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Author's Chapter Notes:
I really shouldn't be starting another story right now, I'm lacking time as it is to finish my other fics, but I was listening to a song the other day and was inspired to write this, it just wouldn't go away until I had written something down, so this is what i've come up with. Its based on the song Travelin' Soldier by the Dixie Chicks.

I’ll try to update as often as possible, so if you like it, give it a read and let me know.

As always, I own nothing, just borrowing them for a little while.

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Chapter One



His finger brushed against the trigger, a nervous reaction to the actual threat that lingered by, or a potential mistake, tiredness and fear making him slip, what if he wasn’t seeing or hearing the things that he thought he was seeing and hearing. Had he been out there for so long, the sun too bright for his eyes, the heat starting to wear him down, that he was slowly losing the plot. What if it all became too much, and he was caught of guard pointing the gun, pulling the trigger on the wrong person.

He couldn’t differentiate the feelings and that might have scared him more than the fact that he was carrying a loaded weapon. The point was to shoot the enemy on sight, no hesitations, no thinking… just acting.

He wasn’t really sure he could do that. And then suddenly the question his brother had thrown at him months beforehand, finally made sense.

What the hell had he been thinking?

His breath catching in his throat, he lowered to the ground, his knees pressing into the dirt underneath him and he dropped his weapon to his side.

Closing his eyes, he tried to steady his breath, but nothing really helped, not when he was consumed by his thoughts. The fear of where he was, and of where he currently wasn’t, almost to much to take.

“Michael.”

He glanced over his shoulder and saw fellow officer, and friend James Whistler moving towards him.

James knelt down beside him and raised his hand pointing to the line of trees ahead of them. “We’re to push ahead, take over the line.”

Michael glanced over his shoulder again movement caught his eye and he knew the rest of his squad moving closer.

He drew in a deep breath and looked back to his friend. “I’ve been sitting here for almost 40 minutes, I’ve seen…”

“Yeah, I’ve seen them too.” He answered. He pushed himself up and started moving again. “Got to do what you’ve got to do.”

So they pushed forward, they had barely made the tree line when fire opened on them, it was as if he were watching in slow motion, bullets echoing around him, the screams of his fellow soldiers and the enemy as they were hit.

He dropped to the ground and watched in horror as the explosion tore through the trees. There was nowhere left to go, trapped and alone. He closed his eyes.

If only it were as easy as wishing he were somewhere else and having it be true.

What he wouldn’t give for that right now. To be there with her, its where he should have been all along. And now… if he were to ever see her again, he would tell her that he loved her, and that he was sorry……


~~~**~~~


Sara drew in a deep breath and pushed open the kitchen door, her fingers grasping the strings of the apron, she tied it around her waist and then reached into her pocket for the small notepad and pencil.

Glancing around the café, she saw the same people as usual. She had only been working there for 3 months, but she already had her regulars, one man in particular who would always sit in her section. Even to this day, she still wasn’t sure what to make of him, he was friendly enough, but Sara could tell there was something else there. It was his eyes, the sad look they contained. He was about 30 years of age and had short dark brown hair. It had been pointed out to her by one of the other waitresses early on, that he was most likely from the army, it seemed that a lot of the men from around here ended up going into the army.

Inhaling another sharp breath she moved across the café towards the booth he was seated at and held her notepad out, ready to take his order.

She hadn’t really needed to do that though, he always ordered the same thing. Everyday he was in there, no matter whether it was morning or night, it was always pancakes, eggs and orange juice.

He glanced up at her and offered a half smile, and even though she was still unsure of him, she knew that he liked his smile.

“What can I get you?”

He picked up the menu and spent a few moments scanning it, as if he was uncertain of what he wanted, but when he placed the menu back down onto the table top and looked up at her, he shrugged his shoulders. “its always the same thing.”

“And we always do this.” She replied. “So, pancakes it is.”

He nodded back at her and smiled again. “Thank you Sara.”

She wrote the order down and spun around, heading back behind the counter, she tore the sheet of paper of and placed it down, Tommy the cook, reached over and grabbed it, winking at Sara in the process.

“You know that guy, is always in here.”

Sara looked up to see her friend and co-worker standing at the end of the counter, she was busy pulling her long dark hair back into a ponytail.

“And I think that he’s always in here because of you.”

Sara felt herself blush, and avoided looking at her friend. “He is not, and besides, he’s far too old for me. In case you’ve forgotten, I am still only 16.”

She walked towards Sara, her hands on her hips, a small smile playing at the corners of her mouth. “And, what is wrong with that, he’s kinda cute if you ask me.”

Sara placed the notepad down onto the counter and turned to face her friend. “Then why don’t you go out with him.” She flashed a smile and then quickly looked away.

She held her hand out, flashing the engagement ring she had been given a month earlier. “Because, as it happens, I’m already taken.”

Sara raised her hand to her mouth, feigning shock. “Oh I hadn’t realized, you mean that you’re engaged.”

The other girl shook her head, hands still on her hips. “I swear Sara, that sometimes you want to end up all alone.”

“I will not end up all alone, I have my whole life to find someone. I’m barely even out of high school, and you want me married already.”

“You mean that you dropped out, just to drive your father crazy.” She leant back against the counter, one hand reaching up to the ponytail, twisting her hair between her fingers. “And I don’t want you married, I just think that you should have a little fun.”

Sara poured out the glass of orange juice and placed it onto the counter. “And you’re driving your parents crazy by falling in love with a solider.”

“What can I say, that man sure makes the uniform look hot.”

Sara shook her head, but laughed anyway. “Have you heard from James?”

The young woman pushed away from the counter and stared down at the floor. “No, but he’s only been gone for three weeks.”

Sara looked up at her and smiled softly. “I’m sure that you’ll hear something soon.”

“You know when he gets home, James knows a lot of guys Sara, I’m sure he could introduce you to some of them.” she said with a wicked grin.

Sara ignored her friend and delivered her order. She placed the food down on the table. “Is there anything else that I can get you?”

He looked up at her and shook his head. “No, thank you anyway.”

“You could have at least sat with him. There’s hardly anyone in here.” her friend told her as she made her way back behind the counter.

“Gretchen stop trying to set me up. I don’t need anyone thank you.”

Gretchen turned to face a customer that had just sat down. “Please tell her that she is wrong.”

The man who must have been about 50 looked up at Gretchen with confusion and the two friends laughed.

“Maybe you should just stick to working, not match making.”


