Sometimes when you’re doin’ simple things around the house
Maybe you’ll think of me and smile
You know I’m tied to you like the buttons on your blouse
Keep me in your heart for a while
Hold me in your thoughts
Take me to your dreams
Touch me as I fall into view
When the winter comes
Keep the fires lit
And I will be right next to you
~ Keep Me In Your Heart For a While by Warren Zevon
Sunrise is here and I have not slept a wink; today is the day Eric is being deployed. When we had gone to bed last night, Hunter asked if he could sleep with us. Neither Eric nor I had the heart to deny his request. We all wanted to stay close for the precious little amount of time we had left. Hunter had fallen asleep nestled in between the two of us. Eric had extended his arm across Hunter so that his hand rested on my hip; my arm was extended so that my hand was resting over Eric’s heart. Eric and I spent the night talking; everything from stories about our childhood to plans for our future. Our whispered conversation lasted long into the night, until Eric fell asleep around 4:00 am. I didn’t begrudge him his sleep; this would probably be the last comfortable bed he had for months.
As the first rays of the sun shined against the closed blinds, I slide quietly out of our bed. I move quietly down to the kitchen to make myself a cup of coffee. I’m going to need all the extra fuel I can get to get through today. Coming back upstairs, I find Hunter and Eric still asleep. Seeing the two of them still asleep, I silently grab my cell phone and snap a picture. Even though my phone is on silent, Eric stirs. He’s a soldier; he is used to sleeping lightly.
“What time is it?” Eric’s voice is raspy, as if he has gravel in his throat. He blinks his eyes rapidly as he tries to wake up. His beautiful hair has been cut into the traditional military buzz cut; he’d done it yesterday while I was running errands. Hunter had called to ask if he could get the same haircut. I hated to say yes since my son had the softest hair ever; I loved running my hands through it while I was holding him. But I knew he wanted to do it so he could be like Eric and that’s why I agreed.
“It’s after six,” I tell him as he sits up in the bed. I hand him his mug of coffee so he can get the caffeine into his system. Alcide will be here at 0930 to take Eric to the base. I had offered to drive Eric, but he didn’t want me to drive while I was upset. As much as I hated him denying me those last few minutes with him, I knew he was right; it would be better for Hunter and me to say good-bye to Eric here.
Eric sits his mug on the nightstand and rises from the bed, moving slowly to stand in front of me. The only clothing he wears is a pair of athletic shorts in deference to Hunter being in the bed with us. My eyes sweep over his beautiful body, trying to memorize every last detail. Eric’s hands rest on my hips, pulling me forward so he can nuzzle my neck. He whispers against my ear, “Shower with me?”
I look at the bed again to make sure Hunter is still asleep; his snoring lets me know he is still out cold. I grab one of Eric’s hands and lead him into the bathroom. He locks the door behind us as I turn on the water.
“Do you want it hot?” When he’s overseas, I know he won’t have the luxury of long hot showers. I want him to enjoy the comforts of home for as long as he can.
Eric’s hands are tugging at the bottom of my tank top so he can take it off me. Obliging him, I lift my arms above my head so he can take the shirt off. His hands make quick work of my pants. When I look over my shoulder, I see he is completely naked; his erection jutting out from his body like the needle on the compass. Instead of pointing north, it points towards me, its own personal home.
Eric pulls me into the shower, setting me underneath the spray. At my hiss, Eric adjusts the weather to a more suitable temperature. “I don’t care what the temperature is; I just know that I have to be with you one more time.” His eyes burn brightly, filled with passion, love, and longing. Given his words and the fire in his eyes, I expected him to grab me, for the sex to be quick and hard. But the reality is something vastly different. He grabs the shampoo from the caddy, squirting some into his hand before placing the bottle back into its spot. Turning me around so that the spray of water hits my chest, he gently begins massaging the shampoo into my hair. His fingers move nimbly through my hair, until he turns me around to rinse the shampoo from my hair. With my head up, I let the water run through my hair, the suds moving down my back and legs to the drain. Eric leans down to kiss my lips tenderly before he turns me around again. His hands work the conditioner through my hair, separating the strands easily.
