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I am for my beloved

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3 Months

Lying naked on the floor with his head and shoulders propped up against the wall, Nate eyes the disaster around them. Seems like only a bomb should have this much destructive force—he's lucky the front door is still intact. Sprawled next to him, Brad uses his teeth to nuzzle Nate's hips and then starts nipping at Nate's cock.

Nate groans, letting his head fall back. Brad continues for a few minutes; licking, teasing, lapping up the come that's all over Nate's stomach and dick, but the mind-blowing, universe-ending urgency that claimed them when Brad walked through the door has slipped into the background as a thrumming buzz.

Apparently they're not going to get up off the floor anytime soon though, since Brad finds a comfortable spot for his face in Nate's thigh and settles in with a sigh.

Which is probably just as well, Nate admits to himself. He's still lightheaded and a little shell-shocked that Brad found a way back here for the weekend.

Fuck. And Brad's only been gone for three months.

Nate looks at the shattered hall table that was never meant to support a combined weight of almost four hundred pounds. Keys and pocket change are scattered across the floor, never mind his school books and pens that were also on the table. But coming in first place is the cell phone that bounced all the way into the kitchen. It's never going be the same. At least the railing he used to hold himself up when he wrapped his legs around Brad held strong.

He had no idea it could be like this. Before Brad left, they'd joked about making three-thousand mile booty calls. Now Nate's ass is burning pleasantly and he needs to replace furniture.

A quiet snore escapes Brad's mouth. The floor is starting to feel cold and Nate's begun to notice that his back is cramping from the awkward position. The post-coital bliss dissolves a little further when he spies the used condom in his potted fern. Broken furniture is one thing, but the sight of the limp latex dangling in the foliage is another.

Grabbing a pen within his reach, he gives it a quick toss and sends it hurling into the plant, knocking the condom into the pot.

Which is really not that much better.

A few minutes later, his neck starts to ache as well. Brad shifts, but seems perfectly content sprawled on his stomach, lying across Nate's legs giving Nate a perfect view of the monstrosity of a tattoo covering most of his back.

The colors, the expanse, the fierce and voluptuous princess warrior. The enigma of Brad on display.

Reaching out and grabbing a marker that's also close by, Nate uncaps it with his mouth. Since he's pinned beneath Brad with not much else to do, he decides it would be a great idea to add to Brad's tattoo. Unfortunately, he's not really an artist; the most he can draw is a little stick figure on the temple on Brad's back.

It looks silly and out of place, but when Brad doesn't respond, he keeps going. He adds a house, a flower, a sun and a gun, which pretty much exhausts all the things he knows how to draw without getting into tactical formations.

Just as he's adding sunglasses to the sun's face, Brad lifts his head. "Are you defacing my tattoo?"

"You defaced my fern, seems only fair."

Brad turns his head in confusion, his face clearing when he sees the plant and the condom hanging half out of the pot. He barks out a laugh and then twists his body around. He takes the marker from Nate's hand, tossing it away, and drags Nate all the way down to the floor. "There are so many more things I can deface, I haven't even gotten started."

 

7 months

The next time Nate meets him half-way—half-way being the booming metropolis of Trenton, Ontario. Population 20,000, half of which works on the Air Force base. At least, Nate is relatively sure it's an Air Force base. It's surprisingly easy to gain entrance to. All he does is roll down the window and ask the commissionaire the location of the Yukon Lodge. The commissionaire points him in the right direction and waves him in without even checking his ID.

Nate knew Canadians were friendly, but he has a hard time believing he's just three hours north of the border. But the Hercules that flies overhead and the Globemaster that starts its engines on the north side of the road is proof that this is in fact a military installation. Nate shakes his head and drives onto the base, wondering what the hell Brad got himself into.

"I see you were able to infiltrate the base," Brad says with a smirk when he opens the door.

Nate rolls his eyes to cover up the fluttering in his chest. Brad's looking well. "It took some skill and cunning. So how on earth did you scam a free flight here?"

"As a brother in arms with Royal Marines, I can now enjoy the perks of their socialist ideals."

Dropping his bag on the floor, Nate eyes the room, though his eyes quickly go back to Brad. It's been way too long and he wants to drink in the sight of him. "Their socialist ideals hooked you up with nice quarters. It's practically a hotel. Do you get room service too?"

Brad snorts, then grabs Nate's arm and drags him close. "You're such an optimist," he says, nuzzling Nate's neck. "But we can go to the all ranks mess for chow if you're hungry."