~~~


Sara pushed open the front door and walked into the living room. She could hear her father on the phone in his office, and right now, she really didn’t want to talk to him. He would only give another lecture about her dropping out of High School, about how she had wasted her potential. She could be anything she wanted, but now she was left working in a diner with no real future.

Dropping her bag on the sofa she headed towards the kitchen, pouring herself a glass of juice she sat down at the table.

She wasn’t really sure as to why, but she had agreed to meet up with Gretchen later that evening. The 20 year old had somehow convinced her that she was in need of some fun.

What she was really in need of was some sleep, but that wasn’t likely to happen tonight.

After finishing in the kitchen, Sara headed upstairs to her room. Changing out of her waitress uniform, she produced some clean clothes from dresser and placed them on the bed.

The white peasant top and dark blue jeans was her usual favorite outfit, she felt the most comfortable wearing it, and assumed that it would ideal for tonight, because she didn’t feel the least bit comfortable going out.

After successfully avoiding her father, Sara made her way back down to the kitchen. Glancing at the clock on the far right wall, she saw that it was already 9pm. Gretchen had told her she would be there at around 9:30pm.

Hearing her father moving around in the living room, she grabbed her bag from the table and walked over to the kitchen door, glancing over her shoulder to make sure he didn’t see her, she let the door close behind her and headed out into the cool night air.

Folding her arms across her chest she paced back and forth, she really wanted to stay in tonight, curl up in bed with a book, but no, instead she was being dragged to a party by her friends who thought it would be fun to get wasted and wake up in the morning with no recollection of what had happened the previous night.

It sure as hell didn’t sound like her idea of a fun.

Several minutes passed, and then she noticed a faint light washing over the garage, moving down the driveway, she saw Gretchen’s car parked on the street, and the dark haired woman was waving from the window.

With a deep breath Sara nodded to herself and headed towards them.

“Get in already.” Gretchen smiled at her. “We’ve got places to be.”

The back door swung open and Sara stepped forward, recognizing Gretchen’s friend Charlotte, the woman was two years older, but she had worked at the café for several years before leaving after marrying the man of her dreams. Sara believed that it was her job that she now had.

Pulling the door shut, Gretchen pulled away from the curb.

“So where exactly are you taking me?” Sara wanted to know.

“Does it matter?” Gretchen laughed. “Sara, you’re 16 and free. You can do whatever you want.”

Well that was a line she had heard over and over for the past several weeks. She should have been used to it by now, but she wasn’t.

“Gretch come on where are we going?”

Gretchen ignored her friend and kept driving.

