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no one laughs at god in a war (no atheists in foxholes)

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There's that saying, that there are no atheists in foxholes.

When your ears are ringing from explosions, and the air is thick with the sour smell of smoke and you can feel the ash settling on your tongue, when mouthless screams are ripping through your body like bullets – when everything you can do, and have done, isn't enough, you know that it's true.

So you close your eyes, and you pray to whomever the fuck is listening.

x

The HUD is flickering, the metallic whine of the repulsors fading as the solid blackness of space settles around you like another set of armor.

The bomb is a fucking albatross that you've hung around your own goddamned neck, and you know this is a one-way trip, you know that this was a really bad idea, except it feels like the first good idea you've ever had.

Sometimes, when you're alone, you've practiced what it would be like to say good bye. You always figured you'd leave a note, or maybe one of those kick-ass Obi-Wan Kenobi holograms.

You never thought that you'd be on the wrong end of a dial tone when you saw what space looked like for the first time.

You close your eyes, and for the first time, you pray.

x

It's cold.

That's the first thought you're aware of, the first sensation you can process. Everything's dark; you hear the static from the radio but you can't seem to find where it is.

You vaguely wonder if you still have a hand to turn it off.

There's a dripping, a slow rhythm from somewhere, and the darkness seems to sing with it, a fluid blackness that's frigid and wet and nothing all at once. You open your eyes, but nothing changes.

Exhaustion is the only thing you're sure of, you know you could just settle in for the best sleep of your life – maybe, when you wake up, this will have been one of those weird dreams that always seemed to follow weeks in the field. A chemical joke, cooked up by your subconscious after battle.

You're pretty sure you made a date with Peggy, though. You kind of hope, for a second, that at least that wasn't part of this dream.

You close your eyes again, remembering the prayer your mother taught you, the one to ward off nightmares.

Our father, who art in heaven.

x

You can tell from the soft snore beside you that he's still there, still asleep. Blond hair striped in shadow by the moonlight spilling through the blinds.

Today was almost the end.

It's always almost the end.

Sometimes, it's the little miracles that make things seem worth it – the red-gloved hand to pull you up, the too-blue eyes searching your face for the pain you're not admitting, the star that seems to stay white, even when everything else is gray and black and scarlet. Miracles. Things that shouldn't exist, but do.

Like you.

Like him.

He grumbles a bit, rolls over, and you find yourself pinned under the warm weight of an arm. Your hand reaches for his, skimming the pad of a thumb over the endless expanse of skin until you find what you're looking for. The spaces between his fingers welcome yours, fitted like a skeleton key into a long-forgotten lock, and you squeeze, just for a second.

With your hands folded together, as if in supplication, you close your eyes and wonder what you did to deserve this miracle.

x

Your name is falling from his lips, trickling out like rain on windowpanes, and you're drunk on it. You want to chase the syllables through the air, across his skin, trap them like butterflies under glass and guard them jealously.

The way he is now, one long expanse of olive skin and dark hair underneath you, a tangle of sweaty limbs and sharp angles, is only yours. There's no fight here, no war, no place to hide – only whispers, palms brushed over the juts of ribs and fingers twined together, one unending movement that you don't remember beginning.

Sometime after, when the room is dark and the two of you are trying your best to occupy the same space, limbs entwined, dark and light hair sharing one pillow, you'll ask him if he feels safe.

Half-lidded brown eyes will meet yours, and you'll watch the curve of his mouth as he replies.

"This is the only place I feel safe."

And it will sound like a benediction.

x

There are no saints in foxholes, either.

After the ringing in your ears stops, and the fires have all been put out, and you've finally spit the ash from your mouth (the grit of it still hanging in each breath), you have to move on. There's always another battle to fight, another war to wage.

The best you can do is figure out what you're fighting for, and pray that you're enough to defend it.

x