- Discussion-Child Abuse
- Discussion-Domestic Abuse
- Discussion-Sexual Abuse
- Explicit Sex
- Permanent Injury
- Action Adventure
- First Time
REID!” a voice yelled out in the hall of Caltech. It wasn’t even six am yet, so Spencer was shocked to see anyone inside of the building besides professors.
Spencer looked around to see who was yelling at him. It was one of the Cadets who was in ROTC with him. They were friendly but not friends. Spencer was on his way to a seven am class after his run but stopped when he realized that Cadet Robinson looked gutted. Spencer double-timed it to him. It was the ROTC Commander’s office. Spencer slipped inside to see that they were watching a movie or something. He saw the plane sticking out of a building, and it wasn’t until he realized that it was Peter Jennings.
With nowhere to sit, Spencer dropped to the floor and settled there as more and more Cadets entered the room, finding space where they could. Spencer felt a person settle on either side of him, closer than usual. Their combined scents told him that it was Stella Rice and John Saw. Two Cadets from the year below that he was the closest to.
Spencer looked at the room. Everyone had a buddy they were pressed close to, and it didn’t have to do with cramp quarters. They all needed a bit of emotional support. Reaching into his pocket, Spencer pulled out his cell phone and saw that Joe had called him five times and had texted to ask where he was. Spencer texted back that he was in the ROTC office watching the horror.
Everyone in the room had grown up during the Gulf War. There were smaller wars that had happened that affected America on the periphery, but this…Spencer could just feel that this was going to change things.
Time lost meaning as the second plane hit the second Tower of the World Trade Center. Spencer looked at his watch. It was just after six. That meant it was nine AM there. Spencer was glad that he had done his run early so he could get over an hour of work done before class that would help him not have as much to do that evening. It was sheer dumb luck that he had been in there. He would have been on the track running normally. He would have come in after this. To find everyone shocked and not understood why. There was something about hearing it and seeing it. Spencer was never going to forget what that looked like.
Spencer understood the words that were being said by the various newscasters as the channel was flipped from one to another. They finally settled on CNN after a few more switches.
No one left, their eyes locked on the screen. Classes didn’t matter to Spencer. There weren’t a lot of sounds in the hall, so Spencer assumed that classes didn’t really matter to a lot of them.
“We’ve never…not since Pearl,” someone in the room said.
“We don’t know what it is,” someone else says.
“The statistics of this not being something of an attack on American soil, either by Americans or foreign operatives, is under one percent,” Spencer said. He stood up, and as soon as he did, Rice and Saw pushed themselves together. “If this was in two different areas at two different times but so close and hitting the Towers…in the middle of New York City.”
“Cadet Reid is right,” the Commander said.
“My great grandmother used to tell me about Pearl Harbor and how the US felt then. I just never…”
“No one ever thought that we would have another attack on American soil,” the Commander said.
There was just silence again. Spencer couldn’t help but read the words that were scrolling on the screen with the closed captioning on. It was easier to do that than to watch the destruction on the TV. Still, he couldn’t help but look up and see the Towers burning when it swapped to that.
“All flights have been banned,” someone said.
Spencer wasn’t even sure it was on the TV or someone in the room. He was watching what was on the TV more than paying attention to anything else.
“CNN agrees on foul play,” the Commander said a few minutes later.
Spencer knew that anyone with a brain understood that. The reports of hijacking came in next.
President Bush was the next thing on the screen. “Today, we’ve had a national tragedy,” he started. “Two airplanes… have crashed… into the World Trade Center… in an apparent terrorist attack on our country.”
A moment of silence was next.
The moment of silence lasted for longer than that to the room. The only sound was breathing. No one was even moving.
Fire at the Pentagon was next. CNN didn’t have a lot of coverage of that at first, but slowly more did come in. Then a fire at the National Mall.
“They are coordinated,” Spencer said, breaking the silence of the room.
His brain wasn’t stopping. Even the news was reporting about the hijacking of the plane that hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. It had departed from Boston’s Logan Airport.
Osama Bin Laden’s name was mentioned next. Still, it was way too early unless Bin Laden was confirming his hand in the attacks.