“Don’t worry sweetie, you’ll see soon enough.” Charlotte told her.


~~~


Sara pushed past several people standing near the doorway and stepped back out into the cool night air. There were people out there, far less than were inside, and she was relieved that she could finally hear herself think again.

They had ended up at a house on the other side of town, the party was for a friend of a friend, apparently.

She glanced down at the drink in her hand and sighed heavily. It was most tempting for her to dump the drink and call someone to pick her up, but when she turned the corner of the house, to the courtyard she saw several people standing near the fence, and one in particular caught her eye.

She was surprised to see him there, but curious at the same time. Approaching them, he turned around and looked at her, smiling when he recognized her.

“Sara, I wasn’t expecting to see you here.”

Shrugging her shoulders, she smiled back at him. “I was dragged here by a friend.”

“The girl from the café?” He asked.

She nodded back in response. “That would be her, she can be a little much at times. But she means no harm.”

“Well regardless, I think that I can handle her.”

He motioned towards a bench on the other side of the yard and she followed him over, sitting down next to him she placed the glass next to her.

“So you’re not a drinker then?” He wondered, glancing at the still almost full glass.

She shook her head, feeling slightly embarrassed. “Not exactly.” There were reasons why, but she wasn’t going to get into them right now, and especially not with him.

“Sara.” He asked after awhile. “How old are you?”

She avoided looking up at him, was it that obvious that she was still so young? Maybe she really should have refused Gretchen’s invitation.

“Sara.”

“I’m 16.” She was sure that she could feel her face turning a horrible shade of red.

“I figured around there.” He answered. “So can I also ask then, why the hell are you working in that diner?”

She momentarily looked up at him and shrugged her shoulders. “I guess that I just wasn’t dealing with school very well.”

“Not your thing huh?” he laughed.

“Not really no, I’m sorry, but I don’t really want to share that part.”

He held the glass up and nodded slightly. “No problem.”

“What about you?” She responded, hoping it would take the questions of off her.

“I’m not that interesting believe me.”

Sara shifted in her seat. “Well some of the girls, they mentioned that you were, I mean you were in the…”

“Army.” he finished for her. “I was for nearly 7 years.”

“What happened?” She curiously wanted to know. “I probably shouldn’t even ask, but….”

“You’re curious. I understand.” He shifted a little awkwardly in the seat. “I was uh, injured. Took several months to recover.”

She looked up at him and could tell that it was still painful for him to talk and think about. “I’m sorry, its none of my business.”

“I do get it though.” He answered. “Why you’re curious. The war, its one thing to hear about it on the news, it’s a little different to hear from someone who has actually been there.”

“What is it like?” She felt horrible for asking, it really was none of her business, but she had heard a lot about the war, she had never met anyone who had served before, so her interest was high.

“What I had to do, what I witnessed, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.” he responded. “The nightmares, I thought they would never go away.” He lowered his gaze to the ground, he wasn’t sure if he felt embarrassed or ashamed, or what.

“And now?”

“I’m working on it.”

Several other party goers walked past and they sat in silence for a few minutes.

“Do you know anyone who’s served?” He asked.

Not until now, she thought to herself. And she was glad for that. If he thought that he wouldn’t wish it on anyone else, it really was more horrible than anything she heard about on the news or read in the papers.

And she wasn’t sure if she would be able to handle someone she knew, someone she cared about going through that.

“No, no one, with you as the exception.”

“Then you’re the lucky one.” he replied.

“Was it really that bad?”

He drew in a deep breath and looked back at her. “I watched my men die and there wasn’t a damn thing I could to do to stop it, or help them.”

She reached across, placing her hand over his and looked him in the eye. “I’m so sorry Paul.”


~~~


Gretchen leant forward, placing her elbows on the counter and sighed heavily. “So, where the hell did you get to last night?”

Sara turned to look at her. “Sorry about that, I really wasn’t in the mood for a party.”

Gretchen tilted her head to look at her friend. “So, what happened to you?”

Sara felt herself smiling, “Well actually, I ran into Paul.”

Gretchen’s eyes went wide and she stood up, definitely more interested now. “And?”

“And what?”

The other girl laughed. “Come on, you have to give me something, what happened?”

“We talked for awhile and then he drove me home.” She answered. “Nothing happened though.”

Gretchen studied her for a moment, “But you like him right?”

Sara shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know Gretch. He is twice my age.”

“Like a younger woman has never gone out with an older man.” She laughed. “You should think about it.”

The door to the café swung open and both girls turned to look as a young man walked in. He moved towards one of the booths and sat down.

