Close to Me

by brooklinegirl (witchbaby)

brooklinegirl@gmail.com

7/2002

NC-17


Myron's in a downward spiral and there's only one person who can fix things. And yes, there are a few things unresolved, so keep an eye out for a sequel!

For DC, on the occasion of her birthday. DC, I hope you like this, even though I failed in my genfic endeavor. You inspire me to write more and more and then some, with your praise and encouragement (and oh, so utterly helpful info site!). I'm so glad to have you as a friend. Hope your birthday is the happiest.

Serious thanks to Mel, without whom this fic would never have been finished. She is a most wonderful and pushy beta and I don't know what I would do without her. Thank you, Mel!


I know better than to believe in bedtime stories. Even drunk (and I'm only mildly drunk. I'm only ever mildly drunk. I never let myself go. Can't take that chance). Even drunk, I know better than that. There's no truth to the bedtime stories. No hero running to save the day, not the way they tell it in the stories. And you know what? No such thing as true love, love everlasting. I know that for damn sure. They're just stories, all they ever are are stories you tell to kids while they're young enough to believe them. Even if there was any truth to them, you sure as hell won't find any bedtime-stories-come-true, not here in the Republic of Vietnam, no sir.

Ain't nothin' here but cold hard reality. Nothin' in the world to match the realness that you find here. It's more real than you even wanted to know. There ain't no truth or lie, ain't no fair or right. There's just what's real and you deal with it as it comes.

I'm too damn old to believe in bedtime stories.

I don't get it. I'm looking out for him, the way a good sergeant should. He's gotten old here, way too fast, and it shows in his eyes. All I'm doin' is lookin' out for him. And yeah, I like him, and why shouldn't I? The boy learned fast here, faster than most. Maybe that's what aged him so damn quick. That's why I gotta look out for him. He doesn't seem to care too much about himself, just about getting the team out of the bush alive. Himself, well, that's another story. It scares me, how he doesn't look out for himself and I just think someone has to do it for him, if he ain't gonna do it for himself.

He walks around here looking half-dead sometimes. . .like it's not even worth it for him to keep up the pretense of caring. He's wrapped up in that head of his and lately it's been real hard to read him. I'm good at that, usually. He's an open book sometimes. . . trying so hard to hide what he's feeling that you can just about read it all over his face. But lately, he's shut down. And when I try, he walks away. When I try anything. . .when I try to talk to him, try to get him to talk to me, try to get near him. He won't let me get anywhere near him.

It bugs the hell out of me. Bugs me even more when I catch him looking at me. I'll be workin', out in the compound, or horsin' around with the guys and I'll feel his eyes on me. I hardly ever catch him lookin'. He's always doin' something else, something that keeps him real busy whenever I try to engage him in conversation. But every once in a while. . .

Every once in a while. . .well, I'm probably just crazy. Seein' things, and worryin' over them for nothin'. But sometimes. . .sometimes I catch him lookin' at me and he doesn't look away quick. Sometimes he just looks at me, long and slow, and it's then that he looks real wild around the eyes. Like he's lookin' for answers but is scared of what he might find.

He looks too long and I can *feel* his eyes on me. When I look back, he drops his gaze but only after a minute, like he's waiting for something. Waiting for what, I just do not know. I'd give the boy anything he needs. . .if I only knew what that was. The way I feel about him . . he's my responsibility, kind of, and my boss, sort of, and my friend, if in a weird, roundabout way. I'm as close to him as he'll let me be. . .but I'd be closer if he'd let me. I guess I know him as well as anyone. No, you know what? I know him *better* than anyone.

But sometimes even I can't read him.

He's looking for something and I wish I could give it to him. But how can I help him if he won't let me in, hardly at all? All I can do is be patient and hope he gives in and talks to me. Or, from the wild look of his eyes, his nerves give in and he lets me know without even trying.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Part Two

*~*~*~*~*~*

Iím just minding my own business, not looking for trouble or conversation. Three days out in the bush and all I want is a drink and a bed, in that order. A shower would be good, too. Iím still filthy, didnít even change before coming here. Seemed like that would take energy I just donít have right now. Came to have a drink here at the bar before heading back to my quarters to collapse. I should have just gone straight to bed, but it feels as though my whole body is thrumming, and I need to get myself together first. Too much adrenaline and not enough sleep, and I know for sure that whiskey is the only thing thatís going to help this right now. I want to be drained when I get back to the hooch, so I donít have any energy to spend wasting time thinking about Zeke Anderson. Or Johnny McKay. Either of them. I want to be so tired that I canít think at all. God, Iím strung out here.

