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[personal profile] augustbird
Title: and found
Fandom: The Pacific
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: R
Characters/Pairing: Ack Ack/Hillbilly
Summary: He hadn’t been afraid of death once. He would have faced down a thousand mortars once.
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters--they are based off of the actors' portrayals of characters in HBO's The Pacific, not the real people themselves.
Author's Note: I think I made this amazing prompt much sadder than it was meant to be and I apologize in advance for that… A million thanks to [info]skylilies for being patient while I had difficulties with my writing. <333
A mixtape accompanying this fic can be found here


The sink rattles and expels a puff of air before a steady stream of water appears. Andrew washes his face in the freezing water, breath fogging against the mirror as he looks at himself. He’s wearing his winter jacket over the soft t-shirt he wore to bed but it’s still not enough to keep the cold out.

He makes his way across the room. The cheap linoleum crackles under his feet and peels back where it meets the wall. He changes quickly, wishing that he was in a decent hotel room with a working water boiler. It doesn’t take long for him to pack his belongings: just an extra t-shirt and a toothbrush.

“Your heater’s broken,” he tells the man behind the front desk as he sets his keys down. The man doesn’t look up from the computer.

“Trying to get it fixed.”

Andrew doesn’t bother waiting for an apology. Snow has piled up on his car throughout the night and he walks through the slush of footprints and tire tracks to cross the parking lot. A sheet of ice has frozen over his windshield and he has to use the flat side of the scraper to clear it away.

His car doesn’t start on the first turn of the key. Andrew feels a momentary mixture of panic and frustration when he considers another night without heating in Kansas but then the car settles into the hum of engine with the blur of condensation creeping up his windows. He runs the car for a few minutes, waiting for the air to turn from cold to warm.

The talk host on the radio claims that today will be sunny with clear skies—highs in the thirties and lows in the teens. Andrew pulls out the road and drives on.

_____


When Lannie suggested that he stop dwelling on the past and join everyone else in the present, she had been angry at him. She had been angry at him for the last few months of their relationship or, if Andrew was honest with himself, she had probably been angry from the very beginning.

Three weeks into their relationship—when Andrew still liked to make her laugh—Lannie had curled up against his side, her hair spread out over his bare chest, and she told him to be open with her. “All of your demons,” she said, “All of your fears and everything you want to be. I’ll tell you mine.”

“I’m afraid of death,” he had said. She laughed and slid her thumb against the skin over his hipbone.

“Everyone’s afraid of death.”

“No,” Andrew said. He knew men who weren’t afraid of death. He hadn’t been afraid of death once. He would have faced down a thousand mortars once.

“Want to know what I’m afraid of?” Lannie asked. She turned her face up towards him. “I’m afraid that my life will take a turn for the worse. I’m really happy right now.”

Five months later, Andrew drained tea from the strainer that Lannie had left behind and listened to the rain hit the windchimes on the balcony. The trolley stopped at the graffitied warehouse down the street every twenty minutes, slowing down with a screech of wheels on rails. He could see the community garden through the rain streaked glass of the back door, the blurs of bright green buds against coffee-colored dirt.

The apartment hadn’t felt any emptier since Lannie left, but Andrew didn’t want to live there any more.

_____


He stops in Denver for the night. The girl who hands him his room key doesn’t speak English and when he sits down at the foot of his bed, he can hear the low bass of electronic music beating in through the wall behind the headboard. The sheets smell like static and the TV screen is cracked in the corner. Andrew realizes that he hasn’t eaten all day.

He squeezes his car in between a minivan and a truck and finds change in his glovebox. Somebody wishes him a merry Christmas when he adds a quarter to the meter and he stops and smiles at her as she walks past. He closes the door of his car just as someone says, “Captain Haldane?”

Andrew turns around and a man is hurrying towards him. There’s a moment of surprise before he’s suddenly in the presence of expensive Italian shoes and a fitted wool coat.

