Tour of Duty

"It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Myron"

Anticipation fluttered in Zeke's belly like a crazed butterfly. The cabin was filled with the good smells of glazed turkey and fresh-baked cookies, but nervousness cut through all that like a blade. This was the first Christmas Eve he'd been alone since his return … but he wouldn't exactly be alone for long, would he?

Suddenly, he heard footsteps crunching on the gravel walkway out front. Zeke sauntered to the window, wanting to rush but not wanting to seem too eager, not even to himself. Back in the jungle, there had been times when … well, when things seemed to get intense. Any troop is a band of brothers, but Myron had seemed even closer than that. Nam wasn't the place or time to think about such things, not when death comes to breakfast every morning and haunts your dreams at night. But there had been glances, he was sure of it, half-understood communications that betrayed every thought he'd ever had of himself. Those were thoughts you couldn't indulge in back then … but that was then, and this is now. Back in The World, things were different, could be different. He hoped.

He opened the door before Myron knocked. Fuck eager. It was worth it to see his friend's smiling face again.

Myron stood in the doorway, a rucksack slung over his shoulder and an olive-drab snow cap jammed onto his head. A gentle dusting of snow had sprinkled his upper body, and when he stepped through the doorway, it began to melt. Zeke drank in the image. Myron had filled out a little, and now his glasses which he usually only wore for reading seemed permanent … but it was still the same old Myron, back and better than ever.

"Hey, Myron," Zeke said with a shaky voice. "I haven't seen you in … God, years. How are you, man?"

Myron removed the cap and grinned. "You know, I was beginning to think I'd never see you again. Then I got that letter…"

Yes, Zeke thought. The letter. Written only weeks after his terrible breakup. Lauryn. He'd met her only days after coming home, and their affair had limped along for nearly two years before that awful scene at LaDomme's. Lauryn had been a sweet girl, and he hadn't wanted to hurt her, but even she knew Zeke's mind had been elsewhere. Myron had been on his mind ever since returning from Nam, but the thoughts had intensified once he began living alone. In off moments during the day. Dreams at night. Sometimes it seemed the only good thing he brought back from the war was his memory of Myron. It eventually got so bad that he decided to call his old friend … but when it came right down to it, he couldn't bring himself to do it. In the end, he decided a letter – the Letter – was the best way to go.

"And now you're here," Zeke said, relief coursing through his bones.

"Now I'm here," Myron said, taking a tentative step forward. Zeke rushed forward and enfolded his old friend in a hug, just as he had always wanted to do. A tear stung his eye and he blinked it away. Myron's home, he thought, nonsensically. Myron's come home.


After dinner, they sat facing each other in the kitchen, mugs of warm cocoa in their hands.

"You know," Myron said, taking a sip. "The letter caught me off guard, a little. I'm still not quite sure what to make of it, Zeke."

That same nervousness leapt up in Zeke's stomach again. "Yeah, well, I just … I kind of wanted to … oh, I don't know." How to say this? How to put those somehow terrible, somehow wonderful feelings into words? How to tell him that right now, at this moment, as he was drinking cocoa and drinking in the sight of his old friend, all he really wanted for Christmas was to see Myron with his shirt off?

Myron smiled at him, a smile to melt the rime of fear circling Zeke's heart. "You know, I don't really have a family. My Mom's not around and my father … is my father. And it's not really as if I have anything pressing today; the whole Festival of Lights thing was days ago. So don't think I'm coming here out of any sense of duty, Zeke. I want to be here."

Zeke's eyes locked with Myron's. "I want to tell you something," he said, sensing the tremble in his voice. Had Myron heard it, too?

"I think I know what it is," Myron said.

"You can't. You can't possibly."

Myron stood. "What if I were to tell you that a certain soldier came back from the war, confused and scared. And what if that soldier decided the best way to handle it was to sleep with every woman he could get his hands on. And just suppose that soldier woke up one morning, wondering why he wasn't happy, wondering why his mind kept returning to the war, why he needed something he just wasn't getting. What would you say to that?"

Zeke couldn't stop himself. "I've been thinking about you for so long, Myron," he said, standing himself. "What you looked like, what type of man you'd be." He bowed his head. "You must think I'm crazy."

Myron put a finger under Zeke's chin and raised his head up. "No. Not crazy. Just lonely." He smiled. "Just like me."

Those eyes, so warm and inviting – they called to him like sirens. How many times had he fallen asleep, dreaming of those eyes and not knowing how to feel about that?

"I wanted …," Zeke began, stuttering, "…I wanted to see you with your shirt off." Fierce heat blossomed in his cheeks. Could he be saying this? Could he really?

Myron's smile never left his face. "Is that what you want for Christmas?" Myron asked. Zeke nodded, wanting to look away but not daring.

Myron grasped his heavy sweater in hand and lifted it up over his head, tossing it nonchalantly to the couch. His T-shirt – as olive-drab as his hat and reading ARMY across it in yellow letters – came next. Now he was bare to the skin, a light fuzz of chest hair dappling that perfect flesh all over.

"You're wearing dog tags," Zeke said, hushed.

Myron stepped closer. "I thought you might like them." Then he reached out and took Zeke's hand in his own, lifting it up and placing it on his bare chest. "Feel my heart? It's beating so fast."

Another tear fell from Zeke's eye. He'd waited so long for this, too long.

"You know what my Christmas wish was?" Myron asked Zeke. Now his voice, too, was shaky.

"What's that?"

"I wished that you would kiss me," he said, then smiled, looking up. "But there's no mistletoe."

Fireworks exploded in Zeke's head and heart. His breathing shallowed. "Does there need to be?"

Myron stepped forward, wrapping his hands around Zeke's waist. "Merry Christmas, Zeke," he said.

"Merry Christmas, Myron," Zeke said. Thank you, he thought. This is the best Christmas ever.

Their lips met, and they melted into each other like night into dawn. Zeke's eyes closed.

We're both home, now, he thought. Both of us. Together.