Nate hums a noncommittal noise while maneuvering them toward the bed, Brad helping in his own way. Of course, Brad's version of help consists of getting down on his knees and trying to mouth Nate's cock through his clothes. They stumble more than walk, Nate toeing off his shoes and losing his pants in the process.

Finally, they're lying on the bed, kissing and rubbing against each other, the anticipation alone making Nate crazy. He grabs Brad's shirt, popping a few buttons as he rips it open, unable to stop, unwilling to slow down and determined to access more skin.

"I want you to fuck me," Brad says when Nate's biting his ear. Nate stutters mid-kiss as he processes Brad's request. This is a new thing for them. It's not that Nate hasn't thought about it—oh, he has, but Brad's never seemed interested before. Now suddenly Brad's shimmying out of his clothes, pulling lube and condoms out of his bag and hopping back on the bed, practically bouncing.

Nate can count the number of times he's seen Brad bounce on a single finger.

He eyes the door. "I thought we were going to a motel off base. I wasn't exactly discreet coming here. What if someone notices? Not to mention the fact that you're not exactly quiet when you come." Not even close. Not that Nate minds the feedback.

Brad wiggles his eyebrows at him. "We're in Canada now, Nate. Not only do they not have Don't Ask, Don't Tell, I met a guy on the plane whose unit marched in the local Pride Parade."

"Really?"

Brad nods and then drags Nate back down onto him, divesting him of the remainder of his clothes. Nate lets himself be pulled; adjusting to the sudden new found freedom he never thought he'd have. But now that they do, it's like going for a run without having to take a loaded pack and the truth is Nate fucking loves running.

He grabs Brad's face and brings him close, kissing him with lips and teeth and tongue and hands, straddling and grinding into him because his dick is still aching and his mind is finally saying hell, yes as well.

"Fuck, yeah," Brad breathes when they finally have to break apart for air. Brad's whole body is slicked with sweat and Nate wants to cool him down by licking every square inch. Starting at Brad's neck and working down; chest, thighs, hips, cock, balls, Nate slides down even further to see if he can lick Brad's asshole as well but Brad shudders and pushes him back so he can flip over instead. "Fucking do it now, Nate."

So Nate dives in, licking the crease of Brad's ass, then spreading him apart so he can lick further in. Brad groans into his pillow, reaching behind him to grab Nate's arm and digs his nails into Nate's skin.

Nate reaches for the lube and then using his free hand, rubs it between Brad's cheeks, slipping a finger inside.

"You're so fucking tight," Nate stammers and the whole world suddenly feels too hot. It's like a million degrees in the room right now and all he wants to do is put his dick inside Brad. Then Brad starts begging for him to do just that and Nate can hardly breathe.

Sliding his finger in and out, he picks up the pace. Then adds another finger and thinks there's no way in hell he can get his dick in there.

"Fuck, Nate," Brad moans, squirming back to meet Nate's hand, trying to get more from his fingers.

Slowly, Nate slides his fingers out and climbs up onto his knees, pulling Brad's hips up to meet him half way. And then he's pushing in, not giving Brad's body a chance to forget the intrusion and his whole world coalesces into just this. Heat. Pressure. Need.

Want.

He forces himself to still, to give Brad some time to adjust but Brad's backing into him, drawing him further in, swearing and stumbling when his legs can't hold him up. Nate pushes him down on the bed, pushes harder into him, slowly seeing how much of him Brad can take.

Brad takes every damn inch.

Drawing out, Nate plunges in again, and then angles his next thrusts until he finds Brad's sweet spot. Brad shudders and grabs onto him as Nate picks up the tempo. A few more thrusts and Brad loses his cool, groaning, and slamming into Nate, yelling, coming as his muscles constricting around Nate's dick. Then Nate's coming as well, spots of light behind his eyes and release pulsing out from his dick to every cell in his body. Nate tries to keep from yelling, tries to keep from falling apart and dying but it's like swallowing a grenade and he's shattering into a million pieces.

A million wonderful, happy, shiny pieces.

They never do make it to the all ranks mess.

Afterwards they're lying in bed, Brad sprawled in his favorite position, which is pretty much spread-eagle on the bed, lying overtop of Nate's body where it happens to get in his way. Nate glances around and sees a pen and paper by the phone on the bedside table. He reaches over and snags the pen.

"You better not be drawing any fucking stick-figures," Brad says, arching an eyebrow, but there's no real threat there. So when Brad puts his head back down, Nate goes ahead and draws exactly that. Fucking stick-figures. Doing it doggy style on the nice big temple on Brad's back. And in honor of the great white north, Nate gives them both dicks and draws a maple leaf in sky and feels pretty damn pleased with himself when he's done.

