Nights Like This
He found me on the balcony like he always did, clutching the rail and staring out at the ocean, trying to find sense in the meaninglessness. With each roll of a wave, the crashing sound on the rocks below, I liked to believe it scoured away even a little of my guilt, my shame. I knew I was fooling myself, but it helped me make it through the days until the next sleepless night struck.
Trowa guided me back to a padded deck chair, took a seat behind me and pulled me down to him. I wasn't sure where the blanket had come from, but suspected he'd begun bringing one after he began to wake, discovering me gone. Springtime in the San Francisco Bay area was as chilly as winter.
When he first started joining me in my all night solitude fests, I balked. It made no sense in the both of us up all night. He ignored protests, and did it anyway, even if it was from a different room. Mostly he sat with me, listened if I spoke, and made sure I didn't carry my self-flagellation too far.
A couple of hours might have passed, only time had always been something lost to me during those nights. I was warm. I was comfortable and felt comforted. But, still, the names of those twenty-six men continued to haunt. There were times when I believed there was a reason why I made it out, why I survived. Mostly though, I heard the screams and moans in my head, and wondered.
"It's night's like this," Trowa said in a quiet voice behind me. "that I'll always remember the first time I met you."
His statement roused my curiosity enough, I leaned back on his arm, prompting him to speak. "In what way?"
He looked at me with a hint of a smile. "You were crouched in the belly of that Huey like a lost puppy."
I should have known better. A good elbow to his side worked wonders. At least for me it did. Trowa only chuckled. "I... I guess maybe I was," I conceded.
Trowa's arms tightened and I felt him nodding. "To a degree, we all were." He nuzzled my neck and relaxed his hold. "What brought you to my squad I would never had wanted you to go through." Trowa's voice dropped to a whisper. "But I thank God every day that I met you."
His name was a breath from my lips and I let him draw me into one of his mind-numbing kisses. Moments passed and my fugue drifted away. I went back to watching the waves crash upon the cliff-side rocks, no longer lost, but still musing.
"Do you ever miss it, Trowa?"
He couldn't have looked more startled if it had been planned. "Nam? The Delta? The fighting?" he rattled off the list, his grip tightening on my arms.
Pulling free from him, I pushed him back into the chair. "No, not that... not exactly." It was odd. For the majority of the time I was there, I wanted to be home. And now, I had the urge to be back. "Flying. Running sorties."
"Don't tell me you're an adrenaline junkie?" I frowned over my shoulder. That wasn't quite it at all. "The thirty minutes of pure terror isn't worth the high no matter what anyone says."
"No," I mumbled. The sky was lightening, showing heavy cloud cover, and I watched the awakening gulls scavenging among the rocks below the cliff. "When we were there, dropping off or picking up, we were doing something... something tangible." That was the crux. "In the field on the ground, you couldn't see that. You couldn't see where you made a difference. It was the same thing day after day. But flying," I leaned back to watch Trowa. "you knew lives were being saved. You knew the goods you dropped were necessary and needed."
He didn't say anything, but I saw the understanding in his eyes.
It'd been three years. I wondered how many more would pass before I stopped having the dreams.