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After the Battle

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The party of November Tango 25 decided to get together off base.

It was just him, Lokett and Santos at the bar.

After the invasion ended and they were given leave the first thing Adukwu decided to do was go visit his sister in Nigeria, so he just sent his regards to the crew. Harris and Stavrou stopped by for a couple of drinks before heading back out. Apparently, Harris got some bad news and neither one of them was in much of a celebratory mood. Although Imlay couldn’t image what could be worse than dealing with an invasion of violent ruthless aliens.

Staff Sergeant Nantz stayed a while, had a couple of drinks and shared a couple of stories from the war parties he led before suddenly being forced to face an intergalactic threat. He left about ten minutes ago just before Lieutenant Martinez decided to call it a night and left too. Imlay resisted the urge to scoff at that thought. As much as he respects his Lieutenant, the man is entirely too obvious. If the constant staring wasn’t enough of a clue then the way he constantly followed Nantz around the bar sealed the deal. Imlay is sure he isn’t the only one that noticed, since he caught the look that Santos gave Martinez when he suddenly decided to cut out less than a minute after Nantz left.

“He’s got it so bad.” Imlay said taking a swig from the beer in his hands, elbows braced on the small table off to the side in the crowded bar.

“Can you blame him?” Santos said with a shrug, “Nantz kicked some serious ass, never left Will’s side. It would’ve been weirder if he didn’t get even a little attached to the guy.”

“He’s married though.”

“He won’t leave his wife.” Santos remarked as she took a sip from her own bottle, “He’s just… star struck.”

“I dunno. Will looks at Nantz like he made the sun and the stars, considering all the shit we went through he might as well have.” Imlay said with a sigh as he set his bottle down, “My point is that I get why Will likes him, that’s exactly why I’m worried.”

“They’ll be fine. And even if they aren’t, they’re grown men. It’s not your job to manage their issues for them.”

Imlay paused, “I’m not managing-“

“Yeah you are, Stavrou told me that you used to do that with everyone even before the invasion.”

“So what? It’s a bad thing that I like to look out for my friends?”

“No, it’s not bad. I just think that maybe you should take a minute to figure out your own shit before you start messing with everyone else’s.”

“Excuse me?”

Santos smirked, “Will’s not the only one who’s got it bad.”

Imlay frowned at her and she rolled her eyes as she pointed towards the bar with her bottle, and Imlay looked up to see Lokett standing at the front talking to the bartender as he got their next round of drinks. “You’ve always got your eyes on him.”

Imlay shook his head as he took another swig from his bottle, “It’s not like that.”

“Not like what?”

“Lokett’s just a friend, we share a room on base that’s all.”

“You share a room?”

Imlay looked up at the woman and found her wearing a shit eating grin and he growled in annoyance, “Don’t fucking start. We’re just boys that’s it.”

“You can’t be attracted to your boy?” Santos asked with an arched brow and Imlay gave her a level stare.

“No.”

Santos gave a snort just as Lokett started heading towards them, carrying three beers and a couple of shots on a tray.

 

“Uh uh,” Santos said just as Lokett set the tray down on the table, “I think I’ve had enough to drink for one night.”

“C’mon Santos, don’t think you can keep up?” Lokett teased and Santos rolled her eyes.

“Keeping up isn’t a problem junior, I’m just not trying to wake up with a hangover tomorrow morning.” She said just as she got up from her seat and finished off the rest of her beer, “Besides, I’m driving home to see the family tomorrow. I need to get up early. Traffic’s gotten worse since reconstruction started in the city. I’ll see you guys back on base in a month.”

“Later Santos.”

“Careful on the road.”

Lokett said tipping a bottle to the woman just as she gave Imlay a quick hug before she left.

“She left in a hurry.” Jason commented casually  as he took a sip of beer and Imlay looked up at him for a moment. Those soft brown eyes and that bright smile, he felt his face warm ever so slightly as Santos’ words came back to him.

“You can’t be attracted to your boy?”

Lokett’s head gave a tilt and his lips twitched down in a slight frown, “Something wrong?”

“No, no nothing’s wrong. I think Santos just got bored of babysitting your ass all night junior.” Imlay said reaching over to grab the other’s bottle right out of his hand to take a swig, most definitely not thinking about the fact that his friend’s lips were on the bottle a dew moments before because that would just be weird. while Lokett just rolled his eyes at his behaviour.

“Whatever. Hey, you plan on going home any time soon?”

Imlay shrugged, “Are you?”

“Nah, my mom’s still helping my aunt get settled into her new place and she took my little sister with her. There isn’t anyone to go home to right now.”

