He's tired of fighting, tired of reaching for some kind of absolution from this. Old promises have faded into guilt by now, and the phone is a never-ending reminder that this could all be so easy. Pick up. Dial. Talk.
It's taken him long enough to end up here, in front of the door, smelling salt and sea breeze and fucking sand. Peering inside to see the shadows of surfboards, the curve of boots.
Then the door opens. Then Brad is there, with the same grey eyes that burn into Nate's throat as he tries to swallow. The sand is in there, under his skin, unrelenting scratches. It's always been there.
Brad doesn't say anything, just walks back in, his bare back a clear invitation. Sir, do come in. Sir, sit. Sir, have a drink. The beer is cold in his hand, and he can't tell the difference between the sweaty nervousness and the condensation. The droplets disappear in the cloth of his jeans. Outside, he can hear seagulls cawing over the shoreline, can hear the wind, a faint impersonation of shamals.
Nate talks. He talks about Iraq, about Boston, about Harvard. He talks around the beer, around the couch with the two of them sitting there, around Brad, whose face doesn't change much throughout his monologue. He talks till his voice is hoarse, but maybe Brad has become the Iceman after all, maybe he never waited, maybe Nate has already lost whatever he could have had.
He imagines, for a moment, that he sounds like Ray. Then he realizes that he sounds utterly broken, him in his favorite shirt and oldest jeans, with hair too long and flopping into his eyes, with piles of homework lying in his hotel room undone.
Then Brad moves, pushing Nate down against the back of the couch, moves to kiss him slowly, tongue licking at Nate's lips, swallowing keening moans that Nate stutters out as his empty bottle falls onto the carpet. A nip at his throat, a palm snaking down to press against his groin. Nate arches his back as his shirt is pulled off of him. He feels feverish. Brad is all cool tanned skin against his chest, running damp fingers along Nate's arms.
The makeshift office in Baghdad is too far away now, a memory pressed deep into the past. This is now, this is Brad claiming and Nate surrendering because it's taken too long for this to feel right. There is no room for words in between their bodies, as Brad shivers and Nate cards their fingers together, no room for promises dusty with sand, but it's enough, and Nate knows he's won.