ďYou can be pretty damn stupid, sir, you know that?Ē

The voice that interrupts my thoughts is drawling and slow, and I almost jump out of my skin. Heís eased up beside me without my even noticing, and *thatís* the damn stupid part. I manage not to react out of sheer training, just turn to look before taking a slow sip of my whiskey. My voice when I speak is dangerous. ďWhatís that, Sergeant?Ē

He just looks at me and shakes his head, that look that says Ďyou should goddamn know better.í I hate that look. A dozen responses run through my head, but I end up just saying, ďThat the way you talk to your superior officer, Anderson?Ē

He doesnít even bother to raise an eyebrow. He just looks at me. Doesnít move an inch. His hand rests on the bar, and itís clenched in a fist. He gets like this. Doesnít like it when I take any risks, though itís a fundamental aspect of my job. Like I donít know what Iím doing. Like I donít know whatís at stake.

Thereís so much noise going on around us. He stares at me like Iím the only one in the room. I lift my glass, take the last swallow of whiskey, feel the hot burn as it slides down my throat. I donít let myself meet his eyes. I just look at his hand there on the bar. Clenched in a fist. He wonít take his eyes off of me. I can feel it. Weíve played this game before. He thinks he knows best. Been here longer and all that. He doesnít know. That just makes him crazy, not better.

He doesnít answer at all, and finally I look at him. Raise my eyebrows and work real hard at keeping my eyes dead. Nothing to see. I wonít give myself to him like that. Canít do that. No way. Deal with it. Heís looking right at me, but I donít keep his eyes for long. I slip away just as easily as he slipped up next to me. Can feel his gaze following me as I walk away, feel him watching me. Canít help but feel him. He hates it when I do that, when I take risks. But he knows better. How can I put myself before the men? I canít. He knows that.

But he wants something. Wants to keep me safe. Wants me to do it all: keep safe and get the job done right. Iím not going to ask the men to do anything I wouldnít. What I did wasnít all that much, but enough to get him worked up. But with this tiredness taking over and the whiskey running through me, I just canít bring myself to care. Or, okay, maybe I do care, but I care more about getting to bed. Nothing I can do to make this better. Nothing I can do to make him happy. Bedís waiting for me back at the hooch and thatís all that I let myself think about as I walk across the compound.

Sure.

Thatís all I think about. Not one damn thought about Zeke Anderson.

*~*~*~*~*~*

That boy is gonna make me crazy. Settiní himself up like that. I just do not know what Iím gonna do with him, he keeps actiní like this. He knows better, he *knows* better. Makiní me *crazy*. He walks out of the bar, acts like heís nothiní but officer, no heart or soul, just dead inside. I canít let that happen. I drift out of the bar after him, let him get far enough ahead of me for my temper to cool off a little bit. Gotta think this through.

Dammit, heís good, real good at what he does, and he knows it. Now, I know what he did today was the right thing to do, but it still donít stop me from gettiní pissed off by the fact that he also seems real, real good at gettingí himself in trouble. Itís like he *creates* these situations where there is simply nothing to do but to risk his very own life and limb so as to bring things to order, and that just makes me crazy.

That look he gives me, where his eyes are just flat, like heís not even in there. Just an officer in This Manís Army, and itís like we never had a history, never been even close to beiní friends. But we *are* friends, and I canít help but think that if I donít get him to talk to me, and soon, that somethiní badís gonna happen. He shuts himself off, shuts down, shuts me out. Iíve been lettiní it go and lettiní it go, and now. . .well, today he just

pushed me to the edge. I canít let it go anymore. I canít pretend to be lookiní out for him, when I know, I just *know*, heís takiní more chances than are strictly necessary.

I should let it go. Heís a lieutenant, an officer, and I should just let it go. Let him go off like he does, let him get drunk enough to sleep, and just hope for the best. But heís been so gone lately, not talkiní to me, not talkiní to anybody. Liviní with McKay canít be doiní him any good, not a momentís peace for him, not even here at camp. And itís never a good time to confront him about it, never a good time to push him. Cominí back this time around, he was walkiní like the weight of the world was on his shoulders, liftiní his feet but barely, fatigues crumpled and filthy.

It hurts me to see him like this. Iíve let it go long enough. He can push me away as much as he wants, but so long as heís *my* officer, heís my responsibility. Iím outside his hooch now, and while I know it would be wise to let it go, my instincts are telling me to go in and give that boy hell. Anything to snap him out of this.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

I manage to get myself back to the hooch, somewhat relieved to find it quiet and undisturbed by McKayís presence, though at this point not a whole hell of a lot could keep me from sleep. I go to the desk, grab the bottle of whiskey. Iím getting shaky with exhaustion, but Iím not numb enough yet. Pour myself a drink, the bottle rattling against the glass. Take a long sip, then just stand there, thinking about Zeke looking at me like that.

