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Faded Ashes

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You wake up in the middle of the night to find yourself shaky, drenched in sweat, and pretty fucking mad. Another nightmare decided it was a fine time to rear its ugly head. You thought back on what some quack psychiatrist that COG brought in told you years ago, 'Oh they would eventually fade Mr. Fenix! Just give it a little time!'.

Bullshit. It's been ten years and they're still as vivid as they were then, unchanged; your loved ones dying, over and over and over again with you unable to do a damn thing about it. You raised a shaky hand to wipe the sweat off of your face, glancing at the clock. It was two in the morning; you groaned softly.

Anya moved beside you, snoring slightly. You were tempted to wake her like she always demanded you do when you had nightmares, but then you both lost sleep, and when that happened keeping up with your kids and working your asses off became that much more difficult. It was better that only you suffered rather than both of you.

There was no getting back to sleep either. Every time you had a nightmare you would be up for the rest of the night, looking in on the kids, walking around the perimeter of the house. If it was bad out, you would take to pacing the halls or sitting in your armchair, cup of coffee in hand, staring out the window. In those moments, sleep sometimes found you again, and you would wake up stiff with a blanket thrown over you.

Slowly, you rose up out of the bed. Mostly because you didn't want to disturb your sleeping wife, but also your knees were killing you. All those years you spent crouching behind cover were finally catching up with you. For the past year, you've avoided mirrors when you could, not wanting to see the grey hairs that were starting to accumulate.

God you were getting old.

It was cold as hell in your house, winter was always a killer, so you picked a pair of black lounge pants and a grey pullover from the floor, sliding them on as quietly as possible. You were successful, but on your way out of the room, you damn near break your big toe on the dresser. Your valiant effort to stifle the loud bluestreak that threatened to escape your mouth were successful as well.

You stump out into the hallway pissed off about your toe, your knees and the fact that you were even awake, careful to close the door quietly behind you. You looked out the hallway window, scowling at the freezing rain that was falling from the clouds. It was going to be another bad winter, you could feel it in your bones. With a heavy sigh, you walked down the hallway. Adam and Nickie's room was the one he always looked in on first.

Adam Jonathon was the oldest out of the three Fenix children; loud, in your face, and hilariously blunt at the age of seven, never afraid to tell you he thinks you are stupid and you should probably go headbutt a chainsaw. Dominic Carlos was a bit more a voice of reason, even at the young age of five. Unfortunately, Nickie sometimes parroted whatever Adam decided would be a good idea to do or say, which both landed their asses in hot water more times than you cared to count. Both looked just like you and are gullible as hell too.

There was that one memorable time where Baird had convinced that them you had actually laid two eggs and sat on them and that's why they looked just like you with little influence from their mother's genes. You were fairly certain they still believed that even after you and Anya had produced photographic evidence of her pregnancies and their births.

But they were two sweet, albeit mischievous kids who hero-worshiped you, which sometimes made you uncomfortable. But you rolled with it, not wanting to crush them with stories that would prove that notion otherwise.

They always kept their bedroom door cracked and a light filtered through into the hallway. You expected to find them awake, but when you pushed the door open, you were pleased to see they were actually asleep. Nickie was curled up, clutching a stuffed snake he refused to admit he still slept with. Adam was laying flat on his back with a comic book over his face.

You went into Dad mode; adjusting their covers to make sure they wouldn't get cold, dog-earring Adam's comic book and sitting down on the nightstand in between the boys's bed. You left the light on, Nickie didn't like waking up in the dark. Not that you could blame him, you hated it yourself.

Giving them one final look, you crept out of the room, closing the door almost shut behind you. You made your way to the end of the hall, completely expecting Helena to be awake. You opened her door and there she sat, staring right at you. "Mouse…" you sighed and she merely stared at you. She was a sickly kid, born premature and plagued with illness after illness. The doctor said she would outgrow it, but at the age of two, she suffered greatly. Helena never complained though, in fact she rarely spoke. Not that she couldn't, she just preferred to watch her brothers run around shouting at everything.

You sighed again, walking over to her bed, easing down on it. Goddamn your knees hurt, gritting your teeth as you lowered your ass onto the bed. You looked at her, "Mouse, why are you still up?" You already knew the answer. "Cause Daddy, not sleepy" she answered then coughed like she had been smoking for thirty plus years. You placed a hand on her head, and she put her two hands on top of your hand.

"Come on, let's see if either of us can get back to bed. Especially you little lady, you have a big day tomorrow." You wrapped her in her blanket, making sure she had a good grip on her favorite doll, you carried her downstairs. A glance at the clock told you it was going on three, lord has that much time already passed? On your way to the living room, you make a pit stop at the downstairs bathroom to get the kid's cough syrup. Helena made a slight face at it, but she took two teaspoons of it willingly.

You make it to the living room, grabbing the blanket off of the back of the couch while on your way to your armchair. Adam liked to call it your throne because no one, even God himself, could not remove you from it once you sat down in it. That was almost true, though Anya could light a fire under your ass when it was needed.

You sat down, easing the chair back. Helena laid on your chest, you kept on arm around her and one arm behind you head, propping it up so you can watch the window. Once a paranoid COG, always a paranoid COG you mused bitterly. An hour passed, Helena spoke in a sleepy voice, "Love you lots Daddy." You rubbed her back, "Love you too Mouse, now get some sleep okay honey?" She nodded, and not too long afterwards she finally slept.

You rubbed your baby girl's back. It terrified you how small she was compared to you. You felt that way about Adam and Nickie too, they were your babies, though you would be damned if you admitted that outloud.

A day didn't pass where you didn't ask them how there day was, or get involved into whatever they were doing. Sometimes you could be a little harsh, and you knew that. You always made sure to tell them how much you loved them, no matter what. And you always did the same with Anya, but sometimes your actions would speak louder than words.

The kids knew the stories of the people they were named after. Not the details of course, just very bare minimum. They were proud to have war heroes for parents, and to be named after the bravest men and women that served the COGs. It made you feel good, because you felt like you were doing good by them.

That's all you wanted to do, just make sure your kids and wife were safe and happy.

You got lost in your thoughts, now sleep was overtaking you. Instead of fighting it like normal, you let it take you.

Your name is Marcus Fenix. Life isn't easy for you, it's hard and there are moments where it feels like the past wants to beat you down to nothing. But you have the love of your life there to pull you through the bad times, and three kids to keep you grounded.

And you can finally say that you are at peace.