Time slipped by too slowly with Colt and Noah gone. Days felt like weeks, Josh had asked for more days on his work schedule in order to be productive. I myself had begun searching for a legitimate job, I put in applications in many places, till finally a company called me back. The Last Word, a book store, called and offered me the job of head manager, it paid decent and also gave me something to do till Colt came home, though he said he would be touring for a year this time.

My heart sunk, maybe I should have told him I loved him after all. As me and Josh worked I could only imagine what Colt and Noah Must have been doing. We both felt lost without them. I knew what Josh must have been feeling. One day I decided to say something. "Josh, why do you hate the military so much?" I asked.

He didn't answer he just shrugged and walked into a different room. I followed him, and reached for his hand. "Josh, it is okay to be honest with me." I said.

"Dad, it's just that, they tore our family apart, they took you away from us, I can't, I won't forgive them for what they did to our family." He said in anger.

"Josh, It isn't their fault, I made the decision to join, and your mom made the choice to sleep around. I know you don't believe it but, I loved your mother, with all my heart. She is the reason I joined, I wanted to make something better for her, for you, I loved you both so much, you weren't but 3 when I went on my third tour. I missed over a year and a half of your life that I can never get back, and I am sorry for that, but I don't regret what I did, I did what I thought was best, and I still believe that. I love you son, but it isn't the marine's fault, it is mine and your mothers, neither of us are blameless. Maybe I should have been there for her, but I tried to take her back, I said I would forgive her, but she said that she couldn't be with me, that she couldn't bare anymore lonely sad nights, and I understand that."

"Then there is still hope for you two then, you can reconcile you haven't been on a tour in close to 11 years dad, so you can tell her you are staying this time." He said with a bit of happiness in his voice. I knew that was what he always wanted, but it wasn't destined to be.

"I swore I would never tell you but I have no choice anymore. The reason we don't speak is because during the custody hearings she said that you weren't mine. She said she was cheating on me the entire time, that your real father's name was Chris Hamilton. Son, I loved that woman, and she tore my heart out. So you can blame me, you can blame her, you can blame anyone you want but you needed to know the whole story." I said beginning to tear up.

Josh pulled away. "No, you are lying. I am your son." He said tearing up also.

"I know Josh, I know you are my son." I said.

"You did a paternity test right?" He asked looking at the wall.

"I refused to take one, you are mine no matter what some damn piece of paper says." I said unable to look at him much longer, "I didn't care who's sperm you came from, you are my son, I have raised you, you are would have been my son regardless."

"I'm not yours am I?" He said crying his eyes out.

"Son, you will always be mine." I held him tightly, "I love you, I couldn't care less if you were his biological son, because you are my son in my heart." I said holding him and patting his back as he sobbed violently into my chest.

Josh suddenly got very calm, as if something had broken. He pushed me away gently.He grabbed his car keys and walked towards the door.

"Where are you going?" I asked.

"I'm going to have a little talk with that mother of mine." He replied coldly, I had never seen him act this way.

-At the base- (At this point, I would like to make it clear that point of view switches from Jeremy to Noah, just so there is no confusion.)

We had just finished training for the day, and I was exhausted, don't get me wrong I loved working out but I didn't know that it would be so taxing, I couldn't help but wonder how the men in there later 30's and 40's were keeping up with us teens. I decided that I would hit the showers. The water felt great on my sore calves and ankles. I lagged behind the rest, just wanting to think and feel the water and not be bothered by all the horse play. I was just getting nice and soaped up when someone asked me for the soap I was holding.

"Hey, man, you mind if I borrow that, I can't seem to find mine." Asked a gentleman in his mid-thirties, he had dirty blonde hair, and light blue eyes. He was handsome, not that I was looking but one can't help but notice.

"Sure." I said handing him the soap trying to avoid looking at his naked muscular body.

"Thanks, I'm Felix by the way." He said as he smiled at me with what I can only describe as kind eyes.

"Noah." I Replied.

"You seem like a nice kid." He said with a small chuckle.

