Sorry for the wait, but real life does tend to interfere sometimes.
As always, comments and feedback is always welcome, so please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, Also feel free to email me if you just want to chat about this story or it's predecessor, The Long Road.
"Aaron, we need to talk." Clark began quietly, using a serious tone that Aaron had never heard him use before.
"What is it? Have I done something wrong?" Aaron asked, fearfully.
He sat down on the bed next to Aaron, but wouldn't make eye contact, for to do so would make him fall totally and completely apart and he wouldn't be able to get the words out. "No, baby. It's nothing either one of us have done." Clark instantly reassured him, even though he still refused to make eye contact. "I don't know how to tell you this, so I'm just going to say it straight out. I have received orders for Ramstein Air Base in Germany. I have to report by the end of next month."
Aaron just sat there in a state of total shock, not seeing, not hearing, not speaking, nothing. His mind completely shut down. Not even a tear fell. It was like he had entered a catatonic state.
After a moment or two, Clark turned to look at him. "Aaron, did you hear what I said?" Silence. "Aaron, please, say something. Anything."
Aaron continued to stare at him with a vacant expression on his face. Soon a lone tear fell from his left eye, followed by one from his right.
"Oh, baby." Clark groaned in pain. He pulled Aaron into his arms just as the floodgates opened. He gently rocked Aaron back and forth. "I know, baby, I know." He said in a voice choked with his own tears. Eventually Aaron cried himself to sleep. He shifted on the bed so he could lay down and pull Aaron down with him and hold him close as he slept, trying to comfort him as best he could.
Several hours later Aaron woke up, just as the sun was setting. "Oh, Clark, what are we going to do? It just isn't fair. We're finally living on our own in a wonderful apartment and now this has to happen. It fucking sucks." He said in a low tone of voice, not wanting to wake Clark up.
"I don't know, baby, but I do know this. We're going to make the most of what time we have remaining before I ship out. We'll figure out the rest."
"I'm sorry, baby. I didn't mean to wake you."
"It's okay. I'm glad you did. I want to spend every moment I can with you." He pulled Aaron down to him and kissed him gently. "Let's get something to eat then we can talk some more."
"Okay. How about we hit Arby's? We haven't gone grocery shopping yet and there's one just down the block."
"Sounds great. Let's get it to go, though, if you don't mind. I think I want to spend the evening alone with you."
"How do you do that?"
"Read my mind like that?"
"I don't know. Could it just be that we both want the same thing?"
"Probably. Tell me what you want and I'll go get it."
"No, I'm going with you."
"Okay." They returned shortly with a veritable smorgasbord of Arby's food which they spread out on the breakfast bar.
"Okay, I know a joint spouse assignment is out of the question, but I wonder if there is any way I can ask for, like, a buddy transfer or something?"
"On what grounds?"
"I don't know. Maybe I can play the hardship card that my family disowned me and your family took me in, something like that?"
"I don't know, but it's worth a shot." They talked long into the night about various scenarios, all of which ended in them splitting up.
"There's got to be a way we can stay together." Aaron said tearfully.
"I honestly don't think there is, baby." Clark replied equally tearfully. "But if there is, we'll find it. It's late and you have duty tomorrow. Let's get some sleep."
"Okay." Aaron's acquiescence was testimony of how truly upset he was, wanting to go to sleep without having sex first.
The next few days were a blur as Aaron talked with everyone he could think of, including the base chaplain, to find a way to accompany Clark to Germany. Unfortunately, there was just no way it was going to happen. Actually, there was one way, but it was risky and while he was more than willing to take the risk, he wasn't sure Clark was. He decided to hang out at the Rec Center until the time Clark normally took his dinner break. When it was time, he went to the sub shop, got a couple of sandwiches and drove over to the firehouse.
"Aaron. What brings you here?"
"I had some stuff to do, so I figured I'd stop by and see what time you were taking your dinner break. We need to figure out what to do about all the stuff your parents sent us for the apartment and the apartment itself when you leave."
"Anybody mind if I went to dinner?" Nobody objected so they headed out and jumped into Aaron's car. "Where're we headed?"
"Someplace where we can talk in private. I picked us up some subs."
"I thought you wanted to talk about the stuff mom and dad sent us."
