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Ten Years After

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Sometimes, a memory of the Mog will sneak up on Matt and take him by surprise. When it happens, he's transported back for a few seconds and all he can smell is blood and cordite and fear. All he can hear is the poppoppop of gunfire and the angry screams of an entire country hungry for their blood.

Every time it happens, it makes his heart skip a beat and his breath catch in his throat.

But out of all the memories, the absolute worst one – worse even than the mind-numbing horror of watching Jamie succumb to blood loss – is the one of Blackburn falling from the chopper. That had been the start of the whole nightmare.

Matt doesn't blame Todd (no, not that, never that, how could he?), because no one had expected RPGs or the pilot having to swerve just as Todd leaned out and reached for the rope.

Doesn't mean that Matt can't still feel the way his heart had leapt into his throat as he watched Todd drop, arms wind milling, mouth open, the whole thing happening in slow motion. And it doesn't mean that he can't still see Todd lying in that cot back at the base, all bloody and busted up with the doctors unsure if he'd ever walk again.

The fact that ten years later he moves like his back had never been busted is nothing short of a miracle.

It's almost enough to make Matt start praying again to a God he isn't entirely sure he believes in any longer.

He remembers reading a quote once about Africa, about how the dryness got under your skin, how the dirt got into your blood, how the sheer overwhelmingness of it all would stick with you for the rest of your life, and he knows the guy who'd wrote that had got it right. Because even now, after all those years, Matt can still feeltastesmell the country where he'd been forced to face his own mortality. His and that of the men under his command.

Blunt fingertips trail across the back of his neck, drawing his attention, until Matt looks up and smiles. They don't need many words between them, he and Todd, and they never have. But he catches those fingers and brings them to his mouth, ghosting a kiss across the first knuckle of each before he allows Todd to pull away. Then, without a word, he gets up and follows Todd back into the house.

There are things to do. Normal, boring things like eat dinner, wash the dishes, throw the last load of laundry into the dryer. All part of their daily life now.

A life they never thought they'd have. A life that came easy to them once they stopped fighting it and each other. A life that neither of them would change for anything in the world.