For the Last Ship Standing comp where I used the action – something must fall, the quote: "How many wars will it take for us to learn that only the dead return?" – Andrea Gibson, and the song – "Far Away" by Nickelback, more specifically the line – "Been far away for far too long".
For the OTP boot camp: prompt – fear.
For Camp Potter – Archery.
Warnings: This is a Muggle!AU and there are mentions of mobster!Lucius.
Draco unlocks the door to his flat, while balancing the groceries in his other hand. He pushes the door open and heads for the kitchen. He goes about putting the groceries away. It's mostly instant dinners since he doesn't know how to cook.
Once that is done, he makes his way towards the living room. The sounds of his footsteps echo throughout the small flat. These are the hardest days for Draco to make it through because the flat is too silent without his loud, cheerful boyfriend around.
He glances at the calendar that hangs on the wall. Only twenty-three more days of solitude before his boyfriend is to come home. Draco sighs internally and takes a seat on the couch, flicking on the telly. The only thing he can do is to wait, but he's growing tired of that.
Draco waits impatiently in the living room. He paces the length of the room, the only outward sign of his nervousness, because he's already cleaned the flat twice – which he knows will drive his boyfriend crazy since he hates when the flat is spotless.
He freezes as he hears the unmistakable sound of the front door unlocking. Draco makes his way towards the door as it swings open. "Charlie," he breaths, eyeing the man standing in the doorway up and down.
Charlie's in his desert camo, which fits him like a second skin. His flaming red hair has lightened from prolonged sun exposure and his face has tanned. But what catches Draco's attention is despite the grin on his face, Charlie's eyes look empty.
Dropping his bag in the hallway, Charlie pulls Draco to him, wrapping his arms securely around Draco's waist. Charlie's uniform – which was rough when Charlie first got it over a year ago – feels worn against his body. Whether or not he admits it, Draco missed this, being in Charlie's arms. He feels Charlie sigh into his hair. "God, I missed you, Dray."
"Missed you too," he whispers instinctively into Charlie's chest. But even to his own ears, it sounds like don't ever leave me again, but if Charlie hears it, he doesn't comment.
Instead, Charlie tilts Draco's head up, pressing his lips to Draco's. Draco slips his arms around Charlie's neck, and runs his hands through Charlie's too short hair. Draco wishes it was longer so he can curl his fingers into the mess of red curls, but he knows that it's a price that Charlie pays for his job. The kiss is off-beat, the sign of how long it's really been, but Draco wouldn't trade it for anything because it's been a long year without Charlie.
As Draco falls asleep that night, his arms wrapped around Charlie, he knows that it's going to be tough – learning to live together after living apart for so long – but Charlie is worth it.
Draco walks into the living room, a mug of hot chocolate in his hands. Charlie is standing in the middle of the room, glancing around with confusion written in his eyes. Draco places the cup on the coffee table and raises an eyebrow at Charlie.
Charlie points at the couch. "It's been moved," he accuses.
"No it hasn't," Draco replies softly. "I haven't moved anything."
Deafening silence falls between the pair, as Charlie continues to glance around the room. Draco watches him curiously, wondering why it would be such a big deal if he has rearranged the living room. Charlie finally takes a seat on the couch, his head in his hands. Draco sits beside him, silently waiting for Charlie to talk because he always feels the need to fill the silence.
But for once, Charlie doesn't speak. And it's in that moment that Draco realizes why rearranging would be such a big deal. Charlie's spent so much time worrying about what has changed while he's been away that if Draco changed something, it would mean that their relationship had too.
Draco pulls Charlie's hands away from his face, and gently forces Charlie to look at him. "Nothing's changed," he reassures the redhead.
"I know," Charlie whispers. But Draco can tell that Charlie doesn't believe it himself. He lets the conversation drop anyways, knowing that Charlie really doesn't want to talk about it. Because despite what Draco says, things have changed and they both know it.
Draco wakes to the sound of a whimper. He turns over to look at Charlie. The older man is moving back and forth, tangling his feet in the sheet, and a frown on his face. Draco can see the shimmer of sweat on Charlie's body that glows in the pale moonlight leaking through the open curtains.
"No, please," Charlie chokes out in between sobs. His entire body shakes with the force of the sobs.
"Char," Draco says, loud enough to wake the redhead but not enough to frighten him. "Wake up," he commands when the other man continues to cry out. It takes Draco saying his name again and stroking his cheek before Charlie's blue eyes snap open. Charlie grabs at Draco's hand, twisting it painfully. "That's my hand, Char," he states calmly, silently thanking his upbringing for his ability to stay calm.
Immediately, Charlie lets go, murmuring an apology. Draco only pulls Charlie toward himself, feeling Charlie's rapid heartbeat against his chest. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"I can't," Charlie whispers.
Draco only nods, knowing that there are things that Charlie can't put into words, things that Charlie doesn't talk about because he's scared of chasing Draco away with the things that he's done. "I love you," Draco murmurs. And the words still feel odd in his mouth, regardless of how many times he says them, because he's never used them before he met Charlie.
Charlie kisses the closest available skin – Draco's chest – and murmurs, "I wonder if you still would love me if you knew what I've done." It's spoken so softly that Draco has to strain to hear it, knowing that Charlie doesn't really want him to hear it.
