so vast the field

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so vast the field
by templemarker

Notes: To celebrate the advent of [info]yagkyas, a small Brad/Nate vignette. With grateful, yowling thanks to [personal profile] samjohnsson for being incomparable, and [info]shoshannagold for being quick on the verb draw. Set post-series.


All the things that had come before never seemed to matter much on nights like these, when they could sit out in the late summer coolness, the firepit casting shadows on the patio tiles. Nate had never particularly sought happiness; he had always believed his destiny lay more in the realm of duty, in service, in something greater than himself. But he had found it nonetheless, here with Brad, here in the life they had built together.

Nate had no illusions: theirs was a temporary shelter, a brief respite together from all the things that sought to keep them apart. Brad’s work, Nate’s work, the lack of desire either of them had to be family men. They had other priorities, had built other dreams, and though they’d talked frankly, as if two men redrawing a national boundary, about the pros and cons of bringing children into their lives, it had simply not taken. They hadn’t wanted it badly enough to sway the other, and so the question was answered and boxed away, like summer linens after the fall has come.

He couldn’t regret it now, had no second thoughts, but only the comparison of how their lives might have been different in this moment if they had made a different choice. They would not have been alone on the patio, or if they had been it would be with the silent exhaustion Nate knew from his own sisters, and Brad’s as well. Nate wouldn’t have been thinking of the weekend trip he’d planned for the two of them to the Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge; instead he would have been preparing for the next morning’s school day. Nate tightened his arm around Brad, earning a grunt and a slight rearrangement for his trouble.

The neighbors a couple of yards down liked to play Miles Davis in the evenings, and no one yet had protested the spread of the music across the shared world. It came in like a whisper or a exhalation of breath, something sweet and muted that suited the night. Nate drew his fingers through the hairs at the back of Brad’s neck: longer than usual. He’d be using the clippers soon. He felt Brad’s night-pebbled skin and chased the rise with his fingertips. Having Brad tucked up against his side was better than anything else had ever been. They were silent after relearning each other through words and errands throughout the day.

They did this dance every time Brad returned from whatever far-flung locale he’d been sent to. Nate knew them all, as much as he was ever allowed to, and kept the dates written down on a worn index card in his wallet. It spoke to Brad’s fidelity to his service; it spoke to the times in between that were devoted to the pair of them.

Nate believed in duty, but he also knew himself to be a selfish man: he would not give this up for anything, not even a child that had never been theirs. He got so little of Brad’s time despite carrying so much of Brad’s regard, and he guarded it like some dragon-like miser from platoon reunions and requests for appointments and even family appearances. He didn’t think it was all that much to ask to have Brad to himself for some little while, memorize the drag of skin on skin for the long dull months between.

But those memories and the fire they kept alive between then like an Olympic ember were days away from being necessary; Nate still had time yet to accomplish all the things he banked up for them to share. Brad indulged him, a little, in Nate’s manic quest to do things before the time was lost again.

For now, however, the simple act of existing side by side, "My Funny Valentine" wafting through the trembling leaves, was more than enough. The soft thud of Brad’s heart reassured with every expected beat, and the faint heat from the fire mixed with the heat they shared between their bodies to offset the evening’s chill. An airplane winked through the sky, and Nate could almost see a star or two cresting in the Big Dipper.

If they had been different men, if Brad had not been a Marine first and all else second, perhaps they would have shown their son how to count the notches on Orion’s belt; perhaps they would have drawn their daughter up on high shoulders to see far and wide within their neighborhood. But they were only themselves, and they shared the stars between them, and it was enough.

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