"Thanks." I smiled, as he was the first person to talk to me like a person and not a screaming manic that day.

"It wasn't a compliment, this place is gonna eat you up and spit you out if you don't lose a bit of that." He said as put his hand on my shoulder.

I pulled away. "I can handle myself." I said slight sneering.

He started smiling from ear to ear. "See, you have got a little spunk, kid, you just might make it through after all."

We continued showering in silence for a few moments, and then he broke the calm, "So what made you want to join the army?" He said looking at the wall opposite of me.

I thought for a moment and then said. "It's a long story, there is just someone I want to protect, I love my country and I love them, so I want to do everything in my power to protect them both."

"That's a real nice story, so who is the lucky fellow?" He asked without any hesitation. The voice he asked in kind of reminded me of my father back when I was a child, he wasn't asking in a judgmental tone just a tone like he actually cared.

"Who said it was a guy?" I asked slightly annoyed that he had figured it out so quickly.

"You did." He replied so calmly. "You said 'someone' and then 'them', you are avoiding gender specific pronouns, if it was a female you would have said 'her' instead; I mean I get it, but you can't get angry that I can see through those kinds of cheap veils."

'Damn him, he is right.' I thought to myself, and after a bit of kicking myself I replied. "His name is Josh. I have known him since third grade." As I finished the sentence the latrines grew quiet till this time I broke the silence. "What are you fighting for?" I asked.

He turned to me and looked into my eyes. "I'll tell you, eventually, just not today. I am going to my room." He said as he soaked his hair and body one last time. "I'll see you soon." He said walking out. "Oh, and one last thing, I don't mind that you are into guys, but I can't say the same for the rest of these guys, so if I was you I would be careful with my words."

This man, he was confusing, it was like he was reading my mind. Part of me already despised him, the other part of me was very curious as to his motives. I stood lost in thought until someone walked in. "Noah." He said as he walked past me and turned on the shower next to me. I quickly snapped back to attention. "Col- Captain." I responded almost forgetting his ranking.

He smiled. "It's okay, it is just us; you can call me Colt for now." He said rubbing his semi-hairy chest.

That Felix guy had gotten to me, "Colt?" I asked, when he turned I looked at him. "Why did you want to join the marines?" I asked. His eyes shifted suddenly to mine, my eyes hit the floor as not the feel the look he gave me.

"I did it to protect the people who are important to me. I only return here time after time because feel as though I can still help the people I love the most in the smallest possible way." He said rubbing his neck.

"Do you think I am stupid for joining?" I asked.

"Do you think it was stupid?" He responded.

"No." I mumbled back looking at the ground. "It was something I felt was right."

"Alright then, don't ask such a stupid question." He yelled back. "You joined to protect what you love, that is the most respectable thing a man can do. Remember it takes a strong man to hold himself together when he is by himself, but an even stronger man to show that he cares about something and is willing to protect it at the cost of his own life if need be." He said as he put his hand on my shoulder.

"Thank you." I said as I hugged him completely butt-naked. He had his arms out as if I had caught him off guard, but he wrapped them around me. Colt in a strange way was the closest thing I had to a father. I never met my father. He had ran off and joined the army when my mother was only a few weeks pregnant; I doubt he even knows I exists. I don't even know his name; truly Colt was a father figure to me. Colt was everything I aspired to be, he was strong, just and courageous but most important he had a compassion for the people that meant something to him that was almost indescribable.

"Noah, are you going to hug me naked all night, or can I wash my hair now?" He said giggling.

"Oh, sorry." I stumbled over my thoughts.

"When do you leave?" I asked him knowing he would be sent on a mission soon.

"three days." He said with a heavy sigh.

"You are going to come back though right?" I said getting a bit of a chill, I had this strange ominous feeling that something terrible was going to happen, I just couldn't shake it.

"I don't plan on staying." He said with a chuckle as he softly punched my shoulder. "You are a sweet kid, and a good man, and don't let this place take that from you, and that's an order recruit. Do you understand?"

