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Loyalty

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After DADT wasn't around to keep them under wraps anymore, USMC Master Sergeant Brad Colbert took the enlightened, proactive step of coming out to his nearest and dearest as the committed partner of former USMC Captain Nathaniel Fick.

That's the public line, anyway.

The public line makes Brad want to vomit copious amounts and then consume some more just so he can regurgitate again.

The public line was more like the Nate's Future Political Career line ("If I'm going to run for office, I'm not about to hide you in the dark somewhere and live with some simpering blonde beard"), and while Brad may have hated every second of it, Nate had plenty of practice at putting his natural assets to work in the name of Convincing Brad to do things that went against his nature.

Brad, thoroughly Convinced, sucked it up and prepared for the news to spread through the gossiping biddies' network of the Corps.

He could still tell you about all the reactions he's had from the men he's served with over the years.

Rudy sent a note on nature-headed stationery saying he was glad Brad had found the yin to complete his yang.

He got a phone call from Poke, who ranted impressively about self-righteous white men pairing up and adopting little brown babies from halfway around the world, like there weren't plenty of brown babies right there at home who needed society's attention, dawg.

Ray said nothing, but an embarrassingly large box of sex toys arrived on Brad's doorstep with no return address. If they weren't now embroiled in a drawn-out game of chicken over who's going to mention the box first, Brad might actually send Ray a thank you note. There's still some stuff in there he and Nate haven't used.

When Walt came to visit with Sally and the new baby, he blushed at every sign of cohabitation. A pair of coffee cups in the sink? Really? Apparently, yes. And then he blushed some more saying goodbye, pounded Brad on the back, and whispered I'm really happy for you both and fled the scene like there were bullets on his heels.

Lilley emailed to say that his video production business was going really well, and that he was happy to help if Brad was ever deployed somewhere away from Skype and wanted to leave Nate a little filmed something-something to remember him by. There were winky emoticons. Brad shudders at the memory.

There were other emails and a few more phone calls, and the OIF First Recon reunion he and Nate have just returned home from was remarkably free of any sort of awkwardness, even from Trombley.

Brad shares his surprise at this state of affairs, and Nate looks at him with that fond look that says I love you and also You're unbearably dense sometimes.

"They're still your men, Brad," Nate says, dropping his keys into the tray by the door.

"I think you mean your men," Brad corrects.

Nate huffs out a chuckle. He steps up to Brad and sticks both hands into Brad's back pockets. "They'll be yours 'til the day they all die. I don't know that any other officer, commissioned or non, has ever inspired his platoon the way you did back then."

Brad wraps his arms around Nate's waist. "I was doing my job, that's all."

"Yep. Doing it better than anyone else out there, in my highly objective opinion."

"Objective, my ass," Brad scoffs, for which he gets Nate's hands squeezing said ass through his jeans.

"Yes, and such a nice one it is. If excessive competence doesn't inspire people, a high quality ass will get 'em every time," Nate says. "Come to think of it, I'm not really sure which one won me over with you."

"Let's poll the knitting circle next time," Brad says. "See which one they think sealed the deal on you and me."

Nate laughs, and Brad realizes he feels generally good and warm and satisfied, and that maybe—just maybe—he was a little nervous about seeing all the guys after going public.

"Let's do that," Nate says, smiling at Brad and leaning up for a kiss that grows the good, warm, satisfied thing in Brad's insides. "But not tonight."

"Roger that," Brad says, and focuses in on the good, warm, satisfying thing in his arms.