Alan walked Jake back to his barracks. As they walked across the floor that stunk of shoe polish. The night was cold, sad almost, as if it was filled with regret.
"You know Al, you were pretty good with that story. Where did you hear it?"
"I made it up a while ago. Thought I'd tell it to my kid when he was born." Alan took his locket from his pocket, and looped it around his neck. Right where it belonged.
"What was up with Alex any how?" Jake asked. Alan only shook his head.
"It's just this war. War can do strange things to a man. He'll be fine." Alan gazed towards the ceiling "I know he will"
"I'm sorry about everything man..." Jake began, he didn't want to see Alan like that again, angry and filled with that sadness.
"No, it's not your fault. In fact, I should be apologizing. I slugged ya' pretty hard."
That's right, Jake had almost forgotten about the red pain he felt in his cheek. But, that didn't hurt nearly as much as what was deep within him. Jake wanted to wrap Al's words around his body and keep them forever. I have to tell him. But, won't that change things even more? I don't want that...but I...
Jake could feel his heart pound like a drum with each walked down halls that seemed like they would go on forever.
""Hey Alan. Can I..."
Alan turned his head, his deep eyes seemed to pierce straight into Jake's heart, like a knife.
"Alan, I have something that I have to tell you." Jake stopped right in the middle of hallway .His legs were shaking, his tongue felt heavy, like it was made out of lead.
"What is it man?"
"Well..." Why is this so hard? His heart skipped two...no three beats. This was it. His stomach churned like butter. This was the moment that he wanted since the first day he saw Al. Jogging in the moonlight like a prince.
"I...I...I know you have a wife and..." Why was this so hard? Why did it always have to be so hard? Jake fought to keep his tongue afloat, to keep it moving. To send out the message he was trying to convey since that night. I love you...
"What man?" Alan stood tall, his shoulders looked like they could carry the entire world. He'd understand right? Jake's lips quivered. He wouldn't be angry right? He balled his hands into fists, a type of good luck ritual he learned as a kid.
"Come on man, stop playin' around" He motioned to turn around. Jake's eyes flashed, his heart pounded. It was like Alan was moving away from him completely. Disappearing into a world where he'd never be seen again, the real world. This was the last chance, a last moment that felt like an eternity. I love you...
"No, wait..." He stepped forward, his boots rubbing against the floor with each step. Slowly, with each bit of memory of him. Alan's laugh, his friendship, how he looked running in the moonlight, it was all coming back and through some magic that could not be explained, Jake's words found there way to the outside world.
"I like you."
The room fell silent. The entire world was holding it's breath. The smell of the floors was stronger than ever. Why did this place reek of shoe-polish and lemon? It felt like with a slight breath the stench would over take Jake and engulf his entire body. He had to rest. Lay down. Run away. But he couldn't, his legs were simply sewed to the ground. Alan never made a sound. Had his blood boiled over? He was angry of course.
He hates me. Well, who the hell could blame him? Staring at him like he was some piece of meat. He probably thinks I'm a freak, I'm going to burn in hell. He's probably going straight to the generals to have me discharged. Yeah, it serves me right. A homo in the army...what a joke...
"I figured as much." Alan replied. Is voice was calm and even, just how Jake remembered it.
"You don't hate me...because I'm gay?" Jake asked. His voice wavered with each word he said. He was afraid he would collapse.
"It's alright, your still the same guy who's always been here with me." Alan walked back towards Jake, his foot steps echoing throughout the halls. Alan placed his large hand onto Jake's small shoulders. They were cool and strong and reliable. Everything Jake knew and loved about Alan.
"I can't love you like I do my wife, but I do love you man. Your like a brother to me "
All of Jake's fears melted away like icicles over an open fire. He loves me... he loves me...
"Al..." Jake fought back his tears, he couldn't allow his eyes to become red. He was just too happy to let himself cry now. He loves me. And thats all there is to it.
"...You really mean that?" Jake asked. He wanted to know if this was real, if this wasn't some heavy joke.
"Yeah, I do..." Alan squeezed his hand on Jake's shoulder. He let go and then retired into his barracks, his back shrinking into the room and disappearing into the night.
He loves me...
That night, within the privacy of his bed, Jake stared up into the sky at the moon that shined down on everything. They would be deployed soon, he and Alex and Alan. They would be separated, and probably never see each other again. But, that night it didn't matter. Jake's fears of being hated by the person he held dearest was gone. It didn't matter it he didn't love him the same way, it didn't matter if Alan only saw him as a brother. Jake knew he was loved and that was all there was to it.
In the infirmary, amongst medicine cabinets and sick soldiers, Alexander stared outside of his window. The moon's glow peeking into his window like a friend he always had. It was a good story, one of the best he had ever heard. Yet, what felt even better was that he had people he could trust.
Alan squeezed his locket in his hands. It felt cold and cool, just like her kisses. All those months ago he promised her they would be together. It was a promise he knew he would keep, and as the moon's light fell down upon him in that bed, he knew that promise would never die.
Their weaponry would soon be pointed at the bodies of their enemies, or nestled safely between their gun holders and hips, or slung around their shoulders. But tonight, their guns weren't aimed at the stomachs of men, or peered through, their guns weren't nestled between their breasts or clutched in fear or anger.
That night, their guns were pointed at the moon.