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A Marine Called Jason

Part II

Chapter Seven

Making Do

Too much time passed and Jason didn't show up at Toby's and I never heard from him. Night after night I went to Toby's to see if he was there or if he'd been there. Meanwhile, there was talk of Americans crossing over into Thailand and Cambodia and Laos. He could be anywhere. One night Toby handed me an envelope along with my beer.

"What's this?" I asked.

"I was supposed to give this to you after he was gone for more than three weeks."

"It's from.......?" I knew who it was from.

Toby nodded. I took a long drink of beer then tried to open the envelope. Toby finally took it and opened it for me. My hands shook as I took the paper out of the envelope.

Hey, Buddy.

Don't Panic! This doesn't mean I bought the farm or anything. It only means I'm not back yet for whatever reason, and there're some personal details I want you to be aware of. You know that we always have to leave a letter behind when we go out on a mission, sort of a last Will and Testament; a final letter to be given to next of kin or a buddy or somebody who gives a shit. I've put it off too many times, and the LT has been riding my ass about it. He finally ordered me to get it done. So I am hereby designating that if it comes down to it, that letter is to be given to you, because you give a shit about me. All you have to do is make yourself known to my CO and show this letter along with some ID. Among other things you'll have to collect my personal shit. You can do whatever you want with it; there's nobody back home who would want much of anything I've got. Also my GI life insurance is made out to you. No strings, do whatever you want with it. Except, I want you to buy Ling something. Damn, she was the best damned piece of ass I ever had when I needed it the most! (Well...maybe not the best!). So, having said that, you certainly deserve the rest. This is not good-bye; it's a "hey" to tell you shit I should have told you a long time ago but we never got around to talking much about serious shit. If anybody asks, I am damned proud to be a Navy SEAL. I am damned proud of who I am and what I do. Okay, I guess they will let you know if and when the time comes. Meanwhile, we need to assume that I've simply been relocated somewhere and I just can't tell you where. I'll see you when I can. When I get back I want us to both go see Ling together. But hey, you don't have to wait on me! I love you, Brother.

Your Buddy,


My hand was still shaking as I gazed at the letter, the words now a blur on the page.

"Do you need something stronger?" Toby asked quietly as he shoved a beer glass in front of me and poured it half full of Jack Daniels.

I handed him the letter.

"Do you want me to read it?" he asked.

I nodded.

He held it down to read it by the light under the bar.

"I didn't know he had to leave a final letter behind when he went out," I said.

"It stands to reason," Toby said. Then with a scowl he asked, "Don't you have one on file? Everybody's supposed to."

I thought for a moment then remembered, yeah, we all had to do that when we came over here.

He finished reading the letter then folded it and put it back in the envelope. He slid it across the bar. "He's just telling you stuff he put off telling you before," he said.

"Is he?"

"Well, yeah. He gets relocated all the time."

"I'm going to try to believe that."

"Promise me something," Toby said.


"I want you to come in here every night you can get a pass, just so I know you're okay. And to be here when he walks through the door. I have a feeling he's going to need that, and so are you."

I choked up, realizing that Toby cared about me, but more because I was scared to even wonder if Jason would ever come through the door again. I had the awful gut feeling that he was in Cambodia or Thailand or Laos. I choked up because it was the first I realized how much I truly loved the guy. I know, I'd said it to him but it hit me full force now.

It felt like my life was crumbling around me. I knew Jason would expect me to hold it together, but I couldn't concentrate on my job and I got called into the COs office for a gentle ass-chewing. The first one was always gentle. Watch out for the second one.

"You having girl problems?" he asked.

"Yeah," I lied.

"It's not one of the whores down on Bailey Street, is it?"

"No, my girl back home."

"Well, hell, that's worse," he said. "I can't give you any advice, all I can tell you is to get your head on straight, you've got a job do. Very important work and you are one of the best I've got. I can't afford for you to go haywire on me. I'm issuing you a three-day pass to Bailey Street. Sometimes all it takes to clear a man's head is to clear his balls."

"Yes, sir."

I took the pass and headed for Toby's. I had to see if Jason had been in, then I would go to Bailey Street. There was no word from Jason so I didn't hang around. I headed for the Dragonfly where I found Ling. She was happy to see me but she was busy. I told the madam very emphatically that I wanted Ling. She was taken aback by my tone and said she would try to arrange it. She sent me upstairs to Ling's room to wait. I wasn't thinking straight. What the hell was I going to do with a prostitute? I hadn't been with a woman for so long, I didn't know if I even remembered how to fuck... or if I could even get a hardon for Ling. But there was a sense of obligation or something, even a sense of duty, to myself and to the Marines, and to Jason. I had the crazy idea that I had to be a man, for him. I had to be the man he left, for when he came back.

Ling came through the door and my breath tightened in my throat at the sight of her in that red dress. Godd, she filled it out! I felt the stirring in my loins and knew I wasn't going to have any trouble.

"How is your friend?" she asked.

"He's fine. Great," I said. I was impressed that she remembered me.

"Where is he? Why he not come?"

"He's tied up. He'll come next time."

She turned for me to unzip the dress and I helped her out of it. Again, she was naked underneath.

"I do this for you?" she said as she began unbuttoning my shirt.

I dropped my hands to my sides and let her take my clothes off. I tried to close my eyes and imagine that it was Jason taking them off of me but her hands were too soft and gentle. I gasped when she took my cock in her mouth and longed for just the image of Jason on his knees sucking my cock into his mouth, but even the image wouldn't come. I looked down and saw Ling's tiny mouth distended around my cock, much like her pussy had been stretched so around Jason's thick meat. I got hard in no time and all my fears vanished.

Ling urged me back on the bed and crawled up between my legs. I closed my eyes and let it happen. I'd told the madam, in an attempt to bolster my own confidence, that I wanted Ling for the whole night. She damn near killed me. She got me started and I couldn't stop. I didn't bother to count how many times I fucked her, or she fucked me, or how many loads I shot. I just knew my balls ached from being drained so dry and the backs of my thighs hurt and even my butt was sore from the exercise. I wasn't accustomed to being the fucker.

When I left early-morning the next day I got a room at the Trent Hotel. On the way up in I gave the clerk some extra money and told him to have somebody bring me up some cold beer. I took a shower to wash off the stench of the all night sex then stretched out on the bed. A few minutes later there was a knock at the door.

"Come in, it's open."

A boy came in carrying a six-pack. He closed the door behind him and came over to the bed, his eyes raking over my naked body.

"You want... here?" he asked timidly, motioning at the chair beside the bed. I call these guys kids, they're not that much younger than me but they still have the look of innocence about them, no hardened battle lines around their eyes.

"Yeah, there'll be fine," I said, rising up on one elbow to get the money I'd laid out for his tip.

