Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat. - F. Scott Fitzgerald
He was tired. More tired than he'd felt in...a long time. And not just physically. That he could handle. He was used to that. He flexed his arms. Yeah, that he could handle. Always had, always would.
But this was different. This was something he hadn't felt since Nam. Since that day in the camp. When he'd seen that kid...
He shook his head. Not going back there. This wasn't Nam, and no one had died.
He stared up at the house. Felt the tiredness change. His breathing got heavy, harsh, as he thought about the man in that house. The man who'd almost died trying to do what was right. Who would get no thanks for it.
Who shouldn't have even been there.
He slammed the hood down on the van, tossed his tools in the back. He should go in, see how he was. But the others were still in there.
He'd be okay.
But okay wasn't good enough. Not any more. Not for him, not for any of them. They all knew it.
But they couldn't go anywhere. Not now. Not until he was healed up. And even then...
His head was throbbing in time to his heartbeat. Both pounding like they'd burst. Hadn't felt like this in a long time. Not since...
He glared up at the house. Flung open the driver's door and slid into the seat. Saw the Ables suddenly straighten.
Fuck 'em all.
He started the van, body jerking as it swung into reverse and then shot forward. Quick glance in the mirror.
Hannibal. Standing half way out the door.
How long he drove he had no idea. Didn't bother him, not knowing. Didn't care. Maybe, at first, he thought if he drove long enough, the anger would die away. Maybe, at first, he thought he would come back to that place that let him deal with the now, forget the past, ignore the future.
Maybe, at first.
He drove into the city. DC. He read the papers. He knew the places. Knew where people shouldn't go at night.
He knew exactly where to go.
He parked the van, not far from the police station. Under the light. His mama didn't raise no dummies.
Pushed the thought of her out of his head. She had no place there tonight.
Not now. Not then.
He only had to walk a few blocks. Streetlights far apart, broken. Sidewalks dark. Darkness surrounding him. Darkness, and something else.
This wouldn't change anything. Nothing would change. Nothing could. He knew that.
He didn't care.
The darkness shifted. The someones coming out. Moving closer.
He turned. Waited. Clenched his fists. Heart pounding. Head pounding.