RETURN OF THE WARRIOR
It was an average early afternoon in Marietta, Georgia, hot but not too hot, sunny, but not to bright and for a January in Georgia it was kinda nice.
'Yep, just your average day and I am going buggy.' Dylan sat, thinking and staring out the window; this was the fourth Welcome Home ceremony she had attended in as many weeks.
'You'd think the country would be tired of hearing my name.' She turned and stared at the cream colored room that they had been given to rest in. It was huge; a beautiful cherry wood table graced the center of the room it claw toed legs seemed to clutch at the thick blood red carpet. Tall ladder-back matching chairs were scattered in strategic locations against the walls. The normal patriot prints were displayed in matching imitation cherry wood frames. It was all a bit heavy but over all the county courthouse was really quite nice.
Unable to sit still Dylan turned again to stare out the window. She and Lura had arrived earlier that morning and reporters had surrounded them immediately, bombarding them with questions and the flashing lights of cameras. The limo that had been assigned to them for the duration of their visit now stood patiently outside and Dylan sorely wished they were in it now. With a deep sigh she turned to glance at her roommate, slash fellow captive in all this confusion. Lura sat staring at her folded hands, a dazed look on her face; exhaustion evident in the slump of her shoulders. Dylan smiled gently at the small blonde; Lura had stuck by her through all the stress and strain of the physical rehab and the mental anguish of reliving and retelling the events in the debriefing session. As she watched her lover she began to notice the dark circles under her eyes and the slight pallor of her cheeks.
"This was the last one Lura, no more. We're going home."
Lura lifted exhausted but smiling eyes and sighed. "We will do whatever it takes Dylan, but to tell ya the truth home sounds really, really good right now. I think I could use the break." Slowly she stood stretching her tired body and walked to Dylan, wrapping her arms around the slim waist of the soldier.
Dylan raised her dark blue uniform-clad arms and placed them on the shoulder of her soul mate. Smiling gently down into the soft green eyes, she felt herself relax. "How do you do it Lura? Just a touch, just a sigh and I turn into a neatly pressed and starched, dress blue uniformed wuss?"
"Humm, must be love sweetheart." Came the warm, muffled reply from deep in the front of her blue jacket. Lura pulled back far enough to glance up at the beautiful soldier she held in her embrace. Her Hawk looked incredibly regal in her dress blue uniform, the brass buttons glittered against the dark blue jacket and three rows of multi colored ribbons gracing her left breast. The incredible star-studded, deep blue ribbon of the Medal of Honor lay gently nestled against the stark white of her uniform blouse. The medal had been awarded the day she had arrived back in the United States. Frowning, Lura still remembered the ceremony.
They had arrived at the White House in the early morning. It was still gray outside and the security lights around the huge building glittered off the dew on the lawn. A police escort, sirens blasting, had taken them straight to the front door of the palatial estate. Their doors were opened by their assigned security. They were assisted out of the car and through the front doors into the home of the leader of the most powerful nation on earth.
Lura was concerned about her partner, the injuries that they had both suffer had not quite healed and they were exhausted. Dylan even more so, having withstood a grueling debriefing the day before. She had been through so much already, to include months of rehabilitation just to reach the point where she could move under her own power again. Though the tall soldier had healed quickly, the injuries had taken a lot out of her. But what really concerned Lura was that through it all Dylan had not shed a single tear.
Inside the main foyer a Secret Service Agent stood with a wheel chair at the ready. She quickly rolled it forward towards Dylan, but stopped when her eyes met the icy daggers of the woman in blue. It had taken Lura a good ten minutes of arguing to talk the damn stubborn woman into sitting in the chair even though it was obvious she was ready to pass out on her feet. Dylan finally agreed to the chair but only if Lura offered to push it.
With a tired smile she had settled into the padded chair and, motioning forward, had ordered, "Onward McDuff."
Lura had leaned forward and whispered into one creamy ear. "Now I'm McDuff? Damn, close your eyes for a nap in a military hospital and see what happens. That's the last time I do that." Her comment was answered by a gentle rumbling chuckle from the chair.
Lura rolled them towards an indicated door they exited the building and entered the plush grandeur of the South Lawn. A flag draped metal platform, with a set of stairs and a wheelchair ramp, stood at the edge of the manicure grass, the podium on it bearing the brightly painted seal of the President of the United States.
When they had settled into their assigned spaces on the platform the doors opened again to admit the press and the viewing public, those that had been invited specifically for the ceremony. Lura saw the man from the cave again, the one who claimed to by her mates father. She felt Dylan stiffen as their eyes met. Senator Cameron assisted his wife to her seat then turned and climbed the stairs to his daughter. Dylan began to struggle in her chair to rise and face her father but was stopped by a gentle hand on her arm. She turned and looked into a pair of pleading green eyes. Resigned to having to stay seated she sat up straighter and leaned forward, her white knuckled hands gripping the arms of the chair. Lura expected a low growl to emanate for the tight throat and was genuinely surprised when it did not.
