Brothers In Arms 1/3

Kermit Griffin, mercenary and computer hacker extraordinaire, groaned to himself as he swiftly and silently rolled off his bed and into a crouch in one move. He mentally made a note to remind himself to visit the Chiropractor again. Of course if he forgot his back and it's aches and pains would remind him. The banging on his door that had awakened him and literally had him rolling out of bed, sounded again. Padding silently across the floor in his bare feet, Kermit used the peephole in the door and saw one of the few faces that were always welcome and totally trusted. Of course this face belonged in Sloanville, not Chicago.

"Paul, we really must stop this, or people will talk," Kermit opened the door for the man who had played so many roles in his life. He had been foster father, friend, mentor, confidant; but most importantly he had been best friend to a man who had few friends at all.

The older man remained silent, dragging himself and his one bag in. He dropped his carry-on bag wearily to the floor. Standing in his friend's entryway dripping wet, was Paul Blasdell; and while he had looked worse, had never looked as lost as he did at that moment. It was his eyes the younger man decided, as he relocked the door and reset the security system. They were a light blue. When the older man was angry they were lasers that penetrated to the bone, when he was laughing they sparkled and danced. Kermit had seen those eyes clouded with worry and wet with tears. He had seen them dance with mischief and glow with love. But tonight, Kermit realized as he took Paul's coat and went to retrieve towels for his friend, his eyes were dead. No love, hate, anger, pride, or tears, nothing. That scared him more than anything he had ever seen in those too expressive eyes before.

Paul held out a bag he was holding in exchange for the towels being pressed to his hands. Kermit took the bag and at his mentor's nod, reached inside to pull out a bottle of particularly excellent scotch. Kermit raised an eyebrow and set it on a counter in the kitchen. There would be time for this later, when it was time to talk.

Seeing that his friend was standing exactly as he had last seen him, holding the towels, Kermit striped the outer layer of cold, wet clothes from him, and led his friend towards the bathroom. He could only imagine how long Paul had been out in the rain to get soaked through his coat. He had probably walked here from O'Hare Airport. Once in the bathroom, Paul stood leaning against the wall and shaking, while Kermit got the water adjusted so that it was hot, but not scalding. Getting his friend's larger frame under the soothing water, Kermit left to see about dry clothing. Everything in the carry-on was soaked or mud encrusted. This could be interesting, since they were nowhere near the same size. A few minutes later Kermit left a pair of sweats he had that were too large and long for him, but would come closest to fitting Paul, on the bathroom counter for the taller man.

Kermit kept an ear out for the shower, while he debated sleeping arrangements. There was only one bed and the couch, while not bad for sitting, did not make for a comfortable bed. That left only one solution. It wasn't like they had never bunked together on their various and assorted `trips'. Besides, in Paul's condition the nightmares would be coming and he wanted to be there for him, as his older friend had so often been there for him.

He tried not to laugh as Paul walked slowly and carefully out of the bathroom as if not certain what he was doing. While the sweats were large on Kermit, Paul barely got into them and they left about two inches between the bottom of the pant leg and his friend's ankles. Paul was, however, looking a little better. Kermit quietly led his unprotesting friend to the bedroom. The very fact that he was not protesting, not talking at all in fact, told Kermit that whatever had so badly damaged Paul`s soul was still affecting him.. Laying his friend down, the computer expert took the other side of the bed. Looking at the clock, he saw that it was now quarter to 4 in the morning. Hopefully, the new day would hold some answers, like what had upset his normally unflappable friend this badly. If the mission had gone wrong, Kermit would have heard about it by now, so whatever it was, was of a more personal nature. Paul was not sleeping. He was lying there looking at the ceiling with his haunted eyes. Kermit rolled him over on his side and rubbed his back, soothing the exhausted man in to a fitful sleep. Kermit settled in to watch over his sleeping friend and keep the nightmares away, they would come, the soldier was certain, but not on his watch. It only seemed right that he do this since Paul had kept his demons at bay many times so that he could sleep.

Part 2-->