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Under the Radar

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Pattaya, Thailand ends up being the perfect choice for a bit of R&R. John’s doctors sign off on him taking some leave—provided he actually rests and doesn’t try something like surfing—and Tony has two weeks off between leaving D.C. and reporting for work in Atsugi.

 

There are a few gay-friendly places in southeast Asia, but the Philippines is host to a ton of military personnel, and neither of them wants to risk running into someone who knows them. They also don’t want to go somewhere that makes the relationship obvious.

 

But neither Tony nor John has been to Thailand, and the beaches of Pattaya are known to be gay-friendly. Thailand doesn’t host US military these days, and the risk of being recognized is lesser. It’s crowded, loaded with tourists, and Tony and John will just be two more faces in the crowd.

 

Tony’s a little worried about John’s knee on the long flight, but John is moving a lot better these days, and he handles the trip with his usual stoicism.

 

They have a room right on the beach at a resort, because John confessed that he misses the ocean, and Tony wants to make the most of their time together.

 

Granted, John’s still wearing a soft brace, but he’s no longer on crutches and only uses a cane when absolutely necessary. Tony makes sure he has an aisle seat, and that helps as well.

 

They’re both jetlagged and punchy when they land in Bangkok, and Tony’s booked them a hotel there for the first night, knowing that they probably won’t want to catch a bus right away.

 

“I think I’m too tired to sleep,” John admits when they’ve deposited their bags in the fairly utilitarian room.

 

“Let’s see some of Bangkok,” Tony replies. “Bring your cane.”

 

John grimaces but doesn’t argue. “Yeah, yeah.”

 

They meander among the crowds, stopping at food stalls to sample local street food—chicken satay, bowls of noodles, hoi klang, sweets—they walk and eat and goggle at the crowds. Here, they’re just a couple of American tourists, and when they let their hands brush, no one notices.

 

When they join their hands, no one notices. They’re invisible in a way that isn’t true at home, and it’s nice. It’s more than nice.

 

They can hold hands and walk through the streets, holding hands, and no one cares. No one even gives them a second look, and they grow bolder. Tony slings an arm around John’s shoulders, and John returns the favor by putting an arm around his waist.

 

No one cares, no one even looks at them, and they lean into each other a little more.

 

The feeling of being invisible is heady, intoxicating, and Tony wants this all the time. He wants to walk down the street with his boyfriend without anybody giving a fuck that they’re together. He wants a life with John, but he’s never going to get it, so what he’s got is this time, and the promise of potential.

 

They can’t be together today, right now, but maybe someday. It’s more than he had before.

 

When they’re full and tired, they wander back to the hotel, and they jack each other off slowly, gently, unhurriedly. They clean up briefly and then sleep deeply. The next day, they take a bus to Pattaya and check into their hotel room.

 

They have an ocean view, and Tony takes in the white-sand beaches and clear blue waters from the large windows. He takes a deep breath and feels John come up behind him, lithe arms coming his waist.

 

“It’s good, right?” Tony asks.

 

“It’s fantastic,” John admits. “If I could surf, it would be even better, but being here with you is the great.”

 

“How’s the flesh doing?” Tony asks. “Blow job?”

 

“I can’t turn down an offer like that,” John replies.

 

Tony draws it out, well aware that their remaining time together is limited. He wants to store these memories away for the future, to take out and examine at some later date. He wants to remember how John tastes, how he sounds, the expression on his face as he comes.

 

“I’m close,” John warns, and Tony sucks a little harder.

 

When he comes, Tony pulls off and wipes his mouth. “Okay?”

 

“Amazing,” John replies. “Get up here.”

 

John jerks Tony off slowly, taking his time with it, and Tony arches up into his touch. He’s already turned on from sucking John off, so it doesn’t take long for him to come all over John’s hand.

 

John rolls off the bed to wash his hands, and then sprawls out next to Tony again, relaxed and boneless. “Nap?”

 

“Sounds good,” Tony replies, already drifting off.

 

The next few days are some of the best of Tony’s life. Being with John in Pattaya is easy, because no one knows them; they’re invisible among the crowds of tourists. After his difficult leave-taking from DC, and the stress of the last few weeks, he’s able to relax completely.

 

He and John take long, slow walks together. They hold hands and have sex in every position John’s knee will allow them to assume. Each day feels like a gift.

 

The last night they’re in Pattaya, they go out to dinner, and it’s as close to a “real” date that they’ve had. Back in their hotel room, Tony fucks John slowly, drawing out both their orgasms. As farewells go, it’s not bad.

 

And then John has to go and ruin the mood.