A roar filled the speakers on the TV, and Spencer watched as a cloud started to envelop the South Tower. The noise got so loud that Spencer felt it in his bones. The TV crew was live and far enough away, but still, it was so damned loud.
“No,” Spencer said as the wind started to clear the area. The Tower is just gone.
“The Tower was on fire. That goes up and down. It spreads into everything. I don’t know the engineering on the Towers, but planes are heavy, and they both left Boston.” Spencer’s words were greeted with silence for a few minutes.
“So, a lot of fuel.”
“Yes. They would have been full when taking off.” Spencer swallowed thickly.
It felt like hours later that the TV showed the North Tower collapsing. Spencer saw through the cloud of dust that there was a portion of it that was still standing, but it fell what seemed like seconds later.
The TV correspondent next brought news that a plane was downed in Pennsylvania. That it was unconfirmed but that there seemed to be another plane headed for the Pentagon.
Evacuation of New York City and Washington DC were ordered, and there was a lot of information trying to be relayed over the news, but most of it was just washing over Spencer as he watched the Towers, where they used to be and the chaos around it.
“DEFCON 3,” the Commander said.
“The first since 1973,” Spencer said to the silent room.
“Spencer,” Joe said from somewhere behind Spencer.
“Sir?” Spencer asked as he turned around and saw Joe in the doorway.
“Spencer,” Rice said.
Spencer looked at her and then at Saw before he looked at the Commander.
“I’ll make sure that everyone who wants to take off can for the day. I don’t think that anyone is really going to push classes today. I expect every single one of you ready for classes tomorrow morning, though.”
“Yes, Sir,” everyone in the room said.
“Anyone who wants to come home with me can. I’m within walking distance,” Spencer said. He checked with Joe that it was fine. Joe nodded his head.
The TV in the kitchen was on to CNN, and the one in the living room was the same. Joe had never had so many kids in his house. Ten people from Spencer’s ROTC unit had come with him home. The pizzas were set to be delivered at eleven. It was the easiest food to order in. No one was hungry at the moment. It was barely eight in the morning, but a local place did breakfast foods and then swapped to pizza and the like for lunch onward. Joe knew that they would gladly deliver that many pizzas to them.
Joe didn’t think that he had ever heard that many kids be so quiet while in a house. He wanted to hear the ruckus that they would typically make, but he understood.
The TV in the kitchen had been on since Joe had woken up after Spencer had shut the front door to the house to go on a run. Joe had been drinking his coffee when the first report had crossed the news about a fire at the World Trade Center. Joe hadn’t thought much of it until he saw that it wasn’t just a fire.
Joe’s first look had him feeling numb. The building wasn’t just on fire. It had a chunk of it missing, too high up to be a bombing that would be able to be done. The damage was too much for that, as well. Then the word plane was uttered by the first person. A plane had hit the Tower. That was a piece of shitty luck.
CNN was the channel of choice, so Joe had settled on it. The words spoken next would forever be stuck in Joe’s memory.
It was Carol Lin, “This just in. You are looking at obviously a very disturbing live shot there. That is the World Trade Center, and we have unconfirmed reports this morning that a plane has crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. CNN Center right now is just beginning to work on this story, obviously calling our sources and trying to figure out exactly what happened, but clearly, something relatively devastating happening this morning there on the south end of the island of Manhattan. That is once again a picture of one of the towers of the World Trade Center.”
Joe’s world had never been safe, not like the rest of the world, but he had felt safe here. Here where nothing about anything that was happening around the globe had touched them since Pearl Harbor. Joe had texted Spencer but wasn’t shocked that he didn’t get a response. Spencer’s class wasn’t until seven, and he would probably run until time to clean up a little in the lockers and then go to class. He called a few times and then just waited for Spencer to get back to him.
Spencer texts when he finally responded to put Joe on edge, so he went to find his son. Spencer was where he said he was going to be but hadn’t noticed Joe at all until after it seemed like for now things were over, and Joe said his name.
The rest of the kids following behind Spencer were not a shock either. What Joe knew of each of them was that they were far from home and didn’t have close friends outside of those that they did ROTC with.
Lunch came and went; a few kids left, but the two that Spencer had been standing by in the room at the school were the longest to hold out.
The ringing of the house phone just an hour before Joe needed to figure out dinner scared nearly everyone. Joe even jumped at the shrill sound of it.