“Lieutenant Jones,” Andrew replies and he’s smiling.

“You should use my civilian name, sir,” Eddie says. He stands on the curb of the street an armslength away and Andrew isn’t sure if he should hug him or shake his hand. He settles with a clap on the shoulder.

“You shouldn’t call me sir then.”

“Touché,” Eddie says and he claps Andrew on the shoulder too, smiles back at him, “We’re a long way from Massachusetts aren’t we?”

“I—” Andrew starts and he doesn’t know whether he feels more or less ashamed to be telling Eddie this, “I’m kind of in between jobs right now. I’m taking a little bit of time off.”

“I think that’s good,” Eddie says, “I think you deserve some rest.”

“Have you had dinner yet?” Andrew asks, “I was just about to get some food. We could catch up.”

“I haven’t,” Eddie say. It’s late in the evening and Andrew doesn’t know if he’s lying to be polite but he’s grateful for the company. “I’ll come with you.”

“Great,” Andrew says and it’s easy how they fall in step again, Eddie half a pace behind like nothing’s changed. It’s cold though, nothing like the sun beating down on shifting sands like they’re used to. The candycane lights illuminate the streets and the sky is dark. Andrew realizes that he left his scarf in the car when the wind blows past but they’re too far away to go back for it.

“Where are we going?” Eddie asks.

“I have no idea,” Andrew replies, “I’ve never been here before.”

“I’ve got a place in mind. Really good burgers,” Eddie says and Andrew lets him lead them to a quiet bar. Eddie orders a beer and Andrew orders the burger. The air is hazy with cigarette smoke and it smells of stale grease. The table under Andrew’s arms is sticky. Even with his jacket off, Eddie looks out of place with his silk tie and Andrew wants to know how many times Eddie has been here.

“How have you been holding up?” Andrew asks.

“Good. I’ve been traveling a lot. I work as a consultant now. It’s not really all that exciting. How about you, skip?”

“Good,” Andrew says, “I’ve been good.”

When they part, Andrew scribbles his cell phone number on the back of the receipt and gives it to Eddie. Eddie slips it into his pocket. When they get outside, they shake hands and leave in opposite directions.

_____


Andrew’s father always assured Andrew that there would be a place for him at Haldane Textiles. Andrew had worked there for barely three months after he was discharged from the Corps. His father gave him his own office with his own plaque and Andrew had spent months sitting in front of a computer with a spreadsheet open, barely scrolled past the first page.

The window in Andrew’s office overlooked the Charles River Basin from fourteen floors up. Andrew spent long periods of time staring at the horizon until his vision blurred and he had to blink and look back at the computer screen. He answered to his father only and his father never complained if he was slow or made mistakes.

When Andrew left, his father gave his office to the new accountant but kept the plaque in case Andrew ever wanted to come back.

_____


Andrew parks his car in a small town off interstate 70 and buys a bottle of water from the gas station. He asks the cashier if they have an information center in town and gets a silent stare in response. The door chimes a quick Christmas carol as he exits and Andrew can’t get away fast enough.

He changes from his sneakers into wool socks and the boots he’s kept in the trunk and pulls on another sweater underneath his winter jacket. The outdated atlas in his car shows a lake maybe five miles to the northeast.

As Andrew walks farther away from town, other people’s footprints disappear and he finds himself making his way through new snow. The wind has carved wavelike patterns into the frozen ground, broken only by the trees. The crunch of snow under his feet turns into a rhythmic pace that he doesn’t notice after a while. The silence here settles heavy into his mind. To speak would be to break something sacred. Once in a while, the melting snow slides off a low hanging branch and hits the ground with a soft rustle.

The sky is clear and a shade of blue that he’s seen only in photographs. He doesn’t know where he’s going but he likes the way that the cold air hits his lungs when he breathes in deep. He keeps his hands tucked into the pockets of his coat because he forgot his gloves in New Jersey. The farther he walks, the warmer he gets but he doesn’t take his coat off.