 

He clears his throat. “So, uh, we should probably talk about tomorrow.”

 

“What is there to talk about?” Tony asks. “We made all the arrangements.”

 

He’s flying on to Atsugi, having already shipped his things, and John is going back to DC to finish out his rehab. They already arranged for the taxis to come pick them up at the appropriate times.

 

“It’s just—I want you to know that I don’t expect you to wait for me,” John begins awkwardly. “We didn’t talk about it the last time I left.”

 

Tony props himself up on an elbow. “And what about you? What if you find someone?”

 

“I’m the commanding officer on an isolated base,” John replies. “I’m not going to fuck around with anybody in my chain of command.”

 

“Okay, fine,” Tony says. “And I’m going to be heading up the Southeast Asia division, traveling constantly, and probably working an insane number of hours. I’m not going to be in a position to meet anyone.”

 

“But if you do,” John begins.

 

“I don’t want to!” Tony exclaims. “I love you, you asshole.”

 

John scrubs his hands over his face. “Tony.”

 

“You don’t get to be the martyr in this scenario,” Tony continues. “You don’t get to be all noble and fall on your sword and give me an out that I don’t want and didn’t ask for.”

 

“What, like you did for me?” John demands.

 

Tony rolls his eyes. “You keep going back to that, and John, I get that it was traumatic for you, I do, but it wasn’t for me. I went back to boarding school like usual, and my dad divorced that step-mother like usual, and we never went back to the Hamptons. It wasn’t that much of a sacrifice for me.”

 

John sighs. “I just—want you to be happy.”

 

“So email me as often as you can,” Tony counters. “Let me know you’re alive. That will be enough for me.”

 

“I’m sorry,” John says. “I didn’t want to put a damper on the afterglow.”

 

“You wouldn’t be you if you didn’t at least try to sacrifice yourself,” Tony replies. “I get that.”

 

John smiles. “I love you too, you know.”

 

“Yeah, I know,” Tony replies. “You wouldn’t have pulled that shit if you didn’t. So, come cuddle with me until I feel better.”

 

John pulls him close and they do just that.

 

~~~~~

 

Two months later, Tony is jetlagged from flying to the Philippines for the weekend and immediately starting another case in Atsugi. He checks his email and smiles when he sees the message from John. It’s just a couple of lines—heading back to the base, will be out of touch for a while, Tamara sent this to me, thought you might like to see it.

 

The picture had been taken when John took Miles flying, as he’d promised. He’d called on a buddy to rent him a prop plane, and he, Tony, and Miles had gone up together. In the photo, Miles is propped on John’s hip, with Tony taking some of Miles’ weight. Miles has an arm slung around John’s neck, beaming from ear to ear, and Tony’s looking at the two of them with a sappy smile.

 

It’s a great photo, and Tony smiles and tucks his phone away before pouring another cup of coffee.

 

“Hey, Tony.”

 

He turns to look at Maggie Collins, a civilian contractor working on the base. She’s a few years younger than Tony, pretty and petite, with blonde hair falling softly around her shoulders, and warm brown eyes. “Hi,” he says. “How’s it going?”

 

“Good,” she replies. “You look exhausted.”

 

Tony shrugs. “Busy week.”

 

“It would have to be to drink that stuff,” she teases. “Maybe I could buy you an actual cup of coffee some time.”

 

Tony blinks, realizing that she’s asking him out. He hasn’t planned for this. He’s been thinking of himself as being “off the market” for months now, so he has no idea what to say to the gorgeous woman hitting on him.

 

Maggie’s smile stiffens, then falls off her face. “Oh, wow. I can’t believe—I’m so embarrassed.”

 

“No,” Tony blurts out. “It’s—I’m not single.” He wants to tell her he’s gay, or at least bi. He wants to explain that he’s in a relationship with this really great guy, and show her the picture John just sent.

 

But if he does that, and John comes to visit ever, Maggie could put two and two together and easily come up with four.

 

Right now, John’s best defense is for this part of Tony to remain invisible.

 

“We’re long distance,” he finally says, “but I don’t want to fuck this up, you know?”

 

Maggie smiles, her face softening. “Yeah, I should have known.”

 

Tony raises his eyebrows. “Oh?”

 

“The good ones are always taken,” she replies. “And look, if you ever want to grab a cup of coffee or a drink, just as friends, the offer stands.”

 

“I appreciate that,” Tony replies. “I should get back to work.”

 

“Me, too,” she replies, and quickly exists.

 

Tony slumps back against the counter, and then he pulls out his phone to look at the photo again.

 

And he wishes for the invisibility they’d had in Thailand for a few, perfect days.