[MF] Love and War and Love (Ch. 2)

| [Chapter 1](https://www.reddit.com/r/Erotica/comments/11bv8bx/mf_love_and_war_and_love_ch_1/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3) |

The drive back to the safehouse was mostly silent. Boz’d had the foresight to slump down on the street like any other addict, so the remainder of the enemy forces – whoever they were – had blazed past him en route to the ambush site without a second glance. He’d gotten up, got in the truck, and come the long way around, picking us up a few clicks from the target house. We’d moved on foot that entire way, expecting with every ragged breath to get shot in the back. The three of us (plus Amara) were a hunter-killer cell, not a platoon of infantry. Nobody had any illusions about being able to stand up toe-to-toe in a gunfight against multiple technicals of enemy combatants – not without air support, at least.

The drive was only *mostly* silent because there was a flurry of discussion in the beginning about what to do with Amara. We’d been about to drop her off at the nearest police station when Hooch realized that whoever had trapped the target compound with those hidden cameras had seen her face, too.

“Alright, looking for bright ideas, here,” he’d said. “What do we do with the girl?”

“She’s in more danger with us than without us,” said Boz. “Give her a few hundred in cash and drop her in the business district.”

“No way – she can bang, bro,” Taz rejoined. “Ambushed on the street and she makes it to us? Three-klick move with a bleeder on her arm, no complaints? She’s good to go. I say she comes. She can be like one of those CST chicks.”

“Dude, are you fucking with me right now?” started Boz.

I noticed that Amara’s intelligent eyes had been flicking back and forth, following the conversation. Though it was in English, something told me that she was comprehending at least a bit of it.

“Let’s ask her,” I interjected. Boz snorted, but Hooch calmly replied “alright, JJ – go ahead and translate.”

I’d noticed a few years ago that in stressful situations involving a language barrier, people were usually desperate for any dribble of information. They tended to make unrelenting, pleading eye contact with the translator, as if sheer force of will could compel the mark to tell them what was going on. But as I started to summarize in the local language, Amara’s eyes lingered on Boz for a moment before meeting mine.

I explained that we thought the target house was a trap – that someone had filled it with cameras, presumably to expose our identities. I figured she’d probably already guessed about the trap part, since she and her partner were the ones who got shot at first. When I finished, there was a long pause. Then –

“Why do they call you Jay Jay?” she asked. “Did you not introduce yourself as Jawn?”

At the sound of my name, my teammates stiffened. I gave them an irritated flick of my hand – our universal sign for *get the fuck out of my business, I’ve got this* – and said “JJ is my callsign – like a *kunya.* But yes, my name is John.” Amara nodded, processing this information. She paused for another moment, then said “My last remaining male relative died tonight. So it does not matter much where you drop me off, I think.”

In her eyes, I saw a flash of pain and vulnerability before she turned away to stare out the window at the darkness. I understood all too well. In this country, women were obligated to be chaperoned by a male relative. The conventional forces had spent years building schools for girls and pushing women into politics, so the dogma was slowly changing in the occupied areas. But out here, in the hinterlands, Honor (with a capital H) was still the most important force in most peoples’ lives. She could not own property or live independently. If Amara was lucky, a family friend would marry her immediately, and the only thing she would lose would be the independence she so clearly cherished. If she was unlucky…

To divert myself from those thoughts, I said “I am sorry about your relative. The man you came with, tonight?”

She looked back at me. “Yes. His name was Abu Hurayrah,” she said. “He was my uncle.”

I frowned. “His name was ‘father of cats?’”

“Yes,” she said, with a sad little smile. “Before the war, he used to catch them and give them homes. I told him he was much too gentle to become a policeman, but when I joined the force, he did too – he said that he had to take care of me. And that it should not be a daughter’s responsibility to avenge her father. That is a moot point now though, I think.”

I was considering whether to dig into *that* little bombshell when Hooch asked “What’s the story, J? What does she want us to do?”

There was only one answer. As a friend had once told me, you can’t put a price on being able to live with yourself. “She’s coming with us,” I said.

