"Hey man… no, no, everything is cool. Yeah, I'll explain everything in a little while. Actually I'm at the airport right now. Heh, surprise right? Thirty minutes? Oh come on Mav….it's the dead of winter though… Fine, fine, I'll brave the weather till you get here. Sure man. Alright see you in a few. Ok…ok…o-….ok…OK! Get in the fucking car already Maverick! Yeah I know I'm rude. Alright see you in a few. Bye."

Chris McManus leaned against his the towering glass windows that covered the entrance on Denver International Airport and searched his ACU's (Army Combat Uniform) for his pack of cigarettes. Quickly finding them in his shoulder pocket he whipped out his lighter and light one against the wall protecting the precious lighters flame until its job was done. Quickly inhaling the noxious fumes, Chris leaned back and watched the unfamiliar sight of snow swirl past his face as he exhaled out smoke mixed in with steam caused by the frigid Denver winter. The beginnings of shivers started to dance up his spine as Chris debated on going inside and fight through the crowd of holiday travelers or to just wait it out and hope maverick drove faster than a toddler on a tricycle.

Coughing harshly, his lungs protested the years of nicotine abuse their owner has dealt upon them, Chris flicked his remaining cigarette away, hefted his green travel bag onto his shoulder, and headed into the swarming masses awaiting flights two nights prior to Christmas. Removing the black beret sitting atop his short spiked dirty blonde locks Chris began expertly dodging most of the oncoming traffic. After skillfully finding the safe passage that kept him from plowing through a large family or knocking over a large man, Chris found himself looking out over the main plaza area and used his exhausted vision to find anything that resembled a Starbucks, coffee shop, or anything that had enough caffeine to appease Chris's addictive nature. His eyes scanning around the plaza Chris soon found himself staring eye to eye with a plump looking woman with two smaller boys in tow. Chris cocked his head slightly to the side then soon realized what was about to happen.

"Um..Excuse me soldier…" The plump woman looked nice enough. Her chestnut brown hair was up in a loose bun on top of her head but a few loose strands got away and hung over her worn face which showed the years in her features.

"Yes ma'am? Can I help you folks?" Chris tried to keep his tone as even as possible not wanting to show his exhaustion or irritation with these events.

"Well, my boys and I would like to thank you for your service and everything you do. I know it must be hard to sacrifice your everyday life to give us our everyday freedoms. So again, thank you. Go on boys, thank him." Both boys, no older than eight or ten respectively murmured their thanks then backed behind their mother, eyes downcast.

Chris not wanting to be rude quickly came back with his automated response, "Really it's my pleasure ma'am. And thank you for your support." He forced a familiar grin on his face and wandered away slowly letting his thoughts wander. Chris couldn't handle those types of compliments well; it began with the thoughts that centered on how Chris believed in his heart that he wasn't doing anything special by serving in the military. All he did that was a sacrifice was going overseas for years at a time yet still it was his job and he understood what was expected of him as a soldier. It wasn't like he didn't get paid or reap the benefit the military handed him. Did the military life make it hard to have a normal relationship and carry on like the civilian life, sure, but Chris just felt lucky that he had a roof over his head during the economic crisis and his fiancée was taken care of. Now most soldiers basked in the sunlight when civilians took time out of their day to thank them, Chris just built up an irritation to the ritual of going around in public in uniform. Continuing to move through the plaza Chris's eyes continued to roam over the various shops until he found his target, Starbucks hidden on the lower level, out of Chris's view initially. After giving a small grin of victory, Chris maneuvered through the crowd and soon found himself standing at the corner debating whether to buy the triple shot of chocolate or just a frothy cup of java.

"Excuse me young man, I just want to thank you for your service. Here let me buy your drink for you today." Chris's head swiveled around to see an older gentleman smiling at him with a ten clutched in his hand. Blinking a couple of times Chris Smiled and said his thanks and moved out of the way so the man could order their drinks. Now knowing he was at the mercy of someone's generosity, Chris ordered a simple black cup of coffee and vacated the area speaking his thanks again to the gentleman for his mark of gratitude on his way out of the shop.