Iím still standing there by the desk, glass in my hand, looking at nothing, when thereís a perfunctory knock on the door and Zeke walks in before I can say anything. He should be off getting drunk, too. Instead, heís here looking for a fight. I lean back against the desk.

ďSergeant?Ē My voice is hard and challenging. I *really* donít want to do this right now. The drinks are hitting me, and I feel blurred and off-center.

ďWhat were you doing out there?Ē Pause. ďSir. What were you thinking?Ē Heís almost but not quite glaring at me. I am not one of his recruits, one of the privates he can push around. He knows this most of the time, but sometimes feels the need to treat me like the kid he seems to think I am. I am too damn tired for this.

I look at him. ďSergeant. Iím filthy. Iím exhausted. I havenít slept in days. We are not doing this right now.Ē

Zeke just stands there, not taking his eyes off of me, as immovable as a mountain. I turn slowly. Shower. I need a shower. Clean would be good. Clean. Right. Towel. I pick up my not-entirely-dirty towel. Look at it. The shower is . . . far. Middle of the compound. Tired. So damn tired. I really donít have the energy for dealing with Zeke right now. In any way. Angry or not. Why is he so angry?

I look up from my studied contemplation of the frayed towel. Blink at him, where he still stands just inside the doorway. ďWhy are you so angry?Ē

Frustration flickers in Zekeís eyes and he looks away, takes a slow and deliberate breath. I can see the muscles tight in his neck, shoulders. Standing there, he seems to fill the doorway, an insurmountable obstacle between me and the shower. Why does he care so much? This is becoming very complicated.

Zekeís talking again, but Iíve missed the beginning of what heís saying. Iím finding it very hard to focus. Maybe that whiskey hadnít been such a good idea, not after several days (Two? Three? I should probably know that) of pretty much zero sleep.

ď. . .that was a seriously dangerous move. Sir.Ē Zekeís voice is low. ďI know you donít care too much about saviní your own skin, but *I* do.Ē

I look at the distance from where Iím standing to my bunk. Seems a lot easier to get to the bed than to the showers. If I just go to bed, I wonít have to get past Zeke. I take a step towards the bed and stumble a bit. Just so tired. Zekeís at my side in an instant, steering me towards the bed. Irritated, I try to shake him off, unsuccessfully. Zeke makes me sit down on the bunk, then stands in front of me, hands on his hips, studying my face. ďHow much you had to drink, anyway?Ē

I shake my head, lower it to rest on my hands. ďNothing, just one drink.Ē I rub my face; my eyes feel like sandpaper. ďMaybe two. Iím justÖtired.Ē

I look up at Zeke again, resting my arms on my knees. Too tired to focus. Zeke still stands there, looking down at me. His look is Ė scared? Nah, that canít be it. Disappointed, more like. A couple of flashes come to me, from yesterday.

*~*~*~*~*

That VC, stepping towards Percell. We were hidden, all of us were hidden. It was sheer bad luck that Percell attracted the attention. Damn VC had tossed a crushed-out cigarette right at him. Percell, hidden by the bushes, hadnít even flinched. My breath was held tight, like everyone elseís, Iím sure, waiting for that VC to turn away.

But he didnít.

Caught sight of something, maybe, some glimpse in the bushes, and took a step towards where Percell was hidden. Took a step towards him, curious but not on guard. Left his weapon slung down by his side. Stupid. But he was going to find Percell. Going to kill him. Weapon down by his side now, but could be aimed easily enough. Going to kill him. This is all going on across the clearing from me, and itís like slow motion when I stand up, weapon aimed. Stand up real slow and careful, and the VC turns to face me. This time the weapon is in his hands, though I never saw him raise it.

Doesnít matter. I donít have to fire. The stillness in the clearing lasts for one long, long second before itís shattered by rifle fire. Very quick, and the VC is still staring at me as he falls. Itís not my shot, itís Zekeís, from across the clearing, next to Percell. Just where Iíd known he was. Now the VCís dead and Iím not.

Zeke is standing, half-raised now from the bushes that had hidden him. His eyes meet mine for a moment, and even from this distance, I can see the almost sick fear in them. No real reason for it; Iíd known he was there. Known he would do what needed to be done. Take that VC out before. . . before anything had happened. I trust Zeke. I knew.

Noise discipline has been shot all to hell, and the whole unit is disappearing as quick as they can into the jungle. What happens after is. . .inconclusive. Lots of weapon-fire. A few shell-casings found afterwards. No body count to report to command. No one injured, no one killed. What else can we hope for?

No body count. No VC taken, but none of my own men either, and thatís what Iím here for. I watch Zeke in the chopper on the way back, watch the way he doesnít look at me. He stares out at the ground coursing by beneath us instead, and I can almost feel the energy it must take him to keep his eyes away from mine. I can almost feel it.

