"Come on Ty! Come on Ty!" Dominic slapped his fallen comrad, the blood pouring from his mouth stained his dry and calloused hands.

"Shit." Dominic cursed. "Don't you fucking die on me."

BOOM!

The bomb went off, so close that Dominic's ears rung. His head pounded and his vision blurred. But he had to keep going, he had to get his friend back to the humvee and to the hospital. He felt something sharp, something hot, and something dug into his leg, but he ignored it.

The soldier's creed came to his mind.

I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself. I am an expert and I am a professional. I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.

And he had to be tough, he had to be strong, if not for himself then for Tyrese.

"Aghh!" He grunted. Gathering the strength he didn't know he had, he lifted his friend up onto his shoulders. The weight of Ty's limp body took his breath away, but he plowed through the dry and sandy air of Afghanistan.

"Come on buddy. We're almost there."

Ty replied with a cough and gurgling sound. Dominic grunted. His friend hadn't been the only casualty. The other two from his squad hadn't made it. Kevin and Darrell were gunned down by insurgents. Dominic had seen it all. He watched in horror as their bodies jerked from every bullet tearing through them. Kevin was 20, Darrell was 25 and engaged. His fiance, Camille, would never see him again for he'd died defending his country.

Dominic imagined the devastation that would be brought to her when soldiers showed up at her door with nothing but a folded flag in remembrance for her fallen lover. Kevin was different, while they were all pretty young, Kevin was the youngest and just a kid. Dominic would miss his goofy smile, the smile of a man not yet broken by the harsh realities of war. But now he was dead and it pained Dominic that he couldn't have done more to save the kid.

He forced himself not to think about them too much. It seemed callous, but in war you couldn't get distracted like that. Thinking about them would only hurt more, so he didn't. Instead, he focused on getting Ty into the humvee.

It was by the grace of God, Dominic thought, that they'd made it back with no more hang ups. But Ty was in bad shape. As Dominic unloaded him from the humvee, his breathing was shallow and ragged. And his body had gone cold.

"Hang in there." He said to him, determined not to lose another member of his squad, determined not to lose another friend.

Upon walking into the hospital, nurses wasted no time taking Ty from his arms. For the first time that day, Dominic felt relieved both physically and emotionally.

"Are you okay?" A nurse asked him. But her voice sounded so far away and it echoed.

"I'm fine." He said. "I'm good." He swayed.

"We need a doctor over here!" He heard her yell.

They say that when you're dying, your whole life flashes before your eyes. But for Dominic, it was just one person that came to mind as his eyes drifted shut. And he smiled, a truly genuine smile, as he succumbed to the darkness that engulfed him.

*One Year Later*

Brooke

"Brooke!"

"Yes, Kenna?" Brooke shook her head as she stood in the doorway of her best friend's room. Experience had taught her that her tortured shriek was completely uncalled for, but she'd always humored her and on this night especially. Since her mother had returned home to Norfolk, Virginia, she was having a welcome home party at the most popular, and her favorite, bar in town.

Kenna came running out of her closet, her curly black hair bouncing with every step.

"What do you think of this outfit?" She posed and twirled around to allow Brooke to take in the sparkly sequined mini skirt that hugged her curves, and the sheer black top that looked as if it had been molded onto her skin. "I was thinking of pairing it with my red heels. So does it scream 'welcome home Vivian?'"

Brooke bit back a smile and tilted her head. "I think it says 'I'm not too worried about catching pneumonia'. You do realize it's like fifteen degrees out?"

"Oh God." Kenna put a hand to her forehead and the other to her heart. "How will I ever survive?" She fell back onto her bed.

"Ha ha, very funny. But while you're out shivering tonight, I'll be nice and toasty warm."

"That's just another way of saying you plan on wearing something completely boring." Kenna rolled her chocolate brown eyes.

While her friend was a woman of eclectic tastes, Brooke was more laid back and went for a much more comfortable look rather than make a fashion statement. Kenna always managed to look like America's next top model in anything she wore. With her milk chocolate complexion, long legs, fierce attitude, and killer body, she was the epitome of a gorgeous woman. Brooke had always thought that, compared to her, she was average at best. Her best features, she thought, were her thick lashes and long brown hair no matter how many times Kenna had told her that she was gorgeous.

"What are you wearing tonight anyway?"

Brooke shrugged. "Jeans, a t-shirt?"

"You're kidding me, right? Girl this is your mom's welcome home party."

"So?"

"Soooo, you need to add some flare." Kenna said excitedly. "Let her know you're excited to see her."

"I don't think my clothes will really make a difference."

"Trust me, clothes make all the damn difference. You can borrow something from my closet."

Before Brooke could protest, Kenna disappeared into her closet once again. She groaned inwardly as thoughts of Kenna dressing her in the most outrageous outfit came to mind. She had to admit though, her mother was also a woman of exotic tastes. It was why she'd spent the most part of the past two years traveling the world, living out a life that Brooke chopped up to a mid-life crisis. After all, her mother had never been an adventurous woman until after her father had died three years earlier.

"Honey," She drawled. "Mama's got to live her life. I can't sit around just waiting for death. A woman my age has to get out and live life while she still can."

She'd added more to her going away speech, mentioning the spectacular now, living for fun, and saying how much she loved her. And maybe Brooke would have thought her mother to be completely out of her mind, but she sort of understood the need to get out and live. Her father had died of a heart attack and she supposed something like that would make anybody's biological clock tick just a little louder. As a result, her mother had seen parts of the world Brooke had only read about in books and magazines. Tokyo, Paris, Greece, and Germany just to name a few places. But now, her mother was back and Brooke was looking forward to seeing how kind the years had been to her mother. More importantly, she was excited to tell her about her own life as well.

