Okay, how do I say this without implicating Clark? He must be protected at all costs, no matter what happens to me. "Yes, there is something else that's bothering me, but I really can't talk about it."
"Because there's a very good possibility that it would have a negative impact on my career and possibly threaten the career of someone I care very deeply about. I cannot and will not allow that to happen to that person. I'd rather spend the rest of my life in jail."
"Yes. If I tell you, you'd have to report it and I could get a BCD and go to Leavenworth."
"Really? Aaron, listen to me and try to understand. I'm bound by oaths, laws and regulations. What's said in these sessions stays in this office. Unless you're planning on killing someone or building a nuclear weapon, I can't do anything except try to talk you out of doing whatever it is your doing that's so wrong as to get you that BCD. Do you want to tell me what it is? Maybe we can figure out a solution together."
Aaron sat silently for a moment, thinking over what Andrea just said, before coming to a conclusion. "I can't take the risk of hurting my friend. My friend is way too important to me."
The fact that Aaron was very careful to not use any pronouns or give any clues as to the identity of his friend was not lost on Andrea. He's obviously thought about this a great deal and is being very careful not to give me any clues as to who his friend might be. I need to get him to trust me. Hmm. I'm willing to bet that his "friend" is actually a male lover that he's trying to protect. If that's his big secret then I need to convince him to share it with me and that I won't divulge it to anyone. These thoughts went through her mind. "Aaron, I give you my solemn word as an officer in the United States Air Force and a licensed psychologist that I will not, under any circumstances, divulge anything you say to me. I will swear any oath you require if it will make you trust me." She said, and there was no doubt as to her sincerity.
He sighed deeply and finally came to a decision. "Okay. Here it is. I'm gay and my boyfriend is going to be shipped overseas in two days and it's tearing me apart." The tears came hard.
She handed him a box of tissues and laid a compassionate hand on his arm. "I'm so sorry, Aaron. I understand completely how you feel. I went through the same thing when my girlfriend was shipped to Okinawa and I wasn't able to go with her. Believe me, I understand." Aaron looked at her, completely caught off-guard. "Yes, Aaron, I'm a lesbian so trust me when I say that your secret is safe with me. May I ask what your boyfriend's name is? Just his first name, I don't need or want to know his last name."
"Tracy." He lied, still wanting to protect Clark's identity, but figuring she'd know he was lying.
"Is he your first?" He still doesn't trust me completely, but I understand. He wants to protect his boyfriend at all costs. I'll just have to prove to him that he can trust me completely.
"Yes. I love him so much. I don't know what I'm going to do when he leaves."
"I know what you're going to do. You're going to start going to a support group I started off-base for gay airmen whose lovers have been transferred. This group meets at my home and nobody knows of its existence except the other members. The next thing you're going to do is find a hobby to help fill your time."
"I already have a hobby. Tracy got me into candle making over at the Arts and Crafts Center."
"Good. How often do you go there?"
"I haven't been since he got his orders. We've been trying to spend as much time together as we could before he ships out the day after tomorrow."
"And that explains why you want to be anywhere but here."
"I'm sorry. It's that obvious?"
"Yes, and it's very understandable. I was the same way before Jenny shipped out."
They continued to talk and finally Aaron agreed to check out the support group. Glancing at the clock on the wall, he knew that Clark would be finished with his out-processing and would be on his way home. Andrea noticed Aaron's fidgeting and guessed, correctly, at its cause. "Why don't you head on home. I'll take care of things with your supervisor."
Aaron gave her a look of gratitude. "Thank you so much." He practically ran from her office.
"OBEY THE SPEED LIMITS, SERGEANT AND DON'T RUN ANY STOP SIGNS OR RED LIGHTS!" She ordered, laughing.
A short time later, Aaron ran through the door and pounced on Clark, hugging him so hard he couldn't breathe.
"Aaron. I can't breathe." He gasped.
He loosened his strangle hold slightly. "I'm sorry baby."
"Hey, it's okay. What brought this on?" he asked
"I just need you to hold me." He whispered.
"Of course, baby." Clark replied, using one hand to stroke Aaron's hair as he rocked him gently, slowly leading him to the couch where he sat down and pulled him into his lap, kissing him gently.
"What are we going to do, Clark? We promised each other we'd be together forever and you're being forced to leave the day after tomorrow. God knows if we'll ever see each other again."
"Aaron baby, look at me." Their eyes locked. "The time I've spent with you has been the best time of my life. I will never ever forget it, or you. I know I told you awhile back that you aren't my first boyfriend, but you most certainly, without a doubt have been the best boyfriend I've ever had or could ever want. You've enriched my life way beyond any capacity to measure, and for that I will always be indebted to you for the rest of my life. I love you, Aaron, with every fiber of my existence."
