Brothers In Arms 2/3

Morning came, Kermit found, with no thought or compassion about how long you had been in bed, or if your night had been interrupted by a friend on the doorstep in pain. Stumbling into the kitchen, he got the makings for coffee, the elixir of life, and got the machine going so that it would be ready when he got out of the shower. Morning routine set in place he headed off for the bathroom. The pounding under the hot water helped loosen his back enough that Kermit figured he would live. Sitting on the sink waiting for him, the mercenary found his favorite mug, full of coffee. Paul was up and hopefully in a better place now that he had been a few hours ago. Taking a sip and sending Paul mental thanks, he got on with his morning rituals. Perhaps today, the older man would be able to speak about what had happened. One look towards his living area as he passed through the livingroom on the way the bedroom told him that this was not to be. Paul was parked by the balcony windows, watching a thunderstorm approach. Knowing that nothing would incite his friend to work through this faster, the younger mercenary simply moved into the bedroom to get dressed. While not a great cook, the hacker was an adequate one. Nothing fancy like you might use for entertaining. He had tried that once to impress a date, and only ended up with a huge mess in his kitchen while they had gone out to dinner. His meals were more of the substance kind, no frills but very filling. Paul was actually the cook of the two of them, but in the few years he had been married, Paul had found that the kitchen was Annie's area and had not tried invading it. He slid the two omelets onto plates and brought one out to Paul. The older man waved off the offering.

"Paul, remember what you once told me was the first law of mercenary life?" Kermit asked

The older man raised an eyebrow at his host.

"Get your food and your rest while you can, because you'll never have enough of either. So eat this now, and then you won't find yourself drinking that bottle on an empty stomach. later," Kermit continued in his most reasonable tone. Paul made no response. Kermit let it go, knowing that when the time was right Paul would eat, and talk.

Paul continued staring out the window as Kermit checked his e- mails, answered some, deleted others, and acted on a few. One from Ryker confirmed that the recent mission had been successful. Kermit debated asking his and Paul's mutual friend what had happened, but decided Paul would resent his getting the information from another source, and their mutual friend might not know. His mentor was a private man, if he was anything.

By the time noon had come around, Paul had started on his bottle. Kermit took that as a sign that Paul was progressing, by tonight he should be ready to talk and half if not totally drunk. He didn't press lunch, since Paul had finally eaten about four bites of the omelet.

Shutting off his electronic mistress, as the ex-wife liked to call it, Kermit sat down at the piano to enjoy the late afternoon thunderstorm with Paul. Both men enjoyed a good thunderstorm, reveling in the awesome power and fury Mother Nature displayed at such times. The older man had not moved since lunch, but the bottle was a little over half gone, so was Paul, come to think of it. Deciding that something soft and jazzy would fit the melancholy mood, Kermit started playing a favorite piece, but as usual, his fingers ended up doing their own thing. Improvisation was what a musician he knew had called it. The mercenary simply called it playing the piano.

"I didn't know you actually knew how to play that thing," a rough voice sounded.

"Glad you finally found your voice, Paul." Kermit grinned in relief at that blessed sound. Like his eyes, Paul's voice could speak even without using words. It could be harsh with anger, or velvet soft with love. Kermit had heard it bellow orders loud enough that the entire country heard him, and when in a MASH unit in Vietnam, he had been comforted by it's whispered support. He had known the voice to ring loud and long with laughter, and to threaten unspeakable things in a low pitched growl that was far more frightening then his yelling. At this moment, Kermit thought the angelic choir at it's best could not compare with the somewhat rough voice of his friend and mentor.

"My parents wanted me to learn an instrument, but I was involved with sports, and convinced them that was enough," Paul said as he took another sip of his scotch.

"Mom wanted me to learn the violin, I thought that was a sissy kind of instrument, so I asked her if I could have some drums. She said not while I was living at home. We settled on the Piano as something we could both live with. Hated while I was learning, but got to kind of liking it after a while, " Kermit explained as he continued his private concert.

"What happened out there, Paul?" Kermit asked breaking a fifteen minute silence.

"Isn't that a new set?" Paul asked nodding towards Kermit chess board, and changing the topic.

"Green and Grey, made of Mexican Onyx and Ash. Marilyn and the kids got it for me for Christmas. There was a guy at the Renaissance Fair that made them. He had a deal where if you played a game on the board you wanted and won, it was half off, if you lost you owed him a beer. The kids won it for me, and Marilyn helped them with the cost," Kermit was silent as his friend suddenly had a stricken look, and the small bit of life that had come back to his eyes died again.

Part 3-->