“Place your hands against the wall, legs apart.” Eric’s voice is clipped, commanding; I shudder as I feel his lips against my ear. I love when he takes charge during sex. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not into that whole dominant/submissive, beat me until I’m black and blue, but I do like when Eric tells me what he wants. Hearing his voice tell me all the dirty things he is going to do to me or that he wants me to do to him, it really revs my engine. Moving to do as he says, I place my hands against the side wall of the shower, spreading my legs apart so that he has complete access to every area of my body. Eric surprises me again; instead of sliding inside me as I thought he would, Eric uses his hands and the soap to cleanse my body. His touch is reverent; caressing my skin with his strong hands, as he whispers words of love to me. I am undone; my tears mix with the drops of water from the shower. This beautiful man whom I love more than I ever thought possible is everything to me. I am humbled by his devotion to me and my son. He is courageous and strong, yet loving and meek; he is the perfect man for me and will be a wonderful father for Hunter.
Turning around, I wrap my arms around Eric as my lips find his. I try to pour every ounce of love and devotion I have for him into my kiss. I want – no – I need him to know just how much he means to me, how I will be lost without him. My hands trace every inch of skin from his shoulders to that lovely ‘V’ leading from his hips to his erection. I’m trying to burn the touch and feel of his body into my mind so I can remember this in the months to come. I’m trying not to rush through our last time together; I really do want to savor him. But I cannot; I know our time is running out so my kisses and touch are wild and frantic.
Tearing my lips away from his, I whisper brokenly, “Please Eric, make love to me. Please,” I cry out as I clutch him tightly to me.
Eric wordlessly picks me up, wrapping my legs around his waist as he presses my back against the cold tile wall. I arch my back trying to avoid the chilly tiles, which pushes my breasts towards Eric’s face. He lowers his head to take one of my pebbled peaks into his mouth as he thrusts inside me. A long, low moan escapes my lips as he thrusts gently into me while sucking hard on my nipple. I am at his mercy since his hips are pressing into me and his hands control the movement of my hips. His movements are slow and steady, as if he has all the time in the world to pleasure my body. Eric’s teeth scrape my nipple as he releases the taut nub from his mouth. Never one to play favorites, he draws my other breast into his mouth to give it the same treatment.
As much as I want this moment to last forever, my body has other ideas. My inner walls clench around his thick, turgid shaft and I moan with the release of my orgasm. The heels of my feet dig into his ass and my arms go rigid around his neck. Eric groans as he feels my walls spasming, his movements finally picking up speed. I know I will have bruises because he is thrusting harder into me, bumping my back against the tile wall. His fingers dig into my hips, making sure he does not lose his grip on me. His mouth releases my nipple to latch on my neck, sucking on the skin powerfully. I know he is marking me, but I don’t care. Every mark on my body is a reminder of his love for me. I’d gladly let him mark every inch of me if I could.
His hips piston into me as snarls and grunts fall from his lips. I know he is close and I want to feel him cum inside me. We’ve always been so careful to use a condom, but this time I don’t want to. I want this connection to him one time before he goes.
“Let go Eric,” I whisper into his ear as his thrusts become more erratic inside me.
Eric lifts his head to look into my eyes, trying to see exactly what I mean. “Let go,” I whisper again before kissing him. With a last grunt, Eric thrusts deep and hard inside me, his orgasm triggering another one from me. For several minutes, we stay pressed against the shower wall. If it wasn’t for the fact that he was holding me up, I would be a puddle on the shower floor; I have lost all feeling in my legs. I know Eric is feeling every bit as weak as I am since his body has sagged against mine.
“I love you Sookie,” he whispers in my ear.
“I love you too baby.” I place a soft kiss on his swollen lips before lightly pushing against his shoulders. I need to get out of the shower. If Hunter isn’t already up, I need to wake him up. Our time with Eric is almost over.
Eric presses another kiss against my lips before letting me leave the shower. He hurriedly washes as I dry off and redress in my pajamas. Eric finishes up in the shower as I finish braiding my hair while it’s still wet. He dries off before pulling his shorts on. With a last kiss to my lips, he unlocks the bathroom door revealing Hunter still asleep in the bed. Eric moves briskly around the room gathering up his uniform so he can get ready.
I lie back down on the bed, gently shaking Hunter so he’ll wake up. Hunter’s eyes shoot open and he sits up in a panic. “He didn’t leave did he? I didn’t miss it?”