He put the money in his pocket. "I open one for you," he said as took one beer from the pack and popped the top. He handed it to me. "Anything else you want me do for you?" he asked. It was unmistakable what he had in mind, from the way he was looking at me. "No more money; I like," he said with a wave of his hand over my naked body.

"Okay, sure, go ahead," I said, wondering if the clerk had intentionally sent this particular boy to me.

He crawled on the bed between my legs and began sucking my cock. He was good, and I appreciated the attention. I lay there under the soft breeze from the ceiling fan and watched the boy slurp and slobber and suck my cock while I sipped my beer. I took my time about working it up. He seemed grateful for the load I gave him and said he would come to my room anytime, just let the clerk know and ask for Tommy.

"Yeah, thanks, I'll remember you, Tommy," I said. He'd said no more money but I gave him a tip anyway and he took it.

I sacked out for most of the rest of the day, except to get something to eat. There was no checkout time posted at the Trent. Late in the afternoon I showered again and stretched out on the bed and gazed up at the ceiling fan while I waited for the time to go over to Toby's. It felt good to let my thoughts ramble without putting them in any particular order.

"Did you get word?" Toby asked with a smile as I walked up to the bar.

"No. Did you?"

"No, but I thought you might have, from the look on your face and the bounce in your step," he said.

I laughed and took a sip of the beer he put in front of me. Just then a young sailor came in. The cute one... Steve. Toby scowled and I remembered he'd kicked him out of the bar.

"It's okay, I'll handle him," I said. I didn't want there to be a scene. Steve came up to me.

"I saw you come in," he said. Then to Toby, "Don't worry, I'll leave." Then back to me. "Hey, you wouldn't happen to have a room at the Trent would you?" he asked in a hushed tone.

"Yeah," I said with a frown. "Why?"

"I've got this... this guy, and we don't have anyplace to go, and I've spent all of my money. I don't even have cab fare back. I'm not asking you for money, I'd just like to use your room for a little bit."

It was weird but I was actually thinking it over. The poor kid sounded desperate and I didn't have any specific plans for the room except to go back there and sleep after I got done at Toby's and wherever else I decided to go.

"Okay, but I'll have to let you in the room."

"Okay! We'll meet the guy outside," he said.

"No. You guys go in the back way. I'll go in front and meet you at the room," I told him.


I watched the boy's slim, tight butt sticking out in back of his uniform and the sexy swivel-walk. I didn't know what the situation was between Steve and the other guy, but I knew what it would be if I was the one going with him. We would finish our lessons, and have a refresher course before I graded him.

At the hotel I picked up my key and went upstairs. I let myself in and waited at the door. I did a double-take when I saw them coming down the hall. He was with another kid! I waved them inside and closed the door behind us, then turned to get a better look at the guy before I left them alone. He was typically small stature of the Vietnamese, flawlessly smooth, tanned skin, with the absolute beauty of their race. He was drop-dead cute and innocent-looking, slender but nicely built, much like the boy who had given me such a great blow-job.

"How old is he?" I asked Steve with a frown.

"I don't know, he's in the army," he said.

"Nineteen," the kid said.

"Nineteen, your ass," I said. "He's more like fourteen."

"No, he's got papers," Steve said.

"I've got a pass," the kid said.

"He's in the Vietnamese army," Steve explained.

I didn't ask any more questions. Like I said, you can't tell their age. I started to leave.

"Don't you want to stay?" Steve asked.

I hesitated at the door. Damn, what an invitation! Steve was cute in his own true American way, and the kid was cute in his Vietnamese way and the two of them made a perfect pair. They were made for sex, although I didn't know what kind of sex it was going to be, except that there wasn't a woman in the room.

"Are you sure it's okay? I don't want to be in the way. I can come back later," I said.

"Sure. He don't mind," said Steve.

"Stay. You won't be in the way," the kid said.

They were already taking off their clothes. The young soldier... Duane was his name, probably Americanized from Dwang or something... was naked first. He seemed in a real big hurry. He was slim but very nicely put together. Nice pecs and incredible abs and an unbelievable little butt. I was surprised how big his cock was but he still looked fourteen. From what I'd seen and a lot I'd heard, the Vietnamese males weren't overly endowed, which was the reason Vietnamese women loved American GIs and their big cocks. Then it hit me. Duane's looks were more chiseled and square-featured than most and it dawned on me that he was AmerAsian. His father was an American! I guess that explained his big cock, and his name.

He got on the bed to wait while Steve and I got naked. Steve was next out of his clothes. I watched his compact body as he stripped. Steve was well-hung, too. Not as big as me; neither of them were, but on his stature, his cock looked plenty big. I wanted to bury my face in his wash-board abs and work my way down. I didn't know how it was going to go down but these two guys were hot, and I got the impression that they were both hot for me. I was down to my briefs and they were on the bed watching intently, expectantly, for me to take them off. I did it slowly, like a strip. I straightened and tossed my shorts aside and stood with my much bigger cock hanging out proudly.

"Holy Shit!" Duane said. "Bring that thing over here."

I started to but stopped in mid-step. I was suddenly awash with guilt as I thought of Jason and wherever he was, whatever he was going through, or maybe even dead and suddenly I couldn't do it. I'd shacked with the big, burly sergeant and I'd just gotten my cock sucked by the Vietnamese boy after all night with Ling, but things were different now, after the letter.

"I like to watch, if you don't mind," I said as I backed up to the chair and sat down.

"Oh, no, you're going to torture us, with that beautiful cock and we can't touch?" Steve moaned.

"I'll leave if it's too much for you," I said.

"No! No, don't leave. Stay and watch. It'll make things hotter if we can watch you at the same time. You're gonna jack off, at least, aren't you?"

"Depends if you guys make me hot enough," I said.

They did, no problem. It was weird. They watched me sitting there slowly jacking my cock more than they paid attention to each other. It was like I was the source of their lust. But Jason was the source of mine, even in his absence and I was sorry I had agreed to let them use my room; sorry that I'd let the boy suck my cock. I would have preferred to be alone with my cock and my thoughts and conjure up images of Jason from my past and jack off for him and drop a load for both of us.

I saw that Steve didn't need any more fuck lessons from me. Duane was insatiable, and wild. I think he could've taken on an entire platoon and left them for dead. He couldn't get enough cock and Steve was more than up to the challenge. Duane begged me to let him suck my cock while Steve fucked him. I was tempted but I declined. The kid shot off three times before Steve finally came and he was still ready for more.

"Fuck, Duane, you're a machine, give me a minute to rest up," Steve told him. "Or, you're going to have to come over here and take my place," he told me.

"No, thanks, you guys need to leave," I said as I stood up, looking at my watch.

"Oh, please, at least jack off for us," Steve begged. "I want him to see you shoot your load."

"Yes, jack off and shoot your load on us," Duane said.

