Afghanistan, Washington

Pete bent his elbow while lifting the vodka bottle, and Baker watched from his cross-legged position of the floor as his wrist folded downward and then back up. He balanced the two heavy Waterford glasses in his palms when he brought them over, handing one to Baker and rather then sitting down next to him chose to pace the room instead.

Silently sipping the translucent fire of the alcohol, pacing the room in violent steps though his body hunched in a relaxed posture. Pete's face was delicate, the kind of face that always seems unassuming, yet frightening - his was a thousand faces, each birthed anew from the last gesture.

"What are you thinking about?" Baker asked, he hadn't drunk from his own glass yet, but had placed it on the floor in front of him. He was facing the window, and he didn't need to turn to see Pete sauntering across the room with no general rhythm. It was clear though that Pete's glass was one sip away from being drained, and when Baker spoke he turned, raised his eyes, and sighed. His looked masked, then just as quickly as it was quizzical, it had changed, and Baker was trying to read it again when Pete went back over to the table and poured himself another drink.

"What are you thinking about?" Was Pete's tart reply.

Baker didn't turn away from the window to face him. He knew when Pete was on the verge, and he kept away from it as much as possible, but like his facial changes, his mood was just as precarious.

Outside the sky stretched out with the last navy tendrils of dusk before eclipsing into the darkest of nights. Below the sky the water on Alki beach waved lazily beyond the street. Baker could see the bubbling hints of several bonfires.

"God!" Pete sighed, and his tone was light again, playful: "Can you fucking believe it's June?"

Baker's eyes curled up from a grin: "Can you believe you're going to graduate in a few days…" a small chuckle: "What are you going to do with that useless Degree? Get a job?"

"You know me…" Was Pete's slightly frayed relay.

Baker waited a moment: "No really, I want to know, what are you going to do with it?"

Pete pulled the glass to his mouth again, swallowing a heavy gulp with a slight wince: "Don't talk like you're not coming back."

Baker turned away from the window, meeting Pete's eyes: "I didn't mean…" he began, but Pete stopped him:

"I know!"

They were silent again for a long moment. While Pete began to circle the room again like a restless child, Baker turned back to look out the window. He imagined that he could hear laughter from the bonfires on the beach, yet he knew that that was impossible with the thickness of the glass. There was a lamp on the table behind him, and it was beginning to cast a ghostly image of himself against the pane, he didn't like the fierceness of his eyes as he looked out on the street below.

With his glass still on the carpet he stood, minimally attracting Pete's attention as he stalked to the side of the room and turned the light off. The whole apartment faded into darkness with one sharp click.

"You afraid of the light or something?" Pete joked, putting emphasize on the word 'light' as though it were frightening.

"Just wanted to keep watching the street…How long has it been since you're mom was here? There's enough dust on that lamp shade to start a fire."

"Few months maybe," Pete said: "I don't really keep track of where she goes (or with whom she goes) very much anymore."

"You should," Baker intoned: "You should spend more time with her."

"God!" Pete's tone worsened: "I hate it when you get that way, you sound like fucking Dr. Phil." He took another long drink.

"Do you want me to go?" Baker asked. He didn't want to leave, but he didn't particularly want to listen to Pete's tantrums for the rest of the night either.

"No," he put his glass back down on the table, satisfying Baker enough to end any further conversation about going.

"Tell me something?" Baker asked, "Tell me anything."

"Like what?"

"Why is it whenever someone says: 'say something' the other person automatically says: 'like what?' it defeats the whole purpose."

Pete sat down on the floor near to Baker, leaning his back against the front side of the couch. "It's too vague…give me a subject or something."

"Talk about your first kiss…"

"God!" Pete chocked: "What a subject…alright, her name was Dana…"

Baker interrupted him: "And did you love her?" His voice mimicking the tone of a squealing young girl.

"I did like her a lot…"

"She broke your heart didn't she?"

"No, she didn't really break it, I would say, she just… well, she really liked my friend, and my friend really liked her."