“Maybe I’ll stay too.” Imlay said reaching over to put a hand on the back of Lokett’s neck to give a brief squeeze and felt his chest warm when the other almost seemed to lean in towards him at the touch, “If I leave you alone for five minutes you’ll just end up walking yourself into another invasion.”

“Haha.” Lokett said with a roll of his eyes.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

He was one week away from retirement just a little while ago. He’s divorced and only one of his kids managed to survive the invasion. His daughter Lucy but they don’t really talk much. Even before the invasion, their conversation was strained that didn’t really change after the aliens were gone. He had no real home to go back to. But Will… Will has a wife, friends and family. He shouldn’t be here with Michael, in the cramped living quarters the military granted him after the aliens were defeated.

“Martinez-“ he was silenced when the younger man kissed him, leaning over to brace his hand on the bed. Michael let him. The kiss suddenly broke and the younger man looked right into his eyes as he gave a soft smile.

“We’re not fighting aliens right now, call me by my name.”

“Will.” Michael sighed, “Does your wife know you’re here?”

Bringing up his wife was a low blow but Michael knew it was necessary. He knew what Will wanted from him.  He knew how determined the younger man was to get it. He also knew that he didn’t really have the strength to turn Will away.

Instead of getting upset, Will just gave a shrug.

“Stella knows where I am.”

“Really?”

“She also knows how much you mean to me.” Will didn’t look away. Michael had to look away.

“Will-“

“You know why I followed you off that halo? I did it because you said that you’d go to hell and back for me, and I’d do the same for you. I want to be here and I know you want me here too.” Will said moving even closer simultaneously taking his shirt off, “Just relax. I know what I’m doing.”

Michael huffed out a sigh, “I just don’t understand what you see in me. When did dad-bod suddenly become popular?”

Will’s head gave a tilt, “You know, I’m a dad too. You’re not that much older than I am.”

Michael looked at the man on the bed with him as Will moved over him, bracing a hand on either side of the older man’s hips. Smooth tan skin stretched over hard ridges of toned defined muscle on his arms and chest.

Michael gave him a dull look, “You’re not making me feel any better.”

Will let out a soft chuckle, “O.K, then let me change that.”

He closed the distance between them, Michael couldn’t resist the urge to tense up especially after Will moved forward to urge him to lie on his back.

This started that day when they managed to take that first ship down. The enemy drones were officially offline, the aliens had retreated; they no longer had control over the skies. The feeling of victory had been exhilarating, overwhelming even. That’s why he brushed it off when Will suddenly dragged him aside, pulled him in and kissed him. Michael brushed it off because they’d endured so much, survived impossible odds just so they could make it to that point let alone defeat the enemy. A sudden and irrational response was to be expected, it was only natural. Thankfully the other marines were too busy celebrating to really notice and Michael could pull away before Lokett and Imlay swarmed them.

He disregarded the incident and put it out of his mind. They got to base, stocked up and went back out again. After enduring the first shitstorm, Will was much more comfortable in leading his team, he was more confident. There was nothing the aliens could throw at them that they hadn’t seen already, and even if they did, this time he was ready. But he still insisted on having their Staff Sergeant with them, not that Michael had any intention of going out with any other crew to begin with.

They spent the next four days in limbo between falling asleep on halo’s and eating in the air to taking down extra-terrestrials and grounding their drones. It was easy to forget, but Nantz couldn’t forget forever. It was day four, they’d taken back Los Angeles and assisted in taking down the command centres in three other cities. But they weren’t the only ones who were hard at work. After day four they finally decided to call it a day and rest, finally got the time to do a couple of proper medical examinations much to Adukwu’s relief.

Being apart after spending so much time together seemed strange so they still ate together and hung out though the air was always heavy and a little odd when they did. In the semi-quiet and sort-of peaceful moments they shared together, it was easier noticing how much smaller their group was from when they were first deployed to Santa Monica. Santos lost her entire team. They lost Mottola, Kerns, Simmons, Guerrero and Lenihan, Hector’s father. It’s not the first time he’s been in combat, not the first time he lost people and watched them die. It hurt like hell every time but that pain was something he forced himself to get used to; take it in, absorb it and learn to do better.

But it was a first time for Will. The younger man was visibly shaken and, on some level,, Michael wasn’t sure what to say. It wasn’t going to get better; he was just going to learn to deal with it. He made the calls that he thought were necessary, but there’s no telling if he could’ve done it better. And it’s never really going to be alright. What Will needed was time, to take it all in and deal with it, get some counselling.

That’s what he told Will to do that first night when they talked. He went to check in with the lieutenant just to see how he was doing. When he walked into the tent, nothing felt odd at first, nothing felt different. Will looked exhausted but, that was true for most of the crew. They sat down and talked, he handled it like so many other talk downs he’s done with other trainees. Will was quiet, but again, that was true for most of the crew and considering everything they went through it was to be expected.