"I don't think I'll ever love anyone else. I don't want to love anyone else. I only want you." Aaron replied softly. Clark picked him up gently and carried him into the bedroom and made gentle love with him. Tomorrow would be their last day together for a very long time, perhaps forever.
Clark woke up the next morning to find Aaron already awake, lying on his side looking at him. "Good morning, baby."
"Good morning, love. Sleep well?"
Clark yawned and stretched. "Yeah. What would you like to do today?"
"Absolutely nothing except lie here next to you." He replied as he snuggled up next to him, laid his head on his shoulder and draped his arm across Clark's flat, ripped stomach.
"You realize, of course, that we can't do that."
"Well, we'll have to use the bathroom at some point in time or another, and we will have to eat something." As if on cue, Clark's stomach rumbled loudly, only to be answered by Aaron's. He started to climb out of bed, but Aaron stopped him with a kiss. "Let me up, so I can take a piss, then I'll make us breakfast."
"Okay", Aaron agreed, releasing him "but then you're coming back and fucking me into the next millennium."
"Don't you mean `to infinity and beyond'?" He quoted the character Buzz Lightyear from the Toy Story movies.
Aaron stroked his cheek gently. "I wish we had infinite time together, baby." He said tearfully.
Clark brushed the tears away tenderly with his thumb then kissed each cheek. "I do too, baby, I do too."
After eating breakfast, performing their daily hygiene rituals and making love, the boys did not spend the rest of the day in bed, but instead spent it snuggling on the couch in front of the TV, neither of them saying much, both knowing that if either of them did, the flood gates would open and the last thing they wanted was to spend their last day together crying. They'd be doing enough of that in the morning when Clark left. Tomorrow was going to be an extremely difficult day for both of them and neither man wanted to think about it until they were absolutely forced to.
All too soon their time came together came to an end. Barely holding himself together at McCarran Airport while Clark checked his bags, he felt a tap on his shoulder. "Hello, Aaron." He whirled around, surprised to see Andrea standing there. He had forgotten that he'd accidentally let slip Clark's departure time. "You didn't think I'd let you go through this alone,
He looked around nervously, trying to figure out a way to keep her from finding out who Clark was. He was horrified as he approached them and noticed her. "Hi, Andrea. What brings you here?" Aaron's mouth dropped to the floor.
"Clark. So you're Aaron's mysterious boyfriend."
Aaron's eyes did an aerobic dance as they darted between the two of them. He swallowed nervously. "You-you two know each other?"
"Yes. My friend Nadine was a member of Andrea's support group and I went with her to a couple of meetings for support. Baby, why didn't you tell me that Andrea was your therapist?"
"I'm sorry. It never occurred to me."
Clark put his hands on Aaron's shoulders and turned him gently so they were face-to-face. "Baby, listen to me. I want you to do two things for me."
"Name it and I'll do it."
"I want you to promise me that you'll go to Andrea's support group. It will help you get over me."
"But I don't want to get over you."
"Baby, you have to. I'm going to be thousands of miles away."
"Don't remind me. But what about you?"
"I've already put Clark in touch with a support group at Ramstein." Aaron raised his eyebrows. "He never told me that you were his lover, just as you never told me he was yours, and I never made the connection between the two of you until just now."
"You see baby? We'll both get the help we'll need to rebuild our lives."
Aaron rounded on Clark angrily. "You're that eager to get rid of me?"
"No, baby, no. Never, but the odds of us seeing each other again are very remote. Please listen to me and try to understand. I love you more than I've ever loved anyone in my life ever. I know you feel the same. But we both work very dangerous jobs that require use to be extremely focused. Lives depend on that. Not just ours, but our fellow firefighters. We can't afford to be distracted. Believe me this is tearing me apart just as much as it is you, but deep in our hearts we both know that we need to do this. We need the support, otherwise we put lives in jeopardy."
Aaron sighed deeply. He knew Clark was right, but he didn't want to admit it. "You're right Clark. I don't like it, but you're right. I'll go to the support group. What's the second thing you want me to do?"
"First, give me a big hug." As they hugged, he whispered into Aaron's ear "I love you with all my heart. I loved you from the moment I first laid eyes on you and I'll always love you, and I swear I'll never, ever forget you." He broke the embrace and turned to Andrea. "Please, get him out of here. I don't what him to see me board the plane." He said with tears flowing freely down his cheeks.
"WHAT? NO FUCKING WAY AM I LEAVING!" Aaron shouted."
"Baby, please. It will be easier if you leave now."
"Easier for who, you or me?"