"A triangle."

"Yeah, but I was always the third wheel…" Pete faded off, his mind lost in a memory that Baker didn't possess.

"So what happened?"

"Lath and I (that was his name, Lathrop) were in to some shit and he ended up getting shot."

"What?" Baker stopped him, he wasn't so much shocked or surprised that Pete had been involved in anything shady; he had just never thought that he had been into anything that deeply.

Pete laughed him off: "We were all so much younger, anyway, though, she was with him, in the car (it was a drive by) and I guess when he (Lath) realized what was going to happen he got on top of Dana - saved her really - and ended up getting shot in his side. The bullet went straight through his spinal cord, and he was paralyzed. He's up at a state facility now."

"And the girl?"

Pete shrugged: "We talk every once in a while, but after the accident Lath didn't want her around, I think he figured that he was no good anymore, so he pushed her away, but Dana, she's pretty persistent, and they're still together, if that's what you can call it… I think they're soul mates really, they share something that I've never seen before, and I don't think a little thing like one of them not being able to move will stop them. We're all so different now, though, I guess, in the end every kid grows up."

"Wow, I had no idea."

"What about you? Tell me about your first girl."

"Mine's not as intense as all that…"

"It's okay, tell me?"

"Her name was Shelby, she was a cheerleader actually."


"No, let me finish… She was a cheerleader in high school and we dated all through, you know, like those couples in the movies, and really when you're together that long and you're that young it's more like a marriage anyway. Later we went to college, she eventually got her teachers degree, and I, eventually dropped out. I don't know, there wasn't any drama or knifings or anything, we just went our separate ways. It was a gradual thing though, and that's what I regret, I wish that I had had the guts to just end it when I knew it was over, and not let it go on, and on, just because it was the way things had always been." Baker turned away from Pete. Subject matters of the past always have a way of shrouding oneself in a kind of unyielding darkness, and both of them had succumbed to it.

"Are you scared?" Pete finally asked, filling the silence, and speaking the thought that had burned and gnawed at him all night.

"Yes, but no, at the same time… it's hard to explain."

"God! I hate this, you shouldn't be going over there. You're not some stupid Christ-complex redneck either, and I know that you know that, I can't conceive of why you're allowing them to do this."

"I knew it was a possibility when I signed on."

"Signing a piece of paper does not mean that you're signing your life away, even if it is the government that you're dealing with."

"It's not like that."

"Then what's it like? Tell me?"

"You don't want to understand it because you want to not understand it, you just aren't the type, and that's okay," Baker reached his hand out to Pete but he moved away: "You're the type to stay - get an education, keep things going - I'm the type to go, and fight to keep it that way."

"The tribal clans of the Taliban are not a threat to me, or to you."

"Not on a small scale."

Pete exhaled loudly, exhausted already from the argument: "I don't want to fight."

"Good, cause I don't want to either."

It seemed like hours passed before either one of them spoke again, and when the silence was filled it was by Baker's voice: "Remember that time you got caught with the weed?"

"Yeah…" he chuckled: "God that was close."

"Good thing you had your mom then, right."

"Good thing I had my mom's Lawyer."

"He wouldn't have come unless she asked him, though."

It wasn't until the sun began to rise above the horizon. Until after Pete had scooted closer to Baker and downed his untouched glass. Until after the street truly silenced, but for the raucous sudden outbursts of the early hours. Until all the bonfires burned themselves out in haunted gusts and bellows, that either of them spoke again.

"I want you to promise me that you'll be safe." Pete grasped the collar of Baker's shirt in his hand, pulling him closer until their foreheads were touching. Sometime in the night Pete had pulled an afghan from the couch and wrapped it around their shoulders and now it formed a cocoon around them.

"I want you to promise me that you won't get into too much trouble without me."

"I can't believe this," Pete sighed, an audible, scattered sound.

"I know." Baker stretched and folded his fingers across the back of Pete's neck, tightening the hold.