Status: Complete.

I Want You to Live

Chapter 13

Three long, agonizing months since Rusty had been deployed to Iraq. He was sick and tired of sand that managed to get into every crease and crevice of your body, heat that sapped a man's energy faster than he could blink, and camels that would spit on you given any opportunity. Most of all, though, he was sick and tired of missing Peyton. Three months since the last time he had kissed her, held her in his arms, even heard her voice.

Letters. That was all he had to go on. Letters promising that she still cared, that she was still waiting. She had yet to say she loved him back, but he knew it was coming. Or he hoped at least. Who knows, though? A lot can happen while you're away at war.

Their main objective lately had mostly ended up being recon work. They had been tracking a weapons dealer that catered specifically to a well known terrorist group, Islamic State. The dealer, Abdul Haq al-Shishani, had also been identified as a good friend of Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, one of the leaders of the group. So far, it had been a wild goose chase. The man always seemed to be one step ahead of them, whether they moved in the day or at night.

Earlier that morning, their team had been notified that al-Shishani was supposedly making an appearance at a seminar later that day. The city he was attending it in had only been four hours away from their previous location, so the team was optimistic of bagging him this time. They had arrived and quickly formed a plan, not wanting to waste any more time before getting set up.

That led to Rusty and Ty sitting outside a small cafè, if one could call it that. It was nothing like the ones back in the States. The pair had chosen a table smack in the middle of the crowded patio, so as to blend in as much as two Americans could. They pretended to drink coffee as they appeared to be in deep conversation. In reality, it was too damn hot for coffee and they had finished it in record time so they could replace it with water. Their eyes never remained still, even as they kept the soft dialogue going.

They were set up a few blocks from the convention center where the dealer would be arriving soon. They had already been waiting an hour and the hot sun beat down on Rusty, causing him to sweat underneath his layers. If he didn't show up soon, the men would be forced to leave their spot, in fear of raising suspicions.

"That's a good look for you," he teased, smirking across the small table at Ty. "It really brings out your eyes."

Their team had chosen to stick to the more traditional clothing of a thawb and head piece. The loose, gauzy fabric covered their uniforms and flack vests and concealed their weapons easily. They had been allowed to grow beards to help keep their identities secret. Rusty scratched at his, not being used to the facial hair. First thing back, after laying a big one on Peyton, he was shaving the thing off.

"Fuck you," Ty hissed back, eyes narrowed. He tugged at his headpiece, attempting to readjust it. "I just wish this fucker would show up so we could get the hell out of here and back home."

What Ty lacked in patience, he made up for in intelligence. To be around him, you wouldn't know that he had graduated top in his high school class, or that he had been offered a full ride to Harvard. His parents had begged him to go to law school, but always the defiant one, Ty had opted for the Army. On missions where things got hairy, Rusty sure was glad he did.

"That makes two of us," Rusty agreed, eyes scanning the busy streets. Hoards of people ambled by and the roads were packed with vehicles, but none were familiar.

If the information proved to be reliable, then al-Shishani would be passing through anytime. Rusty discreetly checked his watch, anxious to finish the mission. It had been rumoured that once he was apprehended, they would be allowed to head back to the States. Rusty was more than ready to have Peyton back in his arms.

While this was easy work and less dangerous, it also allowed a lot of time to think, and think Rusty did. He thought about everything from what Peyton was doing, to what it would feel like to finally sleep with her, to what ring he would buy her when he finally grew the balls to propose. Some would say it was too soon to even think about marriage, but he knew she was it for him.

Plus, it was a known fact that military relationships moved faster than civilian ones. It was also a known fact that more military marriages ended in divorce. But who wanted to dwell on the negative? Failure wasn't an option to him.

Ty's finger tapping on the table alerted Rusty to having noticed something. He made a few discreet hand gestures before taking a drink of water. Casually, Rusty turned to see a sleek black car drive by. The description matched that of their man's vehicle. His heart hammered in anticipation.

They stood at once and shook hands, bidding one another farewell. Strolling opposite ways, Rusty notified the duo on the next street over that the vehicle had been spotted and were heading their way. Once finished, he took a sharp left, entering a narrow alleyway. He weaved his way through side streets and alleys until he ended up at his final destination. Not a second later, Ty was by his side once again.

Without a word, they entered a closed shop diagonal from the convention center. Rusty took a moment to let his eyes adjust to the dim room. One other man from their squad was already positioned in the vacant building. The two nodded in greeting before he resumed his watch. Rusty and Ty moved across the room, snatching their rifles from the corner. They peeked out the window, anxiously awaiting the dealers arrival.

"Should be anytime, boys," the man, Joker, said.

Although he was a pretty funny guy, the soldier was actually named after his love for Batman. He could quote every single line in the movies starting all the way back to the original. Joker was a broad shouldered, stocky man. He was an all around, good ole American boy. He had played wide receiver back in high school and married his high school sweetheart right after graduation. They now lived in a nice subdivision with their two girls and three dogs and attended church every Sunday. He truly lived the American dream.