"SIR YES SIR." I replied happily.

We parted ways and I got dressed and returned to room, there was 3 people in this bedroom area, I suppose since it was just a training base was the reason that they gave us actual rooms with only 3-5 people in each. I can't be certain. On the top of the bunk bed sat this very attractive boy reading a book. Tall and tan, He had light brown hair and the prettiest green eyes.

He looked towards me and smiled. "Hey, I am Eli Williams." He said with a southern accent as he reached out and shook my hand. "Noah Rodgers." I replied. He smiled and pointed to the bed under him. "We have to be quite, Felix is trying to sleep, and I really don't want to hear him whine tomorrow during training." He whispered. I looked down, to see the same man who I had talked to in the latrines. I pointed to the other bed roughly 15 feet away. "Want to go chat? Nothing else to do till lights out." He hopped down.

Felix stirred and turned towards us. "Oh, hey you, Noah right?"

"Yeah." I replied.

"You know I feel a bit like I'm being followed." He said with a big grin and a slight chuckle. "Hey, I see you met Eli, he is a good person, and you two have one more... thing in common, he also has umm... has trouble with pronouns." He said with a wink and then turned and went back to sleep.

'Trouble with pronouns' I thought for a second. Then it hit me. Eli was just sitting there smiling at me like an idiot. He laughed. "Yeah, I suppose English isn't my best subject." We both laughed.

"What are the odds?" I said smiling.

"Officially one out of eight, but I honestly I think it's probably more like one out of three and they are just too scared to admit it to themselves or anyone else." He said in a thick southern draw.

I laughed, "That's probably true, homophobia makes everyone somewhat uncomfortable in their skin. I don't get why they would wage a war on it though."

"Well, they are just over protesting, because people fear what they don't understand...and they are probably half of them gay or bisexual and the other half joining in so they don't feel so left out." He smiled.

"My favorite part is how they wave the Bible in people's faces and declare being gay evil, yet the bible also says that slaves should obey their masters, a woman's place is at home, and divorce is sin, yet I don't seem them protesting for slavery to be re-instated, woman's rights abolished, or divorce court destroyed. I find it funny how people pick and choose which part they believe and quote of that book, don't you?" I said not realizing how deep I had just gotten.

"Wow, I never thought of it that way." Eli stated.

We talked all throughout the night. Eli was great, we talked about Sports, Television, our friends, our boyfriends, sexuality and so much more. Our talks ranged from playful laughs to serious discussions. I fell asleep in the same bed as him. I woke up to find myself being cradled by him. I had my arms wrapped around him. He was a great person. He was still sleeping and I lifted my head and pushed towards his face. Suddenly it hit me. I had been gone for one day and I was already sleeping in the same bed as another man. The more I thought about it the sicker I became with myself. I was about to kiss someone else after professing my love for Josh. I got up.

"Hey Noah, you have another hour till training, where are you going?" Eli called from behind.

"I need to pee." I replied not knowing what to say. I walked out the door and made it to the restroom. I walked into the stall and just sat on the seat. I just need a quiet place to think. I hadn't kissed him but I wanted too, and part of me still does. As I thought about it my mind drifted back to Josh, I never called him last night. About fifteen minutes later my thoughts were interrupted by footsteps.

"Hey, Noah?" Called someone from the other side of the door.

"What?" I answered.

"It's about time to start training. I wanted you to know, because if you skip you know you will be punished. Oh, and real men don't pee while sitting down." Eli whispered through the door.

We went off to training. The day dragged on, part of me was exhausted from the lack of sleep the other part of me was unfocused thinking about Josh and Eli. When the day was finally over and done with I went back to the room and got in the bottom bunk. You wouldn't believe how comfortable the bed was considering it was a military base but I guess after 8 hours of training the floor would have felt like a bed.

Eli walked in and sat on the bed. "I am sorry if I made you uncomfortable." He said with a smile.

"It isn't anything like that... I just didn't mean to give you the wrong idea, I really care about Josh." I said with somewhat clouded thoughts.