"Maybe some other time," I said. I needed for them to go. If I let them stay I wasn't sure I could stay out of the bed and I didn't want that to happen. They were disappointed but thankful for letting them use my room. I did relent to Duane's begging and let him give my cock a few slurps just before he left but I didn't let him get right down to seriously sucking it.

When they were gone, I stretched out and gazed up at the ceiling fan again. It was mesmerizing; therapeutic in a way. I was lying in cum but I didn't mind. I thought of Jason. No doubt, he would've jumped right in the middle of it with the two guys. But that's the way he was; it was what made him Jason. I had different feelings for him than he had for me.

I lay for a long time, basking in the gentle breeze from the fan and fondling my cock, then I got up and showered yet again to wash off the boys' cum before I got dressed and went back to Toby's. Jason wasn't there, and I had the sinking feeling that I didn't know if he ever would be again.

Chapter Eight

If I Told You, You Would Want Me To Go To Confession

I returned from my three-day pass and immersed myself in my work. I was sometimes a little too exuberant in getting information out of the prisoners they brought in. I looked at each one of them as potentially the one who had taken Jason away from me; dead, wounded, a POW.... whatever it was, each one of these guys was personally responsible in my mind. The colonel walked in on one session just as I was squeezing the life juice out of a guy's balls. He was turning pale and doubled over in pain and I wasn't letting go. Finally he screamed and blurted out what I wanted to know.

"You ever hear of the Geneva Conventions?" the colonel growled, out of earshot of the prisoner.

"Fuck your Geneva Conventions, sir," I snapped. "You heard him?"


"I got what I needed out of him," I said angrily.

"Yes." He stepped to the door and called in two guards to take the prisoner away. Then he turned back to me. "Get back on track with your interrogation methods, soldier. We don't torture."

"That wasn't torture, sir."

"Don't make me remind you again," he said.

"Yes, sir."

"It starts out squeezing a guy's balls, and advances to squeezing the life out of him. I've seen it happen," the colonel said.

"Would that be so bad?" I said. "Sorry, sir, but once I get the information out of `em, I don't much give a fuck what happens to them after that."

He glared at me and walked out. Despite what the colonel said and what I said, I wasn't about to ease up. I owed it to Brown and Anderson, the two guys who were in the blast that blew away the backside of our compound. I owed it to Jason. It was my job to get information and I owed it to Brown and Anderson and Jason to do my job well. I didn't much give a fuck how I got a prisoner to break. I would just have to be more careful about letting the colonel catch me.

I spent a lot of nights in the barracks, reading, playing poker--usually breaking even--writing an occasional letter to girls back home. I didn't have a girl back home but there were a couple who wrote to me. There were the bull sessions, the usual shit that goes on in the barracks. I was bothered and ashamed that a couple of the guys were starting to look good to me. Not that I would have the nerve to try anything with any of them but I'd never noticed before just how studly a couple of them were. Jason's absence was making me horny. But it didn't last long enough at any given time to make me try anything with any of the guys in my barracks.

I spent a lot of nights at Toby's, too, drinking, watching and waiting, hoping and praying, and going back to the barracks with the same empty, fearful gnawing in my guts. Finally, in desperation, as is usually the case, I resorted to prayer. Not the casual quickie that's uttered in passing, but real prayer, in a church.

The little church was like a shrine, with statues everywhere, candles flickering all over the place, the smell of incense heavy in the air. The ceiling was blackened above the grottos from the smoke. It was quiet and dark and there were only a half dozen other people in the place; one GI in combat uniform, another in civvies, and some locals. I wondered if either of the GIs was there praying for the same reason I was. I went to one of the grottos along the side of the church, shoved a folded dollar bill into the slot and lit one of the large candles, then knelt down on the kneeling bench in front of the large statue. It was warm from the dozens of flickering candles. I looked up at the statue on the wall, unsure who it was. One of the saints. I didn't care which one it was as long as he heard me. I said the prayers without specifically stating what I wanted. I was born and raised Catholic and there was something about praying to a saint for the safe return of a guy I was having sex with that didn't ring true with my upbringing. I couldn't say it, but I prayed for it, half of the time praying just that there was somebody listening and understanding, and watching over Jason. I was there for over an hour; my mother would've been proud, except for the nature of my prayers. When I left, I wasn't sure if it'd been a futile effort, or hypocritical or even an abomination, but I left with hope in my heart, and trust in whoever that saint was. Just maybe there really was a special saint for guys like me and maybe he was listening.

I was at the lowest ebb of my life. I did my job like a zombie, without true human feeling. I did my job and I ate and slept and I drank beer at Toby's. Too much beer, sometimes. A couple of times I got a room at the Trent to get out of the barracks, and just lay there watching the ceiling fan go around and around while I drank myself into a stupor. I didn't let the Vietnamese boy suck me off when he brought my beer up to me. He wanted to, but I ignored his hints. Those turned out to be the best times. I went back to Ling once but it was no good. Oh, it was good, but it left me yearning for the only thing that could satisfy me. I began to have panic attacks as more and more I faced the realization that Jason might not come back.

Toby was the guy I leaned on most. He didn't have to say anything and most times he didn't. It was enough to walk in and see him behind the bar, smiling, and have him shove a beer at me. Sometimes we talked, but it was usually about everything but Jason. I didn't know which of us was avoiding it.

I was making circles on the bar with the bottom of my beer, creating a pattern.

"Look, the Olympic rings," I said.

He laughed.

Without looking up, I said, "What if he doesn't come back, Toby?" I looked up when he didn't say anything, and he was just looking at me.

"You can't talk like that," he said.

"What if he doesn't?" I asked again.

"I don't know."

"When did you know?" I asked.

"About what?"

"About me and Jason."

"Pretty early on," he said.

"Am I that easy to spot? I know he isn't," I said.

"No. But with all the guys who come in here, I've developed a trained eye. You would be surprised. Others would be just as surprised about you. I saw how you care about him."

"What about Jason? What do you see there?"

"I see him on a one-way street," he said.

"You do have a good eye," I said. "He's as straight as a ram-rod."

"Ram-rods can be bent, especially if they're made hot enough," he said with a grin and a twinkle in his eye. "Not broken, but bent."

"Not this one," I said.

He laughed.

"Do you see something I don't see?" I asked.

"You know him better than I do," he replied with a shrug.

"Do you see something I don't see?" I asked again.

"I see that he cares an awful lot for you. I don't know if it's like a brother on his part, or what, but wherever he is, I'll bet you're on his mind right now as much as he's on yours. And I know if there's any way on God's green earth, he will make it back....."

"You didn't finish," I said.

"I don't think I have to... do I?"

I shook my head. "No," I said quietly to the bar.