“Nutter,” Joe said.
“Joe?” a voice asked. It sounded wrecked like it was someone who had bee crying all day long.
“Who is this?” Joe asked. He kept his voice light and soft.
Joe closed his eyes. Maria, wife of Richard Deck. There was only a single reason that she would be crying.
“Rich was on the plane that crashed in the field in Pennsylvania,” Maria said.
“What?” Joe looked to see that Spencer and the two Cadets left were looking at him.
“He was going to San Fran to see the kids for the weekend, and then he was going to drive to see you before coming home. He was on that plane.”
“How do you know?”
“I was on the phone with him before he took over controlling the passengers into taking the plane back or at least crashing it. I told him what else had been going on. Others knew it too.”
Joe closed his eyes. If the passengers knew what was going on, he could see them stopping it. It went down after the other three had hit their targets. They might or might not have known the target of it all, but they could assume, just as easy as anyone else, that their lives were not worth the risk of what could happen if they hit their target.
“The South Tower had just gone down and then Rich told me that he loved me and he had to go. I told him it had gone down.”
“Where is your sister?”
“She’s here. Her husband and kids too. I’m telling my kids to get on a bus and go to you. When everything gets figured out on anything else, you’ll bring them here?”
“Of course. I’ll drive and grab them. There is no need for them to take a bus. Just don’t worry. I’ll leave after I eat dinner.”
Spencer was looking at Joe, his face impassive. Spencer was still numb, Joe could understand that.
“Text me where they are, and I’ll pick them. I’ll be in the Jeep.” Joe hung up, and Spencer just gave him a weak smile.
“Deck’s kids?” Spencer asked.
“Yeah, they are at school in San Fran. Deck was going to see them. He was on the plane that crashed into the field.”
“Go. Get them. They love their dad. I’ll be here. School tomorrow and ROTC things in the afternoon. I’ll be content to stay here.”
“We’ll stay with him,” Rice said.
“Good. He’s not good alone.”
Spencer laughed a little at that, but there was no humor in the lines of his face or in his eyes at all. Joe didn’t think there was going to be humor in many people’s lives for the next while. Right now, he had someone who needed him. Deck was gone, and his twin kids were stuck across the country for how knows how long. He didn’t figure that the planes would be allowed to fly for at least a day or two. He would keep the kids here with him and follow them home to drop them off with their mother. There was a lot to do.
Spencer sighed as he put his car into park. It had been a week and a half since 9/11, and he was worn out. ROTC wasn’t doing anything over the weekend. Joe had been gone all week, so Spencer stayed up late watching the news. Learning what he could about all of it. The emotional landscape of ROTC was vastly changed. No one goofed off as much. They were all a year away from graduating and becoming officers. There was no time to fuck around. Still, Spencer knew that if something didn’t give, he at least was going to burn out.
Getting out of the car, Spencer stopped. Joe’s Jeep wasn’t in the same place it had been. Spencer had dropped Joe and the twins off at the airport the day that flights resumed, and there had been no word on him coming home yet. Spencer slung his backpack over his shoulder and stepped out of the way of the door to shut it before he started up to the house. The smell of pasta sauce greeted Spencer before he even opened the door.
“I’m home,” Spencer yelled out before he made his way up the stairs to his bedroom to put up his backpack. He changed out of the clothes he had been wearing all day and into a pair of sleep pants and a warm long-sleeved shirt. It might be September and warm as hell outside, but Spencer still had a bit of that numbness inside of him. He still felt like he needed to dress warmly. It was a strange feeling as he usually only got it when he was in colder climates like the trip that they had taken one winter break at school to Minnesota. Spencer had never been so cold in life, but it had been a good teacher because he had to learn to ignore that kind of stuff to get missions complete.
Joe was dishing up dinner as Spencer entered the kitchen. Spaghetti and meatballs it looked like.
“I saw the dishes in the drainer and the take out in the fridge.”
“ROTC has been hell this week. Though I didn’t expect anything less, so, I ate prepared salads for dinner and high protein for lunch. Oatmeal for breakfast.”
“I know you can cook.”