*~*~*~*~*

Now I sigh, shake my head at Zeke, raise one shoulder in an apology as I dig for my cigarettes in the front top pocket of my fatigues. Zeke drops down to the bunk beside me, sits there looking straight ahead, hands clasped in front of him. His voice is dangerously quiet. ďYou just donít see it, do you? You donít see what you do, donít see what it does to the men, to me. You donít take that responsibility for yourself. Oh, youíll take responsibility for every damn man in the platoon, take it and shoulder it, but yourself?Ē Here, Zeke shoots me a look out of the corner of his eye, then shakes his head disparagingly. ďNah. No good. Not worth it.Ē

I open my mouth to protest, then change my mind and just take a drag on the cigarette instead.

Zeke continues steadily. ďDonít mean nothiní to you. Nope. You put yourself out there, come back through sheer luck, and you just do not care at all.Ē

The tiredness seems to settle in my shoulders and I bend forward under it, clasp my hands over the back of my neck, my cigarette still steadily burning in my grip. ďSergeant, Iím just . . .Ē

Zeke cuts me off. ďYou scare me out there, LT. I trust you, you know, trust you with the men, but with your own self? I just do not know. Seems like you donít care whether you come back or not.Ē He smiles, hard. ďI think that I know you, but sometimes. . .Ē

I look at him out of the corner of my eye. Give him a half-smile. Why is he trying so hard to read me? What does it matter? What does he care? Iím fine, Zeke, and I donít need you or anybody to watch over me. Iím not a kid, and Iím not green, not anymore. Weíre a team out there, and Iíll keep coming back. Just donít worry about me. ďIím fine.Ē

Thoughts are roiling in my head, but Iím real good at editing my words. Just ďIím fineĒ. . .but Zekeís eyes flash hard and he grabs my shoulders, pulling me to face him on the bed. This is not Zeke. My sergeant would not take such liberties with a superior officer. Iím startled into focusing on him. Looking him in the eye, and itís that that scares me.

ďYouíre not fine. I just wish. . .I just wish to hell youíd talk to me about it, LT.Ē He realizes what heís doing, and drops his hands off my shoulders, then doesnít seem to know what to do with them.

I just sit still, looking at him. Look him in the eye this time. I donít drop my gaze and Zeke doesnít drop his eyes, either. God, I could get lost here, make what would probably be a very serious mistake. My mind is so slow right now, all I can think of is how I wouldnít mind getting lost, maybe wouldnít mind letting him see me.

We all fall down sometimes. It gets so hard. I look at him some more. He looks like I feel: dirty and lost and tired, beyond tired. That state where sleep doesnít seem natural anymore, where your body just keeps going, because thatís what you do. Thatís the way itís always been, always will be. But Zekeís eyes still look alive; worried, angry, yes, but alive. That spark in them shows something, something I feel like Iíve lost.

God, so tired. It would be easy to let the walls down here. Zekeís not saying anything, not pushing anymore, but heís here and heís not going anywhere and it would just be so easy to give. To give into this, this *something* between us.

Time runs together a little, loses its focus again, and through that bone-deep tiredness, I see something shift in Zekeís eyes. Thereís not even time to move, itís just a realization that maybe itís not only me here. Not just me whoís thinking like this, not just me who sees this connection thatís something more than just officer and sergeant.

Then the door slams open. Zeke stands up in one smooth movement as McKay steps through the doorway to our hooch. I donít even have the energy to react as McKay pauses there and Zeke gives both of us a quick salute and a mumbled, ďLTĒ, then slips out the door, casting the swiftest of glances at me over his shoulder.

The screen door swings shut behind him, though McKay stays standing there just inside the doorway. Heís looking at me, backlit so that all I can really see is a dark shape in the doorway. I squint at him for a moment, trying to make out the expression on his face. He canít have seen anything; there wasnít anything to have seen. Just that shift, that look in Zekeís eyes. Iíd been so sure it was there, in that moment, but now. . .now, I donít know.

I just stay sitting on the bunk where Zeke left me. So tired. My mind is such a muddle. I should maybe go after him. McKay finally moves away from the door, and now I can see thereís a smile on his face, a grin as he gives me an easy nod and heads to his bunk. Iím waiting for the bait, waiting for him to give me a hard time. But heís quiet today, maybe just biding his time. I do not have the energy for an argument with Johnny McKay right now. He sits down on his bunk, starts unlacing his boots. He obviously hasnít been out today; heís clean and his hairís combed and there are no dark circles under his eyes.

Maybe I should just go with my original plan and go take a shower. I look for the towel again. Itís lying on my bunk where Iíd dropped it. So easy to just lie down. One cigarette and Iíll head to the showers. I lie down heavily, not even bothering to take my boots off yet. Across the room, I hear first one, then the other of McKayís boots hit the floor. He gets up, still relatively quiet for once, rustles about in the little fridge.

