Semper Mine (Chapter Seven: Sawyer, page 1 of 4)

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My first day at the camp probably couldn't be stranger. At least it's quick. After our exercises, the kids start to arrive. There's a big dinner with the families, and then my speech. By the time the evening reception is over, it's lights out for the kids.

I'm almost grateful when Katya goes to bed early, too, leaving me with the guys for a couple hours of poker and talking. I don't have to admit to her that she was right about the speech. Maybe she's right about me being too detached. I never thought of it that way, but there is a great deal of distance between me and pretty much everyone else.

I guess it's my comfort zone. I never really thought of it as an issue before she pointed out that I'm always alone. Is that really so bad, given my line of work? I'll never be able to forgive myself for the four guys I lost a few months back. If my guard was lower, how could I live with myself, if it happened again?

Like every other conversation with her, Katya somehow manages to make my head spin in a direction I'm not used to. I spend an hour with the guys before heading back to the barracks. Being with them leaves me relaxed, the opposite of Katya's effect on me. Being around her leaves me oddly energized yet also unusually drained, as if our mental grappling is taxing our bodies as well.

Stepping out of the warm night into the barracks, I'm pleased to see that the kids are out cold, and so is she. Silently, I prepare for bed, irked to discover her lotion on top of my dresser when she's got space on hers. Her shoes are in the middle of the floor, her suitcase open at the foot of her bed. She's taken over the bathroom, too. Everything I need is confined to one small bathroom bag.

Katya's shit spills over the tiny sink area, and there are fluffy pink towels hanging beside my military issued olive, sandpapery one. The bathtub is littered with no less than five bottles and one of those pink scrubby-loofa things.

One week, I remind myself. Seeing the disaster that is our room makes me itchy. Clean, neat and orderly - it's how I like to live. Battle is messy, a place where adapting is a matter of survival. Here, at home or wherever I'm sleeping at night, I can control my immediate surroundings, even if that's nothing more than keeping my weapon at my side or a canteen by my head.

"Civilians." I survey the bathroom again then decide that no, I really can't live like this.

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