"Easier for both of us. I know how much pain it caused Annie to watch Luke board the plane. I don't want that to be your last memory of our parting. Believe me, baby, it will be easier for you if we said our goodbyes here and you left."
"Easier for me, maybe, but what about you?"
"You're all that matters."
Clark turned pleading eyes on Andrea. "Aaron, Clark is right. It would be easier for you if you parted now, and it would be easier for him knowing that you won't be in as much pain as you would be watching him board the plane.
Aaron turned a cold gaze to Andrea, then let it soften as he began to realize that she was right. He jumped into Clark's arms. "Show them how real firefighters do it, baby. I love you. I'm going to miss you so much. Please call me the minute you get there. I don't care what time it is."
"I will, baby, I'm going to miss you more than you'll ever know. Promise me you'll let Andrea and the others help you deal."
"I promise if you'll promise me the same."
"Cross my heart."
The both looked around. "Aw, fuck it." Clark replied and kissed Aaron goodbye. "Andrea, please get him out of here now before I go A.W.O.L. and take him with me."
Andrea gently took hold of Aaron's arm as an overhead page announced the boarding call for his flight. "Come on Aaron. It's time to go." Aaron broke free and rushed into Clark's arms for one last hug before allowing Andrea to lead him away. He tried to look back but Andrea was able to move him around a corner and out of sight just as Clark collapsed into a chair in a flood of tears.
A grandmotherly-type woman took notice of him and approached. "What's wrong, dear? Anything I can do to help?"
"I just had to say goodbye to the love of my life, who I probably will never see again." He managed to stammer out between sobs.
"I'm so sorry, dear. Did she just get on the plane?"
"No, I'm the one whose leaving. I'm being transferred to Germany."
"You poor dear. Here, let me help you." She helped Clark up and walked him down the jetway towards his new life, a life without Aaron.
As soon as they rounded the corner, Aaron couldn't hold it in any more. He collapsed in a chair sobbing his heart out. "What am I going to do, Andrea? He was my entire life. I'm nothing without him.
"You're going to miss him, of course" she said, stating the obvious, or rather understating the obvious "and you're going to honor your promise to him. Do I have to make it an order, Sergeant?" she asked putting as much authority into her voice as she could.
"No ma'am. I just need to know when and where." He said once he finally settled down.
She reached into her pursed and pulled out a card which she handed to him. "This card has all the details. Believe me, Aaron, it will help. Now, would you like me to drive you home or are you okay to drive?"
"I'm okay to drive, but I think I'll go hang out at the NCO club for awhile. I really don't want to go home just yet."
"I understand. No drinking and driving. Call me if you need a ride home."
The next day Aaron was called into the Chief's office. "Sit down, Aaron. I need to talk to you for a minute." Aaron sat nervously. "I know you and Bronson were very close friends." His emphasis on the word `friends' indicated that he knew the true nature of their relationship. "I need to know that his leaving won't impact your job performance. I need you to be completely focused out there."
"It won't, Chief." Since he obviously knows the truth, I might as well be totally honest. "I'm going to a support group for those whose lovers have been transferred out."
"Good. Aaron, while I don't understand the nature of your relationship with him, I know it never interfered with the performance of either of your duties, so as far as I'm concerned you were nothing more than close friends. However, if there is anything I can do to help you get through this, know that my door is always open to you."
"Thank you Chief. I'll keep that in mind." While he missed Clark terribly, and knew that doing so would make him miss him all the more, he threw himself into candle making, keeping up the tradition of making candles not just for Clark's church fund raiser, but for every fundraiser he could find. He also studied more about Wicca and making magickal candles, knowing that it would make Clark proud of him. While they did their best to stay in contact with each other, eventually the phone calls and letters tapered off as it normally tends to happen in the Air Force.
As the end of his enlistment approached Aaron had some serious thinking to do about his future. Without Clark, he simply went from day to day without giving it any thought. Now, however, he didn't have a choice. He had to come to a decision and soon. So what am I going to do? He didn't want to stay in Vegas, although with his skills and reputation, he had been actively recruited by the Las Vegas Fire Department. There were too many memories. Memories of him and Clark. He couldn't return home to Tucson. He was no longer wanted there. Every letter he sent to his parents, brother and sister, returned unopened, convinced him of that. Eventually he realized that his only viable option was to reenlist, and go wherever the powers that be at the Air Force Manpower and Personnel Center at Randolph Air Force Base sent him. So that's what he did, much to the delight of his station Chief who did not want to lose such a dedicated, competent firefighter. Within three months of reenlisting, the newly-promoted Staff Sergeant Aaron Suarez received his transfer orders for his next assignment, an assignment which to most people would have been a dream: Hickham Air Force Base. He was going to Hawaii.