With a little struggle, I extract another cigarette and light it. Take a long drag. Zekeís eyes. . .something had been there. I wish my mind were clearer. Something. Another minute and maybe something I could have said, or done, or. . . something. I wish I could have another shot of whiskey, without having to actually get up and pour it.

I can hear McKay messing with the tape player somewhere across the room. Turning my head to look is too much work. I hold the cigarette in front of me, watching it burn from behind my almost-closed lids, watching it tremble no matter how hard I try to hold it steady. Take another slow drag, then hold it with my hand resting on my chest.

The music, when it comes on, is soft, surprisingly. Johnny Rivers. This, I like. This I can handle, doesnít make that jagged sound of most of McKayís music. That would send me over the edge today. But, no, itís ďDo You Wanna DanceĒ, that slow version, so mellow. Easy. I can let it wash over me, let my eyes slip closed for just a second, let myself get a little bit lost in it. Iíll get up for that shower as soon as the songís over.

Thereís a ghost of a sound and I start a little as a hand slides over mine where it still rests on my chest. My eyes flicker open. Johnny. Heís leaning over me, takes the cigarette out of my hand. The light in the hooch is getting dim now, and Johnny still has that grin, though itís softer than it was before. His voice, too, is soft as he leans in close. Whispers, ďYouíre gonna burn us both down, Goldman. Gotta be careful with that.Ē

I canít keep my eyes all the way open for long, they keep sliding closed as I try to watch Johnny. He brings the cigarette up, takes a quick drag, then drops it to the floor and crushes it out. My eyes slide all the way closed then, and thereís no way I can open them again, not for love or money. Feel his hand, though, as it slides lightly over my hair, comes down to rest against my cheek. A pause, then Johnnyís whisper again, even softer this time. ďGotta be careful, Goldman.Ē

Then the hand is gone and I want to ask, want to tell him that I *am* careful, that Iím always careful, too careful. But itís too much work, too much to even think about, and instead I let sleep take me.

*~*~*~*~*

Part 3

*~*~*~*~*

I can't seem to settle down tonight. Keep making these same rounds of the hootch. Not accomplishing anything. I keep picking things up and putting them down, not getting anywhere. I've cleaned my weapon, but it's not put away. That should be - is - second nature by now. I pick it up slowly, look at it for a second, place it neatly in the corner. I donít know. I'm tired tonight (am I ever not tired, here?). Not exhausted, but there's that weariness that's always there, that never, ever leaves.

Tired of all of this.

I make the rounds of the hootch again. Walk from my bed to the door. I glance out, then walk over to the desk. Tap out a cigarette from the pack lying there, and walk away without lighting it. Why can't I finish anything here? I go and sit on my bed for a minute, study my cigarette without really seeing it. Get up restlessly, and walk back to my desk. Pull the bottle out of my bottom desk drawer and set it down. Reach for my glass.

I hear footsteps outside, close. I turn to the door just as there's a knock, and Zeke steps in. I'm too tired to do anything else but look at him. "Hi," I say. Hi. Yep, that's me, hard-edged lieutenant all the way.

"Hey there, LT," he says, feigning easiness. But he's not easy. I can see that in his eyes. They're uneasy, weighing, wondering. I don't know how to fix that. I look down at the desk. I've put out two glasses, without thinking. Two. I look from the glasses to him. "Drink?"

He nods, allowing himself a smile. I'm tired here, and not thinking right. I donít pour the drinks. Not thinking, or not letting myself think? I stand there, with my hand on the bottle, but Iím looking at him. He's standing a few steps inside the door, and he watches me too. It's dark outside, and the hootch feels safe. Feels real. Feels a lot like it did the other night when we. . .when we almost. . .when something almost happened.

I move away from the desk. Walk around him to get to the door, and he watches me. I look out at the compound once more. Lower the blinds. Lock the door. Tight. He's watching me. Iím too lost to fight, to care.

I walk back to the desk. Finally look up. Meet his eyes. The air in here is close. Like the other night. He's just watching me.

"You okay tonight, LT?" His voice is soft.

I shrug. "Does it get any better than this, Sergeant?" My tone comes out more weary than mocking, and I have to lower my eyes, quickly, because I know they show too clearly what I'm not sure I'm ready for him to see.

I pick up the bottle on my desk, and fill the glasses. Put the bottle down and reach for my glass, and suddenly his hand is on mine. I look up at him, and I'm not at all startled. It's something I almost expected, and I just look at him as he holds his hand wrapped around mine as I hold the glass. It stills me. Very quiet in here now. He keeps his hand on mine. Warm.

"Where's Lieutenant McKay?"

I shrug. "Saigon."

