They left Burns in the office, passing McCoy in the doorway. He patted Zane’s back, giving him his usual friendly grin. Zane managed a smile and nod for his boss as they headed back to their desks.
Neither of them said a word. There was nothing to say, not here. Not now.
It barely registered when the elevator dinged, but when Ty straightened, Zane caught the movement. The look of concern on Ty’s handsome face spurred Zane to turn.
Two men in Marine uniforms stood at the elevator, speaking with McCoy and displaying a packet of official looking papers. Burns joined the discussion when it got heated.
Alston sat on the edge of Zane’s desk beside Ty to watch. “This is odd.”
McCoy argued with the Marine, growing angrier until Burns finally sent him back to his office. Burns continued the discussion, but the stoic Marine merely answered with single words. Burns finally headed to McCoy’s office too, pulling his cell phone out as he went.
Zane shared a glance with Ty, who shrugged.
One of the Marines took a few steps closer to the work groups and stood straight and tall. “Is there a B.T. Grady present?”
All eyes on the floor turned to Ty. Ty glanced around, his expression a mixture of confusion and trepidation. Then he stood, stepping away from Zane’s desk. He matched the man’s posture, a parody in his Converse sneakers and elephant T-shirt.
The Marine seemed startled, but he covered it quickly. “It’s an honor to meet you, Staff Sergeant Grady.”
“Special Agent Grady,” Ty corrected.
The Marine gave a curt shake of his head and stepped forward, handing Ty a blue packet of papers. “I’m here to inform you that you have been recalled to active duty, Staff Sergeant, by special authority of the SOCOM initiative you agreed to when you were formerly released.”
Ty reached out to take the orders, looking shell-shocked. He stared at the folded bunch of papers, then raised his head, meeting Zane’s eyes briefly before looking back at the Marine. “And what if I refuse?”
“Then your team will be recalled without you, Staff Sergeant. And you and anyone else who refuses will spend up to three years in Leavenworth for dereliction of duty.” There was no malice in the words, merely a Marine giving Ty the answer he had requested.
Ty was trying hard to keep his expression stony. “Thank you, Sergeant,” he finally said, voice tight. The Marine turned on his heel and rejoined the other at the elevator, leaving with as little fanfare as they had arrived.
“Did you just get conscripted?” Lassiter asked.
Clancy stepped forward to look at the papers. “Jesus Christ, can they do that?”
Ty subtly turned the papers away from her and nodded.
“You’re . . . you’re going back to the Marines?” Alston stuttered. “I thought SOCOM was defunct.”
“It’s MARSOC now,” Ty mumbled.
”But that’s special operations. You don’t have a choice?”
“No. I don’t.” He studied the orders. “I report in forty-eight hours. Immediate deployment.”
Zane stood. His hands shook as he gripped the edge of the desk. Ty looked up, seeking Zane out. Zane could see it in Ty’s eyes. There was no choice. No way to wriggle out of it. No way for anyone to save him.
“Oh God, Ty,” Zane whispered.
Ty stared at him for a moment longer as the others broke into outraged babbling. Then Ty shook himself. He tossed the packet of orders onto the desk and stalked over to Zane.
He grabbed his face with both hands and kissed him.
The room spun to a halt. The babble ground to a stunned hush.
Ty’s hands moved to the small of his back and he held him tight, bending him just enough for Zane to have to wrap his arms around him to keep from falling. He kissed him again. In front of their coworkers. In front of King and Country and anyone who would watch. It was the first purely honest kiss they’d ever shared.
And it was a kiss good-bye.