"That was just a smokescreen. I figured out a way for me to accompany you to Germany."
"Yeah, but not here." Aaron drove off base to a nearby rest stop where they sat at a picnic table.
"Okay, so what's your idea that we had to come all the way out here?"
"It's a little risky, and the risk would fall on you."
"Really" Clark responded, raising his eyebrows. "How so?" he inquired.
"I come out, get kicked out then use the money from the lottery to pay my own travel and living expenses."
"Aaron, do you realize what you're saying? What they can do to you if you came out?"
"Yes and I don't care. All I care about is being with you."
"Baby, I can't let you throw everything away that you've worked so hard for. It's always been your dream to be a firefighter and I'm not going to let you throw that away. I love you for wanting to do that. It means more to me than you can possibly imagine but have you really thought this through? What are you going to do when your money runs out? Where will you live? What will you do for work?"
Aaron's face fell. "I guess I really didn't think that far ahead. I just can't bear the thought of us breaking up."
"Me neither, baby. God I love you so much it hurts. Fuck! I wish I'd never reenlisted. But then again, if I hadn't, we would have never met."
Aaron hung his head in despair. "I give up. I just can't find a way for us to remain together. I've tried so hard, so very hard. I'm sorry I let you down."
Clark reached over and gently lifted his head up so he could look him in the eyes. "You haven't let me down. You've never let me down. If anything, I let you down."
Aaron looked at him in surprise. "You let me down? How?"
"I knew in the back of my mind that eventually one of us would get stationed somewhere else. I guess I just hoped that if I ignored it, didn't give voice to it, that it wouldn't happen. I saw it happen with Luke and his girlfriend. She couldn't go with him either. They were both
"Wait a minute. Luke is straight?" Clark nodded. "Then what was the shit with him and Tracy?"
"They were roommates. Luke and his girlfriend got into a fight one night and he went home drunk and passed out. When he woke up, Tracy was in bed with him trying to fuck him. Almost succeeded in getting his dick up Luke's ass. He got as far as getting the head in, and that's what woke him up. I found out about and beat the shit out of him."
"I'm going to kill that mother-fucking piece of shit." He hissed through his teeth. Even though he had never met Luke, he was Clark's family, and therefore his, a family that meant everything to him, and he would do anything to protect that family, no matter what the cost. "Why didn't he say anything to anybody?
"He had no proof. I'm guessing that Tracy was going to fuck him bareback and come inside him, counting on him not waking up until he was done. There were no condom wrappers lying around anywhere, so there would be no proof of what he had done, other than Luke's ass being sore. Don't worry, he'll get his eventually. He'll cross the wrong person one day and end up on a slab in a morgue or buried out in the desert." That statement, delivered so matter-of-factly, sent a cold shiver up and down Aaron's spine.
"So what are we going to do?" he asked Clark, sadness and a touch of fear in his voice.
"The only thing we can do, baby. We make the most of what time we have left together, part as friends and do the best we can to stay in touch for as long as we can."
"Is that the best we can do?"
"I'm afraid so. It's the risk we take being in a gay relationship in the military. I still have three years on this enlistment and you still have what, eight months on yours?"
"Something like that."
Clark stood up. "C'mere." He said, holding out his arms. As soon as Aaron got close enough, he scooped him up in his arms, carried him into the bedroom and gently made love with him.
A week later Aaron got called into the First Sergeant's office. "Sit down, Sergeant Suarez." He commanded as he closed the door. "I need to discuss a very serious matter with you. A very serious accusation has been made, which required some investigation into your background and some disturbing information has surfaced." Aaron shifted in his chair nervously. "I need to ask you about your relationship with Tech Sergeant Bronson."
"We're roommates and best friends. He was my sponsor."
"Are you sure that's it?"
"There's nothing more to it?"
"No." he lied.
"Take a look at this." He handed Aaron a picture of him hugging Clark.
"Oh, that." He laughed a genuine laugh. "That was taken at the firehouse when he got the news that he was getting promoted to Tech Sergeant. Everybody, even the Chief, gave him a congratulatory hug."
"I was told it was more that that with the two of you. I was told that the two of you are in a same-sex relationship and that you've been making a pain-in-the-ass of yourself trying to find a way to accompany him to Germany."
