Comfort is another prequel to Turning His Life Around and happens within a year of Jealousy.

Major (capital “M”) angst and have tissues at the ready for this story.

Find Part 1 here * Find Part 2 here * Find Part 3 here * Find Part 4 here * Find Part 5 here * Find Part 6 here * Find Part 7 here * Find Part 8 here * Find Part 9 here * Find Part 10 here * Find Part 11 here * Find Part 12 here * Find Part 13 here * Find Part 14 here * Find Part 15 here * Find Part 16 here * Find Part 17 here * Find Part 18 here * Find Part 19 here * Find Part 20 here * Find Part 21 here


* * *

Ian stared into the flames of the campfire, lost in memories and thought. His marshmallow melted and fell off his stick again, the third so far. He was remembering a year before when he’d been in the very same campsite with Hayden, doing the very same thing.

That time, they’d shared a log, sitting together. They’d lost just as many marshmallows, but that had been because they’d gotten lost kissing, not in memories of kisses instead.

“Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea,” Kane said to Kenji. Both of them had been watching Ian drift further and further into his thoughts.

Kenji shook his head. “I don’t know. I think it might still work. We just need to help him think about now, not then.”

Kane nodded. “Yeah, make new ones, maybe?”

“Exactly,” Kenji agreed, standing up and moving around the fire. He sat on the log next to Ian and took Ian’s stick, bumping into a shoulder. “So, if you’re just looking for things to burn, there’s plenty of wood.”

Ian blushed. “Sorry. Maybe I should just go to bed…”

“No,” Kane said, taking the small space on the other side of him, crowding Ian into Kenji. “It’s too early for that. We have a better idea.”

“And it starts with actually making and eating a s’more.” Kenji chuckled, pulling another marshmallow out of the bag and pushing it onto the end of Ian’s stick.

“Oh.” Ian frowned at his hand. “Oops.”

“Quite alright. Got a whole bag,” Kenji said, still chuckling. He guided Ian’s hand until he was holding the stick out and into the fire. They didn’t say anything for a while as the treat heated, then got smashed between the graham crackers by Kane.

He handed the mess to Ian. “Eat.”

“I’m not a baby,” Ian grumbled but obediently took a bite of the sweet treat. He moaned as the melted chocolate hit his tongue. “Good,” he said, muffled by the food and the other two laughed.

Kane and Kenji’s eyes met over Ian’s head and Kenji nodded as if to say “see?” Kane smirked. “So, I was thinking,” he started while Ian finished the food and started licking his fingers. He was momentarily derailed as he watched the tongue dart out and run slowly along one them. He happened to catch Kenji just as focused on what Ian was doing. He gulped then shook his head to clear it. “I was thinking we should all get tats or something.”

“Hmm?” Ian turned to his friend, his last finger still in his mouth.

Kane stared at it a second then watched Ian’s eyes widen and pull the finger out quickly wiping it on his jeans with a blush. “Tattoos. Ink, you know. All three of us. Before we go our separate ways. Well, some of us,” he said, sending a pointed look Kenji’s way.

Kenji looked a little chagrined. “Just think it’s the best option for me. My parents make too much for financial aid, but not enough for college.” He shrugged. “I don’t plan to stay in forever.”

Ian frowned. “When do you leave?”

“I head to basic the week after graduation,” Kenji said, kicking at a small stone.

The other two sighed. “We’ll miss you,” Ian said looking over.

Kenji flashed a grin. “I know. You’ll just have to write me, then, won’t you? Just, you know, don’t send any long flowery love letters.”

Both of the other two snorted.

Kenji looked thoughtful, “Might not want to put anything Penthouse-worthy in there, either.”

They laughed. “Yeah, I guess you gotta be careful about that kind of thing, huh?” Kane asked.

Kenji sighed. “Yeah. I really don’t know how they deal with it, so I’ll just keep my mouth shut and hope to hell I’m not attracted to anyone in my unit.”

“That could be… uncomfortable,” Ian said, thinking about gym class.

Kenji snorted. “That’s putting it lightly. Open showers, not even stalls. Open toilets in some places, or so I’ve heard… you get the idea.”

“Yeah. Ugh.” Ian shook his head. “I’m glad I’m not going. I don’t know that I’d be cut out for it.”

Kenji poked his stick toward the fire. “You’d do it if you had to. You and Kane both. I’m glad you don’t though. Even if we’re not at war, there’s too much chance something could happen.”

They three friends fell silent for a few moments, contemplating just what those chances could be. A year ago, they might have laughed some of that off. But a year ago, they had one more member of their group and they were two couples, not three friends.

“So, ink,” Kane said.

“Yeah, I like it. What should we get?” Ian asked.

“Dragons,” Kenji suggested. “He loved them.”

They didn’t have to ask who the “he” was. “Yeah, he did. The Chinese style ones, like from the Chinese New Year,” Ian offered.

“Oh yeah, I know those. Good idea. We’ll have to find a good shop, but I think we should do that. Where?” Kenji asked.

“Hmm. I want it on my back,” Kane said. “Something big.”

Ian grinned. “Me, too.”

“I think I need to keep it small. Not sure what the rules are about that sort of thing. I know they can have them, but there might be restrictions on size and whatnot. But we should get the same thing.”

“Yeah, I like that.” Kane nodded.

“Me, too,” Ian added. “We just have to get through finals and graduation itself. Ugh, too much work to do when we get back,” he frowned.

“Don’t think about it. You’ve been working yourself crazy as it is,” Kane said. “This is a weekend off of it. All that damned extra credit you took on.”

“I had to do something,” Ian felt the need to defend himself. “My grades sucked. And at least you guys are helping me.”

“Wish we could do more,” Kenji added.