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The Marines have one particular saying that stuck with him for some reason ever since he had first heard it, the one that said the pain you felt was weakness leaving your body. Even though he had never been a ‘Jarhead’, Army Staff Sergeant William James couldn’t help but dwell on this quote for more than once throughout his life. On one hand, the soldier within him that was always at attention wouldn’t hesitate to agree with that since it was the exact same way he lived his life ever since he cared to remember.. However, contrary to popular belief, he was in fact sympathetic towards others around him and the pain they felt.

Joining any of the armed forces was not for everyone, Will knew that well. He had seen many people freeze up amidst the combat zone, where he personally thrived in it. The specialist assigned to the group he lead was one of those people that hesitated before shooting, terrified and obsessing over his death that would one day come.

As much as Will would have loved to call bullshit on the whole ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ crap, he found it to be irritatingly truthful in ways that he really wouldn’t like to ever admit out loud. It semed however that no matter what he felt about these saying at the end of the day, that these words clung to situations of his daily life, before he even had the time to notice them. Time and time again he had to crawl back to the top of situations, only to get knocked off of his feet and right back on his ass before too long.

In a world where you not only receive a soulmate identification mark somewhere upon your body the very instant you hit puberty, you have mutants running around in a population of non mutants. Yes, it gets to be confusing for most people but Will had always thought the show of any mutation was incredibly fascinating. Besides, unlike so many other non mutants, he found that he didn’t mind whatsoever if he was fated to be mated to a mutant. Either way, he had no doubt that she was going to be exceptionally badass, with a mutation or not.

He didn’t quite understand why people were so against mutants in general, why they automatically assumed that mutants weren’t just like other people with morals and habits. Why think the worst of someone when there was a good chance that they would prove you wrong? It was more, he personally suspected, out of jealousy.. the riots, the anger.. the, well, jealousy. To Will: they were all only human at the end of the day, no matter what creed or color they were.

Many people had commented numerous times throughout his life all the way up to this present day,cough Sandborn cough cough, that he was ‘reckless’. Nevermind of course that it was a well know fact that people easily got that way when they had been waiting too long for their soul mate to arrive. Besides, Will would have liked to think of it as being ‘Fearless’..

Though, to be entirely truthful, with the words curved on the left side of his rib cage, untouched by his frag scars, of ‘You do know that you are in a red zone.. Don’t you soldier?’.. He would have to admit - even if it was only to himself - that he did feel more than just a shiver of fear more than one point in his life when he privately dwelled upon the words etched into his skin.

Even before he fully understood what the words meant, Will knew that civilian life wasn’t for him.. not that he hadn’t tried at first to fit into society but it felt as if he were trying to force a puzzle piece into a place where it didn’t fit. Anyway, his mark made him painfully aware that if his soul mate thought that he was in a ‘red zone’ and therefore in danger.. than so was she. It pained him to think that way, a way that made him instantly on edge and ready to fight an unknown enemy, but it was also a truth that he had to factor in.

In all his time of being in the Army, he deliberately put himself in dangerous situations.. it was much more than the adrenaline rush that came with all of it, it was so he was there to help her out of whatever dangerous situation that she had found herself caught up in. The one that was behind the words glinting a bright metallic silver in an elegantly scripted, cursive font that stood out on his tanned skin.

Admittedly he always had a thing for blondes, which in fact was the natural hair color of the beautiful woman that was his girlfriend turned wife after when he found out that she was carrying his child. Both of them tried very hard to make the relationship work, despite the fact that they weren’t each other’s soul mates, due to the sole reason of their son.

Presently however, within a black crate full of key components from IEDs that he always kept underneath his bed after he dismantled them, his wedding ring hung on a simple, long silver chain amongst the things that had almost killed him. His son would most likely never know who the hell he even is and was already being forced to call someone else ‘daddy’, and even though Will was no longer married to his ex wife, she was still the mother of his child and he didn’t really have a problem with the both of them living in his house so they had somewhere to call home.

Home.. Yes, at time he was in fact homesick for a place that he had never been but he had long since realized that his idea of ‘home’ wasn’t with her. He was married to his job, the adrenaline pulsing through his veins eagerly and was stronger than any drug known to man. He thrived in a combat zone and was a natural risk taker no matter the circumstances. All of which were things that his ex wife couldn’t handle.. not that he didn’t understand from her point of view, it was just that he was a soldier through and through. He couldn’t handle the desk job that she demanded he take if he chose to stay. Besides, his one true soul mate was out there somewhere, destined to rely on him as a way out of danger.. and he sure as hell wasn’t going to let her down.

