started playing again, Pete looked down at my glass and back to me.
 
‘Would it seem to forward of me to ask you out for some coffee. There's a coffee shop down the road that's still open. It would be a lot quieter there and we can talk.’ He flashed me this lopsided grin and that did me in.

'No that's not too forward at all.' I said grabbing my jacket and he took it out of my hand and helped me put it on. And boy was bartender pissed now, Pete grabs his coat and off we went.

He opened the door for me at the coffee shop and we found it pretty much empty except for one or two patrons. The waitress got our order and we sat there for a second before he spoke up.

‘So you just got out of the Army?' He asked.

'Yes I was Active Duty for 15 years and then about three and half years ago I went into the reserves and finally about a half a month ago I retired after from my last deployment.’

'When did you get out?' I asked taking a sip of coffee.

'About 4 years ago now.’ He paused and I see he didn't want talk about it, I understood and didn't push.

'I have a job at one of the hospital's in New York City, so I am still doing what I love just not being shot at on the battlefield or have an RPG landing near me when I am working on my patient’s now.’ We both laughed.

'A much more sterile environment too, no dust or sand to deal with.’ Pete said 'Shit I hated the sand.’ He shakes his head at the thought.

'Same here.'

'So that funeral tomorrow, was he a patient of yours?' Pete asked.

'Yes he was, I am just glad he was able to make it home and to be back here with his family when he passed.’

I took my thumb ring off my left hand and started flipping it over my fingers from my pointer finger back to pinkie and flipping it back up again. It was one of my nervous ticks that I did and I was unaware I was doing it until I see Pete notice.

'Sorry.' I put it down on the table and grabbed my coffee, he picked up the ring.

'It's fine we all have our ticks, usually it's my trigger finger on my right hand.' He said with gentle smile on his face. He looks to me and back at the ring to see the inscription of my husband's wedding ring and his smile faded.

'You're married?' He said and there was a hint of disappointment in his voice as he put the ring down again on the table, like it was a forbidden object to touch.

'I was.' I picked up the ring and rubbed between my thumb and pointer finger
‘Shane died 3 1/2 years ago, he was in the Marines, like my Dad was. Still see I can’t get away from you guys.' I said we both laughed a little. 'We were married for 12 years, went to high school together. Shane wanted to go into Law Enforcement like my Dad, when he got out.'

'You’re Dad's a cop?' He asked and I noticed there was a bit of hesitation when he asked that and looked a little concerned and nervous as well.

'Yes, in Upper State New York, there was a lot of corruption in his department a while back and they finally weeded that out.’ He nods and seems to relax a little.

‘Did Shane pass away in Afghanistan or Iraq?’

‘Neither, he was home.' I stopped for a second I haven't talked about this in a while. 'He was trying to help out one of his men in his unit. His name was Eric and he was having trouble readjusting to being home. So they would go to the shooting range to try to work on things. It did seem to be helping but one day he snapped and Eric shot Shane and turned the gun on himself.'

'Abigail, I sorry.’ He has this mournful look on his face but his eyes told another story, he knew that pain and loss. ‘I didn't mean for you to bring this up.'

'No, no it's ok.' Pete still wasn't buying it. ‘Look we all come back from war damaged, some of us fair better then others. I have come to terms with it and I forgave him. It was hard, very hard but I did it for Shane’s sake because he tried so hard to help Eric.’ I stopped for a second and said something I never told anyone.

‘I always thought I would lose him overseas not at home. My biggest fear was one day having him or my brother Gabe come into my OR and I wouldn't be able to help them. I was so afraid of that and I still am, I still can’t shake that fear.'

The waitress came back and refilled our cups and we just sat there, it wasn't awkward, it was comfortable silence.

'So when do you have to be at the funeral?’ He asked.

'10:00 at the graveyard, they had the viewing today. I... I should have went but... I didn't get here in time and that was wrong. I should have made sure I was here on time.' I shook my head irritated at myself.

'I think the family will be understanding enough Abby, most people wouldn’t even show up at all. I think they'll be very grateful that the person that helped save their son shows up at all.'

We spent the next 3 and half hours talking but anything and nothing at all. I shared more then he did and I didn't mind. Around 1 am, the shop closed and we got up to leave. Through our conversation we realize we were staying at the same motel as well, it was the only motel in town really. 

We walked back together, he walked me to my door of my motel room and told me to have a good night, good luck tomorrow and he said he was sure I’d be fine. I thanked him and told him to have a good night as well.