“Guess I have to get back to work.” Sara said.

As she moved around the counter, Gretchen grabbed her arm. “It doesn’t get you out of giving me details.”

The two friends shared a laugh and Sara shook her head, walking up to the booth.

She produced the notepad from her pocket. “Hello.”

He barely looked up at her. She was sure that he smiled at her, but she couldn’t really tell for sure.

“What can I get for you?”

This time he looked up at her, and she was certain her breath caught in her throat and she gasped, feeling embarrassed, she glanced at the notepad before looking back at him.

“Sorry, so do you know what you uh, what you want or do you need…” She felt foolish and offered a polite smile.

“I was thinking, just coffee for now.” He replied.

She nodded and became flustered, she started to put the notepad back into her pocket, and when she heard Gretchen across the room clearing her throat, she dropped her hands to her sides.

“Of course, I’ll get that for you.”

She moved back towards the counter and placed the notepad down.

“Are you alright?” Gretchen asked, trying her hardest not to laugh.

“I’m fine.” Sara shot back.

“Of course you are.” Gretchen placed the coffee pot down in front of Sara. “By the way, he’s looking over here.”

Sara looked up at her, she never intended to smile, but she couldn’t help it.

“He’s pretty good looking, don’t you want to get back over there.”

Sara picked up the coffee and spun around, almost in a trance like state she made her way back to the table.

Pouring out the coffee, he glanced up at her and smiled. “Thank you.”

“Of course.”

For a moment she stood there, staring at him. She couldn’t seem to not stare at him, he must have been the most handsome man she had ever seen, after all, he literally took her breath away.

Looking at the name tag she wore, he hesitated to start with, but then spoke up again. “Sara.”

“Yes.” She replied, feeling embarrassed that he had caught her staring.

“I just thought that maybe you’d like to sit.” he explained, glancing up at her, looking away again a second later. “The company would be nice.”

“I probably shouldn’t.” She answered, but it was as if she had no control over herself and she sat down anyway.

He looked up at her again and smiled shyly. “My name is Michael.”

She smiled back, and then pointed to her name tag. “Sara.” But then he already knew that after having just said her name.

“I don’t mean to keep you, if you’re busy.” he replied.

She glanced around the café, there were only 3 customers, not at all busy, not at all tempting enough to leave that table right now.

“Its fine, I can sit for awhile.” She answered.

For several minutes, they just sat there in silence and Sara knew that she was staring at him, she was just thankful that he never looked up at her, never caught her out.

“I’ve been in here a few times.” he said. “It was a long time ago though, you weren’t working here then.”

She shook her head. “No, I’ve only been here for 3 months. I just finished school.”

“Fox River High?” he asked, barely looking at her.

“Yeah.” She shifted in the seat. “You went there as well?”

“For awhile, but I uh, I mean we moved around a lot, never really stayed in one place for long.”

Sara nodded slightly, something on the other side of the room caught her attention and she glanced over, seeing Gretchen standing there, grinning back at her. Feeling embarrassed, she turned to Michael, hoping that he hadn’t seen anything, but he looked oblivious, and she was eternally grateful.

“Sara.”

She swallowed the lump that had suddenly formed in her throat and looked up at him.

“Would it inappropriate to ask if I could see you.”

“I uh, well I’m not…. What do you mean?”

He clasped his hands together and shyly glanced up at her. “Well I just assumed that you’re finishing soon, I thought that maybe we could…”

Without hesitating she blurted out yes. “Sorry, I’d like that though, actually I know somewhere we could go, there’s something I want to show you.”

He looked slightly surprised, but thrilled at the same time. “Uh how long until you finish?”

She glanced over to the clock on the wall, and then back to Michael. “About 20 minutes, you don’t mind waiting?”

Shaking his head, he smiled up at her and then reached out for the glass in front of him. “No, I don’t mind, besides I’ve barely even started on this.”

“20 minutes then.” Sara laughed.

She walked back to the counter, her breath catching in her throat at what she had just agreed to. She didn’t know this man, in fact all she knew was his name, but it was those eyes. Sparkling blue, the way they lit up when he smiled at her, and it made her feel important, wanted even.

And if that’s how she would feel every time he smiled at her, then how could that be wrong.

Gretchen jumped in front of her as she made her way behind the counter, she desperately wanted information, and wanted it know.

“Gretch, are you alright?” Sara smiled.

“Are you kidding me? Who is that guy? And what were you talking about?”

Sara didn’t say anything to her friend, she just went back to her work, a smile on her face, a smile she hadn’t shown, for a very long time.