The probabilities were waning but my hope stayed alive. I supposed I would maintain hope as long as I lived. I didn't go back to the church right away. If the good saint hadn't heard me, or chose not to do anything, I wasn't going back to beg. But I did, finally. I knelt in the back of the church and prayed and cried and silently begged till it felt like my heart had been ripped out. I started at a hand on my shoulder. In a split second I imagined it would be Jason standing there when I turned around. But it wasn't. It was a priest.

"Son, is there something I can help you with?" he asked in perfect English that the Vietnamese speak so beautifully.

I shook my head.

"Don't try to handle it alone," he said in a kindly tone as he knelt down behind me with his hand on my shoulder. "I'll pray with you, for whatever it is. You don't have to tell me."

"It won't do any good," I said, swiping the wet from my eyes with my thumbs.

"Then why are you here, praying?"

"I don't know. It's... it's a place to be," I replied. "I've prayed to the saints--that one--and nobody listened."

"You don't know that. Sometimes you have to give these things time. Things don't happen on our time schedule."

"How much time does it take for a saint? He's up there with the powers that be. He should have an in."

He laughed softly. "Would you like to tell me what I'm praying for?" he asked.

"You wouldn't want to know, Father," I said. I laughed softly. "If I told you, you would want me to go to Confession."

"Confession is your decision. Just as being here on your knees is your decision."

"If I told you what you were praying for, Father, you wouldn't pray for it," I said. "You couldn't."

"Then I would pray for your wisdom and guidance," he said. "Trust me, son, I've heard it all."

"I'm not going to ask you to pray for it, Father, but I will tell you why I'm here. I'm praying for a buddy. He's a Navy SEAL... a sniper... he's been out a long time and he hasn't come back."

"That's more common than you think, for one soldier to pray for another."

"I'm a Marine, father," I said.

"Marines pray for each other, too," he said. "It's more common than they'll admit. If all the prayers stopped, war really would be more of a hell than it already is."

"But I... I'm praying for his safe return, Father, for some of the wrong reasons."

"What could possibly be a wrong reason?"

"He's... he's more than just a buddy, father. I... he's... I love him." Even through my choked voice, the words rolled off my tongue with such ease that it surprised me. I couldn't believe I'd said it, especially to a priest. I tightened inside, waiting for his response.

"No greater love......," he began.

"No, father," I cut in. "Not that kind of love. I love him... as a man. We have sex together."

There was quiet for a long moment before the priest responded.

"I don't know the true meaning behind "no greater love" but I will tell you something that should ease your mind. In the confessional, there is never a week goes by that I don't have a soldier or sailor or marine or maybe even a Navy SEAL, telling me how he feels about a fellow GI. And often times it's more than just being buddies. They try to disguise their feelings but I can sense it. I think those feelings often develop over here out of a sense of need. The need under these awful circumstances to love and to be loved. I'm not sure how deep they go. I think they might even wane when circumstances change."

"And what do you do? What do you say? Do you tell them you understand what they're not saying?"

"Yes. Then I give them absolution, guidance, advice, encouragement; whatever I think they need."

"I couldn't confess, Father, it wouldn't do any good, because I can't believe what I feel for him is a sin, and when he comes back, we're going to be together again. So, we can rule out absolution. What advice or encouragement would you give?"

"Officially, as a priest, I would advise you to get your life back on track and encourage you to refrain from all of this. Unofficially, as a priest and a man, and a military chaplain, I would remind you that God made you what you are. You are in His image."

"You think God is gay?" I asked.

"No. I don't think God is a sexual being at all. He has no need for it. He created that and passed that on, gave that gift to man. Nobody knows what that image is, but we must know that God understands, because He created your emotions, even the feelings you have for this man."

"What about the lecture, and penance? What about the go and sin no more part?" I asked.

"Those words of admonishment are part of the ritual," he said. "As for the penance, yes, I do hand out penance because that's what they've come for."

"I don't know whether to be confused or relieved," I said. "You tell me, father, what should I feel?"

"You must decide that for yourself," he said. "But I believe this man... this Navy SEAL... is extremely fortunate to have someone who cares about him so deeply. And I will pray for him; for both of you."

I was nodding, my eyes tearing up, grateful for this man of God's understanding.

"There's one more thing," he said. I glanced around to see him taking something out of his pocket. He handed me a small prayer card. "Here are two special saints you might go to; Saint

Sergius and St. Baachus. They were high-ranking young officers in the Roman Army who became martyrs. They were openly gay. The record of their martyrdom even describes them as erastai, which is Greek for lovers. It is believed that they may have even been united in the ancient rite of adelphopoiesis. It means brother-making, a kind of early Christian same-sex marriage. When they refused to pray to a false god they were arrested, dressed in women's clothing and paraded through the streets to humiliate them. They were tortured to death. Baachus died first.

He appeared to Sergius, handsome as ever, dressed once again as a soldier and told him not to despair, that they would be soon reunited in heaven as lovers. That is unique in the history of martyrs. The promised reward is union with God, not with a lover. For nearly a thousand years these two fierce warriors were revered as the patrons of the Byzantine army. Try them. They were real men. They will understand."

I thought about that for a moment and when I half turned to say something else, the priest was on his feet, giving me his blessing, then he was gone. I sat alone with my thoughts for a long time, staring at the prayer card. I prayed some more, now to the kindred spirits of Sergius and Baachus, and I suddenly felt relief that I wasn't ashamed of what I was praying for. In those moments I laid all my cards on the table. Dear God, if you'll bring him back safe I promise I'll walk away. Please, God, bring him back and I swear I'll never touch him again. I meant it but I didn't know if I truly believed it, or if God did, or if I could do it. Maybe God wouldn't bring him back because He knew I couldn't keep my promise. Maybe I was signing Jason's death warrant but that's the way it was.

Chapter Nine


I was lying on my bunk after chow after having lost nearly all of my money in a poker game. Payday was four days away so I wouldn't be going on pass.

The orderly poked his head in. "Courter, there's a phone call for you in the orderly room," he said.

Suddenly I couldn't breathe. I got up and walked... half stumbled.... down to the orderly room, my legs like jelly. My hand shook as I picked up the phone.

"Hello," I said timidly. I was scared out of my wits who might be on the other end.




"Oh, My Godd," I gasped. I couldn't find my voice for a moment.

"Something wrong?" the orderly asked. The orderly was the same guy who was on guard duty the night Jason had showed up in his full combat gear and I'd told him Jason was my brother. "You wanta take this privately?" he asked, pointing to the COs office.

I went into the office and picked up the phone.

"You still there?" Jason asked.

"Yes, the orderly let me take it in the CO's office. Where are you? What happened? Where have you been? Are you all right?"

"Whoa. Whoa. Hey, slow down. One question at a time," he said. "Can you get out?"

"I... I... yes. Yeah, even if I have to go AWOL."

"Well, stop laying there beating your meat and get your sorry ass down to Toby's."

"You're there?"

"Yeah. Waiting on you, buddy."