“Yup, when I have the energy to do so. Everyone on campus is looking at us like we are going to all drop dead soon. There are rumors of all of us dropping out of school and joining up to go to war. It’s insane. The news is nothing but everything to do with the attack, which I understand, but it all feels like it’s too much.”
“That’s why your weekend trip was canceled?”
“Nope. That was because of some big meetings about campus and ROTC security. It’s happening on campus, so most of it will be shut down while they are looking at things. I guess everywhere is freaking out about a lot of things. Caltech was pretty low on the whole totem pole, but the Commander stepped up and offered to get some people in. So I get the weekend off, and you are home, and I think taped games on the couch is in order.”
“That does sound really good. I’ve been making sure that Maria eats. The rest of her family finally made it in as well as the current team that Deck was with. She had more than enough people, and I needed to get home.”
“I was doing okay.”
Joe settled the plates on the table with the shaker of Parmesan cheese and then the tray of garlic bread before he walked around the table to pull Spencer into a hug. Joe was only two inches shorter than him, but Spencer always felt like Joe was still larger than life, even with his limp.
“I know, but I missed you, kid.”
“I missed you too,” Spencer said back to Joe. He hugged him tight, reveling in the feel of Joe there in his arms. He was too old to want to sleep in the same room as him, but he felt like the world was collapsing a little and the knowledge that in Joe’s bed, nothing would ever happen to him called to him like a siren. Spencer had never actually slept in the same bed as him, but a few times, when the nightmares were so bad, Spencer would grab a sleeping bag and sleep on his floor. Spencer wanted to do that now. “I called Bennington on Sunday Mom refused to talk to me, but I asked Doctor Norman to make sure to tell her that I loved her.”
“That’s all you can do at a time like this. So you look like you have the world on your shoulders.”
“I could technically if I pushed my ass to finish up everything that I need for my degrees before January and then take the exit exams for ROTC and slip right into my commission.”
“Is that being offered to others?”
“Across the country, yes? We all know that war is on the horizon as we figure out the full breadth of who had sent this attack. It’s not going to just go away. The US is not going to roll over and let the world fuck her like this.”
“I’d say language, but you’ve still not even learned all that you need on that front.”
Spencer dug into the food, eating a meatball whole, and enjoying the taste of it on his tongue. Joe’s meatballs were the best things in the world. It would be something that he was going to miss when he was away from home for training. He made a mental note to get Joe to make them every single time that Spencer was home. Or at least have some of the sauce in the freezer so he could make it himself.
“So, do you want to do that?”
“I would have to bust my butt, and then I would be worn out before I even join. I just…I feel like I’m hiding, not doing what is needed now.”
“Look,” Joe said as he steepled his hands and let his fork hang down between his arms. “This is going to take a long time. It’s all intelligence now. While the people are screaming for blood and we are all pissed off, everyone who is in control of this will need to make sure that everything is correct before a single move is made. This war isn’t going to be heating up until the time that you are joining your first team. You gotta do what is best for you, Spencer. Not what you think is right for everyone else. You owe it to your future team to make sure that you are doing all that you can to make yourself your best for them. Finish school in the time needed and go to BUD/S the best way that you can. The biggest issue with BUD/S is not getting sick. If you are already run down, you are not going to do them a lick of good.”
Spencer nodded his head and looked down at his food. He had a feeling that was what Joe was going to tell him, and it’s what felt right in his mind but not in his heart, but the heart was a fickle beast with no reason left to it. The heart was what got people in trouble.
“I’ll finish up and get my commission and then make sure that I’m headed to BUD/S.”
“Good. Now eat, you’ve lost a few pounds over the last week, and you need to get them back on. You don’t have the fat to lose on your body.”
“Yes, Sir.” Spencer gave Joe a smile, and for the first time since he had seen the first Tower burning, it felt like it might be a real one
Joe watched as Spencer finished up in ROTC for the day. It was a Friday, and they were all just eagerly awaiting the end of the school year so they could all head onto their new lives as officers in the Navy. At least the ones that it was their final year. It was going to be impossible for Spencer to miss the Jeep even though it was his new one. The old Jeep had finally just fallen apart, and it would have been more to fix it than it was worth, and while Joe had loved it, he wasn’t that attached, so they had gone shopping to buy a new one. It had been easy for Joe to pick out a new one, this time a gunmetal grey that he loved.
