Chapter Two – Washington
The bed buckled under his over encumbered weight, he finished buckling up the boots as he attempted to stand up. He wished it wasn’t so damn heavy. He’d been doing this routine every day since the Lieutenant had given him the armour in readiness to be sent to war, it was just a matter of waiting for the call now. He stood stretching each arm out, bending each knee and taking steady steps. He only ever did this when the rest of his unit were sleeping, he didn’t want to make the situation any worse than it already was, he didn't want to leave his group, they were his family, leaving them would be the same as his own parents ditching him at the age of five. He just hated the fact that Aidan had to witness his dress-up attempts nearly every time. He knew it hurt her more than anyone.
He could hear her footsteps in the corridor, she was lighter on her feet than most of the kids in the group, but even heavy boots make a loud clunking noise with the lightest of steps. She paused for a moment, her eyes hiding behind a vast mop of blonde fringe, but he could tell she was looking at the armour again.
“Brewer wants the group awake, looks like he’s had another kid dumped on us,” she said huffily and turned from him.
He started to unbuckle the armour plating, “It’s always good to have new recruits.”
“You make it sound like we had a choice,” she snapped, she had always been touchy about new children coming into Junior Company, especially older ones, kids who had had a family before being sent away for their protection. Family was something she had always been vastly jealous of, granted she had grown up with her own twin brother and Frost, but this never seemed enough for Aidan; it was the fact that she had never had any parents to call her own that she hated.
“Just wake Eli, I’ll sort out the others,” he responded, trying his best not to rise to Aidan’s snipes, it was an argument that he knew was coming and was going to try his hardest to avoid it until she eventually snapped. He pulled the rest of his armour off before pushing it under the safety of his bunk, pulling on his normal boots and shirt, so his group were none the wiser of his actions. He cleared his throat before shouting at the top of his voice, “Attention Recruits Wake Up!! You are urgently requested in the courtyard!”
“Frost it’s like 6am!” a drowsy retort came from Angelo from his bunk, “come on, give a guy a break. Some of us were on late shifts.”
“Yeah, don’t really care,” Frost responded confidently, there was a reason why he was in charge of this group, Brewer had told him it would teach him how to be an efficient soldier, and it was something he took seriously, “No excuses, Lieutenant Brewer’s orders front and centre guys.”
It took a while but he managed to herd most of the lazier kids out of their bed and out into the courtyard. He glanced down the line, counting out the ones from his own group and took his place beside Aidan. Eli, considering he had only had a few hours sleep looked considerably awake for an early morning wake up, he nodded at Frost and turned to look at the Lieutenant. He didn't know why but for some reason everything about Eli rubbed him up the wrong way, the fact he was always out to please everyone. As if he had no problems in the world. He couldn’t understand why Eli’s twin sister was so damaged by their childhood and yet he wore it like never mattered. Okay granted Eli and Frost had clashed a few times over Aidan, but that was a completely different thing. Wasn’t it?
Lieutenant cleared his throat, silencing the children around him, the more alert of the group, stood to attention and watched him eagerly.
“Today we welcome David Croker to the confines of Junior Company,” he announced, “you will treat him like the brothers and sisters around you and you will help him become part of this family.”
Brewer turned to Frost marching over to him, “Frost, I want you to take care of Croker within your unit, you and the twins are by far the more experienced of the Company, he will be well suited with you.”
Aidan groaned next to him, he had to stop himself from smiling as Eli nudged her to silence her. They were the most predictive pair he had ever encountered, and he loved the way they always played it out. Aidan would give the kid the hardest time by dosing him down with sarcasm and Eli would calm him with his kindness. It often made Frost wonder what sort of kids they would have been if they had had a secure family to grow up with, who did they take after? He guessed he would never know.
Brewer chose to ignore the retorts of the twins, it was something he had taught himself to ignore, he had a soft spot for the three of them. They were after all his longest serving team, and the best chance that the little boy had at surviving.
