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No More Late Nights

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     If David smoked these days, it was outside and at night. He’d creep quietly out of bed when he heard and felt Hal’s breathing deepen, and make his way downstairs to the porch of their small house. It was rare that Hal ever sensed David getting up, but tonight, Hal’s muffled mumbling of his name and the feeling of fingertips brushing against his arm made him freeze.

     He looked back over his shoulder at Hal. The bottom half of his face was hidden by their shared blankets, but David knew there was a frown on his partner’s face. “Are you alright?” he said. David didn’t answer. Hal sighed and pushed the covers back. “Honey…” His frown deepened and he patted the pillow next to him. David grumbled and he swung his legs back onto the bed. No getting out of this one now. He lay down, facing away from Hal.

     He felt Hal’s slender fingers comb sleepily through his hair. Despite his embarrassment at getting caught, he couldn’t help but be comforted by the touch. He heard Hal shift beside him. “What’s the matter?” Hal asked softly. David felt another hand moving down his back, slowly tracing the muscles and scars. “Mmh. Can’t sleep,” he grunted. Hal hummed, and then the two fell silent for a while.

     Eventually, Hal sat up fully. “There’s gotta be something going on,” he said. “I’ve been smelling cigarette smoke on you when we wake up-- why are you doing that again?” David hunched his shoulders forward, curling in on himself. They’d had many arguments about his smoking habit. Recently, they’d come to an agreement on the situation: start quitting, for Sunny’s sake. It was better now, he supposed-- he hadn’t been going through packs like he used to. But over the last couple weeks he’d been tense and started jumping at the smallest of noises. The nightmares were back too. The familiar taste and numbing effect of the nicotine helped him relax, so he’d started to smoke more frequently.

     “Is it the nightmares again?” Hal asked. David glanced at him from over his shoulder. “A little,” he replied, rolling over onto his back. He saw that Hal was frowning, that sad little frown mixed with anger that he’s seen many times before. He huffed a laugh and poked at Hal’s cheek. “I’m okay,” he said. Hal smiled. He laid his head down on David’s chest and wrapped his arms around him. “You know you can tell me anything, right?” he said.

     “Mmh, I know.” David pressed Hal against him, just enough to make himself feel secure. Hal sighed with content and placed a light kiss on David’s collarbone. They lay in silence again. “I’ve been thinking about if I lost you and Sunny,” David muttered, reaching up and tapping the wall behind them. Their young daughter was asleep in the next room. David’s family was everything to him, everything that kept him fighting for the future. “What if one day, I got called back and all this was taken from me?” The three of them had made a nice little life for themselves: Hal was a professor at the local university and Sunny wasn’t being homeschooled anymore. David stayed at home and ran errands mostly, but he was fine with that. It was good to not be so busy all the time. Hal looked up at him. “Dave, you’re retired. You’ve made that very clear-- to the colonel, to everyone,” he responded quietly. “I know, but I just can’t shake the feeling,” David said.

     “I’d never let that happen,” Hal said. David couldn’t help but let out a snort at that. “And if they did, you’d beat them up?” he teased. Hal rolled his eyes and swatted at David’s shoulder.  “I would, actually! I’ve watched you fight for years, I’m sure I can try some techniques,” he said in defense. David laughed and Hal huffed, sliding back to his side of the bed. “But really, babe. The chances of you getting called back are very slim. Our fight is over,” he said, pulling the sheets back up to his chin and settling down again. David took a deep breath and nodded, silently agreeing. He felt Hal scoot closer to him and turned over onto his side. They lay there looking at each other, then Hal smiled softly and kissed him. David kissed back and slid his arms around Hal’s waist.

     “Think you can sleep now?” Hal said as he pulled away, resting his forehead on David’s. David hummed. “Yeah, I think so,” he replied. Hal pressed a quick kiss to David’s cheek before he shifted downwards to snuggle against his chest. David buried his face in Hal’s hair, holding him close.

     “You’re okay,” Hal said.

     “I know,” David replied. He closed his eyes and listened to his partner’s slow breathing. He was okay, his life had ended up being more okay that he ever thought it would be. There was no better comfort than to have someone he loved very dearly to assure him that he was okay. “Goodnight, Dave,” Hal whispered.

     “Goodnight, Hal,” he replied. David lay there in the warm dark, holding Hal tightly, until sleep finally overcame him. He slept soundly and dreamlessly until the smell of mildly burnt eggs woke the two of them in the morning.