they’d been arguing for ten minutes and joe was nearly at his wit’s end. web refused to see reason and when he got stubborn like this, joe knew he couldn’t talk any sense into him.
joe sighed and look at web who was determinedly trying not to look at joe.
“look, web, all i’m saying is you don’t have to do this to prove something. no one hold bastogne against you. we lost too much out there, had we lost you, we wouldn’t know what we’d do.”
and joe knew that we he’d just spoken was wholeheartedly an ‘i’.
i don’t hold it against you.
i lost too much out there.
had i lost you, i wouldn’t know what i’d do.
and joe both hoped and dreaded that web would figure it out.
but web was so angry that he’d only been able to figure out his next barrage of words being thrown into joe’s face.
“prove any-? PROVE ANYTHING? joe, you honestly believe that i’m doing this to prove something to all of you? like what? that i’m actually a man? a competent soldier? that i’m not some pansy just skating through this war?”
“no honestly joe, what do you even care? you don’t even like me. all we do is argue and you mock me to my face and around the other guys. i honestly can’t remember a conversation that didn’t ever up with you in my face.”
and joe has to fight the blush that tries to form on his face. there was substances to their arguments and web knew that. but joe couldn’t exactly tell web that he’d gotten so close all the time because he was tempted to kiss web far too often for being so damn clever and beautiful and for making joe want him so badly.
“i mean, you don’t really care, do you?”
web asked so quietly that joe thought he made it up.
joe couldn’t look at web because if he did, he knew web would read everything so clearly on his face. web always read joe like no one he’s ever known before. it was scary and joe found it way too attractive to be considered normal.
the soft sound from web gave joe pause. he’d never heard such a sound from web before.
joe didn’t look up, choosing to stare at the charred wood of what may have once been a kitchen.
joe felt rather than saw the knowing smile of web’s pink pout when he started speaking again.
“you do care. you care too much. that’s why.”
joe tried to put on an exasperated look on his face, but the moment he saw the hopeful and searching looking in web’s deep blue eyes, he was gone.
he knew web saw the desperation and fear in his own eyes and it was over.
it was over the moment he and web had first argued and ended in a fitful of laughter over something that joe can’t remember right now because web is stepping into his space and crowded him against the wall.
joe heart is pounding so fast, he’s certain he’s about to pass out.
“i can’t believe i didn’t see it before,” and leave it to web to talk through his thoughts rather than kiss joe, but joe is thankful for the time. he needs to pull himself together, but it’s damn near impossible with web so close, invading every single one of his senses.
“i feel like an idiot.”
joe smiles, eyes focusing on the small part of web’s chest just visible under his uniform. joe wishes he could lick it.
“yeah, now you know how the rest of us have felt.”
web smiles and it floors joe. it’s smug and affectionate and it’s all directed towards joe.
“the rest of them, maybe, but not you.”
now that he’s looking joe can’t look away.
entranced he feels rather than watches web’s body trap his own, warm arms trapping him in against the wall.
neither knows who moves first, but from the moment their lips touch, they’re doomed. it’s almost too good. like both men know that were it possible, they’d do nothing else than kiss one another.
unfortunately they were still soldiers in a war and the voices of their friends approaching the house forced them to pull apart.
“no i swear i heard ‘em in here, luz.”
“whatever joe, can we just get drunk?”
the two men in the house remain still, frozen in their embrace willing their friends away.
“fine luz, but if lieb kills web, it’s on you.”
luz scoffed, “please, those two lovebirds? they couldn’t harm each other if they tried.”
as the laughter of their friend dissipated the further they walked, web and joe relaxed.
joe felt web’s warm breath against his lips and had to fight the urge to kiss the man again because he was still mad.
“i’m still mad at you.”
this time web didn’t argue, he just sighed and finally responded to joe calmly.
“i know joe, but my friend is there. from his letters, it’s a complete disaster. i…i can’t not go. i don’t even know if i’ll even see leckie, but i need to try. he’s the only reason i’m able to stand here and kiss you.”
joe shivered as web pulled him to his chest and at how web so easily discussed kissing him, like it was a regular occurrence.
joe, in what he would call a delirious state, for once, tells web what exactly is on his mind.
he pulls back slightly, needing to be grounded by web’s gaze.
“i….i can’t lose you david. i l-love you too much to lose you.”
and that was it. joe no longer had any secrets from the man he loved. and he’d laid all his card on the table for web to either take or leave. and the subsequent minute following his declaration was the longest of his life.
but of course, it was with graced ease that david webster was able to pull joe back together and bring him back.
“i love you too joe, but i have to do this.”
and joe always loved how honest web was. he didn’t make any fake promises like “you’re not going to lose me,” or “i’ll be fine,” or “i can stay.” no, instead he gave joe everything, by giving him nothing. and for that, joe fell that much more in love with him.
he pulled web closer to him, needing the connection in order to continue talking.
“i know. i just wish you didn’t have to,” joe took a deep breath, “and when you come back, i’m never letting you out of my sight again.”
web smiled against joe’s lips, “is that a promise?”
joe smiled back, “you bet it is.”
and in that small broken down house, with charred wood and burned memories, their lives changed completely.
and it was with whispers of “i love you’s” and the memory bruised lips and burning wood that web was able to make it back home to joe.