Here this woman was, not his soul mate but was the mother of his child, arguing that if he had ever loved her or their son at all that he would just stay and ‘not worry about it’. That was the point in time when he packed all of his shit, turned around and walked away after telling her to expect divorce papers. He finally caught a glimpse of her true colors, when he heard her call his soul mate an ‘it’ and he certainly did not like what he was hearing .. or seeing for that matter. Nevertheless, he would always stand up for her in conversation simply for the fact that she would always be the mother of his child, nothing less but also would never be anything more.

While here in Iraq, Will never expected to get close to a twelve year old little boy that cussed like a sailor and didn’t doubt for a second that if the boy were born in America he would have gotten his ass smacked or his mouth washed out.. maybe even both. His name was Beckham, self proclaimed to be the ‘best of the best of the best’ at soccer. Damn it.. He was only human, with hobbies, goals and things he didn’t like. His dark eyes held shimmering innocence that Will hadn’t witnessed in what seemed to be a very long time, selling dvds on the fob that were completely out of focus like a relentless salesman.

Beckham had once told him that he thought his job with disarming bombs - something that Will specifically chose in an effort to make the world at least just a tad bit safer for his soulmate, his son and the general population of people in the world - was hereby deemed ‘cool’ and ‘gangster’. In response, Will couldn’t help but regard the little boy with an expression that showed he was thoroughly amused. Now though..

“I...I’m looking for the people responsible.. For Beckham..”

Will swallowed the hard lump that had formed within his throat as he jogged through the darkened Iraqi streets that were lined with stores as it’s only source of light. Wearing his army issued fatigued pants drew unneeded attention towards him. His heart beat loudly within his ears, in sync with the loud beeping horns of cars that tried to get home and the sound of his sand boots crunching on the concrete walkway with every step that he took.

Will pulled the hood of his dark blue zip up hoodie even though he knew very well that it wouldn’t camouflage him due to the pants he was wearing, the people that he caught looking at him suspiciously as he passed them solidified this belief. He tried to act as if it didn’t bother him as he stayed on constant alert, even when he struggled to hold his bewilderment from showing upon his face when he spotted a man who had arms half the size of his own carrying a good sized dead pig over his right shoulder. He was not in the least bit ashamed to admit that his first thought when he saw it was: ‘Mm, bacon..’ before he forced himself to continue forward in the direction he knew the base was, towards safety because damn it all if this didn’t count as a ‘red zone’.

Apparently God had a sense of humor and had a similar line of thought, because before he even knew what was happening, just when he had crossed the entry of a darkened alleyway.. A pair of olive skin toned hands shot out from the darkness to pull him inward.

It was an act that he had both counted on and dreaded, making his right hand twitch to grasp onto the cool metal of the gun safely tucked in the back of his waistband.. but when he got one good look at the person that pulled him into the alleyway with ease, Will couldn’t help but freeze at the mischievous glints that were reflecting his way through a set of breathtaking shade of hazel.

Instead of wearing Arab clothing like he would have guessed before he got a good look at the person, the woman in front of him wore a black sweat jacket that was almost identical to his blue one he was now wearing, zipped up just half way to show that she was wearing a dark Bon Jovi band t-shirt underneath it, paired up with faded dark, ripped jeans and sand boots that were ‘laced for battle’.

He couldn’t help but take her in with blinking bright blue eyes, from her rock band t-shirt that showed off both her great taste in music as well as her chest.. (not that he was trying to stare… Okay fine, he was at the very least trying to not get caught doing so.) before letting his gaze linger on her boots, because not only were they sand boots but the way they were laced proved that she wasn’t just a civilian who happened to simply stumble a crossed his path. The hood of her jacket, which only added to the darkness framing her features, was cautiously pulled back to reveal the honey blond curls that lay hidden underneath.

He was just about to open his mouth to teasingly ask her what she wanted because his mama set a curfew that he had to meet, when her fully formed, smirking lips parted ever so softly and said the words that he had waited his whole entire life to hear.. yet was somehow still unprepared for them..

Funnily enough, he wasn’t meant to be the one to rescue her like he had previously thought, to be the knight in shining armour.. this woman that possessed an unworldly beauty was the badass princess come to rescue him. All of the things that he thought to say to her question that was both teasing and very serious, if that was even possible, was promptly cut off by the captivation that he found under her gaze. He couldn’t bring his vocal cords to work and he honestly didn’t know what to make of her now that she had finally stood in front of him..

He desperately wanted to know the name of this woman that was still looking at him somewhat mischievously, the glints in her eyes that easily told him that she was in fact a very proud prankster were slowly turning into a shimmering silver that mirrored the color of her very first words that she spoke to him. Forever etched upon his skin.. She was -

“You do know that you are in a red zone.. Don’t you soldier?”