He laughed. "Oh, that's what is eating you? No man, I slept in the same bed as you, but we didn't do anything we didn't even come close. I don't plan on cheating my boyfriend and I know you care about Josh. You must have talked about him for 3 hours last night."

I thought back and remembered he was right. I had spent most of the night talking about Josh, his looks, his hair, his hobbies, the cute little things he does. What was I working myself up so much about? I suppose this place just had me on my toes. I looked at Eli. "Thanks. I appreciate that."

I liked Eli, he is a pretty sweet guy after all. The next few days flew by, basic training, learning how to care for our fire arms, protocols and procedures. Before I knew it Colt was gone, me and Eli were growing strangely close like best buddies. Felix was alright, he was just kind of there. It was like he was looking for something, I couldn't figure it out. He is almost twice my age but yet he tries to interact with us, most mature men want very little to do with 'little kids' like me and Eli. I just figured he had a thing for us. After about two weeks Colt returned.

Weeks of training passed, and I had become much more muscular, I was sure that Josh would be pleased. Josh and I was video chatting when he mentioned how strong I looked. Eli appeared behind me. "Oh so this Josh." He stated so nonchalantly. Josh smiled and waved. "This is Eli Williams, he is my buddy here." I declared happily. Eli whispered to me. "You were right, he is quiet handsome." Me and Eli giggled and at the same time made Josh a bit uncomfortable.

Josh and I continued talking for a few more minutes till someone else asked to use the device.

A few nights later, as I was sitting on the bed resting; Felix was writing a letter to his girlfriend, suddenly everything went to hell. I was forcefully propelled from the bed all way to the wall. The bed was flying at me with such ferocity but I couldn't move; I froze it place. I was sure it was going to hit me. Felix had been pushed against the wall also. I can't be sure what rushed through his mind but he jumped and pushed me out the way of the heavy metal bed. He however was not as fortunate. I grabbed his hand, he was pinned against the wall. "Get out of here." He yelled at me, while coughing up blood. "The place is on fire, get out, now!" The bed was heavier than I imagined I tried to lift it, it was partly embedded in the wall. "Felix, stay here, I am gonna find someone to help me, I swear I won't leave you here." I turned to rush for the door to get help but he grabbed my hand. "Hey, Noah, you remembered when you asked me why I joined the army?" He said weakly, with blood running from the corners of his mouth. I pulled my hand away. "We don't have time for that right now, you can tell me when we get out of here."

"Noah!" he called after me as I ran out the door, I found another soldier less than ten feet away. "Help me, Felix is pinned, I can't get the bed moved!"

"We don't have time, this place is going to come down, evacuate now!" He declared. "You are useless, forget it, I'll do it my damn self." I called back as I ran back towards the room.

As I ran back into the room, Felix yelled at me. "Leave damn it, this place is coming down." "I won't leave you!" I declared. I got next to the bed and pushed till I was out of breath, finally it budged, not a lot but enough. I grabbed Felix by the hand and dragged him out. "Let's go." I said as I picked him up. He immediately hit the floor. "Noah, I was trying to tell you, I can't walk, the bars on the bed crushed my waist." He said.

I grabbed him and picked him up like a child. "I'll carry you then, I won't leave a man behind." He was falling in and out of consciousness. I finally got outside and found the emergency tents they had set up. "I need you to help my friend; I think he broke his pelvis saving me." I said as I sat him down. "What happened" I asked the emergency worker. I turned around to see the whole building in flames except about a third had been completely decimated.

The worker screamed back. "We were bombed." He took a deep breath. "We are carrying out more bodies then survivors." As he continued taking Felix's clothing off, it became evident that his waist was destroyed. I fell by Felix's side. "I am so sorry. Why did you do that Felix, you could have been killed, you may never walk again. Felix why?"

The medic looked at him. He gave him a shot of morphine."there isn't much more I can do here, he has broken 3 bones in his hip, and caused some damage to some of his internal organs, all we can do is rush him to the nearest hospital , this damage is too extensive for field medical help, I'll call for help, give me one moment to flag an ambulance." He left.

