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A humid breeze brushed past as the sun reached its highest point in the sky. The small boys following their mother in a duckling formation, each on the same path, hand in hand. Unaware of their future stop, the boys nearly running into one another, leaving the smallest one to lose the hand of the one before him. Falling to the ground, the white cloth took the brunt of it. Settled into his spot, he was all too curious about the ground surrounding him. Laughing and throwing it around, even as his brother tried to tug on the woman's dress and alert her to the mess that was becoming.

Too busy with her work, checking on the needs of others, the two went ignored, barring an emergency. This was their home, there was nothing currently problematic. A little dirt wasn't going to hurt anyone. Her line of thinking would change later.

"Romy. No." Diego pressed, standing in front of Roman as he moved to stand up. The toddler only a little wobbly due to the uneven land. Dirt marring his curls and face, smeared across the diaper.

Pushing the boy down, Roman froze. A loud, tearless cry shrieking causing their mother to call out, "Diego!" Attention now taken, Roman made his move. Quiet as a mouse, he took off running for the pig pens. That diaper becoming heavier and heavier, holding him down from his full speed, drooping but he managed it.

Once out of sight, all that could be heard was a frantic mother crying out, "Roman! Roman!"

Squeals from both the pigs and Roman were the only trail to follow, until finally another little finger pointed him out. Eyes went wide, nearly in hysterics. "Roman, no! That is not mud! You stay away from the pig poo!"

Caught in the act, he dropped everything he had, including the bulky fabric that was covering him. Finally free, he ran as fast as his little legs could carry him, calling out, "P! P!"

Interruptions, that was why he had been sitting here, again. Interruptions in class, interruptions in life, interjections in the middle of a lesson. He hadn't done anything bad, only added to challenging questions, ahead of the class. But some didn't want to see it that way. Only that he was speaking out of turn or making fun of something he had no place in doing so in class. Another stuck up teacher who didn't want to listen beyond the believed disrespect they saw from Roman.

The words spoken to him droned on by, as eyes kept flickering towards the time. Diego was waiting on him, to drive home. He wasn't going to be happy about this, but he had to know he would be there, regardless of the many times he threatened to leave without him. The walk home would be long enough and people would worry, wouldn't they? Unable to leave until he breathed the words that were given to him, admitting his faults and promising to try harder. Bag thrown over a shoulder, ready to apologize to his brother, to explain all that happened, only to see an empty spot where he always had been.

For a short moment, his heart fell from his chest. But instead of staying there, it hardened. The shift in his features all too apparent. Marching to a beat all of his own, left in his head, he paved that path home. It would take him over an hour, talking, singing to himself, dancing down the side of the road. Refusing to be let down by this all and refusing to be the one to ever leave anyone behind the way he had.

Even as he pushed the door open, seeing his mother's bright and happy face as she set up the table for dinner. Unaware of all that happened. "How did it all go? Diego said you joined a club?"

It figured, a lie to cover up what he had done. Looking down, he laughed and nodded. "Not so great, but I liked the walk. I think I'll keep doing that."

Confusion was written on her face, wanting to ask more but that would have to wait for later. "Well, best to get washed up. Everything's almost ready."

There was a freedom that came with the weekend, after he had paid the price. A deal cut down to what should have been his soul. The amount of work to drive through future weeks. It would become a worthy venture, not that he would admit that to anyone else. For a taste of empty fields he practically glided through.

A ruffled noise behind him had him looking back and groaning. Her ponytail bouncing around, giving her away before he even caught sight of her wide grin. The winner of an unsolicited game here. "Maya, what are you doing?" Roman's voice low, as though someone would hear him now, exasperated.

"I can't drive yet, and you're off for adventure. What does it look like I'm doing?" She laid it all out, as obvious as it may be. He couldn't deny her most things, even if he tried.

"If I don't turn around now, dad is going to kill me." His voice serious and stern, but never turning back. His mind racing with thoughts of how to counteract that future problem.

"Don't worry about it. I'll blame it on Diego." His smile now matching hers. This is exactly why she was his favorite.

"Who does he think he is? He's so selfish, joining a cause he doesn't know anything about. He's going to get himself killed and we won't even get to bury him. He's worthless." Diego's words were harsh, unwilling to be quieted by anyone around. Only fueling Xavier to cheer him on.

