Home > Off Base (Out of Uniform #1)(15)

Off Base (Out of Uniform #1)(15)
Author: Annabeth Albert

    God, he’d gone twenty-plus years not knowing a single gay person, but lately it felt like he was surrounded. Ryan. Pike. The bar. Here in the apparent Mecca of lingonberries and happy domestic couples. He was never ever going to have a stupid public argument with his...whoever.

    Of course, not twenty minutes after resolving that, he found himself arguing with Pike in the bedding display area.

    “I only need a twin bed.” He pointed at a perfectly serviceable white number.

    “Zack. That’s for kids. See the trucks on the blankets? Get a double like what I have—”

    “The rooms at the rental are small.”

    “My bed fit just fine. Here. Look at this simple wood one.” Pike grabbed his arm and dragged him to another display area, one with a basic pine bed that was probably just a queen but looked like an aircraft carrier compared to the twin. “That would match the trim in the room. And there’s a matching dresser too.”

    What? He needed stuff to match now too? That was so... Okay, yeah. He was better than Harper, so no he wasn’t going to think like that anymore. But still. He made a huffing noise instead of saying something regrettable.

    “What’s the real deal, man? Don’t want to shell out for bedding? I’ve got extra sheets you can have. And probably a blanket.”

    Oh yes, a blanket that smelled like Pike. That was all his evening needed. And Pike being nice was almost worse than Pike being flirty. “I’ve only ever had a twin,” he admitted. “At home, then college and the barracks. I wouldn’t know what to do with the extra room.”

    “I’ve got suggestions.” Pike gave him another wink that went straight to Zack’s dick, which had suggestions too. “No, seriously, you’re not a small guy, Muscles. You’re going to love the extra space.”

    “Maybe.” Zack chewed the inside of his cheek.

    “Surely you’ve shared a double before, right? When you’ve hooked up?”

    Jesus. Could Pike be any louder? He shook his head, knowing he was blushing like an idiot.

    “No?” Pike’s eyes went as wide as Zack’s favorite compass. “Like never hooked up or they all had twin beds too?”

    “I don’t do that,” he muttered, looking around to make sure they didn’t have an audience. “Hook up, I mean. Just not into that whole scene.”

    “But you’d be into having a girlfriend? A longer-term thing?” Fuck. Pike was not letting this drop.

    “Someday, sure.” Zack shrugged his way through the lie he usually delivered pretty damn convincingly. I don’t hook up. Not into one-night stands. Just looking for the right girl. He’d said all those things before and never once felt this hollow afterward. And yeah, maybe this was his problem with the bigger bed—sure, the extra space would be nice, but it felt like an admission that he might be going to share it with another person at some point. Which wasn’t happening.

    “A virgin SEAL—”

    “Shut up.” He shoved Pike’s shoulder.

    Pike neatly sidestepped his grip. “I’m just saying, you must be rarer than a fucking unicorn. I thought you guys got all the ass—of any gender—you wanted.”

    “Hus—” Zack went to shove him again but slid on a throw rug, sending both of them tumbling onto the bed. The really big bed. Next to each other. In a heap, in the middle of IKEA.

    “Comfortable, right?” A salesperson in a blue polo shirt chose that moment to check in with them. “That’s our top-of-the-line mattress. Especially if you guys are sharing—”

    “We’re not.” Zack jumped off the bed. “Where do we pick up the mattress and the parts for the bed?” Get me out of here. Fuck, he was done arguing about bed sizes with Pike. Done with people thinking they were a couple. Done with this night.

    * * *

    “You know my sheets aren’t all rainbows and half-naked cowboys,” Pike said as he carried in the stack of new bedding Zack had insisted on getting. The closest things to plain white they carried, natch.

    The look Zack gave him was indecipherable. He was hefting the box containing dresser parts like it was nothing more than a pile of notebooks.

    “Wanted to make sure they’d fit,” Zack said as they entered his room. The mattress was propped against one wall, with the parts for the bed stacked neatly in the center of the room.

    Pike set his load down next to the mattress and knelt by the bed parts. “Okay, that was the last of the stuff from the truck. Let’s assemble this bad boy so you can sleep tonight.”

    “I’ve got it.” Zack all but muscled Pike out of the way.

    “You don’t want help putting it together?” A hint of hurt crept into Pike’s voice. Fuck. He didn’t want to care whether or not he helped assemble the bed. He didn’t want to like working with Zack so much. Other than Zack’s stick-in-the-ass moments whenever someone assumed they might be a couple, shopping with Zack was fun. They had bickered over dressers and entertainment units in an amusing way, and Pike had enjoyed snarking on the other shoppers while Zack snorted and tried to hide his smiles.

    “Nah.” Zack motioned at the door. “Go work on the entertainment unit maybe. Or just chill. You’ve had a really long day.”

    Aww. That was sweet of Zack to notice, really, since this was a guy used to forgoing sleep for days for the sake of his team. But at the same time, Pike felt a bit...dismissed as he fled back to the living room. Despite what Zack said, chilling in his room with his laptop didn’t seem right. After all, Zack and the senior chief had helped assemble his bed. It didn’t feel right to simply go and put his feet up.

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