Two hours in, he spots a herd of deer nibbling on fir trees, long legs stark against the white of the snow. He changes the way that he walks so that he’s no longer making any noise. When he’s a few yards away, the deer freeze before bounding into the trees, leaving delicate tracks in the snow.

Andrew never finds the lake. By late afternoon, he’s following his own tracks back to his car.

_____


The woman who owns the boarding house in Grand Junction is named Annabelle and she’s fond of collecting teapots. She showcases a small part of her collection in a cabinet in the parlor and tells Andrew that she has a couple hundred more in her office. “My bookshelves are full of teacups,” she tells him as she stomps up the stairs with one prosthetic leg, “I don’t have any books but I suppose I could try reading your future.”

The bedroom she gives him smells like old potpourri and dust. She pulls a rag from her apron pocket and starts to polish the figurines on the desk, gesturing to the bookshelf with a glass fox, “You can read any of those if you’d like. I’m sorry about the boxes in the corner, I haven’t gotten around to sorting out those teapots yet. I hope you don’t mind.”

Andrew sets his bag on the ground next to the bed and looks at the volumes of Reader’s Digest crammed onto the bottom three shelves. They start at 1965 and end at 1996.

“I’ll have dinner ready in an hour,” she tells him, “I hope you like meatloaf.”

“Do you need help?” Andrew asks.

She sets the fox down and looks at him, “How much onion do you like in your meatloaf?”

“I’ll come down with you.”

The kitchen is small and warm and there are orchids growing in a flowerpot on the windowsill. Annabelle hums to herself as she chops carrots and broccoli to steam. The meat has already been put into the oven so Andrew doesn’t have much to do except steep the tea and set the table for the two of them.

“Where are you headed, Andrew?” Annabelle asks as he pours the tea into two chipped mugs, “I hope that’s not too personal of a question to ask.”

“No, no,” Andrew says, “I’m going to California.”

“What for? A wedding?”

Andrew sits down and puts the teapot on the beaded coaster. The steam from the pot rises along the window and Annabelle turns around to look at him, wiping her hands dry.

“Not sure,” Andrew replies and it’s only half the truth.

“You struck me as the type who isn’t sure where he’s going,” Annabelle says but it doesn’t sound accusing, “Kind of a wandering look to you. Where did you say you were from again?”

“Boston.”

“Not a lot of people drive from Boston to California,” Annabelle sits down and pulls one of the mugs of tea towards her, “I don’t think what you’re looking for is in California.”

Andrew stirs his tea with a spoon just for something to do with his hands. He doesn’t say I know but he thinks it.

Annabelle gets back up after a while to check on the meatloaf and they don’t talk about it again.

_____


Andrew has barely made it over the border into Utah when Eddie calls.

“Are you in California yet?” Eddie asks and his voice sounds staticky over the phone. Andrew pulls over to the side of the road where it’s just dirt and deep ravines carved into the ground.

“I took a long hike yesterday,” Andrew answers, “I’m only now getting into Utah.”

“I’m thinking about flying out, maybe joining you for the last leg of this trip,” Eddie says, “What’s the next major city you’ll be getting into? Vegas?”

“Vegas,” Andrew confirms.

“Okay,” Eddie says, “I’ll book tickets.”

_____


Andrew met with the principal of a charter school on the outskirts of Camden only once before he had a new job—but it took months before the bureaucracy of the New Jersey Department of Education awarded him teaching credentials. He didn’t know the area well enough to be picky about where he rented his apartment. He ended up in a neighborhood where gunshots woke him at three in the morning, reflex rolling him off the bed and behind the bulk of mattress, his heart hammering in his chest. He piled his packed boxes into the back of his station wagon the next morning and called to terminate his lease.

He shared a classroom with a world history teacher named Liza who spent more time smoking cigarettes out the window of her cramped office than she did at the front of the classroom. She liked to call on students at random during her class, asking them questions about the reading they were supposed to have done. Most of the kids sat in the back and avoided eye contact.

