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Percussion

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Rain patters on the windows, like a drum tattooing a fast, arrhythmic beat. It's late, nearly four in the morning, but neither of you is asleep. You're silent. You don't know what to say. Dozens of questions churn through your mind, hundreds of thoughts, thousands of emotions. But you don't know how to voice them. Fortunately, you don't have to, because he does.

"This won't be the first time I'm out there, you know." John is curled against your front, his head resting in the dip of your waist. "I've been to Iraq twice before and came back alive."

"I know that," you say impatiently. "But third time's the charm. Why push your luck?"

He smiles into your hip, and you can feel his lips widen on your skin.

"I don't think that's quite how the saying goes, love," he remarks and kisses your hipbone. "I've been captured before and come back, haven't I?"

"Well, yeah," you concede. "But third time, John. And don't tell me I'm not using the saying right, because it can go both ways."

"Of course," he placates, but you can hear the smirk in his voice. "I'm just a soldier, after all. What do I know about words?"

"Shut up," you mutter, but tears sting your eyes regardless.

Overwhelmed with emotion, you sit up and bend forward to hug his neck. The angle is awkward--for both you and him--, but John remains like that for a few seconds, before reaching under you to haul you into his lap. Your face immediately burrows into his neck, his pulse throbbing against your cheek.

"I'm scared for you."

His arms tighten around you, pressing you to his body.

"I know," he says. "I'm a little scared for me, too."

You pull away slightly to look at him, your brows furrowed in curiosity.

"You are?"

He nods. "I'm scared of spending an indeterminate number of nights without you beside me."

Your eyes fill with tears again, this time spilling over. Laughing softly, you admonish him.

"Stop it. You're making it even harder to say goodbye."

"I know," he laments, as he wipes away a few tears. "I'm sorry. I can be an arsehole if that would be easier." Then his nose wrinkles. "Actually, no, I can't."

"You're too decent a man for that, John Porter."

And he is, truly. He selflessly puts himself into the most dangerous situations in order to help others, and you admire that, you really do. But there's a small part of you that wishes he were a little more selfish, if that would keep him safe at home with you and Lexie.

"I've got three very good reasons to be decent." One of his hands slides down to your belly, while the other cups the back of your neck. "I love you and Lexie and our little unnamed baby."

"Fetus," you correct, but he just grins. "Anyway, she's cross with you, too. Lexie, I mean."

"Yeah, I'd gotten that from her stomping out of the room and slamming her door."

Despite his wry tone, John does feel guilty. Lexie has been dealing with the unpredictability of his career since she was a child, but he's tried other jobs, with little success. Like he'd said, he is a soldier and likely will be for as long as he is physically able.

"She loves you and is also afraid," you say. "Teenagers are just crap at showing it sometimes."

He sighs. "I know, and it's always been like this with her." John kisses the tip of your nose. "I'm used to it."

You rest your cheek on his shoulder and are silent for a while, just listening to the rain and the distantly rolling thunder. Lightning arcs across the sky, illuminating the bedroom. In one of the flashes, you glance up and see a pensive expression on John's face.

Kissing his collarbone, you ask, "Penny for your thoughts?"

He looks down at you, and you can vaguely discern his smile in the dark.

"I was thinking about what I could do to make it seem like I haven't left."

"Not going would be one way," you reply, and his laugh brings a small smile to your lips. "I'm kidding. Sort of."

"Come here, love," he says fondly, lying down and bringing you with him. He takes your hand and places it over his heart. "Do you feel that?"

"Yes, and I like your chest hair."

"Oi, I'm trying to be romantic here," he scolds, as he swipes a finger along the bridge of your nose.

"Sorry." You adopt a serious expression but can't stop the slight twitch of your lips. "Go on."

"Thank you." He kisses you once, then continues, his hand covering yours over his heart. "It beats for you, Lexie, and our child, so I have to come back. Whenever you worry about me, just remember that."

"I will," you say. A tear trails down your cheek and falls onto his chest.

"My darling," he rumbles and envelopes you in his arms.

With your head resting upon his chest, the sound of his heartbeat comforts you enough that you are able to momentarily forget that he is leaving in a few hours to one of the most dangerous countries in the world. His fingers idly trace designs on your bare skin, and soon you grow pleasantly drowsy. The last thing you hear before drifting off is the storm outside melding with his heartbeat, almost like a percussion ensemble.