My hand trembled so bad that the phone rattled when I hung it up. I couldn't function for a moment. I stood there in a daze till the orderly came in.

"Can you get me a pass?" I asked. "That was my brother."

"Fuckin' A," he said. "Shit, I can't let you go AWOL."

The unlimited passes had been curtailed because of too many guys being gone at one time, but he came back with a pass signed by Sgt. Brown.... two passes, actually.... but I wasn't sure if Brown had actually signed either of them. I half expected that the orderly signed them himself.

"No three-days, colonel's orders," he said. "But here's an overnight for the rest of tonight, and another one for tomorrow night if you need it."


"No problem. Tell your brother I said hey."

I quickly showered and shaved and got ready. Very ready. It was always risky, being caught flushing out, but I was willing to take the risk. It'd been months since I'd seen Jason and I wanted to be perfect for him. I was dressed and checking my back pocket for my wallet.


"What's the matter?" one of the guys asked.

"I got a pass and I just realized I'm flat broke."

Without a word, two guys dug money out of their pockets and handed it to me. Shit, I wanted to cry. I pocketed the money and headed out of the gate with a new bounce to my step, like a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I was the happiest guy in the world. I reminded myself to go back to the church and thank the two warrior saints for listening and taking some action. I guess it wasn't wrong that I prayed for him. I thought of my vow to walk away, and now I was running to him. I would deal with that later.

I was nervous as hell as I walked into Toby's. I went to the bar, looking for Jason, but he was nowhere to be seen.

"He left," Toby said.

My heart sank, and I even felt a surge of anger. Why would he leave? He had just called me. "Did he say where he was going?" I asked.

"No. He said you would know where to find him. He just got dropped off and he didn't want to stick around here in full combat gear. Hey, do you want a beer first?" Toby asked. "You look like you could use something to calm your nerves."

"No, thanks."

"Good enough, he took a six pack with him," he said.

I stepped away from the bar but my hand was still on it. "Toby, is he... okay?" I asked.

"He's great," Toby assured me. "Looks like he's been in the jungle for a month or so, but even that looks good on him."

I half ran the distance to the hotel. I took the back stairs because I didn't want to appear so anxious going in the front. I walked down the hallway to room 238. If he said I would know where to find him, that would be the room he was in. I paused at the door, my stomach in knots, my hand raised to knock. But I tried the door instead. It wasn't locked. I opened it a crack, half afraid to go in, afraid it might be all a dream that could suddenly turn into a nightmare if he wasn't really there and maybe my imagination was playing tricks on me. I had imagined this so many times during the past months and this could be one of those imaginations. It was dark inside except for the soft light coming in the alley window. I could hear the soft whirring of the ceiling fan. I opened the door a little more.

"Hey." It was Jason's voice.

I went inside and closed the door.

"Better bolt it," he said.

He was sitting slouched down in the chair, still in full combat uniform and with more than a dark stubble of beard. He looked so damned handsome and sexy in the dim light, truly like a hero warrior returned from battle. I bolted the door. I couldn't move from the spot. We looked at each other for a long moment before he got up and came toward me, his equipment making soft noises as he moved. We went into each other's arms; for him, it was buddy-meeting-buddy, a bear-hug. It was more than that for me. I hugged him tight, drawing on the feel of his hard body beneath the uniform. He smelled like the jungle. He smelled like war. He smelled like a man. Godd, he smelled good!

"Sorry I came like this but they just released me and I didn't want to take time to change. I reported in then had them drop me off," he said.

"You look... great... as always," I said.

"I look like shit," he said. "I smell like shit."

"No, you look studly as hell and you smell great. You smell alive." I wanted to know what had happened, where he'd been, but I was afraid to ask. I imagined that it had been so horrible that I would wait till he wanted to talk about it.

"Well, you did say you like to see me dressed like this," he said, smiling.

"Yes, I do. I like to see you dressed in anything.... or not in anything."

"We'll get to that," he said with a chuckle. "But first....." He dug into a pack lying beside the chair and brought out a camera. "You said one time you wanted pictures. I bought you this. Picked it off a...." He cut his words off as if he thought I wouldn't approve.

"Yeah, I heard they're setting up PXs out in the jungle," I said.


"Thanks." I was still so nervous I was breathless.

"Hey, you're so nervous." he said.

"Dammit, Jason, I've been so afraid....," I choked.

"I'm back," he said, as he pulled me into his arms again.

"Are you? I'm almost afraid to believe it."

"I can prove it," he said as he smashed loins hard against me. He crooked his finger under my chin and tilted my face up. "Do you need some real proof?"

I was stunned at his show of emotion, afraid to believe what he was going to do. Then he tilted his head to one side and touched his lips to mine. I whimpered and he sort of moaned as the touch quickly turned to a hard, passionate kiss. I loved the roughness of his weeks-old beard and the musky smell of him, the smell of the jungle. Even his lips were beard strong; I knew I was being kissed by a man. It was a long kiss that left us breathless.

"I'm back, okay?" he declared again.

"Yes, are you ever," I gasped.

"So, do you want to take pictures first?" he asked. "I'm going to be taking this uniform off anyway, you could get all the pictures you want while I'm doing that."

"Can I keep on taking pictures, after you've taken it all off?" I asked.

"I told you before, you can take all the pictures you want. Take pictures of me in the shower. Take pictures till the film runs out."

I could barely hold the camera as he began taking off his combat gear. It was such a sensual thing to see, this powerhouse of a man shedding the gear that made him a warrior, slowly transforming himself from a highly skilled killer to a man. When he was shirtless, still wearing his pants and boots and his web equipment belt, I told him to stop and pose for me. He was awkward at it but that only added to the pose. I kept taking pictures as he took off his combat boots and undid his belt. A tight smile came on his face as he unzipped his pants and shoved them down. Then I saw why.

"I wore it for you," he said as his pants dropped to his knees, leaving him standing there in the tattered jockstrap.

"And it brought you back," I said with a smile just as wide as his. Fuck, he looked good in it, the damn thing sagging pitifully but beautifully under the weight of his manhood. I wondered when it had been washed last, if ever. He took off his pants and socks and hooked his thumbs in the waistband of his jock while I kept taking pictures.

"Leave it on," I said. By that time I was mesmerized to weakness. That's when I noticed the marks and bruises. "What are those marks? They look like... burns."

"I got detained for a while and they thought I ought to know something important," he said.

"You were captured?" I gasped, the air draining out of my lungs.

"It was nothing serious," he said, shrugging it off. "Hell, I got away. Bunch of dumb-asses."

I wanted to ask more questions... how long he'd been a prisoner, what they did to him--it looked like cigarette burns--but it would've been a waste of time. I longed to know but I knew he wouldn't talk about it till he was ready. To him, it truly was nothing serious.

"Now you," he said as he took the camera from my hand.