“I feel bad for the little shits,” Liza told him as she flicked her cigarette into a ceramic mug on her desk. She had red ink marking her left wrist where she swept over the still-wet ink of her angry commentary, “Siller—the balding algebra teacher—he doesn’t give a fuck whether or not the kids learn as long as he gets his pension in five years.”

Andrew sat across from her, trying to make sense of the scrawl in her lesson plan book. She flipped the page she had been reading. “See my kids. They hate me, but at least I’m gonna try my hardest to make them fucking learn something.”

In his second month of teaching, he met Lannie who taught earth science to the freshmen. “I’ve only taught for a semester,” she confessed to him over the soggy salad she brought for lunch, “I kind of have no idea what I’m doing.”

Andrew liked the way that she doodled on her students’ worksheets while she graded them and wrote apology notes right under: sorry about the flower, sorry about the kitten, sorry about the swirls. He liked her oversized sweaters and the way that she leaned on her students’ desks while she spoke to them. She showed up at some of his football practices and the boys gave him shit about it until he made them run extra laps. The linebacker—Chad—finished first and grinned at Andrew on his way to the locker room, making kissing faces.

Andrew felt relief when Lannie invited him to dinner and kissed him across the shift gear, feeling juvenile and cliché as she invited him in for drinks. Her apartment wasn’t very big and she crowded him against the living room wall, her fingers in the front of his shirt until he pulled away and asked her where her bathroom was.

He locked the door after himself. He pulled out his phone and sat on the edge of the tub, typing in 304 before erasing it and typing it again and again until he put his phone away and pressed his face into the palms of his hands. He didn’t know Eddie’s phone number. He hadn’t seen Eddie in almost a year and he didn’t know Eddie’s phone number.

He flushed the toilet for appearance’s sake and washed his hands. Lannie handed him a glass of wine as he took a seat on her couch and he didn’t think about Eddie’s steady voice, didn’t think about Eddie’s callused hands.

Didn’t think at all.

_____


“I’ll buy you a drink.”

Andrew recognizes the voice and he’s had enough gin and tonic that his smile is genuine when he turns around, “Eddie.”

Eddie looks at his empty glass, “Drinking the hard stuff I see. They didn’t have your brand of beer?”

“I figure if I’m gonna spend money at Vegas drinking, I might as well spend it all,” Andrew says and his voice falls too flat to turn it into a proper joke.

“Sam Adams,” Eddie tells the bartender as he takes a seat on the barstool next to Andrew, “And one for me too.”

Andrew looks at Eddie and he wants to break the silence between the two of them but he doesn’t know how to begin saying everything that he wants to say. At one point in their lives, Andrew could just think a thought and know that Eddie would know it too—but that was years ago and it breaks Andrew’s heart to think that they’re almost strangers now.

“Do you want to take your bag up?” Andrew asks.

“We can go when the beers come.”

“I got a double since you were coming.”

Eddie meets Andrew’s eyes, “Okay Andy.”

“I wasn’t sure if you’d actually come,” Andrew confesses, “I thought maybe you’d realize that you were busy.”

“It’s been a while since I thought about going to Pendleton,” Eddie says, “And it’s been a long time since we really saw each other. I’d always be able to make time for this.”

The bartender sets their beers down and Andrew watches Eddie drink half the glass in one go. He takes a sip of his own beer before pushing it at Eddie.

Eddie frowns down at it, “I thought Sam Adams was your beer?”

“It is,” Andrew says, “You just look like you need it more than me.”

_____


The day before school ended for winter break, the principal summoned Andrew to his office.

“Your performance has been exceptional, especially on the field,” he told Andrew, “You’ve been great with the boys and I’m pleased with how the season turned out.”

“Thank you.”

