The casual passing comment that he had a bad feeling about this one was only half-heard. It was such a common thing to hear in these situations that it had taken on the quality of small-talk by this point, something that went in one ear and then very quickly out the other. Not one thought was to be wasted upon things that were as important to them as the weather was right now, every available thought was instead to be channelled neatly toward the topic of surviving the day. 

“I’m telling you, there’s something funny about this one mate, just watch your back”

“Thank God for you, I was just going to walk in there all guns blazing until you said that”

He knew it was pointless, obviously, but he also knew that if he didn’t say anything and something really did go wrong, he could at least store the agonising grief and guilt alongside the knowledge that he had very halfheartedly tried to warn him. Sarcasm and a joke or two was essential at this stage. Even on a day without scary premonitions it was stressful, and time had uncovered that the best remedy to that was to joke about everything in sight until one had forgotten about their hovering mortality.

“Speaking purely selfishly, don't worry. I would be quite annoyed if you died on me. All that training with a new partner and everything”

“Oh good, I thought you were getting a bit too concerned for my welfare there”

The rest of them were arriving now, guns were checked, checked again, and then checked again. Radios crackled from every corner of the yard and in the very furthest one, a small group of suited individuals stood and tried their best to convey the seriousness of their status and conversation through their stature. The fact that they were stood to the side and not in the middle of the action could have done it for them.

"We'll step out there and get our brains splattered and all they'll care about is the paperwork"

"And don't you go getting ideas into their heads to change that, having you care about me today is bad enough"

It was good to joke about this kind of stuff, to joke about how much they didn't mean to each other, because the more they insisted the other was expendable, the more they knew they were not. To hear how quickly your partner would forget about you was all they needed before a job. Although perhaps on this day, he considered, it was not quite so much what he wanted to hear, would it not be better to hear this literally and not just as it was meant. Perhaps if his partner really did not care for him, and the other way around, a day ending very badly would not be so bad for them personally.

“So you got any good plans in line for this evening”

“Of course, I’m going ice-skating aren’t I”

He decided his next tactic to calm his heart rate and to try to limit the uncomfortable amount he was sweating today was to convince himself that they would both get out of this just fine. Maybe on the way home he would slip the suggestion of some beers and a takeaway into conversation and he could spend the evening talking about anything and everything under the sun and forgetting the butterflies that had recently invaded his abdomen, certainly without invite. 

“It looks like we’re on the move, got everything you need? You know what you’re like”

“There you go again, saving my life. I was just about to leave without my clothes”

He tried to laugh at that, or at least to smile, but he found he couldn’t for the lump in his throat. Why he had lost faith in his ability to save his partner’s life in a more literal fashion, he was unsure, but it wasn’t something that was optional. There were no second chances if something went wrong here. The remaining members of the team were getting into position and he tried very hard to make eye contact with each of them, hoping to find some spark of uncertainty in one of them that he could lean on to amplify his own reluctance and call this thing off. 

“Stay sharp ok, keep your eyes open that’s all”

“Mate, we’re trained for this ok, nothing is different today”

And there he managed to make eye contact, but not with who he wanted to. There was no useful spark of trepidation in these eyes that he could try to evoke more of, just the focus on the job that he saw every time. He settled his stance into the best personification of hesitation and unsurety that he could manage, but nobody else seemed to be on his wavelength, they were telling those all-essential jokes that they all relied on so much. Someone was practicing removing their gun from their holster and spinning it around their finger in the most cinematic way they could, earning them stern glances from the people in suits, and despairing glances from their teammates. 

“In that case then, some beers and a takeaway?”

“Well not right now if that’s ok with you, maybe this evening would be better”

There they were again, the jokes, but he took the butterflies in his stride and directed his thoughts toward the promise of an evening in which two alive people were involved. Two alive, uninjured people if he was exceptionally lucky. He didn’t dwell too much on how a bad mission could result in any of them dead in seconds, but he only seemed to be caring about himself. He promised to whatever was out there, that if he made it out alive and unscathed, both physically, and without the loss of his partner, he would be the most unselfish person one could possibly encounter. He would think every second of every day about how he could protect his other teammates, he would worry about them constantly. If only he and the man beside him would make it to the evening, some beers and a takeaway awaited them.

June 15, 2021 18:37

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RBE | We made a writing app for you (photo) | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

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