FUCKING TRACY! HE'S BEHIND THIS! IT CAN ONLY BE HIM! THAT LITTLE FUCKING COCK-SUCKER HAS GONE TOO FAR THIS TIME! Aaron fumed. "That's partially true, and I can explain why. My parents threw me out and disowned me when I was eighteen. His family took me in. Clark Bronson is more of a brother to me than my own flesh-and-blood brother who has had nothing to do with me since." He replied truthfully.
"Yes, about that. I've spoken with your parents and they've told me that the reason why they threw you out was to protect your brother as sister from you because you tried to molest your best friend who was underage at the time."
Aaron forced a dismissive laugh. "The truth behind that is that his sister had a big crush on me and was constantly pestering him to fix us up. He finally gave in and tried to get me to take her to a party and I refused."
"Yes, your father told me about that. He said the reason you refused was because you were gay."
He snorted derisively. "Yeah, to him anyone who wasn't into physical contact sports like football and wrestling was gay. I played soccer and baseball, as you know, since I'm starting pitcher for the base team. The reason I refused to take her to the party was because I was eighteen and she was only twelve and there was going to be alcohol served. I didn't want to get into any trouble." He sighed deeply. "Sergeant Summers, I'm going to be honest with you, even though I don't want to do this. I know that Tracy Vincent is behind this. He's been trying to split me and my girlfriend up for a while now. So far he's just been a mild annoyance, but since I moved off base he's been getting worse."
"And why would he do that?"
"Because he wants me."
"Wants you to do what?"
"He WANTS me. Back when I first got here he came onto me in the shower and tried to get me to have sex with him."
"Can you prove that?"
"Yes, a couple of the guys witnessed it."
"Given the accusations that have been made against you, I would not be able to accept Clark Bronson as one of the witnesses."
"He wasn't there."
"Okay, give me the names and I'll talk with them." Aaron wrote them down. "For now I'll consider the matter closed, but if I find any evidence to the contrary, there will be repercussions. Got that?"
"Yes, First Sergeant."
"Good. Back to work."
On the way back to the firehouse Aaron got out his cell phone and called Clark. "Hey baby. Did I wake you?"
"No, I was just sitting here reading the paper thinking about you. What's up?"
"We have a problem. Vincent tried to out me to the First Shirt. He gave him a picture of me hugging you when you got news of your promotion. Clark, he called my parents. They told him about Jerry."
"Fuck! What did you tell him?"
"The truth about that situation and that Tracy has been trying to break Michelle and me up and that he came onto me in the shower. We need to contact Chad, Mike and Willie and get them to confirm that."
"No problem. I'll call them right now. They can't stand that little cocksucker and will be happy to help. I'll also call Michelle and Cathi. We need to come up with a plan.
Two days later they were seated around a table at a nearby McDonalds discussing the situation. "Well, there's only one solution to the problem." Michelle began as she chewed a mouthful of fries. "Aaron and I have to get married. It would not only take the heat of him, but it would also cover Cathi and my asses as well." Everyone looked at her in complete surprise. Many ideas had been bandied about, but that one had never even occurred to any of them.
"That's a bit drastic and kinda permanent, don't you think?" Cathi inquired?
"I'm not sure I want to get married. I don't believe in divorce and if we do get married, we'd have to move in together to completely cover our asses. Where does that leave Clark and Cathi?" Aaron asked.
"Granted, it's not a perfect plan and there are a lot of details we'd have to work out, but if you and I were to announce our engagement, at least it would take some of the heat off you. We could go to a pawn shop and find a cheap ring."
"I'll pay for the ring." Cathi piped up.
"Okay. Let's go get the ring and announce our engagement and see how it goes. I'd rather not actually go through a marriage ceremony if I don't have to."
"What, don't you love me?" Michelle whined?"
"I do, but you're really not my type."
"What is your type?"
"Male." Everyone cracked up. They spent the next half hour hashing out the details then when in search of Michelle's `engagement' ring. By the weekend it was all over both squadrons that Aaron and Michelle were officially engaged. Congratulations abounded. But that wasn't the best news. Tracy was gone, discharged and shipped back to his hometown somewhere is Maine.