"You want pictures of me?" I asked.

"Naw, I don't need pictures of you. I've got those burned in my mind. I meant it's your turn to get naked."

I hadn't gotten all the pictures I wanted but it didn't matter. I started to tug my shirt out of my jeans but he stopped me with his powerful grip around my wrist.

"Huh-uh. I'll do it."

I couldn't believe he was undressing me and it made me light-headed, part of it from his manly aroma. By the time I was naked we were both hard, his cock nearly bulging through the mesh pouch of his jockstrap.

"Fuck, I need a shower," he said as he moved away from me.

"No," I said quickly.

He gave me a funny look.

"I want you just like you are," I said.

"Man, I smell like a horse, I haven't had a shower since...."

"And why shouldn't you smell like a horse, you're built like one," I cut in.

"All right," he said, nodding. "All right, if that's what you want, but you might change your mind when you....."

"I won't change my mind," I said.

Instead of going to the bed he sat in the chair, slouched down so his butt was half off the seat. His jockstrap was tented to the tearing point. He rubbed his hand over the pouch.

"Why don't you come over and have a seat?" he said.

I trembled inside as I approached him. I was breaking my promise to God and I was thinking how I could reconcile that with Him. I could only pray that He would understand, that He had brought Jason back for this, not just to test me. I remembered and took refuge in what the priest had said--that God had made me who I was. Maybe my two now-favorite saints would put in a word for me.

I didn't take a seat. Instead I went to my knees between his feet and moved up between his legs. I rested my forearms on his thick thighs and leaned down. He hunkered his butt up as I buried my face in his jock. I whimpered with joy as I mouthed the soft, ragged material, breathing in his musk. How long, I wondered, had it built up. I lapped my tongue in the apex of his thighs for more of it. I licked his musk away and mouthed his jock again for more. His cock throbbed anxiously, demanding to be released, to be serviced. I tugged the pouch aside so his balls were free and sucked one in my mouth.

"Uuhhnnnnn," he moaned softly, laying his hand gently on the back of my head.

I licked his nut and sucked it into my mouth and wallowed it on my tongue for a moment then popped it out and sucked in the other one. He moaned again. Then I pulled the pouch off of his cock. It swung up tall and proud and demanding, throbbing and quivering. I licked up the shaft and lashed my tongue around the sensitive underside of the head, causing it to quiver violently. Godd, I'd never smelled or tasted anything so wonderful. I pulled it down to take it in my mouth but he stopped me, cupping his hands in my armpits.

"You know I don't like you on your knees like that," he said.

"Please. I want to be here. You deserve this," I said, refusing to be helped up. It was the wrong thing to say. He stood, lifting me to my feet. His hot cock pressed against my stomach.

"I don't like for you to talk like that either. You're not my slave," he said.

"Can't I indulge myself in hero worship?" I asked.

"Not with me. I'm not a hero."

"Yeah, you are," I said. "You may not like it, but you are."

"Dammit, Brad, I wish you wouldn't....."

I put my fingers to his lips to shush him and pressed my hand to his chest. "Please, let me finish what I started."

He sat back down and slouched down in the chair so his butt was on the edge of the chair. I straddled him but I couldn't raise up high enough to sit on his cock. I had to hunker forward and take it at an angle. The time we'd been apart, my ass had tightened up and it was a hard, slow entry. But even the pain felt good, because it was Jason's pain that he was giving to me. When I finally sat on his thighs, it felt like he was up inside me deeper than he'd ever been. We both held still till I got used to his size then I began to squirm around. He put his hands around my waist and urged me up so I had only about half of his cock in me. My legs weren't long enough for me to rise all the way up. He urged me back down.

"Ohh, Fuck, that feels so good!" he moaned. "It's been so fuckin' long."

I laid my head back, my eyes closed, and sucked in deep breaths of air as he began fucking me. I fucked him back, but he was in charge.

"How do you like having the best seat in the house?" he asked.

"Aw, fuck, I can't describe it," I said.

"You wanta keep doing it this way? Let me know if you want to get on the bed," he said.

"Any way you want me," I told him.

He fucked me sitting on the chair for a while but he kept slipping down and the chair was pretty rickety and creaking.

"We'd better move to the bed, this thing's going to collapse under us," he said.

I started to raise up but he brought me down tight against his loins and locked one arm around my waist. He stood up and I locked my legs around his hips and he walked us to the bed.

"Ohhh... Ohhhh.... Ohhhh... Ohhhh," I cried softly with each step.

"That feel good?" he asked.

"Awww, yess, it feels great when you walk," I said.

"Well, then, let's go for a walk," he said, laughing.

He walked around the room, his big cock lobbing back and forth inside me with each step. He walked over to the door and slid the bolt.

"What're you doing?" I asked.

"We're going for a walk," he said as he opened the door.

"Shut the fuckin' door!"

He laughed and walked us out in the hallway.

"Jason!" I hissed. "Ohhh.... Ohhhhhh, Godd!" The hall was very dim but I was horrified that he was heading for the stairs! "Jason, we can't do this."

"Watch us," he said, laughing, then he stopped and bounced up and down on the balls of his feet.

"Ohh! Ohhh! Ohh, Godd! Ohhhhh, my god!" I gasped in quiet screams. He was frying my brain with the pleasure he was giving me and suddenly I didn't care if we went down the stairs. I didn't care if he carried me outside in the street! Sure as hell he started down the stairs and I came to my sense. "Jason! No! Go back upstairs!" I hissed as I pressed my hands against the walls to try to stop him. Half way down the stairs on the first landing we ran the risk of someone coming up the stairs from the lobby and also from someone coming down from the hallway.

"Fuck, man, where's your sense of adventure?" he asked, laughing as he turned around. Then he didn't just retreat up the stairs, he ran!

I choked, the pleasure was so unbearably intense. It brought tears to my eyes. Back inside the room, at the edge of the bed. he bounced up and down on the balls of his feet.

"Awwhhh.... Awwhhh.... Ohhh... .Ohhh, Fuck!" I moaned.

"I think I could make you come this way," he said. "Damn, how come we never thought of this position before?"

After a while he laid me across the bed and began fucking me for his own pleasure. I was glad he didn't shower. Always before he smelled like aftershave, or deodorant or body splash, which was wonderful, but now he smelled of sweat and male musk and the smells of combat. Unlike most other times, he didn't get off right away and keep going. Now he kept holding off. I told him he didn't have to.

"Thanks," he said.

"Thanks for what?" I asked.

"I wanted to make sure you remember what my cock feels like up inside you. I was trying to hold off and make it good for you," he said.

"Godd, Jason, when will you ever realize....."

"I'm gonna come!" he gasped.

When he did let go it was a hard come. He needed it desperately and I was glad that he could intensify his pleasure by using me. I didn't think he would ever stop coming. He filled me up so that his cum was gushing back around his cock and running out. It was so intense that his arms were too weak to hold himself up and he let his muscular weight down on top of me.