Dylan waited for the man to speak. He stopped directly in front of her chair and stared down into eyes that mirrored his own. Kneeling in front of the injured woman he lowered his head as if in deep thought then raised his head and spoke. "Dylan, when your unit was attacked and you were reported lost three years, I made a promise to God." He paused catching his breath. "I promised that if he were to give me another chance, just one, to have my daughter back I would do everything in my power to work things out. When we couldnt find you, when you were reported dead " he stopped, his eyes filled with tears and he reached out blindly for her hands. Grasping them in his as if to draw strength and reassure himself of her existence. Clearing his throat he continued. "When you were reported dead, I made it my lifes work to understand your lifestyle and try to find a way to come to terms with it. I did a lot of reading, I attended meetings and most importantly I spoke with your Grandfather. I am still not real sure of it all, but I can understand that love comes in a lot of different forms and you dont always have choices about who you love or why. I understand that there is no shame in love and most of all; I understand that God does not make mistakes. He made you the way you are for a reason, and that is good enough for me. There is something I want to tell you and something I have to ask you. First and foremost I love you, no if ands or buts, just the way you are. I realize what an ass I have been to you and your mother. There is no excuse for my behavior, but I have tried with your mother and Grandfather to make amends. They have forgiven me and for that I will always be grateful. Sweetheart there is one thing that I have been waiting and praying for and now thank God I have the chance. He stopped here and looked deep into confused blue eyes. "Please, please, can you forgive me?"
Dylan stared into the tear-streaked face of her father, then lowered her head and shook it side to side. "I dont know, I dont know." She mumbled, "I need time to think, please, give me time." Dylan choked unaware of the tears streaming down her face. Her hands gently pulled away from her fathers as she unconsciously reached back with one hand to her soul mate for comfort, using the other to angrily brush away the tears.
The Senator stood and drew in a deep breath, "I understand honey, I have waited three years for an answer and no matter what it is or how long it takes, I can wait. Thank you for coming home. I love you Dylan." Then he turned and walked away.
After he left Dylan turned as her gaze settled on the figure of her mother. She looked beautiful if not distraught, they had spoken at length on the phone from her recovery room in the hospital, and this was their first face to face in six years. There was a bit more gray in her hair but her features were still stunning. She loved her mother but was disappointed in the lack of support she had gotten from her as a child. Turning her head she caught the dark eyed gaze of her Grandfather. Her cocked an eyebrow at her making her smile. Then he nodded towards Lura and gave her a jaunty thumbs up. Dylan almost choked in surprise as she blushed and dropped her eyes in confusion to the deep laughter coming from the old man.
Lura glanced at her partner in surprise when she heard the sharp quick in take of breath coming from the woman in the chair. She frowned as she noticed the blush in her cheeks and reached over to feel Dylans forehead. "Are you alright honey? You seem a bit flushed. Do you need a glass of water or anything?
"Um, no. Uh no, Im fine, just fine. The soldier stuttered not raising her head." Lura could have sworn she heard something like, "Im gonna have to kill that old man." In a low murmur coming from the chair. Glancing up to see what had caused this reaction in Dylan, Lura was stunned by the face of the beautiful tiny woman seated next to the senator. It was very apparent where Dylan had gotten her incredible looks. The woman was a delicate version of the warrior, with gentle brown eyes, high cheekbones and the same beautiful long black hair streaked now with silver. But it was the figure beside the woman that had her eye now. A tall steel gray haired warrior was seated beside the woman and her husband. The copper skin tones enhanced by the buckskin shirt and pants. Dylan's Grandfather, Gray Hawk, War Chief of the Cherokee nation had come to witness the ceremony in full traditional regalia. His thick gray hair had been combed back into two heavy braids that were tied off with leather wraps, a single eagle feather had been braided into one that lay on his chest like a badge of honor. The bone and stone beads that adorned the shirt formed a screaming hawk talons outstretched. His decorated buckskin pants and leather moccasins glittered the early morning light.
Lura watched as his alert black eyes turned to gaze proudly at his granddaughter, the thick barrel chest inflated as he crossed his arms and waited. As she turned to stare a Dylan she noticed her gazing at her Grandfather and as their eyes locked she felt the shoulder under her hand stiffen, but this time in pride. Dylan seemed to sit up taller; her head raised higher and a bit of the old sparkle appeared in her eyes. In turn the gray haired warrior threw his shoulders back with pride as a smile appeared on the wrinkled face. Lura now knew where her warrior had acquired her courage.
They all settled into padded chairs in front of the podium and within minutes the ceremony began. Lura vaguely remembered the introduction of the Secretary of War who read the citation out loud for the hungry eyes of the nations premier news stations. Her eyes were on the President as she walked to the microphone to address the nation. She spoke of the boundless courage of a young Captain alone in the desert facing insurmountable odds. Of her battle with a ruthless enemy who had made it his mission in life to destroy for his own benefit. She told of those last days in the cave and the firefight that ended in the death of an enemy and the horrendous injuries suffered by the proud defender. The President had tears in her eyes as she turned and called Captain Dylan Hawke to the podium. Lura stood to roll the chair forward but was stopped by a raised hand. She looked on as the woman she loved slowly struggled from the chair, her pale shaky features telling of the strain that simple action was taking on her. Lura remember again, the way the uniform hung loosely on the tall frame and the way the soldier swayed gently when she had valiantly fought to stay on her feet. The warrior stepped forward and bowed her proud head to allow the President to lay the Medal of Honor around her neck, the reward from a grateful nation.
And though she was there in the final days, Lura still had not been able to grasp the full enormity of Dylan's accomplishment until that moment. She had survived for three long grueling years virtually alone in the desert and had cause serious damage to the enemy of the United States and the free world. Lura remember every moment, every smell, every feel from that day. She would remember it for the rest of her life.
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