“I think you have the potential to be a great educator. You have the patience and the easygoing manner. I think you’re really motivated to make a difference in the next generation.”

“Yes sir,” Andrew replied.

“Andrew,” the principal said, “I’m sure you’ve realized how much we’ve been struggling with our budget and how hard we’ve been fighting for funding.”

Andrew rubbed his thumbs over his knees and leaned forward because he already knew how the conversation would play out. The other man didn’t wait for him to answer.

“I want to assure you that it’s absolutely nothing personal, Andrew. If it were up to me, I would absolutely want you on our staff permanently,” he pauses, and Andrew appreciates that he doesn’t break eye contact, “I’m so sorry Andrew.”

“No,” Andrew heard himself say, “It’s no fault of yours. I understand.”

“I can’t tell you how much I wish this could have ended in some other way.”

Andrew turned his eyes away. He looked at the window and then at the books behind the other man’s back.

“I’ll put you in contact with some of the other schools here.”

“Thank you,” Andrew said and tried to mean it.

“Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you,” the principal said and reached across the desk to shake his hand. Andrew rose to his feet and shook it briefly before turning around to leave. He was almost at the door before he turned around again.

“If I find another job here in the meantime—do you need a coach for the spring season?”

The other man frowned, “We’re putting sports on hiatus so we can straighten out our academics.”

“The kids—“

“We don’t really have the funding,” the principal smiled grimly at Andrew, “You know how it goes.”

Andrew nodded once and left.

_____


The television is on but Andrew listens to the ring of the shower instead. He has his eyes closed and his head tilted against the back of the headboard. The news anchor tells him about blizzards in the northeast and the sound of water against tile stops. He knows he should take a shower too but he’s too tired. Maybe in the morning.

After a while, he hears the bathroom door open. Eddie touches his shin through the covers and he opens his eyes.

“Want me to turn the light off?”

Andrew hands over the remote, “Don’t let me stop you from doing anything.”

Eddie turns the television off and sits on his bed. Andrew looks at the shadows of Eddie’s collarbones as he types on his phone. After a while, he turns the light off and Andrew stares up at the ceiling, listening to the hum of the heater.

He’s about to close his eyes and go to sleep when Eddie speaks, “Andy, what’s going on?”

Andrew’s first instinct is to deny.

“I know we haven’t talked in a long time, but I don’t remember you ever being this distant.”

It’s true, Andrew knows.

“If you want to talk,” Eddie murmurs, “Please Andy.”

Andrew presses his hand against the bumps in the mattress and thinks about what he’d say. He hasn’t spoken about anything that’s happened since he got out—hasn’t wanted to burden anyone else with the details. He’s pushed it out of his mind for so long that it seems strange to try and pull them out again.

“I’m thinking about reenlisting,” Andrew says.

The sheets rustle and Andrew’s mattress dips with the weight of Eddie’s body. Andrew can make out the profile of Eddie’s face in the perpetual light filtering through the curtains as he leans forward on his knees, close enough to touch.

“I figured.”

“I talked to Colonel Puller. They’re redeploying to Afghanistan next month.”

“Andy,” Eddie says and it sounds like he’s choking on the word.

“It’s been years and I still think about Baqubah,” Andrew says, “I keep thinking that Oswalt would be in residency by now. And I realize that it wasn’t the worst of it.”

“Andy,” Eddie repeats and he takes Andrew’s wrist, looking at him in the dark, “Can I—?”

Andrew scoots over to the side of the bed and Eddie moves closer, settling in next to him. It’s like too many nights sleeping under the humvee in their fatigues with Eddie’s arm pressed against his—but this is a hotel in Las Vegas and Eddie doesn’t smell like sweat and sand. He’s not cocooned in by stiff fabric and metal above his head.

“Why didn’t you call?” Eddie asks.

Andrew slides their hands together, fits his fingers in between Eddie’s. Eddie breathes slowly and Andrew traces the tendons in Eddie’s wrist, pressing fingertips gently against the vein leading up his forearm. “Why are you here, Eddie?”

