Captain Hugh Wilkes drummed enthusiastically on the steering wheel of his car as he drove it up the M3 towards London. He sung loudly and tunelessly along to the song on the radio, too, but it didn’t matter. No one could hear him.
He’d surprised himself by being so chilled out about the volume of Friday evening traffic. He wasn’t the most patient of people, so the slow progress should probably have been increasing his blood pressure, if not leading to full on road rage. But, although he’d have loved to be actually achieving the speed limit, not bumbling along at a mere fifty miles per hour, Wilkes was just glad the traffic was moving at all. Britain’s roads, the motorways in particular, soon came to a standstill if there was so much as a tiny bump between two vehicles. So any progress was better than none.
Besides, what could he do about it? His only other options to get to London from his base in Wiltshire were a train, or stealing a plane, helicopter or tank. The latter might just cause a little bit of bother, and mean the end of his army career, not to mention criminal charges. The former meant cramming in amongst sweaty, disgruntled commuters. If that wasn’t bad enough, he’d be charged an extortionate amount to do so, probably wouldn’t even get a seat, and would likely be subjected to delays.
At least driving took him from door to door, with plenty of personal space. And if there were delays, well, he could sit them out from the comfort of his own vehicle, with the climate control set to the perfect temperature, and the radio blasting some of his favourite tunes.
The next song was even better, and Wilkes’ tuneless wailing became more enthusiastic, as did the drumming on the steering wheel. He was in one hell of a good mood, and if he was truthful with himself, he knew it wasn’t just the fact the M3 was moving at a nice pace. It wasn’t the Friday feeling, either. Sure, both of those things were contributing to his happiness, but the main reason he was grinning like a buffoon was the thought of what awaited him in the capital. Or rather, who.
Rustam Balkhi. His gorgeous Afghan boyfriend, whom he’d met out in Afghanistan while they were working together for the British Army. Now, with their tour of duty over and the forces’ presence pulled out of the country, the two men had returned to England. Wilkes had gone back to his regular army life in Bulford Camp, near Salisbury. Balkhi was in London, where he’d recommenced the medical training he’d postponed to become an interpreter for the Brits.
The past few weeks had been somewhat of a whirlwind. Wilkes’ return to the UK had been straightforward, but Balkhi had had to jump through some hoops in order to get back onto his medical course. He’d been willing to start from scratch, but it’d seemed like an awful waste of time, so Wilkes had spoken to his superiors, who’d explained to the university what important work Balkhi had been doing. Fortunately, they’d been persuaded of Balkhi’s commitment and character, and allowed him to pick up where he’d left off. That settled, Balkhi had to pack up, travel back to the UK, find somewhere to live, move in… and all before the start of the next academic term.
Wilkes had felt terrible. His return had taken place a few weeks before Balkhi’s, so although he’d been granted some leave for R&R, he hadn’t been able to either spend it with Balkhi, or to use it help him with his relocation. By the time Balkhi had set foot on British soil, Wilkes was back to work. And, given nobody knew about the two of them, or even that Wilkes was gay, he couldn’t exactly ask for more leave in order to help his boyfriend move into his new flat.
Life had conspired against them ever since, so this was the first opportunity they’d had to see each other since saying goodbye in Afghanistan all those weeks ago. They’d communicated via email, text message and phone calls, but it just wasn’t the same. Especially since they’d gone from seeing each other every single day for the best part of six months to not setting eyes on each other for weeks on end.
Wilkes had struggled terribly in the interim. Life had been tough enough while they were still out in the desert. After weeks and weeks of trying desperately to ignore their growing attraction, they’d finally given in to it. It had been stupid and risky, but, having quickly realised there was more to their attraction than the physical, they’d decided to carry on their relationship in secret while they were in Afghanistan, see how it went, and figure things out once Wilkes’ tour of duty was over. Balkhi had always intended to return to the UK for his studies, so they would, at least, be living in the same country.