It wasn’t long before more of the squad piled out of the locker rooms. Every single kid in the group was changed in ways that Joe didn’t think they would ever be able to recover from. Spencer was the least, but he was still jaded by the war that had started up when all of America had lost its innocence with the attack on the Towers.
The war was still just kind of starting with intelligence being gathered but not given out. Troops were moving around the board in a way that no one understood outside of those who were moving them. Operation Enduring Freedom was the official name for the war on terror that was being staged around the world. The attacks might have happened on American soil, but it was evident that it could happen anywhere at any time, with many of the places a hell of a lot closer than US soil.
Joe itched to be back out there, fighting, even though he had no way of doing it. He wasn’t ever going to be one of the recalled retired soldiers for the war. For the first time since he had accepted that his career in the teams was over, he hated his leg and the bomb that had caused it.
Spencer came out of the locker room that he always came out of. His eyes moved around the field in front of him, and he paused as he took in Joe in the Jeep. There was a frown on his face, and Joe knew that he didn’t like it when his routine was messed up. Spencer had stopped at home and dropped off all of his things before he had gone back to campus for ROTC. He literally just had his clothes thrown over his arm from drill. He was dressed in his regular street clothes.
It was only a few minutes before Spencer was laying his clothes in the back seat to be cleaned before he grabbed the bar at the top of the Jeep and pulled himself up to drop down into the seat. The harness was just a second later. Spencer never got into a vehicle without strapping himself into it. Even when he had bruised ribs from a training accident with hand to hand.
“So. How is the end?” Joe asked.
“Good. Why?” Spencer side-eyed Joe, and Joe knew that he was a little off-kilter by Joe being there waiting for him. Joe hadn’t done that since he had turned eighteen unless Spencer knew if they had somewhere to be, and Joe didn’t want him to walk home and get distracted.
“We are going to go on a drive. I have dinner packed in the cooler. And beer.”
Spencer turned his head all the way around to look at him.
“You are over halfway through the year to twenty-one, and two beers are not going to get you drunk. I only have one, but I figure that with what I want to talk about, having the beers will be better than not having them. I have plenty of water as well.”
Joe didn’t keep up chatter as he drove, but Spencer went over his day in classes and working on the last of his thesis to get his last doctorate. Joe had never been more proud of him at that moment. Spencer had done so much to make sure that he had everything that he thought he would need to be a help to whatever SEAL team took him.
The outlook that was a little way outside of the city was a good place. It was home to young couples who were wanting a little risk to their encounters at night, but during the day, tourists and such could be seen taking a trip there.
“So. You want to talk, and normally we go to a diner and eat so obviously you don’t want someone overhearing us, so what’s up?” Spencer asked as he unbuckled and turned to grab the cooler. He grabbed a bag of chips that was inside. Joe had made sure to pack snacks for Spencer as he was going to want a snack before they ate dinner.
“There are two things that I want to talk about the first isn’t nearly as secretive as the second. You are getting ready to head into something that you’ll have a lot of chances to have me come and visit, at least at certain stages. Graduation and the like. Here in Pasadena, it’s not exactly something that is that important, keeping who I am hidden. No one knows me here. Al’s kept that quiet, and on paperwork, it’s just my name and phone number. Once you join up and then start to get looked into once you are on a team, it’s going to be harder to keep who I am a secret. So how we play that is up to you. I’ve gone to a few SEAL things, and I can easily do that for your things. It’s not a big thing for some of us to want to see the kids who are heading out into the world to wreak havoc. Everyone who has joined up and will be joining up is going to have more want to do damage than sense. That’s why we need good officers. You and yours are going to be that force of good.”
“I don’t mind people knowing who you are to me, but I know that things will be easier in some ways but much, much harder if it’s known that you are my father.”
“The last name thing will help, but I don’t want to put you in a position that you think that I am going to damage your career. I’d rather have you get it on your own two feet than to hide in my shadow all through training.”
“Then the night that I go drinking with my team, you come and crash it.”
“That sounds like a plan.”
“So, what is the other thing?” Spencer asked.
“You people watch a lot. You don’t focus on any one person, but I’ve seen you Spencer throughout the years. I know even though you have never told me what your sexuality is.”