"Goddam, I don't think I ever came like that before in my life!" he gasped. "Thanks, man."

I cocked my head aside. "Thanks? Where are these thanks coming from?"

"Thanks, that's all," he said. "It was unbelievable, I just wanted you to know that."

"Okay, but don't ever thank me again," I said.

"Okay, if you're gonna get testy about it," he said.

"I just want you to understand that I get as much out of it as you. Probably more," I said.

"No, you couldn't possibly," he gasped, shaking his head.

"You don't know what a stud you are," I said. "Just like what you do, it's nothing to you."

"Oh, that's not true," he said. "That sure as hell wasn't nothing."

"You know what I mean; you don't realize what effect you have."

"I'm getting heavy," he said as he started to push himself up.

"No," I said as I wrapped my arms around his lower back and held him tight. "You're not too heavy. I like your weight bearing down on me."

We lay in silence for a moment. He was heavy but I didn't want him to move. I wanted to feel his muscular weight bearing down on me, and his cock deep inside me. I wanted to breathe in the smell of him, the smells of combat and man musk now mixed with the smells of our sex. I nuzzled my face into his armpit and licked the hair there, wet with his sweat. The male aroma was intoxicating. His cock hadn't gone down completely and I could feel it swelling again. Jason gave me a few gentle strokes with it then began to slowly pull out.

"You don't need this again so soon," he said as rolled off and lay beside me before I could stop him. "Shit, that was great!"

"Welcome back," I said. I could feel his cum draining out of my ass.

We lay side by side for a moment then he rose up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. "I really need a shower now," he said.

I didn't stop him this time. "So do I," I said.

"Yeah, come on," he said.

I was taken aback that he was inviting me in the shower with him. "You go ahead first, I'm going to take more pictures."

I stood back with the camera and took pictures of him soaping up and rinsing off but Jason grew impatient.

"That's enough pictures for now. Come in here with me."

I joined him and he pulled tightly against his warm, soapy body. "I need to feel you tight against me," he said huskily. But we had to part to wash and I kept a comfortable distance till he began rubbing the soap over my shoulders. I melted against him, his rubbery cock pressing against my backside. We lingered in the shower, washing each other twice, I thought just so we could have our hands on each other.

"The shower's all yours while I shave," he said.

I almost told him not to shave, I liked the feel and the look of his beard. Instead I quickly rinsed off and grabbed my camera to get some pictures of him shaving. Suddenly he turned ham on me and began lathering up his balls. I laughed, thinking he wouldn't actually shave his balls, not even when he picked up the razor. I was wrong. He held his cock to one side and his balls in his other hand and started shaving them.

"I can't believe you're doing this," I said, still taking pictures.

"I can't either but this is for you; should've thought of it sooner," he said. "This ought to be a lot better, you won't get hair in your teeth," he joked. When he was finished he rinsed off the razor then his balls and dried them off. "Wanta come and see how that feels against your face?"

I went to my knees, laid the camera aside and nuzzled my face into his crotch, resting the weight of his smooth balls on my cheek. They felt good.

"How do you like that?" he asked, smiling down at me.

"I like it. It feels wonderful," I said. Then I began licking and sucking his balls into my mouth, one at a time. "I like the texture in my mouth, and they taste wonderful," I said.

He leaned down to pick up the camera. "Keep doing that," he said as he started taking pictures of me licking and sucking his balls.

"Where the hell do you think you're going to get these developed?" I asked.

"I know a place." I didn't know if he did or not. Grinning, he handed the camera off to me and grabbed his shaving cream, squirted some on his finger tips and applied it on his ass. Then he handed me the razor. "Here, let's see how my ass feels and tastes all nice and smooth," he said as he leaned over the sink with his feet planted wide apart and his butt jutted back.

I was so surprised, but I took the razor. "Are you sure you want me to do this?" I said, checking to see if my hand was steady.

"I trust you," he said.

"Okay." I began shaving the inner slopes of his butt. His butt muscles were so rounded and firm I had to keep pulling one side apart to get deeper with the razor. Jason reached back to pull them both wide apart, exposing his pucker. I carefully shaved all the way down into the gully and drew the razor very gently over his clenching hole till it emerged pinkish tan to the light of day for the very first time since he was a young boy. I crouched there and gazed at it. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. I leaned in and licked it all over.

"Ohhhh, that even feels different," he moaned. "How does it feel for you?"

"Wonderful. Feel for yourself."

He reached back and drew his fingers along the crack of his ass. "Smooth as a baby's butt," he said.

I handed him the razor. "Stay bent over like that," I said, as I grabbed the camera.

"You're taking pictures of my asshole?" he said, laughing.

"I would take pictures of the inside of your asshole if I could get the camera in there," I said. I took several pictures of his asshole while he pulled his butt apart to stretch it open for me.

Then he straightened and turned round, pointing his cock at me, and took the camera from me.

"Let's get a couple of shots of this," he said as he jutted his cock at my face.

I took it in my mouth for a few strokes as he photographed our most intimate action.

We dried off and got back in bed. I pulled the thin, cotton blanket up over the cum soaked sheets.

Jason shoved his arm under my head and pulled me to him. "I need to feel you up against me," he said for the second time.

He was on his back; I lay on my side with my leg across his thighs, my knee pressed against his balls and my arm across his chest. He put his hand on my arm and squeezed my bicep.

"Nice fuckin' arm," he said.

I laughed. "Look who's talking."

He was quiet, but it was a different kind of quiet. A deafening silence, that needed to be broken but I thought Jason should be the one to break it. I thought it was he who had the most on his mind and I just wished he would share it with me. I wanted him to stop being a SEAL and just be a man; an ordinary man like the rest of us. Except he was no ordinary man. I don't think any Navy SEAL is.

"I laid like this every night," he said finally in a soft, hoarse tone.

"Holding somebody against you?" I asked, surprised.

"Yes. You," he said.

I didn't say anything. I couldn't without choking up and I wasn't going to do that. I waited for him to go on. He didn't say anything for a long while.

"After they let me start sleeping in a barracks, I actually slept on a cot. Of course, I shared it with a lot of little critters, but it was better than......" He stopped short and took a breath before he continued. "I could lay there and watch the moon coming in the window and pretend, and play mind games with myself." He laughed softly. "If they'd known the moon shining in the window brought even that little speck of comfort, they would've boarded it up. I thought about you, buddy. I thought about you a lot. I didn't have anybody else to think about; no girlfriend back home, and you don't think about your mom or dad in a situation like that. It's like they don't deserve it and you don't want to bring them into it. So I thought about you. I brought you into it because I knew you could take it. It wasn't all thoughts about all the stuff we've done.... the sex... .most of it was.... well, more like after the sex, like we are now."