I smile at my son. “No, baby, Eric didn’t leave yet. Go wash up and we’ll make breakfast. We’ll give him his present at breakfast,” I say with a wink. Hunter hurries into his bathroom, saying he’ll meet me downstairs.
I button the remaining button of my jacket and look in the mirror ensuring nothing is amiss. My bags are packed and waiting by the door. Glancing around the bedroom, I check to see if I have forgotten anything. Sookie already has my first care package ready to be sent; she is just waiting to know where to send it. With a sigh, I hurriedly make the bed before going downstairs. There is this unbearable pressure around my heart; I feel as if it will explode in my chest. This is why I always avoided relationships; I could always leave for my assignments with a clear head. I can’t do that this time; in addition to feeling heartbroken at the idea of leaving Sookie and Hunter, I feel incredibly guilty. If I hadn’t pursued Sookie, she wouldn’t be going through this now. But if I hadn’t pursued her, I wouldn’t have known how truly glorious it is to be love and be loved in return. I fucking hate Catch-22s!
Downstairs, Sookie and Hunter are making breakfast: pancakes and bacon. I offer to help, but Sookie tells me to sit and relax while I still can. I make myself another cup of coffee, enjoying the luxury of good coffee one last time. Army rations and MREs have made me truly appreciate good food, but more importantly, good coffee. As I finish fixing my cup of coffee – enjoying having flavored creamer so sue me – I notice a brightly wrapped present sitting on the table. I am curious as to what it is, but I refrain from asking. It’s irrational I know, but I feel the sooner I open it, the sooner I have to leave.
Breakfast is ready: banana pancakes with strawberry compote and bacon, my favorites. Sookie even made fresh whipped cream. It truly is the little things that mean so much. Breakfast is a silent, somber affair. I force myself to eat the food; it is very good, but everything tastes like sawdust to me. I don’t overeat because I will spend the next two days traveling. Being sick on an airplane is the absolute worst feeling out there, well, unless it is being sick on a boat.
Sookie cleans up while Hunter and I eat. She won’t eat; she has eaten sparingly over the last few days, and it worries me. She needs to take care of herself; I cannot afford to worry about her and Hunter when I am on the front lines. Being distracted could get me killed; I’ve seen it happen too many times before.
I finish my food and take my plate to the sink where Sookie is standing loading the dishwasher. I drop the plate in the sink before wrapping my arms around her waist. I brush my lips against her hair. “Please eat something.”
She shakes her head, “I’m not hungry; maybe later.”
Turning her around, I lean down so we are eye level. “You need to eat Sookie. I don’t want to worry that you aren’t taking care of yourself. You have to be strong; Hunter needs you.” Her eyes flash with anger. Before she can lash out, I whisper, “I need you.”
Her eyes instantly fill with tears and she wraps her arms around me, clinging to me. Sookie’s tears soak my shirt as she releases all the pent-up emotion inside her. I hate seeing her like this, and I hate even more that I’m the cause of it, but there is nothing I can do. Holding her close, I whisper soothing words to her. I tell her how much she and Hunter mean to me; how much I love them. My whispered words of comfort include my vision of the future; the two of us married, playing football in the yard with our kids, walking on the beach hand in hand as our grandchildren play in the sand as their parents watch. I tell her exactly how our life will be: perfect.
Sookie stops crying to look at me. Tears cling to her eyelashes; her bright blue eyes seem darker because of the redness of her eyes, her cheeks are bright red, and her full lips are parted in surprise. “You want to marry me?”
I can’t help it; I roll my eyes at her before cupping her cheeks in my hands. “What did you think I wanted? I told you before; I’m in this for the long haul. I would have asked you to marry me before I left but I didn’t want you to think I was only doing it because I was leaving. But rest assured Lover,” I say as I drop a kiss on her sweet lips, “When I come home, I will be making you my wife. And if you’ll allow me to, I’d like to adopt Hunter.”
Tears stream down Sookie’s face as she smiles happily at me. She stands on her tip toes to kiss me. I want to deepen the kiss, but Hunter’s voice breaks through my lusty thoughts.
“Enough with the kissing! You have a present to open!” Hunter looks disgusted as he climbs down from the table with his dishes in his hands and brings them over to Sookie. “Can we give Eric his present now?” Hunter’s eyes shine with excitement.