It was just as he was about to leave-

“You did good.” Michael said.

“Did I?” Will asked looking down at his hands and Michael nodded.

“You led your men, kept them moving and completed your mission. In a situation like this, that’s all you need to do.”

“I couldn’t have done it without you.”

“Martinez-“

“No, I’m serious.” The younger man said finally looking up to the other man, “I was so sure that I was ready… You pulled me back up whenever I started sinking and I don’t know what I would’ve done if you weren’t there.”

Michael huffed out a sigh and shook his head, “I’m your Staff Sergeant, it’s my job to make sure you keep it together.”

Will didn’t say anything to that, just stared back at the older man for an unsettling amount of time. Michael cleared his throat.

“It’s been a long… week. I’ll let you get some sleep.”

“I don’t mind having you here.”

“I’m not-“

“You could stay.”

Michael paused and stared back at the other man. The request in itself wasn’t all that odd. He’s gotten it before. Young cadets who entered battle for the first time, civilians that got attached during the course of rescues and officers and Lieutenants like Will who got their first taste of leading men to hell and back. Michael remembered asking one of his fellow soldiers for the same thing the first time he was deployed. Sometimes you just…

You don’t want to be alone.

He looked up towards the tent’s entrance, he thought about his own quarters. Just as open and empty as Will’s might seem to him. For a moment he envied the corporals since they were required to bunk together.

He looked back at Will and gave a soft smile.

“You play poker Martinez?”

Will let out a startled laugh, “No but, I learn real quick.”

Michael nodded, “Gimme a couple of minutes, I’ll be right back.”

They spent most of the night playing poker and drinking. Santos managed to sneak them a bottle of whiskey from one of the food tents. It didn’t take long for Will to pick up on the rules he was actually pretty good, too bad his tells were so obvious. They talked and drank and played. Will asked him about his last mission, about Lokett’s older brother and how he managed to make that last call to save civilians but lost most of his party. There was no malicious intent, Michael could tell.

He was still trying to deal with Kern’s death. They sent him up on that ridge to make the call for the airstrike to destroy the alien ship and got blown apart for his trouble.

They talked and drank and talked and drank. The edges were starting to blur a little, he ended up with his head on his arms as he slumped over the table, Will’s occasional smile somehow too bright even in the dim lighting in the tent. At some point Will had leaned over the scattered cards and empty glasses and pressed a kiss on his lips.

That sobered Michael up almost immediately.

“Whoa, Martinez. What’re-“

Will kissed him again. Michael didn’t pull away the second time around. He allowed himself to be dragged up off his seat and over to the bed. The rest of the night was kind of a blur. He was relieved when he woke the next morning, in the cot with Will but still fully dressed.

Michael left, went to get a shower and get ready for the day. He dismissed the incident as easily as he dismissed the first one until Will caught him just outside the food tent.

“Hey, about last night-“

“It’s alright Martinez. There’s no need to apologize.” Michael said with a shrug, “Whiskey, right?”

“What? No, I wasn’t trying to apologise.” Will said his lips twisting into a slight smile, “I don’t regret what I did.”

“Ohkay?” Michael didn’t understand where this was going. “So, what are you trying to say?”

“Thank you? I really appreciate you staying with me last night. You didn’t have to.”

“It’s no problem. It was nice having some company.”

“As far as kissing you-“

“Martinez-“

“I don’t regret that either.”

“What-“

Will then grabbed a handful of the sergeant’s uniform to drag him forward and kiss him again. Michael tensed and stared back at the younger man with wide eyes until Will broke the kiss and smiled.

“I still have to give in my final report. I’ll see you later Staff Sergeant.”

With that the lieutenant walked away and Michael just stared on after him with wide eyes.

The next few weeks were busy for everyone. With the aliens finally being driven from the earth and the human population trying to recover from the sudden attack, they were both occupied for a while. Now-

Michael tried not to squirm as Will’s hand slipped in underneath his shirt and started pushing it up. He tried not to tense up. He failed miserably.

Will paused, “We can stop if you want.”

Michael looked up into the younger man’s eyes. They should stop. It would be wrong for them to keep going. So very very wrong.

Will’s head gave a tilt and he leaned in with their lips just barely touching. “I want you. Do you want me?”

Michael knew that he wouldn’t know what to say even if he could get his mouth to cooperate with him right at that moment. He swallowed hard. Will huffed out a scoff, a soft smile pulling at his lips.

“Kiss me.” He whispered and Michael took in a deep breath before he leaned up to join their lips in a kiss, more awkward and uncertain than the first time he kissed a girl in middle school.