=============

We arrived back at our safehouse less than half an hour later. We pulled up to the gate and Boz honked, signaling our arrival to Hamid, the local guy we paid to open the door and keep little kids away from our wall. I looked over at Amara and saw that her brow was slightly furrowed, though it looked like she was trying hard not to maintain a blank expression.

“You’ll be safe here,” I said. “We need more time to figure out what to do with you.” She gave me the slightest of nods, but otherwise said nothing.

I admired her courage. Although we were here on behalf of the locals, and worked with the local security forces – including her, obviously – I was all too aware of how they viewed us. They were brave enough when defending their homes, but we were killers, the ghosts who made people vanish in the night. When we were fully kitted up, our armor and equipment – radios, helmets, headsets, night vision goggles, infrared lasers – made us look more like machine than man. And we were much, much bigger and heavier. Amara was taller than average – hell, well above average – at about 5’7, and yet even Boz, the shortest and smallest of us, practically towered over her. And for her to be alone with four unrelated men – foreigners, at that – went deeply against that honor culture I mentioned earlier.

She must’ve been terrified.

As Boz pulled the Land Cruiser into the circular drive, I looked up at our safehouse. We had rented a veritable palace, an opulent multi-bedroom house on the outskirts of the city. It was far too large for the four of us. Hamid the guard’s wife cooked and cleaned for us, but that was during the day when we were all asleep. We’d led them both to believe that we had drones watching their families, which we hoped was sufficient, when combined with extraordinarily generous monthly salary payments, to buy their silence about just who was in residence here. We hadn’t been murdered in our sleep yet, so I figured it was working.

I swung my legs out of the LC, uttering a muffled curse as I stretched. The drive really hadn’t been all that far, but sitting with body armor and a stiff equipment belt was murder on your back, even the fancy light-weight concealable stuff that we wore out on mission.

“Alright, guys,” said Hooch. “Taz and Boz, download the gear and then get some sleep. JJ, take care of the girl. I’m going to get on the horn with higher to fill them in on this shit and see what they want us to do next.” He paused for a moment, then added “Taz, Boz – make sure the gear is ready for us to grab and move in a hurry. I’ve got the feeling we’re being hunted.”

=============

I told Amara to follow me, explaining as we went that she would be staying with us for a while. One advantage of renting this palace was that we had a couple of extra bedrooms. “Why?” she asked. She didn’t elaborate, but I knew what she meant. “We think you could be useful to us,” I told her. “And… I know what would have happened if we had dropped you off in the city.”

At that, she stopped walking, and I turned around to see her staring at me levelly. Once again I was struck by the nobility in her gaze. Her chin was tilted slightly upwards, like a princess, as she said “You are only delaying the inevitable. You know this.”

I had no response to that, so I just said “come on,” and turned back, taking the stairs up to the second floor of the safehouse. I opened the door to one of the spare bedrooms and waved her inside.

I closed the door as she entered behind me, then blew out a breath and turned to face her. “Okay,” I said. “I need to evaluate that wound again, in the light.” She froze, stuck motionless in the middle of the room. I stepped closer and took her left hand in mine, my gloved right hand gently pushing the baggy sleeve of her tunic upwards. Her eyes were fixed over my shoulder, and I could feel her hand trembling in mine.

“Did you get hit anywhere else?” I asked quietly. She shook her head, almost imperceptibly. I folded the gathered cloth of the sleeve up onto her shoulder, leaving her lithe arm completely exposed. She was lucky – she’d taken only a flesh wound, a rifle bullet cutting a shallow trough into the meat of her shoulder. The wound had already clotted, so there wasn’t much to do here other than prevent infection.

I felt too guilty to try to make eye contact again as I irrigated the wound with saline and began to wrap the wound in sterile gauze. I knew this was probably the first time she had been touched by a man since she was a girl. And even then, the only males who would have had physical contact with her would be her father and brothers. I finally looked up as I gently cleaned the dried blood off her arm with a wet cloth. Her eyes were closed, and her breathing was a little shaky.

