Austin Inverness loves dogs and his wife, Erika. Erika was the only girlfriend Austin ever had who didn’t judge him for being bisexual, and dogs never judge, period. Unfortunately, Erika isn’t much of a dog person.
Airman Neil Stafford has been deployed to Turkey for a six-month tour and he enrolls his schipper-poo, Bunny, in the Fosters for Fighters program that arranges fostering for soldiers' pets. There he meets Austin, who will foster Bunny while Neil is overseas.
The two men keep in touch via Skype and Austin is delighted by how well they get along. Erika, on the other hand, is delighted by how little she has to do to take care of Bunny. That is, until Bunny needs an emergency trip to the vet.
By the time Neil returns home, Austin has noticed key differences between his wife and the new friend he can’t stop thinking about. As for Neil, he knows for sure he wants Austin in his life, but not at the cost of his friend's marriage.
When Austin realizes Erika questions his bisexuality, the cracks in their relationship quickly spread and Austin questions everything, including if he can make the right choice. Will Austin and Neil be able to overcome the bumps on the road to happiness?
Bunny arrived at their house five days later, the day before Neil shipped out. “So you can see how short notice this was,” Neil said. “I was so worried I wouldn’t find anywhere for her to go, but some of the other guys on base have used Fosters for Fighters before and they said it’s great.”
“Didn’t think many guys in the military could have dogs, what with all the moving around,” Austin said as they sat on the back patio, sipping drinks while Bunny inspected the yard.
“Oh yeah, they like when you have pets. Pets mean less stress and more things in your personal life that you can take care of and not screw up. That’s great for combating the anxiety some guys get in the service. Plus it gives you one more thing to fight for.” Neil watched Bunny roll in the grass over the rim of his glass as he took another gulp of orange juice. “So that’s what I think about. I tell myself, I gotta get these repairs right so these guys can go home to their dogs and families and lives.”
Austin nodded. “It’s noble work.” He smiled at the Airman. “Thank you.”
Neil smiled and nodded. “I get that a lot. I don’t do it for thanks, but I appreciate that. For me, the job is its own reward.” He snorted, the corner of his mouth twitching into a half-smile. “Used to be I worked harder than anyone else so I’d be indispensable. Had to be the guy they needed, in case anyone found out I was gay and the government tried to kick me out. Then they finally fucking repealed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and I was like, ‘Fuck it. Dudes, I like dudes, but I swear I can still swap out a busted tail rotor faster than most of you can lace your boots.’”
“How did they take it?”
“They left me pin-up posters on my cot, except they drew mustaches on all of them and drew chest hair over all the breasts. It was actually pretty hilarious.”
Austin laughed. “Sounds like it. I dated a few guys in college, but, then, well, I got a wife.”
“Were you just experimenting, then?”
“I don’t think so. I mean, I love my wife, and don’t let her know I said this, but sometimes there are guys I see and I’m just like, ‘Damn, I hope he’s into threesomes.’”
Neil shrugged. “Not into threesomes, myself. They’re fun to watch, don’t get me wrong, but I like focusing on one thing, or person, at a time.”
“Respect,” Austin said, raising his glass to Neil. Bunny grabbed one of the toys Neil had brought with them, flung it in the air with her mouth, and chased after it. “How well does she get along with other dogs?”
“Oh, she’s great with other dogs. She doesn’t even bark at cats. Do your neighbors have dogs?”
Austin sighed. “Not really, I’ll definitely take her to a dog park while you’re ... away.” Austin sat thinking and drinking his juice while the Neil threw the toy for Bunny to fetch. “Hey, um, not to be too repetitive, and I know it’s not why you do it, but thanks again, for everything. And thanks to all the guys you work with.” Austin stared down at the remaining orange drops at the bottom of his glass. “I’d never cut it in the army. I write articles and listicles for a living. Half of what I do involves living vicariously through the people I interview or research, so, compared to me, someone like you is just -- wow.”
Neil laughed. “Again, I appreciate your appreciation. I feel the same way about the soldiers who actually go out and protect motorcades or flush terrorists out of civilian towns or even fly reconnaissance runs over areas that they know have anti-aircraft weapons. I’m basically a highly specialized mechanic, but, y’know, one that works on vehicles that could blow up other vehicles.”
“Still way more interesting than my life.” Austin grinned. “Maybe I could pick your brain for an article sometime?”