On his way back through the concourse Chris's phone started squawking in his chest pocket until Chris pulled it out and slid it open. "Ok, so you appear out of nowhere asking for a ride from your most dearest friend. Got it. Then when said most dearest friend arrives you are nowhere to be found. So in case you missed the point, where in the fuck are you?"

Chris grinned into the phone hearing Maverick's familiar rants flood his eardrum, "Mav, I just slipped inside to grab a quick cup of coffee, in fact I wouldn't be holding you up right now if you didn't demand the guy who has spent the last eight months in Iraq to stand outside in freakish cold weather. So hold your horses I see you're fuckin truck through the doors as I speak. So silence you complaining-" Chris walked through the automatic doors and wrenched open the passenger door to match Mavericks dark brown eyes with his own cold blue eyes, " silence the complaining before I ball you up like a pretzel right here in the snow."

Amusement danced in Maverick Daniels eye's as Chris's six two muscular friend popped his neck and cracked his knuckles, "You know Chris, I would hate to ruin your homecoming with a fat lip and a black eye, but shit man you sure to know how to rile your friend up. Now quit fucking around, it's colder than a witch's tit outside and I have to get back to the bar before my boss decides to throw my ass out onto the street. And let me remind you soldier boy, Bartenders are a dime a dozen."

Chris turned and tossed his sack into the bed of the truck before hopping into the gloriously warm interior with his coffee in hand. As the truck fired up and sped away Chris felt a grin creep over his face again as he glanced over at his best friend who spoke before Chris could finish buckling his seatbelt. "So, two years pass and all I've heard or seen from you is either r MySpace, Facebook, or a random ass phone call. Just what the hell have you been up to the last two years man?"

Taking a thoughtful sip of his coffee, Chris leaned back and organized his thoughts, "Well as you know got engaged to Jessica and joined the military right? Well went through the hell known as basic training, then went off to job training which wasn't all bad. Following the training phase they gave me about three days to prepare to ship off to Korea for a year. Whew the stories I could tell you about that place, anyway I planned to come home and see everyone but my Dad got diagnosed with Cancer right before I left Korea so I changed plans and flew over to Michigan and spent a month with him making sure everyone was ok on that end. So from there I flew to Ft. Stewart and go shoved into prep for Iraq. So there was no time for any travel up until the weeks before only to find out my mother was hospitalized so I had to use every leave day I had available to me to go see here only to return days before flying over to the sandbox. Now I can't exactly supposed talk about what I do over there, all I can really say is that I've been shot at with everything from RPG's to AK's, and been blown up more times than I care to count. "

Memories forced Chris to shudder involuntarily and reminded him why he was partially deaf in his left ear and had vicious scars over his right hip. Shaking away the memories, Chris looked over at Maverick as they continued to speed down the highway ignoring the snowy frozen conditions, "So are you planning to kill us before I even have a chance to see Jessica and everyone else?" Maverick responded with a feral grin, "What? Is the big bad soldier boy scared of a bit of wild driving? Hey Chris…ever seen a truck do a 360 E-brake turn doing 75 mph down the highway?" Chris didn't even need to think about a response, "You won't do it, not to mention you're a dumb chicken shit, but your wife would kill you in a New York minute if you destroyed your truck for amusement purposes. Not to mention, I happen to know that you are scared to death of the little five foot hellcat you married." Katherine Angel-Daniels, Maverick's vindictive wife. Chris dated her in high school for three weeks before she broke it off with Chris because he wasn't capable of handling a woman of her 'caliber'. Even though they fell through, the following day she and Chris continued to be friends and soon after she latched into Maverick and became a constant source of amusement and support for Chris over the years.

Maverick gave a small grin, "Well at least I could handle Kat, and if I remember it correctly you ran scared, like a little girl runs from cooties." Chris grinned; it was good to be home.

Chris's exhaustion led to an uneventful ride back to his quaint apartment he kept for Jessica and himself. The apartment itself was a modest one bedroom that sat on the third story and looked out at an uninterrupted view of the Rocky Mountains. Jessica chose the apartment due to the fact that she would occupy it more than Chris would, but none the less, Chris loved its view and placement near the heart of Denver.