I rolled her sleeve back down. “Okay,” I said. “This is going to be your room. This is our house and we don’t know that we can trust you yet, so I need to lock you in. I’ll bring you some food in a little bit. We aren’t going to hurt you.”

Her eyes opened. Her expression was complicated. “I know this,” she said. “You have no use for me as a hostage, and captors do not care for their victims.”

Something told me not to open that can of worms. I simply nodded at her, then stepped out of the room, closing and locking the door behind me. I padded down to the kitchen on the first floor, where the rest of the team had gathered. Boz had pulled a bunch of food out of the fridge and everyone was sitting in mismatched furniture.

“How is she?” asked Hooch.

“I’m telling you, man, she’s a killer,” said Taz.

I chuckled. “She’s good, boss. Just a flesh wound. I think she’s pretty freaked, though.”

He nodded solemnly. “Makes sense.” Then, looking down at his notepad, “So here’s the deal – Higher’s not sure what was going on with the cameras. It’s not a known M.O. for any threat actor in this region. Word is that the analysts are going nuts trying to decide whether these guys came up with the trick on their own or whether they’re getting pro-tips from some sort of other actor. We’re uploading an image of the laptop we recovered for the squints to rip back home, but I doubt they’re going to find anything useful.”

“Yeah,” said Boz, “I don’t see the kind of guys who would set up a trap like that being careless enough to leave intel at the scene.”

Hooch nodded again. “Right. So, I figure we’ve got somebody out looking for us. In a sense, this is confirmation that our efforts to hurt these guys have been effective – we’ve pissed them off, and they want to hit back…”

“Yay, us,” said Taz drily.

“…but these jokers have no idea what’s waiting for them,” Hooch continued. “Boz, JJ, I want you to scrub this last mission. Give me a best estimate on where the leak was – how they knew we were going to hit that house in particular. We’re going to double that source back on them. Taz, you’re going to find a spot for us to hit them hard once Boz and JJ find the leak. Be creative. Booby traps, airstrike, dismounted ambush – whatever, just make it hurt.”

“Yeah, boss,” said Taz.

“Yes, lead,” said Boz.

“Good work, people,” said Hooch. “Get some rack time.”

We finished our meals in tired silence, then headed upstairs. I brought a bowl of soup and bread for Amara, but when I opened the door I saw her tangled up in the sheets, eyes closed. She had removed her headscarf, and her hair – glossy and dark, braided on one side – fell to her shoulder blades. She couldn’t have been older than her mid-twenties. Even in sleep her face carried the tension that she bore during waking hours – but also the same unshakeable spirit.

God, she was beautiful.

I left the tray of food on the small bedside table and retreated, closing the door gently behind me. I went next door to my room and spent half-an-hour putting up my gear, examining my armor plates for bullet impacts that I might not have noticed. Nothing, but it was always good to check. In the heat of battle I’d seen guys get thrown to the ground from RPG rounds and get back up to keep fighting, not even realizing they were missing limbs or that their rifle was now in three pieces.

Then I crammed down as much food, cleaning my rifle and pistol between bites. I probably ingested some solvents by eating and cleaning at the same time, but I figured cancer in my 60s was the least of my problems. The sand and dust in this place was absolute hell on weapons, and keeping them free of grit and bullshit was a constant struggle.

The last thing I had to do before bed was hit the shower. I was dead tired, but from the first days of training it had been drilled into my head that I was always to take care of my gear and body before sleep. Even personal hygiene came before rest in the priorities of work – I could go without sleep for days, if need be, but a fungal infection could cause huge problems in one hell of a hurry.

Finally, I lay back on my bunk and closed my eyes.

I’m not sure how long I had been asleep before a scream from Amara’s room jolted me awake.

Source: reddit.com/r/Erotica/comments/11glxz3/mf_love_and_war_and_love_ch_2

4 comments

  1. Another amazing chapter! Some like to go right to the sex, but for me, I love being fully engrossed in the story, the characters, situation, surroundings.
    Can’t wait for the next chapter!!

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