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For King and Country

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May 31st 1940 

It was popular to use the phrase 'on cloud nine,' when one was elated. 

Many used it when they were deeply in love or overjoyed at an event in their lives. 

The Captain would use it now to describe kissing Havers for the first time sober. 

The alcohol had muted many things, making them more bearable for such an important milestone.

He was almost grateful for that. He knew what to expect, in a sense. He knew that there was an indescribable amount of emotion that overwhelmed him.

Like before, he did not feel shame. He should have.

Everyone said that this kind of behaviour was immoral and would corrupt the soul. The Captain had fought to ensure he had a few encounters, but not nearly as much as others.

He remembered shoving other soldiers out of his bed on numerous occasions, scowling at them with such vitriol that they couldn't help but scamper away with their tails tucked between their legs. 

He had never reported them, of course, and he had allowed one or two to sneak in over the years when the desire got too much. He had never sought it out, though. He never allowed himself to dwell too much on it. 

When he felt his mind slipping, he would run. He would spend time splitting his knuckles punching sandbags used for training fresh faces. 

He would turn away from the other men while showering in communal spaces, never talking to them until they were fully clothed.

The Captain was well renowned with old army friends for hardly ever allowing any kind of behaviour to tempt him.  

Pain, pressure, and routine kept him busy. Busyness kept him from giving in. He was safe as long as he was distracted with something to do. 

This was the first time he was happy he'd allowed himself to feel temptation. 

The Captain responded to Havers' kiss instinctively, enthusiastically and clumsily. 

He wasn't good at this. But he wanted to be. 

Havers held him close, a hand on the back of his neck and another on his lower back. 

It took time before they finally pulled apart, both clinging to each other as a wave of dizziness crashed over them. 

The grief that the telegram had brought was still prodding its thorns into the Captain's heart. But with Havers' presence, the thorns felt a little less sharp. He would grieve hard, despite his lack of connection to his brother.

But he would not be mourning alone. That was the important thing to remember. Now more than ever, he couldn't hide away in his office and let things stew. 

"Are you alright, Teddy?" Havers muttered, retracting his hands from their previous positions and instead cradling the Captain's jaw tenderly. "You're shaking." 

The Captain huffed out a laugh and flattened his palms against Havers' chest. He realised now that Havers was right. He was trembling all over, the nerves visible from a mile away. Betrayed by his own body, it seemed. 

"Yes, William. I'm okay." He assured, smiling at Havers. "I'm happier than I have been in a long while."

Havers returned the smile, relief in his eyes and a flush in his cheeks. 

"I'm glad, sir." He said. "I didn't think I was that good of a kisser."

"You are." The Captain said, maybe a little too quickly. Havers' smile slowly turned into a devious grin. "I mean ... uhm ... well, I - I don't think I've ever kissed anyone before. But I imagine if I had, you would've been the best yet. Not that I want to kiss anyone else. If anything, I'm glad that you were the first."

The Captain stumbled over his words, never finding it easy to iron out his thoughts enough to let them flow naturally. 

Havers didn't seem frustrated, however. He watched and waited as the Captain stammered and stuttered, eyes twinkling and that smile still on his face as if he was happy to see the Captain so restless and spooked.

It was almost as if he enjoyed it, found it endearing and wanted the Captain to never stop doing it. 

But the Captain found that hard to believe. It had annoyed people before when he'd let his nerves get the best of him. That was why he had learnt to hide everything, every emotion he ever felt. 

Havers looked at him differently, however. He was endlessly patient. 

Only when the Captain had resolutely finished, and nothing more came from his mouth, did Havers finally speak himself. 

"You're the first person I've kissed as well," Havers admitted. 

"I am?"

Havers nodded. "Why do you sound so surprised?"

"W-well, I ... you're so good at it, and I'm not, I have no idea what I'm doing." The Captain said. 

"Well, it's not exactly the first time this has happened, is it?" Havers asked. "I remember how you kiss from the previous times. I - I think about it a lot. I've always wanted it to happen again. Perhaps I'm not a good kisser in comparison to others. I just know you. But that's what matters, I suppose. You're the only one I want to kiss." 

The Captain opened his mouth to respond but found nothing there. The idea that Havers had, intentionally or not, remembered how he kissed in case there was a future time, to think about in case he never got to again made every part of him short circuit. 

How was he supposed to react to something like that?

Of course, the Captain had never been able to rid himself of the memories either. They always resurfaced at inappropriate moments, like when he was trying to do a morning briefing or run a training session. 

For some strange reason, the Captain knew he could identify Havers' presence beside him without looking. He could picture the lieutenant's face, his smile and his eyes and his voice, and know every movement it made when he spoke. The Captain could point him out in a crowd of identicals without hesitation.

There wasn't much in the Captain's life that he could remember as clearly as Havers. His childhood was a blur, his years in service a collection of snapshots connected by a piece of string. Some were blurry and unfocused, others clear. His promotions were among the clearest. 

Havers shouldn't have been the most distinct. One lieutenant serving beneath him in a world war should not be on his mind so heavily. Many captains paid little attention to their inferior officers, treating them all as cattle and bodies for a purpose.

The vital work being conducted at Button House should've been at the forefront of the Captain's mind. 

But Havers made the experience of being under as much pressure as a commanding officer less terrifying, lighting up every room he walked into and every nerve under the Captain's skin. 

He was average to most. But extraordinary to the Captain. 

"You need to stop being such a poet, William." The Captain said eventually. "It makes me speechless, and a captain should never be speechless." 

Havers laughed, and the Captain wished he had a camera that could capture sound and video simultaneously. Such things weren't necessary on this base and were hard to get hold of nowadays, with all the factories producing only the things that mattered to the war effort. Ammunition, guns, trucks, tanks. Nothing like cameras. 

Good Lord, if he did have one though, he would use all of his money on buying more film to capture that laugh. He would remember it in his sleep, the sound haunting him into the deepest slumber. But to have a record of it to always hold dear, to help him when he grew old, and his mind wasn't as sharp ... 

Yes, a camera was necessary to the Captain. 

"You're quite the romantic yourself, Captain," Havers replied, pressing a kiss to the Captain's forehead. When he pulled back, his eyes flicked back down to the Captain's lips, and the Captain knew what thoughts were running through his mind. 

"You don't have to ask permission, William." The Captain said. "Any time you like, I will never complain." 

Havers softened and leant forward with newfound confidence. 

Tonight would not be a night for work, the Captain knew. 

It was for more valuable things, such as enjoying Havers' company and making time for himself. Being buried under mounds of paperwork would only make him feel like he'd lost his way. 

He was determined not to lose his way again, not when he had a shining light in front of him guiding the way to salvation. Caring for Havers was not a sin. It was the opposite. Their emotions were the steering wheel to a better life. 

To turn away from the prospect of love was to turn away from everything that had been intended for them. 

If the Captain was a religious man - which he often wasn't except in the face of his Roman Catholic parents that had long since passed away - he would've used his creator as justification. 

Humans were surely meant for love if they had been made capable of feeling it so intensely. Platonic or romantic, wherever they could find love, they were made for this.

Loyalty born out of love had been the cause for war and ruin in some cases. The poets and the storytellers wrote of it, and it was always the saving grace. 

Their feelings were most certainly a steering wheel out of a storm. It should've been daunting, sailing into something so unknown. 

But with Havers by his side helping to steer, the Captain felt brave. 

He was well on his way to feeling the love that the poets talked about for Havers. He didn't want to admit that yet, though. 

For now, they would take it one day at a time and focus on the small stolen moments that made the hiding worth it. And though hiding such things hurt, Havers was worth it all and more.