 

12 months

When Nate hops on a plane five months later he feels like a school girl. He's not sure what's different but it feels like something's shifted. This morning he changed his outfit three times, going from button-up shirt and pants to t-shirt and jeans before saying fuck it and settling on a polo shirt and khakis before closing his luggage. Now he's got nervous sweats as the plane's touching down for a landing. It makes no sense.

It's just Brad, he tries to tell himself.

But that's like saying over and over that it's only caviar. It's completely ridiculous. Nate compromises by not sneaking into the restroom to brush his teeth before they pull into the terminal but then changes his mind when he's standing in line for customs. He drags his luggage into the nearest bathroom and brushes and gargles for five minutes.

It's only when he gets back that he realizes his mistake. The customs agent is not impressed and she could have been an instructor on SERE the way Nate gets grilled. Then she orders someone to search his bags and Nate has to admit that it probably looked suspicious to leave the line and run to the bathroom. His nervous sweats probably aren't helping his cause, either.

Wiping his palms on his pants, he gives the agent a smile and tries to be thankful she doesn't want a strip search.

When he finally sees Brad waiting for him in the airport, the endorphins start pumping and he forgets all his nervousness. His entire being becomes centered for the first time in weeks. Brad's face, his body, his stance. His wise cracks and unbreakable cool. That's what Nate wants. This is where he belongs.

They smile awkwardly amongst the crowd of people. Nate really wants to reach out touch Brad, is almost desperate for it but a handshake seems insufficient and anything else too personal to share with the outside world. He settles for a "Hey, you."

Brad settles for smacking his lips.

The ride to a nearby hotel is mercifully short. Brad takes up most of the backseat of the cab and then has the nerve to pat the small section that's left beside him, inviting Nate to try and squeeze in. Nate does and then they're pressed against each other, all hot and bothered and Brad's hands are on his thighs outside the line of sight of the rearview mirror. At least they're in the elevator for the hotel before they're sucking each other's tongues though they barely make it in the room before Nate's challenging Brad to fuck him.

So much for playing it cool.

Before long, Brad's got him spread open, and is fucking him slow and long. Sweat is coating both their bodies and Nate doesn't know how much longer he can take. He wants more. He wants it faster. He wants it pounding into him. He wants Brad to be right there on the edge with him. So he gets up on his hands and knees to give Brad more leverage and on his next thrust Brad goes in deep.

A guttural moan comes from Brad's throat. Then he's pounding into Nate, cursing and swearing, almost driving him off the bed with his thrusts. He's desperate and out of control like he's trying to climb into Nate's body. Nate pushes back and meets him halfway, desperate as well. It's like if they do this hard enough they'll become permanent fixtures inside each other's bodies. Nate grinds into him again and comes as he feels Brad explode inside him. He reaches back and grabs Brad's head as an anchor as they rock together, riding it out.

Later, Nate looks out the window. It's raining, which apparently is par for the course in England. Brad is snoring in his usual spot; sprawled across Nate's body, resting his head on Nate's chest. Gently so as not to disturb Brad, Nate casually runs his hands along the top of Brad's hair. Standard buzz cut, though half an inch longer than usual. There are other subtle changes as well, changes Nate can see easier now that Brad's unconscious.

Brad's upper body strength has increased, his muscles are a little harder than they were before, and Nate wonders what they have him doing. He's sure that the core parts of his day are the same; PT, drills, paperwork, drills, PT, chow. The essentials of any military unit. But at the same time, Brad's body has changed to accommodate new demands and part of Nate wishes he knew what they were. They don't really talk about such trivial things.

He checks the bedside table and is pleased to see a pen and hotel stationary. The paper he doesn't need, but he pulls the pen out and draws a stick figure near the warrior princess and has him waving at the sky. As the rain beats down harder outside, Nate adds an umbrella to his figure and some rain clouds on Brad's upper back.

Looking at his work and the expanse of Brad's back, Nate thinks that Brad really has the kind of body that should be unmarked; tanned all over from moving naked on the beach, comfortable in his own skin. Instead he sees faded scars acquired from several tours of duty, there's a bruise on his left shoulder, and he's white save for the farmer's tan on his arms, his ass only a little whiter than his legs. The tattoo is another matter, further proof of the dichotomy that Brad lives with everyday. Nate wasn't able to do it, but Brad's perfected the art of being able to be only half-himself at any given time; the rebel or the soldier. Nate would even go so far as to say that Brad enjoys it.

Nate's plane is due to leave in five hours and it's sad to think that tomorrow he'll be back on his side of the planet, and the rain, or more likely a shower, will wash away the graffiti he's putting on Brad's back. Tomorrow, everything will be back to normal, with no proof that he's been here at all.

