Fort Dix, New Hanover Township, New Jersey…
“You’re still here?” Capt. Davis raised an eyebrow. “I would have thought you’d have joined the rest of the folks running in the other direction." Tony laughed as he sat down in the chair next to the desk where Davis sat.
“We’re joined at the hip, Kacey! You go? I go.” He shook his head. While that was true somewhat, Capt. Kacey Davis’ departure would be given top priority while Capt. Antonin Bartimileo would be wading through red tape for the next several months; even though he’d resigned his commission. Time seems to work in directly opposite proportion of need in the military unless someone above your rank wants something yesterday; especially if they’re way way higher than you are on the protocol totem pole.
“Listen, Tone…there’s plenty of time; you can change your mind. No need for both of us to lose out?” Guilt over something taken completely out of her hands, Kacey nonetheless lapsed into taking responsibility for some else’ behavior. Force of habit, it had served her well when she was a useful part of the military; a true example of general issue…’G.I.’
“It’s the least I can do for the only transsexual who ever saved my life. Hey…come to think of it…you’re the only PERSON to save my life.” Tony attempted to disarm the tension with humor like he always did, but the situation was as serious as things come.
“Damn it, Tone, I mean it! You’ve come too far to turn back now. You owe it to yourself and your dad to stay put.” Kacey sighed and shook her head. Tony’s dad had been so proud when he made Captain. He was on the fast track for Major. At least that’s what it had been. It was hard not to feel guilty when the only thing standing between Tony and a solid career in the Army was his friendship with her.
“Kace…it doesn’t matter anymore. I’m not going anywhere because…” He didn’t want to throw accelerant on her fire of shame, but she would find out sooner or later. He blew out a breath.
“Col. Santangelo grabbed me last night after your hearing.”
“Tony…no…don’t tell me….”
“The fucking powers that be have decided that you’re too much of a liability for me…no matter what you end up doing. The only way I get any higher in this man’s army is if I stand on top of the Capitol building and wave. Besides, I was really getting tired of Camo, you know?”
He laughed at his own joke, but Kacey shrugged her shoulders. Two tours of duty in Afghanistan with valorous service made no difference to them regarding her disposition. How does that old saying go about the wheels of progress…that they turn exceedingly slow? Don’t bother to ask ‘cause we’re not gonna tell you anything?
No one could argue that Kacey wasn’t a born leader. No one could say that she wasn’t brave or strong of character. She might have been a soldier’s soldier, but then again rules were rules, even if more folks were ‘included’ in the big invisible tent that covered the Pentagon, they still ‘currently’ didn’t make room for her.
“It’s not fair, Kace…they’re just fucking wrong!” Tony shook his head. For a man who had seen enough battle to last a lifetime and a half; performing meritoriously above and beyond any call of duty, he surprised the hell out of her cried a lot, blinking back angry tears over the loss of service of the best officer he had ever shared a life with.
“We…at least we’ll always have Paris.” She joked, but to Tony it had become more than a serious matter, even if he had never spoken it to her. He was torn in half, since part of him really wanted the head honchos to change their minds; at least until she had a fair hearing. That wasn’t going to happen, and the only thing that kept her on base was that her car was in the shop and the cab hadn’t arrived.
But part of him was relieved. It’s awfully hard to get killed if you’re not being shot at, and you likely aren’t going to be shot at if you’re not in a helo hovering over a drop site. And words can’t express a single damn thing if they aren’t written down or if they never get past the thought process down into the voice box. Tony was practically paralyzed in that regard. A man who takes a bullet for a fellow soldier isn’t scared, is he? Well, to be truthful, he was just as scared as the young man whose life he saved, but he acted in spite of his fear. Could he speak now in spite of the greatest fear he had ever known. He would never be put to that test, however. At least in ‘going first.’ The phone on the desk rang, and Kacey picked it up.
“Yes…Oh…okay…I’ll be right there.” She sighed and bit her lip. She was no stronger than her best friend, but unlike him, she had anticipated the tears and steeled herself to holding on until the ride out to the airport in the cab; almost like a castoff on a reality show, but with real departures and sadness. She blew out a nervous breath and went to speak.
“Kace?” The two spoke almost simultaneously.
“You go first…” they said at the same time, followed by nervous laughter. Tony went to speak, but the words didn’t come…at least not in time enough to be the first to speak plainly. Kacey laughed and smiled.
“I….I’m going to take a few weeks to think about what to do next. No need to hurry.” The haste had already done its damage in that she had lost her commission and was being asked to leave. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out? That was the easy part.
“We’ve known each other since the academy. We’re best friends, and that will never change, unless what I have to say next changes everything.” She stared out the window. Tony stepped closer and stood face to face with her, his hand held out in farewell. She looked down out his hand and frowned.
“Oh…okay. I guess this is it, then.” She went to shake his hand, the frown on her face a look; not of disapproval but of disappointment, having hoped for so much more. Tony proved then just why he was always known to his friends as a man of few words; well, at least not as many as most.
“I sorta lied, Kace. I hope you don’t mind.” Even at that moment he was making a joke like he always did. She frowned at him; not for the ‘lie’ but for his habit of minimizing the serious all the time. He lowered his eyes and spoke again.
“The Colonel was relaying the info, but not because of you, but because of me. I told him last week to tell the brass if they couldn’t see their way clear to keep you in, then they could just …well, let’s just say I gave insubordination a whole new twist.” Kacey continued to frown, but she softened as he finished.
“I told them that I couldn’t let them mess with my best friend. That they had no business treating you the way they did, and that they could form an exploratory sub-committee to come up with new S.O.P. to kiss my ass!” He laughed, evoking a smile from her. He stepped closer and gathered his best friend in his arms and kissed her. She went to pull away but he held her tightly and kissed her again; this time with little resistance, though she tried her very best. He won that skirmish easily....they both did, actually.
As the old saying goes, “All’s fair in love and war.”
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