October 30th 2003
Denise Gant, soon to be Denise Murray, has finally packed up all of her belongings and picks up her cell, she’s about to call her fiance to pick her up. Things are looking up for her when there is a ring of the doorbell.
“Deedee!” her elderly father bellows raspily from the bathroom “Get the door!”
“Of course, daaaad!” she replies.
She hops down the stairs and swings the door open, all ready to greet the man who she will so eagerly share her future with.
“Hey Dave! Didn’t expect you to get here so-”
It is not her fiance she sees at the door. Instead, she is greeted by a United States Marine dressed in the Corps’ distinctive blue coat. He carries only two things- a yellow letter in his right arm, and a stoic expression. Denise’s expression falls through the floor.
“Good morning, miss.” the Lance Corporal greets with practiced ease “Is this the family of Elizabeth Gant?”
November 11th, 2003
Denise can hardly bear to watch. The sister she grew up with, the sister she admired for so long, is gone. In her place is a solid wooden box with the stars and stripes draped over it. As the funeral contingent ready their M14s for the 21 gun salute, the senior Mrs Gant sobs into her husband’s chest. Mr Gant too, weeps a tear for her and for the buddies he lost in the jungles of Vietnam. Denise simply leans on her fiance’s shoulder, staring dumbly at the lead coffin.
To her knowledge, her sister’s squad suffered an ambush while hunting terrorists in Afghanistan. She doesn’t see Gena clench her fist when she hears the case officer lies through her teeth about what happened, but she does hear her muttering something as she stomps away, something to the effect of “Fucking desk-drivers”. She isn’t to know her sister’s remains are really half a world away, never recovered from the shark pool at the Forteresse De Valois, but Gena swears on her life to tell the real story. What they see before them now is in fact an empty coffin. She is owed the truth.
Denise finally lets go of her rose, letting it fall and wither on the lowered coffin of her sister. She looks up for the first time that day and scans the faces of the soldiers who cared for her. Buck Reilly Jr.- the stoic sergeant’s face is once again inscrutable, but this time he is thoughtful- he plans to spend the rest of the day remembering his father and teammates. Gena Newman- the big lady with the crew cut, is openly dabbing her cheeks with her handkerchief, one of her best friends in the entire world was gone. Shane Schofield- her eyes widen. This is the first time she is seeing the legendary Scarecrow without his shades, and she realizes why he goes to such lengths to hide his face. She also realizes his face looks exactly like hers right now- blushed and puffy, the look of someone exhausted from crying. The very same Marine who delighted in sharing her sister’s life and fought entire armies with her, now an empty husk. Things will never be the same for him, or for herself, she is convinced.
March 1st, 2004
Denise hurries her little Scion down the street, having finally cleared the traffic jams in downtown Richmond, witnessing a very familiar looking man in silver shades about to enter a Chevrolet Camaro.
“Oh hell no, ‘Scarecrow’. I’ve spent far too long getting here for you to be driving off like this.” She mutters.
She parks right behind Schofield, slamming on her breaks right before she bumps into his car. That’s got his attention.
The next hour is spent divulging some of the less sensitive details of the mission under a swear to complete secrecy. When Denise hears the last of it, she takes a moment to run everything through her mind, before grabbing everyone in a gigantic hug that belied her petite stature.
“Thank you. Thank you all for taking care of her. I wish I could’ve been there for her too, y’know? And Schofield?”
“Yeah?” he responds quietly.
“She would want you to continue living in her name, so don’t give up. Don’t you dare give up, because there’s plenty more baddies to be fought in this world and we need good people like you to fight the good fight. She will always, always, be your side, alright?"