Walt lay staring up at the ceiling he could feel Nate’s warmth along his side. Could hear Nate’s breath strong and even but not even that could assuage the guilt and reluctance Walt felt. He knew he needed to tell Nate but he didn’t know how. He was meant to be out in seven months…
“I’m being deployed again.” Walt heard the sharp intake from Nate. Huh, apparently his mouth decided to make the choice for him.
“What? When?” Walt thought he could hear a note of panic in Nate’s voice.
“Two weeks, I’m going back to Afghanistan Nate, for five months. Minimum” Walt couldn’t bring himself to turn his head and look at Nate, he knew it was cowardly but he couldn’t stand to think, let alone see what Nate was feeling. He himself was mostly confused. Here he had a good life. His place in the Marines was almost over, but he felt no real loss at that. In all honesty the last two years had shown him that he was no longer meant for this. The things he had seen and the wrongs he had done and tried to fix weighed on him too much for him to think that what he was doing mattered.
“I’m sorry Nate, I didn’t think they would send me. But they apparently need three sniper teams.”
“Which means they need you. Shit Walt you have six months left.”
“I know. For the first time I don’t want to go. Iraq was fine, yeah we didn’t do what we thought we were going to, but we were at the tip of it all. We had you. But everything since just seems useless.” Walt sighed and rolled his head to look at Nate. It hurt more than he thought it could have to see Nate staring up at the ceiling just as he had been doing, pain, anger, frustration and already loneliness visible in the lines of the face belonging to the man he loved.
Nate stood and looked around the apartment he shared with Walt. Just like the last four months it seemed too empty. Only today Nate felt it was more pronounced. So did the ache in his chest, like he was being pulled in two directions. Forward into what the future had for him, and back into what he was leaving behind.
Nate looked at himself in the mirror just like he had after Iraq. He looked just as pale now as he had then. His eyes seemed brighter and he had more laugh lines now. After Iraq he had something to show for that time. He has someone to show for that loss of self-belief. Today, the day that he graduates from Harvard, his partner, his Walt was half way around the world getting shot at, and doing the things that Nate had to leave behind before they sucked the life out of him. Nate had to leave Walt and all his men in the hands of an officer he didn’t know. He had spent the last four months in a haze of thesis pages, reviews, red pen and caffeine fueled study sessions trying not to think about all the things that could go wrong and result in Walt not coming home to him.
He was pulled out of his thoughts by the sound of a key scratching in the lock. The only people that had keys to the apartment, other than him were his sister, who would call before coming over, the building super, and Walt. Nate made it to the hallway opposite when the door opened. Struggling to get the key out of the lock, dressed in desert camo cursing under his breath was someone who should be half way around the world.
”Walt? the named felt like it was punched out of his chest. Nate couldn’t believe what was standing right in front of him. He stood there stunned looking at Walt who looked exhausted but healthy, standing smiling at Nate.
“Surprise.” Walt said as he took a step toward Nate. All Nate could do was watch as Walt took a step toward him, dropped his duffel, then closed the space between them, sealing their lips together. When they parted, Nate looked into Walt’s bright blue eyes.
“Best graduation present ever.”