Eddie reaches out and grabs Andrew’s hand, stills it. He turns towards Andrew, close enough that Andrew can feel the movement of lips against his shoulder as Eddie speaks. “Because you’re here.”

Andrew turns his head, looks down at the top of Eddie’s head and he doesn’t know what to do, doesn’t know what to say. Eddie reaches under the covers and puts a hand on Andrew’s chest, between his neck and heart with the thin cotton of Andrew’s shirt separating skin from skin. Andrew feels his breath shallow out.

“How long are we going to fight this?”

Andrew’s voice is a whisper, “I don’t know.”

Eddie presses his lips against the bone of Andrew’s shoulder, splays his hand out. Andrew feels his heart beat faster under the press of Eddie’s palm.

“We were a good team.”

Andrew blinks up at the ceiling. “We were.”

“Why are we doing this?”

Andrew touches Eddie’s face, traces his hairline from his temple to his jaw with a fingertip before moving his hand away. Eddie watches him in the dark and Andrew swallows before he speaks.

“I don’t know.”

_____


Andrew remembers that Eddie likes to take his coffee with a single sugar. He remembers that Eddie doesn’t like honeydew so he picks out all the green cubes from the complimentary breakfast fruit salad onto a plate for himself. He stands at the foot of the bed looking at Eddie’s sprawled form under the covers. There are holes in the sleeve of Eddie’s shirt and he takes up a majority of the space on the bed. Andrew eats three pieces of fruit before setting the plate down and heading into the bathroom.

He doesn’t know what possesses him to stopper the tub and fill it but he strips and closes his eyes as he sinks into the warm water. He doesn’t know how long he’s been sitting there when Eddie knocks on the door, “Can I come in?”

“Yeah,” Andrew replies.

Eddie opens the door and closes it after himself. He looks at Andrew in the tub for only a moment before turning the sink on and splashing water on his face.

“When do you want to make it to Oceanside?” Eddie asks.

Andrew watches Eddie dry his face on a towel and take a seat at the edge of the tub. He looks down at Andrew and drops the towel onto the closed toilet seat, fingers closing around the hem of his shirt.

“Tell me to stop,” he says.

Andrew keeps his eyes on Eddie’s face. “No.”

Eddie pulls the shirt over his head. Andrew touches the small of his back with wet fingertips as Eddie pulls off his boxers. Andrew watches Eddie’s face as he steps into the tub and lowers himself to fit into a space too small for two grown men. He leans forward and Andrew feels his eyelashes brush his cheek as Eddie presses a chaste kiss to his lips, straddling his hips in the water.

Eddie bites at his lower lip and Andrew lets him in. Eddie’s fingers tangle into his wet hair and he pushes his hips forward, grinding the cleft of his ass against Andrew’s cock. Andrew lets out a shaky breath, stroking a hand along Eddie’s side. Eddie builds a rhythm, fingers curling around the back of Andrew’s neck until Andrew breaks the kiss and gasps against Eddie’s damp neck.

Eddie touches his lips to Andrew’s temple. Andrew holds him close.

_____


Eddie takes a phone call when they stop at a sandwich shop in San Bernadino for dinner. Andrew sits in the booth and watches Eddie pace the three squares of concrete in front of the shop as he speaks on the phone.

“I’m not keeping you from anything, am I?” Andrew asks as Eddie takes his seat and picks his sandwich back up again.

“It was just a brief complication with the firm I consulted with last week,” Eddie says, “Don’t worry about it. I promise that my weekend is clear.”

“You settled back in really well,” Andrew says, “I expected myself to do better.”

Eddie looks at him and touches Andrew’s knee with his leg under the table, “How long have you been carrying around the ghost of everyone who’s gone?”

Andrew keeps his eyes on Eddie’s face but he doesn’t reply.

“It’s no dishonor to their memory if you let them go,” Eddie says, “They will be remembered.”