He nods slowly. Never takes his eyes from mine. He's standing very close to me. He's studying me, and gives me this slow smile, and it's like the other night. Everything clicks into place and I can do nothing but wonder what the hell I've been doing with my time, that it's taken me so long to get to this place. You'd think this would be difficult. You'd think that here is where I'd get lost. That it would be something major, some huge step, that seems impossible to take.

But all I can think is that this is right. And being right, it's easy. It's nothing else but easy. There's just this moment, this moment with his hand on mine, that seems to last for much, much too long before I lean forward. The moment before I put my lips on his is the longest moment in the world and everything, everything narrows to just me and him. Then my lips are on his, and he's still so close to me, and this is right.

Oh yes. This is right.

I press my luck. Let go of the glass. Reach up to hold onto of the front of his shirt and pull him close. Because I need this, need him. He doesn't pull away. He takes a moment to respond (testing out the terrain, maybe). I think I should stop, let him regroup. But I have my lips on his and he tastes. . .good. He tastes like something I want more of and I can't help it. The decisionís been made and I need this. I tighten my hold on his shirt, fiercely, holding him close, though he's not pulling away. Keep kissing him, tasting him, feel the sweat running down my back, feel my head spinning, feel his lips against mine and his hands drop down to my hips. . . and tighten. He holds me still. Holds me close.

God, I want to die. Can I just die now, because this can't be real.

When we finally release each other (he still holds onto me, onto my hips, tight, so tight), our gasps for breath seem loud and harsh in the dim quiet of the hooch. All I can do is stare at Zekeís eyes, so close to mine. I don't know what I'm doing, what I've done. All I know is that I want him. Goddammit, I want him, and why has it been so hard to give into, this want? Why can't I let even myself know that I want him? That I want this? Need this. His hands on me feel so good, so right (have always felt that way), and. . .he's just looking at me.

It's dim and his eyes are on me. I still have my hands wrapped around his shirt front and I feel my grip tighten, feel myself (again) sure and certain inside. The decisionís been made. The waiting was too much, and if he doesn't like it, he can just fuck off. This is me, this is who I am, and if he doesn't see it. . .how can he not see it? How can he not want it? The taste of him is still hot in my mouth. He's still just looking at me and dammit, goddammit, I can't read him.

*~*~*~*~*~*

The LT looks almost as dazed as I feel, looks kinda stunned but determined as he waits there, not takin' those dark eyes away from my face. His expression is almost grim and I feel my heart contract at the stark fear in his eyes. I run my tongue over my lips, tasting him on them. This is. . .this is a good thing. Such a good thing, that he's finally. . .that we've finally. . .that there are some answers to the question that has hung between us for a very long time. Much too long.

The moment passes swiftly, the fear in the LTís eyes turning flat and fierce. I've seen this side of him before, and it amuses me no end to see it cross his face, here, in this moment, just after he's given me one hell of a kiss.

But he's on the verge of closing off here, unless I do or say somethin'. So I do what comes natural. I just say, real soft, ďWell, now, LT.Ē And I wrap my arms around him and pull him in for another of those real nice kisses. Figure it's the best way to erase the fear from his eyes, under the circumstances, and, I have to admit, not the most difficult decision I've ever made. Pretty damn easy, actually. Simple, in fact, to take him in my arms and take that fear out of his eyes.

Defiant relief fills his eyes when we pull back from this kiss. Such attitude there, and I'd laugh if he didn't look so worried. His eyes get all dark, determined not to back down no matter what. I love that about him. I allow myself a smile. There'll be time for talking, for figuring things out later. For right now, we're alone here and though I know the camp is goin' on around us, I have my hands on his hips and I just cannot bring myself to care about anything else but gettin' him to kiss me again. And again.

Turns out to be easy enough. I tighten my hands on his hips and he looks at me. Looks me in the eye and the constriction on my heart retreats for the first time in a long time. I breathe, seeing him. Knowing him. He (finally) loosens his grip on my shirtfront, lets his arms slip around me, bring me closer. The easiness with which he does this is enough to make my knees sag and I let myself press up against him. I know this can't go on; not here, not on base, but for right now, it feels very good, very right.

It's pretty easy to get lost in this. Pretty damn easy.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Cannot do this. Cannot get lost, not here, not now. Have to stay focused. Itís difficult, with Zeke up against me like this. Difficult to want to focus on anything but this closeness. I can feel him, taste him, smell him; he seems huge here next to me. I just never thought, never imagined what this would truly feel like. This should be more difficult than it is. I should be thinking, worrying. But - I'm not. I'm just - not. Zeke has pulled me even closer than before and this is right. He makes a little sound in his throat - desire? - and he's pressed up hard against me.

I want more.

He pulls back from the kiss, and I guess I growl a little bit. I just don't want this to stop. Not yet. His eyes flash with amusement, and it crosses my mind that if he laughs at me, I'm going to drop him on his ass.