Will either didn’t notice or didn’t care as he pressed in closer and tilted the older man’s head to open his mouth and deepen the kiss. Michael let him because… he didn’t want to stop, but for the first time in a long time he wasn’t sure what to do with his hands, or his legs or his head or anything for that matter. It was so much simpler when they were running from aliens and taking down battle ships, everything made so much sense. Now he’s confused, he’s all off kilter, he didn’t know what to do. He just knew that he didn’t want to stop.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Nick paused, staring out to the other man standing by the barrier on the roof looking out over the city or what was left of it at least. He walked out, stopped at Kevin’s side and set a bottle of beer down next to him. They didn’t say anything for a moment until Kevin suddenly leaned over and let his head rest on Nick’s shoulder.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this.” Kevin said. Nick kept his eyes on the city scape as he answered.

“Used to what?”

“The quiet. It’s all so calm.” Kevin let out a sigh, “I keep waiting for the next alert to go off, you know. Like there’s going to be another invasion we’ll need to take care of just when things start feeling normal. It feels like we need to be on all the time.”

Nick didn’t say anything to that just gave a grunt as he took a swig from his bottle.

“I can’t even remember how many ships we took out. I just remember falling asleep on the transports every time before we landed and had to start fighting again.”

“Five ships. Four days.” Nick answered, “Everyone else took care of everything else.”

Kevin took in a deep breath, “Four days. Damn. It felt like weeks.”

“It’ll get better.”

“Will it? Everything’s so different now.” Kevin let out a heavy sigh, “I haven’t even told my parents about Cherise.”

“You might not need to.” Nick said, “She loves you Kev, she might still come around.”

“I’m not even sure if I still want her to, man.”

“Really?” Nick asked arching a brow at his friend and Kevin shook his head as he grabbed the bottle resting on the barrier.

“It’s weird.” He started, twisting the top off the bottle before he lifted it up to his lips to take a deep gulp, and let out a soft gasp, “After that last call, when I found Cherise it was just… It was like I didn’t even recognise her and when she called off the wedding, honestly, I felt relieved.”

Nick paused to turn and face his friend, “I thought you said you loved her.”

“That was pre-alien invasion Kevin.” Kevin joked though there was no humour in his voice as he shook his head and took another sip, “Post-invasion Kevin doesn’t know what he wants.”

“You’ll figure it out.” Nick said as his head gave a tilt and he reached out to nudge the other’s arm, “How does post-invasion Kevin feel about me?”

“At this point, you’re the only thing I still feel sure about.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Well at least we know you haven’t gone completely crazy.”

Kevin laughed but kept his eyes on the city as he spoke, “It feels like I’ve known you since forever.”

“We have known each other since forever.”

“No, I mean… I don’t even remember what it was like before we met and that was in… High School right?”

“Sophomore year.”

“Yeah, you had that stud in your ear and you drove that junky-ass car to school every morning.”

“Still got a date for the prom before you did.” Nick teased and Kevin gave a snort.

“She stood you up though.”

“Amy Carson had a flat ass anyway.”

Kevin laughed, loud and bright Nick looked over to him with a smile, “You stood up Monica Brown.”

“Like I was ever going to go to prom without you.” He sighed, “Seriously, I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

Nick paused, then let his head rest against Kevin’s on his shoulder, “You’ll never have to know.”

It was silent between them for a moment when Kevin suddenly tilted his head up and kissed him and Nick immediately fell into it. He didn’t pretend like he was surprised by it, didn’t force himself to hesitate. He couldn’t pretend like he hasn’t been waiting for this ever since they got back from the mission and Cherise told Kevin that she needed some space. It’s been this way forever after all, ever since college. Ever since that first time that Kevin told him that he was curious and Nick offered to help him out. There was college and then there was enlistment, training camps and deployment, those months they spent living together in their first apartment off base. It was every time Kevin got his heart broken by some girl and Nick needed to comfort him, every time Nick was going through some shit with his family and Kevin needed to distract him.

This time it’s because of an alien invasion. The event had been traumatic for most people on the planet with millions of casualties all across the world. For Cherise, the invasion had her reconsidering her priorities and whether or not she was really ready to get married so young or if she even really wanted to get married at all. Kevin was heartbroken and confused but he agreed that a break wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. If they’re really meant to be then waiting a few months couldn’t hurt.

But now, thinks are different apparently. Nick couldn’t say that he wasn’t relieved to find out about the wedding being cancelled. He can’t pretend like he isn’t at least a little relieved that his best friend is having doubts.

Still Kevin was heartbroken, he went through a lot. They all did. Nick knew that his best friend would seek out some comfort from him eventually and to be honest he’s been waiting for it. So, when Kevin kissed him Nick didn’t even hesitate to drag the other man in closer, dropping his bottle aside and paying it no mind when it shattered on the concrete.