It had started with words and had ended in fists and now he is the one in trouble. He is the one that’s getting threatened with suspension. Suspension from the army. God, what would his uncle say? Should have known Derek, probably. I thought you were better than this Derek, he’d sneer. What a disappointment Derek, Peter would tell him and then turn away. Well, that’s his uncle.
He sits in his commanding officer’s office, waiting to hear what the man has to say. Derek is already on edge, his hands fisted in his lap, his temper starting to get out of his control just as it had done at the start of the fight. Alright, so maybe it had been his fault in the end; but still, he maintains that he did not start it.
The door opens and his C.O .walks in. Boot-camp hadn’t been pretty but it had drilled into him exactly what he’s supposed to do when a superior is around and he does it now. Stand to attention, salute as a form of respect. Keep his mouth shut and listen to what his C.O. has to say to him. That last part probably won’t go over very well with Derek. He can already feel the urge to argue, to defend himself instead of sitting there and taking it. He has never been good at that, at letting things go and just doing what’s asked of him. He is twenty-six years old and he guesses he still hasn’t learned.
“At ease soldier,” Captain Argent tells him in an authoritative voice and he grudgingly takes his seat, trying not to throw himself into it like a sullen child. “Got a report that you started a fight this afternoon in the mess hall with Sergeant Matthew Daehler. That right?” Derek’s jaw clenches. Of course they’d pin it on him. Heaven forbid Daehler gets in trouble and loses his oncoming promotion. Derek doesn’t answer him and Argent repeats, “Is that right, Sergeant Hale?”
When they start using his rank and last name, he knows he’s screwed. At that point, he’s really got nothing left to lose. “No, sir. That is not, in fact, correct, sir,” Derek says. He’s not supposed to say it. He’s supposed to keep his mouth shut or say, ‘Yes, sir’, something that a more timid man would do. Derek is not timid; he never has been and he never will be.
Argent is surprised by Derek’s response. Derek is not. “Excuse me, sergeant?” he asks. He blinks at Derek, as if he’s seeing him for the first time. Good. Derek feels like it’s time these people didn’t think that every little soldier they got is a push over.
“I said no, sir. I didn’t start anything, sir,” he repeats, and Derek’s voice is hard and straightforward. It won’t be for long and he really doesn’t want to get into this. But he’s already angry and ready for yet another fight. “As a matter of fact, sir, your prodigy Daehler started it and deserved every punch to the face he got.” Derek pauses. “Sir.”
Derek had won, actually, delivering a swift punch to the nose, and Daehler had doubled over, fresh blood gushing down his lips and chin, soaking into the collar of his fatigues. He had, in fact, deserved it as well. The smarmy little rat had found the picture Derek kept in his breast pocket of Stiles when it had fallen to the floor. Derek knows he shouldn’t have had it on him, but Derek just didn’t want to forget him. The comments that came out of Daehler’s mouth after that, well. You couldn’t blame Derek for sweeping the floor with him.
Captain Argent looks livid that anyone would address him as such. Derek thinks Argent is a bit more angry at the fact that Derek is trash-talking the star of the platoon. Argent stands up behind his desk and points one accusing finger at Derek. “You better pray we don’t suspend you for good, son,” he says. Derek laughs, and Argent’s face turns red. Pray, he says. If Derek were religious, did Argent really think he would be here, in the war, killing his way through the Middle East? God is something of a fairy-tale in Derek’s world; those who still believe in Him just haven’t grown up yet.
“I’d rather not, sir,” and this time, Derek spits the last word out. Derek is insubordinate and he doesn’t care. His rage washes everything else out.
“You son of a-”
“What?!” Derek snarls, standing up and kicking his chair back. “Son of a what?”A man never backs down, his uncle used to say, back when he respected Derek enough to speak to him. A man stands up for himself, protects those that can’t protect themselves. A man doesn’t take bullshit from anyone. A man is strong. Of course, Derek had lost all of that in his uncle’s eyes after Stiles. Threw his life away, disgraced the remainder of his family.
God, Derek sounds just like the bastard. Stiles would be hitting him upside the head by now.
Derek doesn’t know what happens after that; just that he is angry and then he is swinging and the next thing he knows, Captain Gerard Argent is down for the count, collapsed in his chair with a hand to his face. There’s probably blood. A man doesn’t faint at the sight of blood, or so Peter always says. So Derek doesn’t. He swallows hard and pants as Argent threatens him, rambles about disorderly conduct, assaulting a superior.
So Derek is getting discharged, he says. So Derek is dishonorable, he says. So Derek should be disgusted with himself, he says.
Well, then. Derek has had enough of disgust in his life, don’t you think? A man never backs down, never falters, never quits. This time, he gets to go out with a bang. This time, he doesn’t think he minds too much. Maybe he’s not made for the soldiering life, and as he is escorted out of the office by a pair of military police, he thinks that’s at least half true.
At least, he thinks to himself, Stiles is at the other end of this tunnel. It comforts him and he finally has something to look forward to.