Skidding to a halt in front of the McManus apartment, Chris slid out of the truck and looked toward Maverick. "So, I'm sure everyone is going to want to get together sometime soon. Want to start getting everyone on the horn and we'll get a gathering started somewhere."

"Why don't we just hook up at my bar? I mean were all of age now, and hell I work there just about every night and Katherine sings and plays guitar on open mic night from time to time so my boss is used to having the gang around on a weekly basis. Hell, if you're up to it, you should drop by tonight, it's a Saturday night and I'm sure at least some of the gang will be in attendance. Beside's none of us have seen Jessica as of late so it will be good to see your favorite blonde bombshell again."

Chris grinned at his best friend, "Yeah man, I'll drop by tonight sometime. All I know is I have to lay down soon or I'm going to crash out hard while moving. Anyway you still over at Mickey's?"

"Of course man, beside the fact that I was blackballed from the last five establishments, I refuse to work anywhere else in town. Anyway Chris, you come tonight and we'll give you a proper homecoming right man?" Maverick extended his hand out to Chris which his partner in crime took gladly in a familiar gesture for the two.

"So tonight then? Alright Mav, but I'm warning you, Army life has given my liver the proper work out. I might drink you out of business tonight." Chris laughed and he slammed the truck door shut and backed away with his bags in tow as Maverick's truck sped away into the swarms of holiday traffic.

Chris started to trudge up towards the third story of his respective building and let his thoughts wander. How was Jessica going to react to seeing me for the first time in almost two years? What would her reaction be? Has anything changed dramatically? What was going to happen later in the night? All those thoughts swarmed his consciousness as he stepped onto the third story balcony and stared out onto the Saturday night sunset. Day one of his leave had started and was consumed with mostly flying time but now the moment Chris waited for the better part of two years was upon him. Seeing that beautiful blonde curvaceous model like figure of his soon to be wife would make all his hardship in Korea and Iraq worth it.

Entering the apartment, Chris's grin widened at seeing all his decorations still covering his and his fiancée's apartment. The oversized roman-numeral wall clock, the ceramic gorilla on the kitchen counter, the unique key chain collection nearly covering an entire wall of their living room. The opposite wall covered in bottle caps and the fireplace adorned with years of faithful Jack Daniels drinking as empty bottles lined the mantle and decorated the unique apartment. The blonde haired soldier threw his bags to the side and flipped his beret onto the counter as he started to slowly wander toward the bedroom where Jessica was sleeping.

Jessica worked nights as a chef at one of the nicer restaurants in 16th street mall which was set in the heart of Denver. Chris couldn't wait to see Jessica's disheveled blonde curls and her sleepy hazel eyes looking up at him in surprise. A small smile on his face, Chris knew it was the right idea to keep his grand return a secret from everyone including his fiancée. Fingering the ring box that sat in his pocket Chris slowly opened the door to the bedroom and let his cold blue eyes take in the picture in front of him.

Jessica in all her glory propped up on her hands and knees in the throes of passion with a wiry looking fellow sweating and panting as he threw everything into each thrust. Chris blinked and watched as both individuals in front of him rocked Chris's bed frame lewdly against the wall while making equally lewd noises. Without making a noise Chris backed away from the doorway and sauntered over to the kitchen and searched for a glass. Locating said glass Chris grabbed the bottle of Jack Daniels Jessica stored on top of the fridge. After finishing pouring Chris took a quick sip of the rough liquor, shook off the involuntary twitch that came with straight liquor, and carried his cup back to the bedroom with him.

Resuming his position at the doorway, Chris took another sip and made a rather loud cough with cause two different sets of eyes to lock on to the narrowed blue orbs that stared back.

"C-C-C-Chris?!?" Jessica detached herself clumsily from her lover while both scrambled to cover up.

Numerous emotions started to boil in Chris's subconscious, still he kept his composure against his better judgment, "Hi Jess, oh please don't stop on my account. This is the most action I've seen in years." His glare betrayed his level tone as Jessica shrank away from the glacial blue orbs that bore into her skull.

