Fighting Redemption
Author:Kate McCarthy

“You’re leaving,” she choked out.

 

Ryan couldn’t speak. He watched her stride to the open window, its sheer white curtains billowing. Staring out into the night, she wiped away tears that spilled over and ran down her cheeks.

 

He blinked, his own eyes burning. “I’m sorry,” he said eventually.

 

Fin turned and walked across the room. Sinking to the edge of the bed, she stared down at her hands. “When?”

 

Ryan unlocked his hands from behind his head and reached for her, pulling her down beside him. She stretched out, tucking her head under his chin. Closing his eyes, he breathed her in, allowing his arms to wrap around her. “In the morning.”

 

Fin’s hand fisted in his shirt as she let out a sob.

 

“I have to do this,” he whispered hoarsely. He trailed his fingers through her hair and touched his lips to her forehead.

 

She started to wipe away the tears on her face, and Ryan took hold of her hand, stilling her. “You understand, don’t you, Fin, why I have to do this?”

 

Ryan needed to know that she understood he wasn’t leaving her, he was leaving his past, and trying to build a new future with the Army.

 

“I do.” She choked again and buried her face in his neck, sobs breaking free.

 

“Don’t,” he whispered thickly. “Please don’t cry. You have such a big future ahead of you. You’re going to do big things with your life. Don’t let anyone stop you from being who you need to be, okay?”

 

Fin nodded into his neck.

 

Ryan pushed back so he could look her in the eye. He wouldn’t be there to watch over her anymore, so he needed to know she would look out for herself. “Promise me, Fin.”

 

“I promise.”

 

Satisfied, he reached out and switched off the lamp. Thrust into sudden darkness, Ryan laced his fingers in hers and held her close. When her tears dried up, she drifted off into a deep slumber. In the early hours of the morning, he pressed a soft kiss to her cheek, and disentangling himself, he left the room. Having already said his goodbyes to Mike and Julie earlier in the evening, Ryan clicked the door shut softly behind him and left the house, careful not to look back.

 

That was the last he saw of Finlay Tanner.

 

A month later Jake joined him on the other side of the country. After three years of hard work in the Army, they went through the SAS selection. Ryan found himself thriving under the mental and physical challenge. Sometimes a mere five percent made it through the three weeks. The Regiment had standards—high ones. Ones that wouldn’t be compromised no matter how low their numbers got.

 

Nine months before the selection course, the screening process began. Jake and Ryan trained for months—lifting weights, donning packs that weighed into the tens of kilos, and running miles over mountainous rocky terrain. Together they built endurance, mental strength, and a powerful physique, making them a formidable team.

 

Nearing the end of selection, Ryan was exhausted and almost sure he wasn’t going to survive it. He could see his dream slipping through his fingers, and he was so utterly beaten down, he almost couldn’t give a shit.

 

Then Jake came up beside him, his eyes lighting up in a wide grin, and said, “Don’t let this shit beat you, Kendall. Dig deep and show these cunts how it’s done.”

 

So he did, and after losing a massive ten kilograms over the three weeks, they made it through together.

 

After extensive training operations, their first deployment into Afghanistan arrived. Ryan didn’t sleep once during the entire trip over. Blood fired in his veins, and his heart beat so hard and so fast he thought it would thump out of his chest.

 

The Commanding Officer briefed the entire team honestly. Saying “conditions were extremely dangerous and casualties were to be expected.” That “you will be forced in a split second to determine a pregnant woman from a suicide bomber, traverse fields covered with IEDs that will blow you apart in seconds” and finished with “some of you will be killed.”

 

But none of his team had even been injured, and now here he was on his second deployment, right where he belonged.

 

“Ryan!”

 

He blinked.

 

“Ryan!”

 

Coming back from the past, he realised the Black Hawk had landed back at base and everyone was leaping out.

 

After a team debrief and hot shower, Ryan was walking past the computer room and heard Jake’s shout of laughter. He paused, closing his eyes when he heard Fin’s laugh ring out in return.

 

They were returning to Australia in two weeks. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to go home and see her. Just this once.

 

 

 

 

 

Two weeks later

 

Fremantle, Western Australia

 

 

 

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