But I relax as he instead gets serious again. The atmosphere changes a bit. The

kissing. . .what I thought was going to be the hard part. . .that ended up being easy. Stopping, dealing with it; that's hard. I look at him. Zeke seems to suddenly realize that his hands are still holding tight to my - his LT's - hips and he kind of half-smiles. He likes this feeling. Likes holding onto me.

I like it too. Even though those blue eyes seem way too sure of the situation. He leans in and kisses me, hard and sure, and this is just what I want, just what I need. He pulls back slow and flexes his hands on my hips, and lets them slide away really slowly.

I fall back a step at almost the same time.

I stand there, watching Zeke.

Breathe.

Zeke watches me back. Clears his throat. "That was somethin', LT."

It's hard to have him so close and not be touching him. I wonder how I did it before. "Yeah." I run my hands through my hair, just to have something to do with them. "Guess it was about time." Does he think so, too? Has he felt it before? With us? He must have felt it.

Zeke nods slowly, and I can breathe again. He studies me. "So what do weÖ" "I don't know." I breathe some more, since that's a plan that seems to be working so far. Grab my cigarettes from my desk. Light one and take a drag. Hold the smoke in my lungs and try to think coherently.

Fail.

Zeke is still watching me.

"I don't know." I look at the cigarette. My hand is shaking. I liked that kiss - those kisses - a whole lot. For a minute there, I'd almost forgotten where I was. Well, no, that would never happen, but - it hadn't felt like here. Had felt like someplace else - someplace good. "Did you want. . .I mean. . ." I stop, frustrated.

Zeke takes a step forward, looking at me with great concentration.

I take a last drag and quickly crush out the cigarette. "You don't have to do this."

Zeke nods seriously. Steps closer. I watch him. Frown and say, "Probably *shouldn't* do this."

Zeke nods again. He's quite close now and leans forward, resting one hand on the desk, right near my hip. My sergeant has big hands. He's close enough that I can feel his breath on my cheek. I swallow. "A bad idea. Especially here. Anybody couldÖ" Zeke's hand moves from the desk to my hip. I breathe. "Could justÖ"

"Just. . ." Zeke says, and leans in, and we're kissing again and it seems - again - like we might be someplace else. Zeke's arms are wrapped around me and I'm kissing him back and things just sort of - spiral. Spiral, hard and fast, and I just donít care. Don't care about the war, about anything at all but this. This, I care about. This, I care about a lot. I'm so close to the edge all the fucking time, and I shut down, shut it all down, don't let myself think, or feel, or care, or. . . And the one thing that brings me back. . .the one person who can make me feel. . .he's right here. He's been here all along.

It's been too long, too damn long. The other night, he was here, looking at me and I knew. Knew it then, what I know now. That getting to this point was inevitable. I think I like that. It's out of my hands, now, that decision. I want this. His tongue slides past my lips again and I can't help but moan against his lips. He explores my mouth gently, and I meet his tongue with my own, and it feels so damn good. I love the taste of him in my mouth.

He's got his arms wrapped around me and he tightens his hold as I pull back slightly from the kiss. He tastes like sweat and salt and heat, and I taste all of that and I want more. His hands travel down my back, stroking firmly, finally resting on my ass and pulling me even closer, though I can't imagine any closer, there's no space between us and this is what I want and. . .god. God. I can feel him. Hard. He's hard. Because of me. Because of my mouth on his. I pull back, and he looks at me; his eyes are hot and needing. I move my hands between us. I need contact. I need to feel him against me. Need to taste more of him. He hisses in pleasure as I press my hand against him, feel him, god, hard for me. I know this should be crazy, should be impossible, but the knowledge of my hand on his cock, only the fabric of his pants separating us, and how he moans low in his throat, just sets me on fire.

"God, Zeke." He *is* strength and I wonder how long I've been feeding off of that. Wonder if maybe that's why this was inevitable. Easy. Shouldn't be doing this, not here, but I can't bring myself to care.

"Zeke." Even this isn't enough. I press back against him, force him back. He takes those backwards steps, giving in to my urging. I'm heading us towards the bed, but I'm not even sure he knows we're moving. He seems as caught up in this as I am, and that thought sends a thrill through me. That I can have this sort of effect on my he-who-knows-all-things sergeant is amazing to me.

The back of his knees hit my bunk and he pulls me down with him. Rolls me over so he's half on top of me and pulls back with an effort I can feel. He's breathing heavily, and his face is flushed, his eyes bright. "LTÖM-myronÖ" He stutters over my real name and I can't help but smile. Something tells me I will always and ever be his LT. "Tell me you want this." He's holding back, maybe more surprised at the situation than I am. I've known that I want him. Known it for a long time, longer than I care to admit. I'm ready for this dance to end.