A soft shuffling came from the back room and all three looked amongst themselves. Rusty silently gestured for them to remain in position while he checked it out. It was probably just a stray dog. The city was overrun with the wild, mangy animals. Peyton would have a conniption after seeing all the poor souls.

He carefully stepped to the doorway and waited, listening for anymore sounds. The shuffling came again, this time louder and heavier. It definitely wasn't a stray. Rusty worked to control his breathing and turned back to Ty. Their eyes met and Rusty motioned him over. Ty took up position, rifle raised, ready to back him up if necessary. Rusty counted down using his fingers.

He jerked back the cloth hanging from the frame, separating him from whoever resided in the next room. A short Arabic looking man stood mere feet away, eyes wide at coming face to face with the tall American. Rusty held a hand up to Ty, stopping him from attacking. He motioned for the man to leave as he looked past him to find out where he had come from. A door at the back of the building stood ajar and Rusty growled in irritation at Joker for not securing it properly.

The man appeared to be arguing, but he was speaking so rapidly that Rusty couldn't decipher anything he said. Rusty stepped towards him and motioned again, more forcefully this time. The man started to back away, but came to a halt when something at Rusty's feet caught his eye. He turned his gaze downward to discover one combat boot was protruding from beneath his robe. His eyes darted back to the Arabic man's.

"Jundi, jundi!" he accused with a trembling, outstretched hand. His face contorted in fear. "Jundi!"

The man was screaming soldier.

"Shut him down, Cowboy!" Joker hollered from the front room. The frightened man continued to scream. "He's going to blow our cover!"

Reflexively, Rusty swept the butt of his rifle around, catching the man in the temple. He hit the ground like a sack of potatoes. The guilt that consumed Rusty wasn't anything new. It was a part of war, but he always felt sickened when the innocent got caught in the middle. Satisfied the man would be out for a while, he sent Ty a sorrowful look before barricading the door and returning to his prior position. They would be long gone before he ever came around.

"Clear," Rusty told Joker. "Next time, be sure to actually lock the back door." The kneeling man shrugged in apology, causing Rusty to roll his eyes.

Not even seconds later the black vehicle coasted to a stop in front of the center. Rusty held his breath, eyes locked on the back of the vehicle. An unimpressive man stepped out, followed by two larger men. His bodyguards. They had handled worse, but Rusty always hated doing so in the open for just anyone to see. It made the soldiers vulnerable to any hidden dangers.

"Dallas confirms that's him. That's al-Shishani," Joker informed them quietly.

"Let's get ready to take him down," Rusty told the twosome.

The sound of the small group cocking their weapons filled the space. Rusty took his place next to the door, waiting for the signal. His muscles were tense, heart pounding. Any apprehension was dangerous, but even more so when they were in a crowded city in the broad daylight. They needed to execute the takedown with exact precision or they might end up in more trouble than they bargained for.

"Dang it! He's on the move! He's on the move!" Joker yelled, smacking the wall.

Rusty heard tires squealing and bolted to the window to see the black car speeding away, leaving smoke and tire tracks in its wake. It skidded around a turn and disappeared from view. He groaned in frustration and pinched his nose. Plopping onto the ground, he dropped his head back, eyes closed. This shit was really getting old.

"What the hell happened?" Ty barked, slinging his headpiece. Rusty almost laughed at the sight of his dark hair poking out in all directions. "He was right there! We could've had him! This is bullshit."

"I don't know!" Joker hollered back, exasperated. "Something spooked him."

"Probably GI fucking Joe out there!" Ty roared, stabbing a finger in the direction of the convention center entrance. Their newest guy, Spenc, was still standing on the pavement, head moving wildly from side to side. Bewilderment was clearly written all over his face. "Why the hell did they put him there anyways?"

"Second guessing the plan and throwing blame ain't going to change anything," Rusty reminded, pushing up to his feet. He grabbed Ty's keffiyah and handed it to him. "Come on, let's get out of here."

It only took a matter of seconds back at their makeshift base before Ty was in Spenc's face. The shorter man had his hands thrown up in surrender while the Cajun lit into him. The stress from their tedious and futile work was taking a toll on the squad. Rusty got in between the two, struggling to push his lean, but stout friend back.

"I know where he's going to be tonight!" Spenc shouted, halting everyone's conversations. They all turned to him in surprise. "I know where he'll be," he spoke again, quieter this time.

"We'll bag him then," Rusty assured Ty, whose glare darted between him and Spenc. His eyes narrowed at the younger man, but he stormed away without a word.
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I apologize for going so long without writing. I promise to try my hardest to do better. Thank you to all of those who have waited so patiently. Comments would be greatly appreciated. I would really like to know how it is going so far. =)