A/N: I've taken more than a few liberties here. I'd be surprised if anything is accurate
Please be gentle, I'm a pretty new writer. I'll happily accept positive feedback and suggestions
It had been a long day for Army Colonel Dr Ethan Willis. He'd spent the previous night doing his night-time recertifications followed by a gruelling shift at Angels Memorial. He was standing at the nurses' station taking five minutes to catch his breath and update patients' charts. Also standing at the counter was doctors Leanne Rorish, Mario Savetti and Noa Keen. Barely two minutes later, Ethan felt someone walk up behind him, the others looking up. Without lifting his head, he greets his visitor
"Good afternoon General"
He laughs as he lifts his head, seeing the shocked looks on their faces.
"Morning Ethan. You got a minute"
"Ah geez. Don't tell me I have to re-do last night's jump"
"We have a situation"
"What kind of situation?"
"My gear in your office?"
"It's on its way to the plane as we speak"
"Wheels up when?"
"Give me two minutes to change"
He ducked into the locker room to change. His head popped out the door a few seconds later
"Hutch, call Christa. Tell her we need her and Mac"
"Mac is Cerberus' brother. Same litter"
"Use brother to track brother. Good idea"
Leanne was so confused. She followed Ethan to the locker room and walked in just as he was lacing up his combat boots.
"I'm being crash deployed"
"For how long?"
"Until we find Bravo team. Look, I know this is unexpected but it's best you learn about it now. I don't know how long I'll be away for, it could be weeks, or it could be months but I'm not coming home without them. We haven't really talked about this, us I mean, but I can't leave here without telling you that I want you, all of you and that includes your past, your present and your future with Ariel. So please, use this time to work out if you want me because with me comes the Army and deployments and there will be times when they have to come first"
Leanne was in tears. This was not how she had imagined them getting together. Ethan cupped her face in his hands and wiped away her tears with his thumbs.
"I want you Leanne, but you need to decide what's best for you, and for Ariel"
There was a knock on the door, it was the General
"Ethan. We gotta get going"
Ethan looked at her, committing her face to memory. With a sad sigh, he dropped a gentle kiss onto her forehead and another on her lips.
"I'll see you when I get home"
With a heavy heart, Ethan walked out the door, and into a wall of his friends. Each of them gave him a hug or handshake and wished him luck. Jesse was the last in line
"I know I don't have to ask you this but I'm going to. Please look after them for me. I'll call if I can"
Jesse nods his head and pulls him into a hug
"You go do what you gotta do and come back safely"
With one last wave, Ethan turned around and walked out the door and this time, he honestly didn't know if he'd be back
Eleven weeks had passed and the only communication they'd had from Ethan was a few emails saying that there was a restriction on communication going out of the base but that he was safe, and he hoped everyone there was ok. There had been a lot of reports on the media about attacks and firefights, but no one knew anything beyond that and tension was high as the Angels family waited for news.
It was a few weeks later and they all happened to arrive at work earlier than normal, except nothing was normal. Patients were going out and armed soldiers were coming in, a lot of them. Campbell was the first to speak
"What the hell is going on?"
Jesse shrugged his shoulders,
"There's only one way to find out"
They walked into a busy but same ER. They saw the CEO of the hospital, Ed Harbert making his way towards them.
"Morning team, you're all earlier than usual"
Campbell replied with a blunt "What's going on?"
"The Navy's taking over the 4th floor and before you ask, that's all I can tell you because I don't know much more"
"There has to be something you can tell us"
"The patients will be here sometime this afternoon. The ER will be closing at midday until the Navy has given the all clear"
Harbert walked off before anyone could say anything else. Mario snorted
"Well that was helpful"
Everyone was on edge. They were hoping it meant that Ethan was coming home but no one was sure as Harbert had mentioned the Navy, not the Army. Patients were diverted to other hospitals at midday and now all they could do was wait. The carpark had been emptied out and turned into a massive helipad. Tempers were getting short and the staff that had chosen to stick around were getting snippy, Ariel had arrived just after 1pm due to a short school day and even she was getting antsy.
Campbell was just about to lose it when they heard it, faint at first but gradually getting louder. They moved to the windows in time to see 8 US Army helicopters preparing to land. Leanne took a deep breath
"Here we go"
They had thought things would happen quickly from there, but it didn't. It was another 15 minutes before anyone came in the door. Part way through the influx, Ariel gasped, the others turned to her and she just pointed to a wheelchair that was being wheeled in. On it, was a wounded Ethan while pushing it was the familiar face of former resident Christa Lorenson. Leanne moved to step closer to him but was stopped by a soldier
"Please. I'm his girlfriend"
Before anyone could respond, Christa's voice came from behind his chair.
"Let her through, she's his NOK"
The next few hours few by in a blur. No one knew who the other patients were, everyone was tight lipped. Ethan was taken to a room on the third floor and his wounds re-checked, cleaned and re-dressed. It was close to an hour before anyone could get in to see him and Ariel flew into the room but stopped dead just inside the door. In the bed, Ethan was undressed save for a pair of shorts, his body was almost completely covered in cuts and bruises, half of his face was swollen, and he had a doozy of a black eye. He had been given painkillers but was still awake. Hearing them, he slowly turned his head towards the door and seeing Ariel and Leanne at the door, his broke out into the brightest smile and held his hand out towards them.
With those two words, Ariel closed the gap and fell into his arms. Leanne stood by the door and watched them before following Ariel into the room.
Several hours later, Leanne woke up in a recliner chair, Ariel was asleep on the bed with Ethan. Blinking the sleep away, Leanne noticed two things; firstly, Ethan was awake and secondly, the bed was more crowded than she had expected. Sitting up, she noticed that two dogs were also on the bed with him. He smiled at her, his face looking worse than it had the day before, if that was even possible.
"Good morning sleepyhead"
Leanne smiled. She hadn't realised how much she missed his voice until she heard it again.
"Hi. How long have you been awake?"
"I haven't been to sleep yet. Still on Afghan time"
Ethan held out his hand to her, squeezing it lightly when she took it. He frowned slightly
"I can't believe you're still here. I missed you so much"
Leanne kissed the back of his hand and held it close to her face.
"You're here, with us and you're safe. I missed you too, so much. Being apart from you just made me want you more. I've fallen so hard for you and sitting here with you, I'm just falling even harder"
"I don't know if I'll ever be able to tell you what happened over there but know that you are the only reason I made it home and having you and Ariel here will make the next few months easier to deal with"
Just as he said this, Ariel snuggled closer to him in her sleep, almost as if she was promising to stick by him. Leanne put her pillow on the bed by his hip and snuggled close to him and the little family fell asleep, together.
The next six months flew by, although, it wasn't always easy. Ethan had nightmares right from that first night and, having seen the worry on Leanne and Ariel's faces, he went straight to the base when he was released and able to walk unassisted 10 days later and spent an entire day with a shrink. He'd come home absolutely exhausted, mentally, physically and emotionally, had a shower, hugged his girls and went to bed where he slept soundlessly for almost 14 hours. Leanne and Ariel had insisted he stay with them while he recovered, and they'd fallen into a good routine.
Today was his first shift back at Angels since he'd been crash deployed. He knew it wasn't going to be easy, but he also knew that with his friends by his side, he could get through anything. What happened in Afghanistan had changed him, but he had a feeling that in the long term, it was going to be a change for the best.