I think for him, this is something new. An alteration of how he's been thinking. Knowing there was something more there, but not quite recognizing it for what it was. For what it is. I lean in close. I want to taste him again. I run my tongue up the side of his neck, and again that flavor explodes in my mouth. My cock throbs and I think I've honestly never been this hard, this needing, before in my life. Not with Nikki, certainly not with Alex. Nothing like this before, not ever.

I lick up to his ear, and when I suck on his earlobe, he moans long and low. Sends a thrill through my body. I whisper, breathing it in his ear, "I want this."

He turns and he's on me and I'm lost. There's no time to think, no time for anything. His hands on my again, yanking at my shirt, my pants. Our clothes half-off. Run my hands down his back, pull him hard against me. We're trying so hard to be quiet, all muted sounds of pleasure. His hands are quick and sure. His cock is against mine and the heat between us is intense. His skin is slick with sweat, his body moving against me with need. It's strange and different and still somehow so easy. I find myself arching up against him again and again, as he moves against me.

His weight on me is heavy and strong, his hands moving always along my body. Looking for purchase sometimes as he pulls me against him. He moves against me easily, moaning low in his throat. Quiet but intense and it's driving me mad. I have my hands on him, too, can't stop touching him, don't want to break contact. I run my hands down his back (slick with sweat), pull him close.

Know this should be stranger, know this should be more complicated. But we're as easy together as we've ever been and so damn caught up in the heat and need here. It builds fast between us, and I'm close, so close. I press against him, tilting my head back to watch him, to show him. He watches me with those all-seeing eyes, sees how close I am, increases the urgency between us, and oh god. Oh god. I come, hard, between us, hot and slick.

I swallow my need to cry out, lost, so lost in this. He surges against me and ducks his head against my neck, groaning out his release against my throat.

I feel a rush of amazement. Everything is so mixed up. I like the feel of his weight on me. He smells of sweat and sex; of us. Heavy, though, and I start to nudge him, just as he rolls off of me of his own accord. He lays there next to me in the dimly lit gloom of the hootch. I just watch him breathe, as he watches the ceiling with a little half-smile on his face. There are a thousand thoughts that should be spiraling in my head, but all of it, all of it, is distant. The only thing that keeps going through my mind is that this is right. That finally, finally, this is right.

*~*~*~*~*

I can't hardly believe what just happened here, though the sweaty and disheveled LT next to me in the bed to me holds testimony to the events. Just when I think I know him, know him so well, know him best, he surprises me. This was one *hell* of a big surprise, let me tell you. Or. . .well, maybe not so much.

I look over at him, there watchin' me. He's tired, now, more than before, but it looks to be a good tired, a more honest tired, than the weariness that's been weighin' him down for so long now. He blinks slowly, his eyes glassy but satisfied. I'm not tired at all. Not now. Not any more. When he lets his walls down, he lets them down but good. Nothin' halfway with this boy.

It's gettin' late, too late for me to be here. Shouldn't have been here this long as it is. Hell, no *way* should we be doin' this here. I guess, when you come right down to it, no way should we be doin' this at *all*, but. . .well, hell. What can I say? It's somethin' we both need. I ain't talkin' about just the sex here (though it was surely somethin'), and I turn on my side so I can look at him close.

"Curfew," I say.

He nods sleepily. Like he's not got a worry in the world. Like what we just did wasn't absolutely unbelievable. I give in to my impulse and lean in to kiss him. Soft. He lifts his head to meet my lips and it's the sweetest kiss ever.

"This ain't done, you know." I look at him, serious. "We gotta talk about this."

He nods again. "Yeah. I know." He's so quiet, and I just know there's so much he's not sayin'. The boy never stops thinkin'. He's gonna make me crazy, even now, even after this, till I can get him to talk to me, really talk. Not gonna get any cooperation out of him, not now, not with him so sleepy, and half-grinning up at me as I pull myself together, struggle back into the tangled mess that we made of my clothes.

I guess I should be glad it's so close to curfew, glad I'm not likely to meet up with anyone on the way back to my quarters. It's gotta be all over my face, my amazement at this. He's fallin' asleep on me, and I know I gotta get out of here, but he's never looked so young as he does now. I kiss him again, so easy, and walk away quick while I still can.

I stop at the door, unlock it, and glance back at him. He's on his back, one arm curled behind his head as he watches me leave. He gives me a half-smile, and I give him a salute. His laugh follows me as I leave and it's the hardest thing in the world not to turn back. I walk into the darkness of the camp and I think about how very long it's been since I heard him laugh. It's a sweet sound and though nothing's settled, I feel lighter than I have in a long time.

I breathe in the darkness of another muggy night in Vietnam and I smile.

~fin~


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