Tilting Charlie's head up, Draco's gray eyes meet blue. "I would," he confirms, "because what you do while you wear that uniform doesn't define who you are when you're here."
Charlie gives him a brief smile because they have the same meaning as what he would tell Draco all the time. "Love you too, Dray," he whispers against Draco's lips. Charlie's worst fear was losing Draco, but now he knows that he won't. For once, they both sleep peacefully.
It takes Charlie two weeks to finally see his family. Draco had planned on staying home, maybe figuring out the equations that him and his team have been working on for the past two weeks, but one pleading look from Charlie and he caved.
Draco stands outside a worn-looking house that has seen its better days, holding Charlie's hand in his own. It's not his first time being here, but he still feels slightly uncomfortable coming here because Charlie's family hates him. He had gone to school with Charlie's younger siblings, and was quite a prat to them. And it doesn't help that one of his father's associates perceived one of Charlie's brothers as a threat and killed him in cold blood.
While Charlie knows that Draco wasn't involved with Fred's murder, his siblings believed otherwise because of the tattoo that stains Draco's pale wrist. Honestly, Draco doesn't blame them for their accusations. Before he met Charlie, he was much harder, colder.
The door swings open, revealing a plump redheaded woman with her hands on her hips. "You've been home for two weeks and you're just now visiting!" she exclaims haughtily. Before she can say anything else, Charlie has his arms wrapped around her, spinning her in a circle. Draco watches, amusement in his eyes. But he notices that even though there is a smile on his face, Charlie's eyes are still empty. He wonders briefly if that will ever change. Somehow, he knows that it won't.
After Charlie puts his mother down, they are both ushered inside and to the dining room. At the table, Charlie's entire family has shown up to greet him. His sister squeals in excitement and throws her arms around Charlie's neck.
Draco stands in the doorway, not wanting to intrude on the family time. As Charlie's father releases him, the timer in the kitchen goes off. Charlie freezes, a look of pure terror in his eyes. Draco immediately crosses the room, ignoring the loud complaints – "What is he doing here?" – and stands in front of Charlie.
Charlie's eyes are unfocused, and Draco knows that he's replaying a moment from the war. "Charlie," Draco says. He's using the same voice he does when he wakes Charlie up from a nightmare, but he doesn't touch him. He knows better than that. One of Charlie's brothers goes to put a hand on his shoulder, but Draco deflects it. "Unless you want to get hurt, I don't suggest you do that," he says. "Charlie. Look at me."
Charlie's blue eyes finally focus on Draco. He sees a shimmer of sweat across Charlie's forehead and the way that his hands still shake. Before Draco can ask what was triggered, Charlie murmurs, "Excuse me."
Charlie disappears through the hallway, and to the bathroom to wash away the fear and sweat in cold water, leaving Draco with his family. Draco's eyes flicker around the room, noting that his family is wearing confused looks. "What the hell was that?" his sister asks, breaking the silence first. She's pointing to the spot where Charlie was just standing, and looking at Draco like he has all the answers.
He knows that Charlie really doesn't want his family to know about what the war has done to him, but Draco also knows that they deserve answers. Internally, he sighs. "That is why he didn't visit sooner," he replies.
"Does that happen often?" his older brother asks, concern written deep within his frown. "Because he needs help if it does."
Draco gives a brief, fond smile before he becomes serious. "Charlie will never admit to needing help if it involves his job. He's too damn proud to do that." There's a pause before he continues, "That only happens with loud, unexpected noises. It's only happened twice before I realized what was causing it and eliminated the possibility around the flat."
Draco's eyes flicker around the room, repeatedly. Charlie's mother catches Draco's eyes and holds them. "What is happening when he freezes like that?" she asks.
For once, Draco frowns deeply. "He's reliving something from the war. He doesn't really talk about it. He doesn't like talking about it, and I don't force him."
Draco hears the door to the bathroom open as Charlie's older brother claps him on the shoulder. "You are good for my brother," he says. Draco gives him a nod and takes the seat next to Charlie.
As dinner progresses, Charlie's family continues to look at him like he's about to start reliving a memory again. And Draco can see the annoyance gathering in Charlie's posture.
When they get home, Charlie glares at Draco. "You told them that I have flashbacks, didn't you?" he questions, anger evident in his voice.
Draco gives him a shrug, knowing that Charlie's livid. "They deserved an explanation after you froze in the middle of greetings when you heard the alarm going off," Draco answers.
Charlie growls in frustration. "That wasn't your decision to make, Draco. I told you I didn't want them to know about that. They are going to worry about it, and I'll never hear the end of it from my Mum. She already thinks it's too dangerous."
"There was no way you were explaining yourself out of that one, Char. And the military is dangerous, but it's what you do and you love it. They can't dictate what you do with your life," he informs the redhead.
Charlie gives him a grin because he cannot help but smile when Draco uses the same argument against him that Charlie has used in the past. He brushes his lips against Draco's and sighs. "I guess you're right."
Draco whispers, "I love you," against Charlie's lips. And when Charlie says it back, he knows that they'll be okay. It might not be perfect, but it's always worth it.
A/n – so many thanks to my dear wife, Kelly, for beta-ing this for me.