“What do you think that it is?” Spencer asked. He was still eating chips like it was no big deal.
Joe didn’t see any lines of unhappiness in Spencer’s body. He was chill and moving like he usually would. His breathing was not sped up at all or even slowed down. He was calm as fuck. Joe kind of hated it. That Spencer was as calm as he was.
“My crush on Freddie was not hidden from you at all. Then you’ve, I guess, never paid attention to the erection I sport when I watched the volleyball team at Junior ROTC practice. I think that I pretty much like anything that moves as a sexual object but someone that I connect with? I haven’t found anyone. I’ve never had someone that I want to spend more time with, in a romantic way. I know I’m young, but I do meet a lot of people. Freddie’s crush lasted only a short period of time. Though I think it was more because he was easy to do it to. I was already weird around him. I was already that kid who was weird, and he still didn’t hate me. It was safe to have a crush on him. I could act stupid, and he wouldn’t hate me. I’m also fairly certain that he knew that I had a crush on him.”
“Is that why he gave you the car?”
“Not really. He didn’t want me driving the Amazon, even if we did get it rebuilt.”
“It was mom’s. Yeah, I took it over and such, but I had such a love and hate relationship with the car. I’m glad that I finally let it go and sold it to that collector who rebuilds cars in his spare time, but I just…it was hard to let it go. We had good times in that car before she got to where it was safe for her drive, and she had to take the bus. It felt like I was a failure. I wanted to cure Schizophrenia, did you know that? That’s what I wanted to do, and then I grew up, and I understood that it wasn’t what my passion was. I haven’t found my passion, but I enjoy what I do in ROTC. I think that once I hit officer, I’ll like what I do better. I’ll be happy, and that’s good enough for me.”
“What about hiding half of who you are?”
“Why does it matter? I can leer at women enough, and it’s not like I don’t understand how to act around a bunch of men to make them think that I am not checking them out as well. No one that I’m with in training is going to tempt me enough to do something as stupid as to hit on them. I don’t want a person to come home to, Joe. That might change one day, and then I’ll resign my commission if I think I want a guy or I’ll marry the girl, and everything will be just fine. I’m not giving up half of myself to join the Navy, not as I am currently looking at it. I’ll be happy enough.”
“A father doesn’t want just happy enough for their kid, Spencer.”
“I have no clue what I even want out of a partner. At the moment, I’m perfectly happy with my right or left hand and a visual in my head. You know there are kids who are the products of divorce who never want to marry again just like there are kids who have parents who love each other so much that they want to wait for that kind of love, but they never find it.”
Joe gave Spencer a glare. Joe knew that it would just be thrown back at him, but he was happy with his life. He didn’t need a wife to make him happy. He let it go, finally. He knew that the worry that he had for Spencer and Spencer being along wasn’t something that he needed to do. Spencer wasn’t one to deny himself something that he really wanted.
“I’ll let it rest, but just remember that you can talk to me. If the talk of homosexuals or bisexuals and the hatred of them in the teams gets to be too much. I’m pretty forward-thinking, but there were a few men on my team that even I didn’t like how they thought about people who were anything but straight. Then there were the members that didn’t care as long as that gay man didn’t hit on them.”
“I know that it can be toxic, but that’s not going to change until it’s changed from within. Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue, don’t harass might be the party line, but we both know that the pursue and harass parts are regularly ignored. I’ll walk that line easily, and if I survived puberty in ROTC, I’ll get through this. At least I like the female form and a one-night stand here, and there would do a lot to make sure that I’m not harassed or pursued as far as that goes. The egghead vibe that I give off will help as well as long as I make sure that I leer enough.”
Joe laughed, and he knew that Spencer was good at hiding away. He had done good for a year when he was a child until someone had stepped in that cared enough to make sure that Spencer felt safe enough to come out. Spencer crumpled the bag of chips and slipped it into the trash bag that Joe had hanging off the gear shift. He reached back for the beers, grabbing one each. He popped the top off of both before handing one to Joe. Joe held his out, and Spencer tipped his off of Spencer’s before looking out at the city below them.
Even if something happened to Spencer and he was outed, Joe would make sure that he was protected. Joe wasn’t going to lose him to something like that.