Suddenly it seems unfair that the scars and tattoos are the only things that get to follow Brad around with him wherever he goes.

 

15 months

Nate glances down and to the side, at Brad who's lying bonelessly on the bed. They've made a mess of the sheets—the mattress is bare in the corner and a blanket draped over the rest of it. The tacky polyester bedspread is sprawled across the floor, their clothing continuing the path to the door.

Everything is quiet.

Even the sun that's been slowly setting, the light filtering into the room, seems hesitant to continue.

"What are you thinking?" Brad asks, skimming his fingers along Nate's thigh.

The question catches his attention because it's one he can't answer. At least, not out loud.

Things have coalesced in his head these last few months, painting a clearer picture of what he's feeling and though he's never wished for ignorance, Nate admits innocence was easier.

The words burn on his tongue and he wonders how terrible it would be to let them out. It's a purely hypothetical thought, of course. Risk assessment was conducted as soon as the realization occurred to him; the danger deemed too great, the chance of reward too little.

Still, the moment lingers as Brad lays his head back down, though never taking his eyes off Nate. Nate gathers the courage to do something and finally picks up the pen that's been conveniently left on the bedside table. It's a small and mostly meaningless gesture perhaps, but the thought of Brad putting it there helps dissolve the lump that's formed in his chest.

Brad shifts a little, offering him easier access to his back. Nate hesitates, then brings the pen to Brad's right shoulder blade and starts. The script is long and foreign to him, moving slowly from right to left, the elegant letters awkward and unfamiliar. He came up with the idea a few months ago. One night when he was up, staring uselessly at his computer and the paper he was supposed to be writing, he started surfing the web for phrases that might be meaningful and then came across something in Hebrew.

Nate still remembers the letters he wrote out so many times that night and continues on, character by character trying to get the niqqud right, hoping that the internet didn't lie when showing him the translations.

The phrase is simple. Popular among people getting Hebrew tattoos, but that's okay too. It doesn't make it any less true. Or any easier to write.

I am for my beloved.

 

15 months and 5 days

There's ringing in his ear. It takes Nate a moment to figure out where he is and what is ringing but as he lifts his head he feels the imprint of a keyboard on his cheek and the computer whizzing to life. He squints at the bright screen. Nine pm.

Shit. He needs to get this analysis done for tomorrow morning.

He reaches over and grabs the phone off the cradle, still rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. "Yes?" he says, answering the phone.

At first it's hard to hear anything. The loud music on the other end makes it impossible to discern a single voice. Then there's a muffling sound, and a familiar voice comes on the line.

"Hey," Brad says.

Nate runs a hand through his tousled hair. "Hey."

"You sound like I woke you up. It should be early there."

"Yeah well, jet lag's a bitch. What's up?"

There's a pause. "Did you mean what you wrote?"

In the background, Nate hears a girl's high-pitched laugh and it twists something deep inside his chest. "Come on, Brad," she calls out.

"I think you're being called," Nate says quietly.

"Did you?"

Nate shakes his head and sits back down on the bed. "Does it matter?"

"We're shipping out to Afghanistan in a few weeks."

A cold, irrational fear washes over him and he's glad he's already sitting down. There's nothing he can do to protect Brad this time. Not that Brad ever needed much protecting. But just the thought of not knowing what situation Brad will be in is enough to put him on edge. "What do you want from me?"

"What do you want from me?" Brad asks him right back.

Nate settles for the truth because otherwise they're going to keep going around in circles. "Just come back home to me when you're done."

The girl calls again in the background and Nate hears a reassuringly rude hiss from Brad, telling her to be quiet.

"Did you?" he asks again when he comes back on the line.

Brad's a persistent sonofabitch, but Nate never could deny him anything. "Yes," he says finally.

There's a quiet sigh on the other end of the line and no way to tell what the sentiment behind it is.

"Okay," Brad replies, which is equally unhelpful. "I'll see you when I get back."

"Take care of yourself." Nate tries to imbue those few words with everything he wants to say. He has a feeling he's already said too many actual words.

Brad's answer is just as succinct. "You too."

 

22 months

Nate's folding laundry before heading to bed when he hears a knock on his door. He opens the door casually, not really sure who he's expecting but tired enough that he just wants to send them on their way.

It's been a long six months. The semester is nearing the end with one more group project before graduation. Nate just wants to get it over with. He's ready to move on.

When he opens the door, Brad is leaning against the doorframe, duffle bag in one hand, the other one getting ready to knock again.