At just 23 years old, she was well on her way to becoming the doctor she'd always set out to be since she was just a child. And she was more than sure that she'd found the perfect guy in her boyfriend, Connor, who'd she'd be taking to her mother's party with her. He was a looker with his golden locks, friendly blue eyes, and muscular body. But even more than that, he was the perfect romantic and the perfect gentlemen. He was the type to wine and dine you and then spend an evening making love instead of just fucking. Brooke had a suspicion that he planned on proposing to her soon, to which she'd already decided to say yes. But even with the promise of a wonderful future with him, she couldn't shake the feeling that she didn't love him. Sure, she cared about him a lot, but she wasn't in love with him.

Maybe if she'd never been in love before, she wouldn't have known the difference. But she had loved and she had lost, and she knew that what she felt for Connor in no way compared to what she'd felt for another before him. But it was as she'd always told herself, "love will come." And she still believed that, even though they had been together for almost a year and she still felt no change.

Later that night, around 9:30, she and Kenna had walked through the doors of Stevie's bar and grill.

Kenna had wasted no time relieving herself of her coat but Brooke wasn't feeling so brave. Under her cream colored pea coat, she wore a white floral embroider crochet long sleeved dress. She'd managed to talk Kenna into letting her wear a pair of black tights under it at least. The dress was so dangerously short, Brooke was sure that if she bent over, everyone would be able to see her ass.

"Where's Connor?" Kenna asked.

"He's on his way."

Kenna nodded as she sashayed through the crowd and danced to the music. Stevie's was a pretty big place. With the cheap drink prices, range of dance music, and more than enough space to hold over 100 people, it was one of the best attractions in town.

Brooke looked around for her mother and spotted her by the pool tables, under a banner that read 'Welcome Back Vivian'. The years had certainly been kind to her. Her hair was cut short and dyed from it's natural blonde to a fire engine red. She wore big, glittery earrings and an even more glittery blue jumpsuit. Suffice it to say that her mother looked more like a broadway show girl rather than the average housewife that all of her former 50 year old friends were.

"Mom!" Brooke greeted her with a smile.

"Brooke!" Vivian grinned as she opened her arms to her. "Oh, my baby." She dropped kisses on her forehead. "Let me look at you." She held her out at arms length and looked over her. "Oh, you're so beautiful." She smiled. "But this coat, it has to go darling."

"I'm comfortable." Brooke said pointedly.

"It's a party dear, no place to be comfortable." She winked.

Kenna rolled her eyes as she unbuttoned her coat and felt as if all eyes were on her as she felt the cold air hit her back and shoulders through the laced fabric.

"That dress is gorgeous." Vivian admired.

"Thanks, it's mine." Kenna butted in. "Welcome back Mrs. Hatfield."

"Kenna, it's always a joy to see you my dear." Vivian embraced her. "Call me Vivian. I want you girls to meet my new friend. This is Elliot."

Vivian gestured toward a man, just a few years her senior. He was tall, stiff, and smelled of cigarettes. Brooke assumed that he was probably more than just a friend by the bemused look on his face.

"Nice to meet you." Brooke held out her hand but he'd only given her a curt nod of his head.

"He doesn't socialize much." Her mother laughed.

"Let's get some drinks." Kenna grinned.

"Great idea, what will you have honey?" Vivian asked.

Brooke shook her head. "I don't drink much."

"Shots!" Kenna shouted.

Vivian grinned. "Tequila?"

"I knew I always liked you Mrs. Hat-Vivian." Kenna corrected herself.

"But I don't want any drinks." Brooke called out after them, but they'd disappeared into the crowd and made a beeline for the bar.

When they returned, Kenna pressed a drink into her hand and urged her to drink. She threw the shot back and slammed the glass down on the pool table. Her throat burned and her chest warmed. Shots were intended to keep a party going and keep you on your toes, and it was exactly why Brooke hated them.

As the night went on, she lost count of how many drinks she'd had. Due to the fact that she was an extreme lightweight, she was already drunk by her second drink, and now the room was spinning.

"I'm going to get another drink!" She said to no one in particular before she set off in the direction of the bar. But as she approached, through her hazy eyesight, she saw a face she hadn't seen in years.

She stopped in her tracks and blinked, squeezing her eyes shut and shaking her head as if to clear it. But when she opened her eyes again, he was still there.

Her feet started moving again, on their own accord, and walked towards him. Her heart was hammering hard in her chest with each step she took. She could only see him from the side, but she knew exactly who he was. His jet black hair was still short, although it had grown a bit longer than she remembered and there was a hint of a beard along his jaw and around his mouth. He wore a simple black sweater and dark blue jeans and yet he'd never looked so handsome.

He was taking a swig from his bud light bottle when she stopped by his stool at the bar and said, "Dominic?"

He seemed to freeze for a second before he turned to look at her. "Well I'll be damned." He smiled. "Brooke Hatfield." He sat his beer down and stood up from his seat, towering over her at his six feet of height.

"Dominic Carter." She wanted to smile, but memories of pain wouldn't allow it. Before she could realize what she was doing, she pulled her fist back and punched him in the jaw, causing him to stumble back. "It's been five years, you asshole!" She screamed before she stumbled forward into his arms.

"It's good to see you too." She heard him say, as exhaustion took over and her eyes drifted shut.