Felix grabbed me, still with eyes closed. "Noah, I am sorry, I was never there for you or your mom. I love you so much. I wish I could have seen you grow, I didn't even know you existed till a year ago when your mom sent me a photo of you. I love you so much, please forgive me for being a shitty father." He began coughing up blood. "Stop talking, just stop talking, you are delirious, if you keep this up you are going to bleed out." I screamed at the top of my lungs.

"I don't care, I just wanted you to know that I love you." He pulled me closely and hugged me. He was crying, and I was in shambles. I couldn't speak, I could barely breathe. I held him so closely it almost seemed as if we would merge into one being. The medic burst into the tent. "Quickly, help me move him." He said. We lifted him into the back of the vehicle. The medic was closing the doors when Felix yelled out "Noah, come with me, don't leave me alone." I climbed into the back but the medic pulled me by the shirt. "Family only. No friends, sorry."

"He is family." Yelled Felix. I hopped into the vehicle and road to the hospital at a bewildering speed. When we arrived they took him straight back and began to work on him. A doctor came out to talk to me.

"Doctor, is Felix okay?" I asked begging for an answer.

The doctor looked down. "It doesn't look good my friend, the bone is considerably twisted, but the main concern is the internal bleeding which we have managed to get under control atleast. They are operating on him as we speak, if they can't stop the bleeding completely he won't make it, but even if they were able to stop the bleeding and if he was he will never walk again. I am sorry." I began to ball like a baby. I couldn't contain myself. I grabbed the doctor by the shirt unable to feel my legs any longer. I fell to the floor as the doctor left. I was pitiful sight, a marine in training crying like a child. My eyes were red, my face felt feverish, I could barely breathe much less speak. I didn't know whether to believe Felix or just assume it was the morphine talking. Either way I was too upset to move. I hadn't signed up for all this, suddenly what I had joined became all too clear. This was war, we weren't like kids, playing war, this was war, death and destruction, I thought I knew that but I didn't know it would be like this.

I sat in his room for hours waiting for Felix to return. Eli showed up after hours of me sitting there by myself slowly drowning myself in thought to the point where I was barely functional. Eli sat beside me. "Noah, it is good to see you are okay, I barely made it out myself. Luckily this man pulled me out of the latrines, if not I would have been burned alive." He looked at me. "Noah, you okay?"

"No... Felix... saved me, he risked his life to save me. The doctors say that they don't know if he will make it, and even if he does that he will never walk again." I began to cry into my hands. "He is a fucking ass, I didn't ask him to help me. What gives him the right to do that, to save me and make me feel like this, I hate him, I hate him! He should have just saved himself then he wouldn't be on that table about to die over me." I was shaking.

Eli hugged me. "It is okay, he will be fine. He will make it, besides he saved you because ..." Eli's words faded off.

I gave him a serious look like he had just slapped me. "Finish the sentence." I said looking at him seriously.

"It's not my place to-"

"FINISH THE FUCKING SENTENCE!" I screamed into his face.

"Because you are his son and he loves you, I mean hell, he mutters your name in his sleep sometimes, I am surprised you haven't heard it by now."

"How long have you known?" I asked standing up and staring angrily.

"Not long." He said reaching his hand out to me.

"How long?" I asked again pulling my hand away.

"maybe, 5 months now." He said unable to look at me any longer.

"I thought we were friends, if we were friends you would have told me, you wouldn't have kept something like that from me. I mean my god, I told you I grew up without a father, and you knew he was sleeping 3 feet away from me and didn't even have the decency to tell me? Go to hell Eli, I can't believe I trusted you." I said as I slammed the door behind me.

To be continued.

Author's Notes: It took me a few days to think about how i wanted this to go down, plenty of re-writes before i was finally satisfied with how this chapter ended. As always your comments whether as praise of criticism are more than welcome. I appreciate the time you took to read my stories. Thanks, Love you guys so much.

-Dustin...

 

Dustin...

[email protected]

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