Sookie takes the dishes, adding them to the dishwasher as I lift Hunter up to wash his hands. When I set him down, he runs to grab the present before heading into the living room. Sookie dries her hands and walks hand in hand with me into the living room. We both sit on the couch, Hunter climbing up in Sookie’s lap to watch me open my present. When I get through the paper, I find a white box. Teasing Hunter, I shake the box to see if I can guess what it is. He tells me to hurry up and open it. Once I remove the box lid, I find a photo album inside. The cover of the album says ‘My family’ with a picture of Sookie, Hunter, Pam, Alcide, Maria, Jesus, and Lafayette beneath it. Tears fill my eyes as I look through the album. There are pictures of us inside as well as our friends. I am overcome with emotion; I don’t know what to say to them.
“Hunter and I worked on that while you were at work last week,” Sookie says as I look through the album. “I’ve made similar albums on Snapfish for Gran and Jason, but the website wouldn’t have delivered it in time. So I found a local place that would print everything for me and bind it together. I picked it up yesterday while I was out. Do you like it?”
I nod. “I love it,” I say hoarsely.
Hunter bounces on Sookie’s lap. “Flip to the back,” he says excitedly.
I do as instructed; it’s a picture of Hunter holding a sign saying ‘Dad please come home’. I grab the two of them in my arms, squeezing tightly. I love them so goddamn much; it feels like I can’t breathe.
A knock at the door pulls us apart. Glancing at the clock, I see it is 0920; that means Alcide is here. Releasing my family, I rise on unsteady legs and walk to the door. Opening the door, I say hollowly, “Hey Al.” He steps inside, nodding to Sookie and Hunter.
“I, ah, I’ll just put your bags in the truck,” he says awkwardly. “I’ll be waiting outside.” He grabs my duffle bags in his hands before hurrying to the safety of his truck. He hates crying females more than I do. I close the door softly behind him and turn to my family.
Hunter and Sookie are both crying. I try to hold it together, though tears are stinging my eyes and my throat feels on fire because it’s so dry. I go to Hunter, picking him up so he can rest his head on my shoulder. His little arms wind tightly around my neck; he’s nearly choking me. Setting him back down, I crouch down so we are eye level.
“You be good for your mother, OK? Be good in school, and make sure you keep practicing your t-ball.” At Hunter’s nod, I hug him again. “I love you Smalls!”
“I love you Dad,” he tells me between sobs. I think my heart just broke a little hearing him call me dad for the first time.
Rising back up, I turn to Sookie. She’s biting her lip trying to keep from crying fully. “I love you Sookie.”
She loses her fight against her tears. She and I embrace tightly, clinging to each other desperately. “Take care of yourself,” I whisper helplessly in her ear.
I feel her nod before she steps back. “Don’t worry about us; we’ll be fine. Please be careful over there. Stay safe and come home to us; we’ll be waiting here for you.”
I nod before leaning down to capture her lips. We pour every ounce of love we have into the kiss. My cheeks and lips are wet with tears, but I don’t know if they are from me or Sookie. Probably both.
The honking of Alcide’s horn forces us apart. “I love you Captain Northman,” she whispers softly.
“I love you both.” I kiss each of them one last time. Grabbing my hat and the album, I stride out the door and into Alcide’s truck. When I’m in the truck I look up at the house, and I’m thankful Sookie and Hunter stayed inside. It’s hard enough to leave them.
As Alcide drives, my eyes are downcast, staring at the album Sookie and Hunter gave me. My fingers trace over the image of my family. Alcide notices my preoccupation with the album.
“I’ll watch out for them, Viking.”
“Thanks man.” The drive is otherwise silent as we make our way down the highway. I feel as if I left my heart back in the house with Sookie and Hunter; I’m just a shell now. Perhaps this is for the best; if I am numb, then I can’t feel the pain.
Seeing the entrance of the base before us, my demeanor changes; I square my shoulders, straighten my spine, and stare straight ahead. In my mind, I recite the Soldier’s Creed.
I am an American Soldier.
I am a warrior and a member of a team.
I serve the people of the United States, and live the Army Values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.
I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy, the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.
AN: This last part is the Soldier’s Creed from the US Army website.