He's been seeing red for the past fifteen minutes. He knows because he's taken those small glimpses of the clock against the wall, with each movement back towards the kitchen. The route stayed the same, back and forth, back and forth, as he ran his hand over his face. It was too hard to swallow, the words that were spoken far too easily. From someone that was supposed to care so much. Words, always words. Nothing beyond talk. And now there's little left.

Tense broad shoulders, a dark gaze set on the disruption calling for a territorial nature, dominating the room in a fluid motion. The uprising that comes as he moves, straight for the target. There was a reason he was deemed Bull. And now, he was one that may as well have entered a china shop. Familiar faces, each arguing with one another, they turned to him. Some turning on him, just as they had moments ago, leaving him in the other room alone to hear all that was said. Others hoping to calm the situation down. But it was too late now.

A blur of words bounced off him as he lunged at the other man. At his brother. The source of every venomous word spoken here, adding to the tears streaming down their mother's face. There was a flurry of thought in those slow moving seconds of moving backward through air. A voice screaming to stop, a voice crying Roman's name. Even after the loud crack as they fell through the table and to the floor.

Efficiency and effectiveness of protocols were what made for life and death experiences. Long-term and short-term. It was a difficult position to be in, when you were so certain of yourself, your own abilities, but were only viewed as the lowest level on the totem pole. Frustration was always quick to follow, but not enough to stop him. He had gone over everything he was told to, but what output was insufficient.

Tired of being waved off and being told to leave it alone, he couldn't. He may not have the same education as some here, and far less experience, but that didn't change the facts. What remained seen was in the logs.

Following the chain of command, he didn't care for how he was turned away because another man knew what he was doing. This wasn't some claim against that. A door opening, Roman took a deep breath, determined to be heard.

"I'm sorry for the time, X.O., but I noticed a discrepancy and I've made little headway in having anyone take a look at this." Roman spoke, as he transferred the information in hand.

Only a distinct thrumming is heard as darkness falls. Light is low except for one place, the single space where her voice come purring over the crowd. He's at the bar, drawn to turn by a force that is not his own. He can't move, lost in the story that calls to this fire that burns deep in his chest. Burning like a bonfire glistening against sand and waves alike. There is no where else to turn, even as friends try to talk to him. All words ignored. His life drawn to the small figure of a stranger.

Her words were oxygen, and he moved away from the bar, from everything he knew and he moved quietly towards her. Steps finding purchase in any position that led him there. His only desire to be able to speak to her after it was all over. The way her dark eyes fell upon him, he held the contact, feeling as though he would burn up from the inside out. Nothing to be left of him outside of select ashes to float down.

The dull ache as muscle cried out. Whether from over extension or the shock from being forced upon over and over. The darkness was only a temporary sense of relief, set for what was to come next. Swallowing the dry lump in his throat, Roman tried to force deep, slow breaths. Something had to happen sooner than later, and he only hoped it did. He felt so far away from life, a sense of vertigo drawing into him as he wished his hearing could focus on better information. A better future for him.

Arms bound behind his back, bare to the world as the chill resonated deeper and deeper into his bones. Beyond the means of feeling his skin crawling through shivers brought on by pain and his current surroundings. Each second here could move into his dying day as his lack of usefulness was understood never to change. But that wouldn't stop him from making things hard on anyone that came in.

Left in this cell, he was left cornered, but he heard the door open. The sound of those on the other side moving towards him. Two sets of steps, no, three.

"Time for another talk, Cortez." One voice began, as another one kicked him. "Get up."

The demands set, he stayed down, memorizing the pain as he was in it, purposely making it out to be worse than it was. The ability to breathe stayed true to life, as the wet cloth stuck to him, as he gasped for air. Gaining help to stand, only to head butt the one to his left.

"I thought you said you dropped that red meat diet," Roman chastised in a rushed whisper. He needed to keep the man conscious, the best he could. Talking where possible felt the best way to do that. Readjusting his hold, he tried to be weary of too much, given the placement of the wound. A breathless chuckle quickly turned to a small huff. "Don't tell my husband."

