Holiday Flashfiction #3: What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?
Don't worry, it's not political. :)
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What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?
Sebastian grabbed his laptop, logged on, and huddled into the corner of his sister’s comfy sofa, waiting. Any minute now, his little video chat icon would ping to life, letting him know someone was calling. He hoped.
A few days ago, Skyler had told Sebastian he wouldn’t be able to contact him for a while. Then he’d grinned and said, “What are you doing New Year’s Eve?” Skyler had said he wanted them to start 2011 together, even if they couldn’t be in the same room. Sebastian had smiled and agreed. The second he’d shut his laptop he’d broken down.
For more than a year, he’d tried to be the perfect Army wife, so to speak. He sent Skyler care packages and spoke online with him as often as Skyler could manage. He sent long, chatty letters and emails. He visited Skyler’s parents at least once a week. He didn’t freak out (in front of anyone, anyway) when he found out there’d been a rocket attack that hit Skyler’s barracks in Afghanistan—an event Skyler didn’t tell him about, and when Sebastian found out, Skyler downplayed as “no biggie” with one of his typical tough-guy shrugs. He didn’t cry when Skyler told them he wouldn’t be home for the holidays after all.
In short, Sebastian was doing the best he could. And he was doing it while pretending to be nothing more than Skyler’s best buddy. As far as the Army was concerned, Sebastian was nothing to Skyler. If Skyler was killed, he would have to rely on Skyler’s parents to tell him. They adored him, and treated him like a real son-in-law, but it wasn’t the same. He wanted to greet Skyler with a kiss at the airport when he came home. He wanted to go with Skyler if he ever got deployed to Germany, or somewhere else that wasn’t a warzone. He wanted to write I love you in his letters and emails instead of using their special codes. The hiding was almost as painful as the separation, which had been almost fourteen months now. Fourteen months of aching loneliness and praying Skyler wouldn’t drive over an IED or get hit by an insurgent’s rocket or grenade.
Since the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, his parents, his sister, and Skyler’s parents had all been hopeful that the status quo would change. Even Skyler seemed hopeful. The last time they’d spoken online, Skyler had typed When the repeal is certified, I’m making an honest man of you. Sebastian had laughed a little, and made some stupid joke about how nothing could make him an honest man. He could admit to himself, if not to anyone else, that he was afraid to hope. If he let himself hope, it might never happen. What they had now was good. He loved Skyler more than anything or anyone in the world. Falling in love with a military man hadn’t been in his plans, but Sebastian wouldn’t change meeting Skyler, loving him, no matter what he had to give up.
The little clock in the corner of his computer screen read 11:53. It was getting late. Then again, it would be morning where Skyler was. Sebastian gnawed at his lip, trying not to worry. Skyler had told him he wouldn’t be able to talk for a couple of days. That didn’t mean he was doing something dangerous. He could be doing some kind of training. Or…traveling to another location. He’d said he would be online tonight, and he’d never let Sebastian down before.
The shrill peal of his sister’s silly novelty doorbell reverberated through the house. Sebastian jumped at the sound. He let out a breath and forced himself to relax. His sister and brother-in-law had invited a few friends over to ring in the New Year. Most of them had arrived a few hours before, but they’d said they expected at least one more person.
“Bastian, will you get the door?”
Sebastian jumped again, nearly dropping his laptop. “Jeez, Serena. Give me a heart attack, why don’t you?” He turned to see his sister standing in the doorway, holding his niece. The baby’s face was red and tear-streaked.
Serena gave him a tired smile. “Sorry. I’ve got my hands full with Michaela and Denny’s busy entertaining the mob. Could you go see who’s here?”
After a quick glance at his laptop screen, which still showed no flashing icon, he sighed and stood. He set the computer on the couch cushion. “Okay. Call me if this thing beeps, okay?”
“I can do that.” Serena moved to stand behind the couch, jiggling Michaela and humming softly.
Sebastian hurried down the hall to the front door. The doorbell let out another annoying peal, louder now since he was closer to it. He winced. “I’ll be right there!” He pulled the door open, a smile of greeting in place for the newcomer.
“Hey, Happy—” His eyes took in the man on the doorstep, and his voice deserted him. He had to have fallen asleep on the couch. This couldn’t be real.
Skyler grinned at him. “I told you I’d see you tonight, didn’t I? Happy New Year, Bastian.”
Sebastian’s paralysis lifted. He launched himself into Skyler’s arms. Skyler let out an oof of surprise, but those strong arms came up and wrapped around him for the first time in too long. Tears streamed down Sebastian’s cheeks to dampen the sweater Skyler wore. He tried to make them stop, but couldn’t. All the worry he’d felt earlier, and the joy now, were so overwhelming he had to let it out somehow.
Skyler held him close and kissed his cheek. “Hey, hey. Don’t cry. I’m home now.”
“For real?” Sebastian muttered into Skyler’s broad chest. He didn’t want to look up until he could get himself under control. This wasn’t how he’d imagined their reunion would go, with him crying like a baby. He felt a little ridiculous.
“For real.” Skyler’s lips brushed his cheek. “My tour’s over. I should be stationed here for at least a year. I didn’t want to tell you in case they changed their minds again.”
Sebastian finally pulled back to stare up into the face of the man he loved, thinner, tanner, and more weather-beaten than it had been when they’d said goodbye all those months ago. Skyler looked tired, but happy. Whole. Safe. And so precious it made Sebastian’s chest ache.
From inside the house, he could hear shouts of “Happy New Year!” 2011 had come, and Skyler was home.
“Happy New Year,” Sebastian whispered, pulling Skyler down for a kiss.