Nate tries to swallow but his throat is completely dry. "You're home?"

"Yeah," Brad says with a smile. "For a few days. Then I gotta head over to Pendleton to check in."

Nate tries to understand the words, but they weren't in the order he was expecting and his heart is beating too loudly to figure it out. "You came here first?"

"You told me to," Brad says straightening up. "Aren't you going to let me in?"

He steps out of the way so Brad can come in, confusion still muddling his brain and after Brad deposits his bag on the floor, he turns and corners Nate against the wall, one arm on each side. "Do you want me to leave?" Brad asks, an inch away from Nate's mouth.

Nate stares at his face. Brad's skin is tanned and wind chapped, his hair shorn close to his scalp once again. It looks like he's lost twenty pounds but overall he doesn't look nearly as bad as he did when they came back from Iraq. His eyes are the same though, the same calm blue that never seems to change. He brings his hand up to Brad's face and draws him in for a kiss.

They kiss slowly and leisurely, rediscovering each other's mouths, the press of each other's bodies still a familiar thing, despite all the time that's passed.

Brad breaks apart first, going back over to his bag and starts opening it. "Did you mean it?" he asks taking out a small package.

He comes back over where Nate's still pressed against the wall, not really trusting his ability to stand on his own. This could all be dream except Nate understands instantly what he's talking about and then the tension's right back there between them.

"Yeah," he says, committing himself to it. Because it's the truth. A truth that's been eating him up for almost two years now. It's what he's become and he's tired of trying to deny it.

Brad gives him a slow, sensual smile that just about breaks Nate's heart with the hope that's behind it. Then Brad pulls something out of the bag—a chain with a silver ring on it that gleams in the light. Nate takes it out of Brad's hands, trying to keep his hands steady while he turns it over. The ring is beautiful, with tiny etchings all the way around, making an intricate pattern that was obviously done by hand. Looking closer, Nate realizes there are more workings on the inside as well; a familiar pattern that makes his stomach drop. The same characters that he wrote on Brad's back and more go all the way around.

"You put the whole phrase in," Nate says, holding the ring tight.

Brad raises an eyebrow. "Yes. Why didn't you?"

Nate looks away until Brad brings his gaze back with a guiding finger on his chin. "I didn't want to presume," Nate says finally. "How could I presume anything about you? You're going to feel however you feel. Just because I love you—doesn't mean I can expect you to feel the same."

"You know, for a smart man," Brad says with a shake of his head, "You're awfully stupid sometimes. I don't think I can get away with wearing a ring, but I thought this might do."

Brad pulls his shirt off over his head and then turns half-way around, showing Nate the back of his left shoulder. There in the corner is another tattoo, the words Nate started to write forming a circle, but written with careful, elegant script and including the words Nate never finished writing.

I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me.

"You defaced your back again for me?" Nate asks. He runs his fingers over the tattoo, then leans over and kisses it. This skin is long healed which means Brad must have had it done before he got deployed.

With a smile, Brad faces Nate and pins him to the wall again. "I got tired of all your art work washing away. I wanted something more permanent."

He pulls Nate in for a kiss. They kiss and kiss and move from wall to wall until Brad's got him pinned against a table. Nate's happy and dizzy, and feels like his heart's so full it's going to burst.

"Will you say it?" Nate asks, stammering out the words between kisses.

"I want you," Brad says.

Nate shakes his head as Brad lifts him up. "Not that."

"I need you?" Brad cocks an eyebrow up, obviously teasing him now.

Nate wraps his legs around Brad's waist, pulling him closer. "Try again."

"Words are overrated."

"Only the meaningless ones you keep uttering."

Brad smiles. "You know, with all this abuse, it's a good thing I love—"

The table interrupts them by breaking beneath them, landing them in a tangled heap on the floor.

"You have got to start getting some functional furniture," Brad says brushing debris off his legs. This time they've taken the fern out as well. Soil and broken pottery are everywhere mixed in with the splintered wood.

"It was functional as a table."

Nate moves so he's lying on top of Brad, brushing some of the dirt off his face while he's there. "I'm never going to hear it, am I?"

Brad hushes Nate with a finger over his lips and reaches down and takes the chain that's still clenched in Nate's hands. He slides it over Nate's head. "I love you."

"I love you, too," Nate says with a smile.

"Now, please tell me you have a bed that's passed its stress testing. I believe I still have some defacing to do of that perfect little body of yours and believe me, Nate. Pens and markers have nothing on the marks I'm gonna leave on you. You're mine."

Nate leans down, kissing him again. "You better fucking believe it."