Checking around the corner, he waved someone else over. "Secrets safe here, but you're telling him when we get out of here. I need something to look forward to." A few more deep breaths, and Roman was running to the next position.

"What makes you think you're going to hear about this?" The tired voice replied back with ease.

"I've got bets riding on this. I'll find out one way or another. I can get help...sir" The chuckle heard was worth it, even if the pain that followed may not have been.

"Why are you here alone like this? Where is she?" She asked in their native tongue. The questions are hardly questions though, as she looks around and sees no sign of anyone else. No signs of anything but what little he has here now. A home cleared out of any real definition beyond what he feels like internally. An empty mess.

"After everything, Maya," he rubbed the back of his neck, choosing his words carefully. "We thought it best to go our separate ways."

She dropped her purse on the table, hard. A death glare thrown his way, one that would have left anyone else running for the hills, but Roman knew better. This wasn't about him. "After everything, you mean she left your ass." She stated all too specifically. But he only shrugged in response, walking away taking a long swig of his beer.

"What's the difference?"

A large clash, leaving chairs and silverware falling onto the floor made Roman turn. Ready to fight whatever was to be faced in that moment. Adrenaline pounding through his veins, he could practically feel his own pulse. His first thoughts rounding about how he wasn't going to go back. But even as he held a weapon out, moving around the counter, he found the dog.

"How the hell did you get out of that room?" Roman groaned, watching him eat his large plate of nachos. The dog held no shame, enhaling each bite. "You know, that was mine, right?"

Only a few chips left scattered on the floor, as the dog licked the rest of the beans off the tile. A streak of unreachable nacho cheese across his nose. Roman had to laugh and shake his head. "At least you have good taste. Huh, Nacho?" The name felt like it fit, given the look he was now getting. Grabbing a cloth, he went to the sink to wet it. The dog following behind, tail wagging, expecting water to wash down the stolen meal.

The path was a flurry of items as he pulled open a drawer, a door, through a systematic pull of objects and items that were held closest to him. The territory may be known to him, but not a single sign of him would be left behind. Rigid shoulders that practically leapt away as slender fingers tried to slow his movements. A plea to stop, to listen, to think about what he was doing. Except, the entire time, he was. He knew what he saw, he knew what he read. He could practically hear her laughter all over again, only directed at him.

The pain in his chest fueled his anger, numbing his traits to something far less readable. Ignoring her, he continued to place what was his in the dark duffel bag. Finally stepping back, she took a long breath, pinching the bridge of her nose. Appearing more and more like a parent over a child, and less like a woman to her scorned lover. "Roman, you know I love you. You have no reason to act like this, just like you had no reason to read my messages."

Messages that weren't for him, but she had been sloppy about it. It wasn't something purposeful, but now, he wished it had been. He wished he had followed that gut feeling early on. The one he let her smother with every fake thing she brought to their relationship.

"Tell that to your next sucker. I'm sure you have them lined up at the bar." Words dull, unfeeling, as if they had died before falling from his lips.

A crack reverberated through the room, the sound of her hand hitting his cheek. His jaw set, face barely turning away from her. He moved to stand at attention, to someone who wasn't part of that life. "You done?" he asked, over the outbursts. But his feet were already leading the way out the door by the time she answered him.

A foreigner in an less than foreign land, it was the only way he could begin to describe the feeling that came over him as he stepped through those crowded doors. A new life awaiting, with a new set of rules and commands. Change was exciting, but there was a little cloud that left him internally questioning where this would lead. Readjusting the strap over his shoulder, he felt like a civilian.

Between war and patrol ships, there had been many days he missed being out of uniform. But now, it was one of those things he missed. A second skin he had long learned to work through during his own antics on a ship surrounded by a different set of brothers. Ones that didn't always need to speak things that held understanding. The level of similarity in experience. With hopes and dreams of lives they would continue to live later on. Ones who covered his back, and he theirs, regardless of what they were all up against.

And with a new opportunity, new adventures waiting, there was so much to take in. He took a deep breath in, believing that he could make a future here...or die trying.

INCOMPLETE forging on ahead no matter the cost

3 BOOM 2:45
4 SHE BURNS 3:50