_____


The recruiting center at Oceanside is closed when they arrive. They double back and get a motel room off interstate 76 near the airport. The streets look vaguely familiar to Andrew but he hasn’t driven them enough times to navigate his way around without a map. It’s been a while.

“My flight leaves San Diego tomorrow. Two in the afternoon,” Eddie tells Andrew as they pull into the parking lot. Andrew pulls the keys from the ignition and makes no move to get out.

“I’ll drive you down.”

At the front desk, Eddie asks for a king instead of a double and Andrew doesn’t stop him. The receptionist doesn’t react as she keys them in. The room smells like stale cigarettes and linen and the heater has to be turned on. Eddie folds his coat over the back of a chair and leans against the desk, looking at Andrew.

“On the flight home from Baghdad you said you were looking forward to coming back,” Eddie says, “You said you were looking forward to seeing your family again, meeting your sister’s husband for the first time. What happened?”

Andrew can’t meet Eddie’s eyes.

“I gave you my phone number,” Eddie says and Andrew hates the calm way that he says it, “I gave you my email address. I looked you in the eye and I said, Andy, let me know when you get settled back in. I said we’ll meet halfway, maybe Philly or New York. And you never called. What happened?”

“I don’t know,” Andrew says, “I don’t know.”

“I called the number you left me,” Eddie says, “It was disconnected. None of the other boys had managed to get in contact with you. I wrote you a letter and it was returned to my apartment.”

Andrew doesn’t say anything.

“I didn’t call you because I didn’t know how to reach you, Andy.” He doesn’t raise his voice. Andrew wishes he would. “I didn’t call you because you didn’t want to be found.”

Andrew can feel his heart beat against his ribcage but he doesn’t turn away when Eddie steps towards him. He doesn’t move when Eddie touches his elbow and forces Andrew to look at his face. There’s no anger, just Eddie looking into his eyes and Andrew’s heart is beating so loud that he’s afraid Eddie can hear it too.

“What are you scared of?”

Andrew feels like a cornered animal, caught between his history and Eddie’s kindness and he doesn’t know why it’s so hard for him to answer the question, doesn’t know when it became so hard to talk to Eddie. Eddie touches his cheek with his fingertips and he doesn’t back down, doesn’t let Andrew go.

“That I’ll disappoint you,” Andrew answers and it’s no relief to say it out loud.

Eddie doesn’t move away and his lips barely move when he says, “I should have never left you alone.”

And “I should have gone to Boston.”

And “You will never be a disappointment.”

Andrew breathes.

Eddie touches his lips to the side of Andrew’s nose, his cheek, and he says, “Come home with me.”

_____


Eddie shoulders his duffel bag and looks at the line for security. He has a coffee in one hand and his phone in the other and he’s fitting neatly back into the world again. Andrew loves him too much to be jealous.

“Line could be shorter,” Eddie remarks and drains the last of his coffee. He tosses it into the trash and looks at Andrew.

“You don’t have to do this again,” Eddie says, “Afghanistan is probably going to be just as much of a clusterfuck as Iraq was.”

“I know,” Andrew says.

Eddie looks back at the line again, then at his watch. “I’ll call you when I land. We need to start talking more.”

“I’ll let you know what happens.”

“Okay,” Eddie says, “Okay,” and he steps forward to kiss Andrew before breaking away and saying, “I need to go catch my flight.”

“I’ll see you,” Andrew says and he hopes that it isn’t a lie.

_____


On Monday, Andrew parks his car on the corner of Las Rosas and Camino. He has an appointment with the officers and he’s already five minutes late.

He’s been sitting in the car for the last five minutes, thinking about sand in his boots and sand in his clothes. He’s been thinking about guns and armored vehicles and Eddie’s voice over the radio, the sync of their breathing at night. He’s been thinking about courage and resolution.

Eventually he pulls out of the parking lot and starts driving east.
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