"Who the fuck is this cat?" Chris shifted his attention to the wiry fellow who stood at the end of the bed, looking rather disgruntled as his good time was interrupted. A small amount of pity was stomped down quickly as Chris took another drink.

"Well, I'm just some guy who lives here…kinda. Then again like I said before, don't mind me, I like to watch." As the traitorous couple made unsure glances toward each other while awkwardly attempting to get dressed. Chris adjusted his stance to lean against the door frame as all the different situations that could come from this moment flooded his mind.

Taking another gulp, Chris laid out his four possible options in his head while Jessica and the uninvited guest were finishing replacing their articles of clothing.

Chris could quiet his building fury, tell Jessica to vacate by morning, and take his keys and drive away to ponder his next move.

Chris could yell, scream, and throw his fiancée and her lover out the door with their belongings in tow.

Chris could become violent and attempt to throw the wiry fellow out the window and let his fiancée dive after him in a tragic lover's suicide.

Chris could calm them both down, join them in bed, and pretend that nothing was wrong with this picture.

"What the fuck gives you the right you asshole?!? You just walk in here thinking you own the place? You son-of-a-bitch!" Chris let Jessica screech in his face after making his decision. Though throwing the punk three flights to watch him bounce would be entertaining, all the paperwork that he would have to go through wouldn't be worth it.

Sighing and counting backward as the disgruntled blonde stood between her fiancée and her lover Chris ran his hand through his own tiny dirty blonde spikes, "Yeah, um, I'm going to say this slowly this time. Me, Chris, going to leave now. Be back at sunrise. You and all your stuff gone. Do it or I will have a giant bonfire fueled with your clothes and personal effects. Get it?" Jessica's hazel eyes matched with cold dead blue eyes as the lean dark haired fellow looked between the engaged couple's volatile stare down. Thinking better of the situation, the 'innocent' bystander picked up his remaining clothing and ran out with pants and one shoe in hand.

"You think you can just walk back into my life after being gone-" Jessica was cut off by Chris getting off the door frame and walking back toward the kitchen. "You asshole! Don't think you can just walk away from me! I am your fian-"

"Say it, I fucking dare you." Harshly spat out from Chris's mouth which twisted into a vicious snarl. All the emotion built up from years of hope and faith in his relationship mixed with the torment of serving overseas came out in his voice. Jessica stopped in her tracks, eyes resembling a deer in headlights. Letting loose a huff Chris force himself back to the bottle of Jack Daniels, pouring himself a full glass. The silence that filled the living/dining room of the apartment was deafening as Chris once again locked eyes with his ex-fiancée.

Jessica refused to meet his gaze and look over towards the living room. Chris took in the picture before him, blonde hair hanging in messy locks around her angular face, her hazel eyes downcast starting to fill with tears, her smaller frame hastily covered with a loose white tank top and some old gray sweat pants that hung off her hips dangerously.

Chris could see what attracted him in the first place but know he was seeing everything in a new light now. The blonde curls swayed with her every shaky movement while she plotted her next move. Those hazel eyes searching for a way to repair her obvious mistake. Her tiny body shifting weight from leg to leg nervously as the severity of the situation settled on her shoulders.

Narrowing his eyes, McManus spoke slowly, "I'm going to finish this drink Jessica, walk out that door, get into my jeep, and drive…somewhere. You are going to pack your shit and vacate. I'm not going to repeat myself." Chris forced the rest of the drink down his throat before stalking off to his portion of the hall closet. Wrenching out a pair of worn blue jeans and long sleeve maroon shirt with vector designs going up the sleeves, threw the clothes into the living room before grabbing a pair of black boots and hits ancient San Francisco Giants baseball cap and walking back up to the front with Jessica eyeing him expectantly.

Chris gathered up the clothes he picked out and reached his hand out to exit the apartment, "I'm sorry." Barely audible yet it stopped the soldier in his tracks, "I didn't want this to happen." Chris felt his blood start to boil over. Without giving more than a sideways glance Chris opened the door and left Jessica.