Break My Fall (Falling #2) - Jessica Scott
Break My Fall
"How about you spell ‘hegemonic’?" I didn't come to The Pint tonight looking for a fight. I swear to God I didn’t. I am trying to behave.
But I don’t belong here. Not tonight. Tonight, The Pint belongs to the perky college girls spending Daddy’s money before the semester starts and the frat guys figuring out how to get laid.
Or guys like this fucking tool in front of me who think that evil people in the world can be reasoned with.
All I wanted was to have a beer and bullshit with Eli and the guys who knew what it meant to eat dirt in Iraq and instead, I’ll start my second semester just like I ended the first — in a damn bar fight.
Because there's just something about the phrase American hegemonic empire that sets my blood on fucking fire, and when it comes from this smug little know-it-all Marxist in the middle of a gentrified part of a tobacco town…let’s just say my PTSD is flaring up.
This isn't going to end well. Of that, I'm reasonably certain. And I won't apologize for that, either. Anyone who tells you fighting isn't the greatest feeling on earth has never felt the fucking rush that violence brings.
Part of me welcomes it. The feeling of fist pounding into flesh. The pain.
The pain is the only thing that's real anymore.
Another part of me, though. Another part burns with shame at the anticipation flooding through me.
I square up with the cocky little fucker who thinks he’s being ironic wearing a Kermit the Frog t-shirt.
"I'm all set, Colonel Jessup," the hipster says.
I lift one eyebrow. "You realize that's not an insult, right?" People misunderstand Jack Nicholson's character from A Few Good Men. They think Colonel Jessup is a monster. He's not.
He's doing what his nation asked of him. Defending it. Guarding it against the wolves that prowl outside the door.
Call it patriotic bullshit if you want to, but there are bad people in the world. Pretending they don't exist or that they just need jobs or pussy doesn't make them any less willing and capable of hurting the people I care about.
But I'm not at war anymore. At least that's what I keep telling myself every day when I wake up and remind myself that I'm home. It's what I want to believe when I don't see military vehicles rolling through desert sand on the 24-hour news.
Sometimes, I think I'd rather be there than here, dealing with this dickbag who thinks he knows how the world works because his professor told him about it.
He takes a sip of craft beer and tries to look disinterested. "The fact that you can't determine when you've been insulted isn't my problem." He waves a hand in my face. "Go back to murdering civilians in Afghanistan or something."
And there goes my rational thought.
To be honest, I'm not sure if I'm about to get my ass kicked today or not, but that's not really what I'm thinking about when I snatch his craft beer off the bar and throw it in his face. Eli is going to kill me for the seventh time this month for fighting again.
One of these days, I'll show up to a fight when my opponent has brought a gun or a knife but I’ll worry about that when the time comes.
Slam. Another fist, this one to my jaw because I'm not paying attention. His shithead buddy charges me like a fucking bull, and before I know it, we're crashing into the front door. It doesn't break. I don't think.
Still. Eli is going to kill me.
We crash into the street, and because it's a Thursday night, it's busier than if it was Monday. I'm vaguely aware of strong hands yanking me off him. And then I'm not thinking. I'm fucking pissed because this was supposed to be between me and the hipster and now it's not.
The hipster's buddy is on his hands and knees. I think that’s a tooth in the pool of blood.
Strong hands slam into my chest. "Jesus, man, do you have to do this every night?"
Eli. I spit blood onto the sidewalk and swipe my hand across my mouth. I am aware of everything around me. And I can really feel. Every heartbeat. Every nerve. Every pulse of blood out of my body and down the side of my face.
I feel alive.
Except where it counts.
"What's the damage?"
"It's not about the money, Josh." Eli is my height with black hair and a beard