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prejackpot OP t1_j2ae8lj wrote

The two men walked side by side. They were just barely far enough apart not to draw undue stares, but their strides fell into a perfect rhythm of easy familiarity.

“So? How was it?” asked Ashley, the sandy-haired one.

“How was what?” asked Jack, taking a long drag on his cigarette.

“What do you think? Viet Nam,” Ashley said, dragging out the name.

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“That bad, huh?”

“How were things here?” Jack asked, his tone softening. “With your father?”

“How were things here?” Ashley repeated. “How things here were was, you need to tell me about Vietnam. So I know what to expect when I get there.”

Jack stopped mid-stride in the middle of the path. Ashley took one inadvertent step ahead of him, then turned and took another deliberate step over. “So?” he asked. “Are you gonna tell me or what?”

“Your father can’t make you-“ Jack started.

“Make me nothing, there’s a draft, haven’t you heard,” Ashley cut him off.

“Draft, hell,” Jack’s voice grew louder. “With your family’s money-!”

“Lower your goddamn voice,” Ashley growled, leaning in for a moment before straightening up and sliding his hands into the pockets of his pants. “There won’t be any family money if I don’t do this, don’t you see? Not for me.”

“Then to hell with your family’s money. We don’t need it.”

“We?” Ashley asked. He seemed to lean back for a moment, and then slowly pivoted on his heels and started walking again, putting distance between him and Jack.

Jack tossed his cigarette on the ground, stomped on it once, and followed. “Yes, we,” he said, quieter now, catching up. “Like we talked about before.”

“We were kids,” Ashley said casually, not looking at Jack.

“Kids hell, you meant it. And so did I.”

“And what about the rest of the world, huh?” Ashley started walking faster now, eyes looking somewhere above the horizon.

“I’m not afraid of the rest of the world. Especially not anymore. Are you so afraid?”

“Yes!” Ashley stopped and spun around so fast that Jack nearly collided with him. “Of course I am.” There were tears at the corner of his eyes now. “And if you’re not, then you came back from war even dumber than when you left.”

Their faces were inches apart now. “I love you,” said Jack, his voice low and certain. “I still love you.”

Ashley seemed to sway in place, his face approaching Jack’s, then suddenly pulling away, then jerking back. Jack leaned in to kiss him, and at that Ashley did pull away with a yelp. Then he turned quickly and started to walk down the path, faster, arms pumping like he was running away. This time, Jack didn’t chase him.