“Frost gather your group and make introductions, get him a bunk sorted and get your group ready for the day’s training,” he said, “The rest of you, get yourselves cleaned and prepared for the day.”
He pushed the small boy in Frost’s direction and left them, marching quickly back to his office.
Frost looked down at the kid, he was tiny, granted most children at Junior Company had benefitted from good food and a protected life, but this little boy looked like he’d been chewing on nothing but dust most of his life. He smiled at him as best as he could without looking aggressive, then signalled for his group to gather around the child.
“Welcome to our unit kid,” he began, “I’m kinda the group leader...”
“Ego much,” Aidan snorted with a laugh, “Let me dust your boots for you. Oh worthy leader.”
“There are five of us in total, well six now including you,” he purposefully ignored her and the stifled giggles from the group, “I’m Washington Frost, then we have Angelo, Lem and our twins Elijah and Aidan.”
The boy cast his eyes across the group settling finally upon Aidan and offered a shaking little hand.
“David,” he said in a small mouse like voice, “Isn’t Aidan meant to be a boy’s name?”
“Bite me,” she snapped, ignoring his offer of friendship and strode away.
“You’ll have to ignore her,” Eli stepped in and shook the boy’s hand carefully, “she has issues. I’m Eli, please don’t ever call me Elijah.”
Frost left his group to see to the new recruit and made his way after Aidan, she had marched her way behind one of a teaching buildings and was busy hitting the wall with her fist in anger. He grabbed her hand before she could do anymore damage to herself.
“What the hell’s wrong with you?” he demanded.
“What the hell’s wrong with me? What about you, all kiss ass and what not,” she snapped, wrestling her hand out of his and thrusting them in her pockets, “God he’s just a snotty little brat whose parents couldn’t look after him so they dump him here expecting us to accept him.”
“Which we will,” he asserted himself, “Aidan we’re the lucky ones here, we won’t ever remember our parents, so we won’t understand the pain of losing them. That kid back there has just lost both his, and he probably won’t ever see them again. So stop thinking you’ve had the raw end of the deal here and start acting like the sixteen year old experienced member of Junior Company.”
“He’s got enough of that from Eli surely that’s enough for him to handle,” she responded, “that’s about as experienced as he’s going to get from me.”
“Yeah, but we’ve all got some pretty good individual qualities that David can benefit from,”
“Why should he benefit, what is he ever going to give me that I’m going to benefit from in return?”
“You’re so selfish Aidan, when did that happen,”
“Since when have you been the boss of everyone?” she said, turning from him to walk away, then deciding against it and turned back towards him, fire flickered in her ice blue eyes, he sensed an argument oncoming, “I work twice as hard as you, always have always will. But you’re always the leader, go figure the injustice on that one.”
“This isn’t a game Aida, this is serious,” he turned to her, using her affectionate name, he knew she hated it especially when she wanted to argue with him, “At the end of the day Brewer wants someone who can lead the group, not someone who’s petulant at everyone.”
“Ooh look who swallowed a dictionary,”
“Precisely my point,” he calmed himself, “Look you are the best one out there, which is why you’re my perfect right hand gal. You are I, we’re a team.”
“We’re a team until you decide that this place isn’t good enough for you and you’re too much of an adult to stay here anymore. We’re a team until you say we aren’t,”
“That isn’t true, and you know it,” this had always been her issue, it’s just he was only hearing about it now, this was the first time she’d officially admitted it to him, “You and I, we aren’t just a group of kids dumped in an orphanage, we’re a team. We always will be.”
Before she could snap back he grabbed hold of her and held her tightly, pinning her arms to her side. She was scared of losing him, if she lost him she’d lose the remainder of her family, and he’d never intentionally want to do that to her. He felt her reluctantly relax in his hold.
“You may not be my blood sister, like Eli is to you, but you are
my sister. And nothing will change that.”