I couldn't believe he was opening up to me like this and I hung on to his every word.

"Better than what?" I asked.

He gave me a confused look.

"You started to say.... the barracks was better than.... what?"

He heaved a big sigh like he wasn't going to answer and he turned his head slightly away from me.

"You brought me into it, Jason, I was your comfort, so you can't shut me out now," I said.

"The, uh..... Well, you have to understand, they don't like us Navy SEALs very much," he said. "We are their absolute worst nightmare; their definition of hell. So we get special treatment."

"Better than what?" I asked again.

"Let's just say I lived in the water for a while."

"Oh, Christ!" I trembled with emotions.

I think he got emotional too, because he didn't say anything else and we lay quiet.

"They put you in one of those water torture cages," I said softly.

"Hey, but I'm here," he said, finally, squeezing me tight.

"How did you get out?" I asked.

"My cock," he replied.

"Huh?" Now he was joking again? It made me angry that he could joke and make light of it so when I had nearly gone crazy with worry. "Goddammit! Can't you be serious about anything?" I yelled as I shoved away from him and stood beside the bed.

"Whoa!" he said, with a surprised, confused look. "What the hell set you off?"

"You've been out there for months and I've been worried to the puke stage and you come back and make jokes about your cock. Fuck, are you made of steel?"

He fought to keep from laughing and that pissed me off more. I went over to the window and looked out.

"I wasn't joking about my cock, Brad," he said quietly.

"You're going to have to explain that," I said without looking around.

"Lay back down here with me and I will," he said.

I lay beside him again and he pulled me in tight, back in to our original position.

He laughed softly. "Well, I guess the damn thing's good for something," he said. "The guards who'd seen me made jokes about how big my cock was. The chief honcho overheard and had me brought up. They took me to his quarters and made me strip down so he could see for himself. His eyes bugged out and he just sat there and stared."

I was afraid of where the story was going and I didn't want to hear it. I almost asked him to stop, but I didn't dare. He had brought me into it, I couldn't shut him out.

"He had to feel it to make sure it was real," he went on. "Then he told me to make it hard. Well, even after all I'd been through, you know how my cock is when it gets a little attention. I got a hardon and he sat there and gaped some more. They called in the other guards to have a look at me and I caused quite a stir. In the back of my mind I was scared out of my head of what they might be dreaming up to do to me. Suddenly the chief ordered everybody out of the room. Then he told me to jack off."

"Did you?" I asked.

"Yeah, hell, I had to. It felt real good but he got a little impatient because I was taking so long. He wanted to see me shoot. I tried to work it up as fast as I could but he was too impatient. He yelled to a guard to come in and told him to close the door then ordered the guard to his knees and told him to suck my cock so I would shoot. I thought the poor guard was going to pass out from shock. He just stood there with his mouth open and his eyes bugged out but the officer yelled at him and he finally did it. He would've probably been shot if he hadn't done it. He wasn't very damned good, but he speeded things up a little. When I was close I shoved the guard out of the way and the officer leaned up closer. I tried to tell him and motioned for him to move out of the way but he just stood there, and I couldn't move back, or move at all, I was.... well, my ankles were chained to the floor. He obviously didn't believe I would shoot that far. Well, I went off, and it'd been a while, so it was a gusher. He was standing five or six feet away and I shot all over his uniform. His mouth fell when I started coming and he looked down at the whitewash I was giving him like he didn't believe what was happening. He was a fuckin' mess. I was fuckin' scared out of my head. I thought he might get pissed because I'd ruined his uniform and cut my dick off or something. But all of a sudden he broke out in a big smile, then he broke out laughing and called the other guards in to show them how I'd soaked his uniform and tell them what'd happened. To make it short, I got moved into the barracks and they started treating me better. All I had to do was show off my cock and jack off every day or so. The chief liked to invite others in to see me and to watch me jack off and shoot a load. I think he might have been gay but he didn't dare let it be known so he never did anything."

I was okay with the story, as much as he told me, but he hadn't answered my question.

"How did you escape?" I asked again.

"I was being taken out on a work detail and the guard set his rifle down to take a piss, the dumb-ass. I grabbed it and whacked him in the back of the head with the butt and took off. We all took off."

"What about the marks and bruises?" I asked softly.

"They'll go away," he said.

"What about the marks and bruises?" I asked again.

"Like I said, they give Navy SEALs special attention."


"We're not going to go there," he cut me off. "It's over, I'm back."

I didn't argue with him. He'd brought me into it, he could shut me down.

"You shouldn't have told me," I said.

He raised his head and looked at me with a confused frown.

"The next gook I interrogate... well, the colonel better be there," I said, seething with anger.

"Hey, you do your job, just like always. This has got nothing to do with you," he said firmly.

I rose up, suddenly angry again. "It's got everything to do with me!" I snapped.

"I meant.... nothing to do with how you do your job," he said, taken aback.

We were quiet for a moment till we both calmed down.

"Okay, I'm glad you told me," I said.

"Thanks.... for being there for me," he said.

I gave him a bewildered look.

"I said I played mind games with myself.... well, maybe it wasn't all mind games. Those nights I laid in my bunk, and before that, the nights I was laying out there in the jungle, waiting.... even when I was in the water.... when I was thinking about you, when I was holding you close.... man, it was so real. You were lying right there with me, up tight against me, just like now. You were there. Even in the water with me." He choked and his voice seemed to vanish.

I was nearly overwhelmed with emotions.

"I tried to be," I said. "God, with everything in me, I tried to be there."

"Well, maybe it wasn't exactly like you are right now," he said with a chuckle, hugging me tighter. Then he turned over on his side, facing me and wrapped his powerful arms around me and hugged me tight against his thick chest. My own cock was wedged into the crevice of his thighs. I fully expected he wanted me to rise up and straddle his cock and ride it again but instead he spread his thighs so my cock fell between them. He squeezed his thighs tightly against my cock. I was totally surprised at this reciprocation, although some wouldn't have described it so. I clenched my butt which drove my cock between his thighs.

"This is as close as you're ever going to get," he said as he sort of humped up against me.

"I'll take it," I said as I began moving my cock back and forth between his thighs.

He let me dry-fuck him for a while then told me he wanted to turn over.

"Maybe you can get a little closer," he said as he turned over on his stomach and spread his legs out, propped up on his elbows.

I was taken aback, breathless. Godd, was he going to let me.... there was no way! I knelt beside him, totally bewildered. I didn't dare believe what I was thinking.

"Y-you... y-you're not.....," I stammered.

"No, you can't fuck me, but I wouldn't mind if you use my butt to get off," he said.

I got between his legs and let some spit fall into the crack of his butt. I aimed straight then lifted my cock so it lay in the crack and began sliding it back and forth. I was delirious with lust as I imagined I was fucking the big stud. On the forward thrust my cock stood up at a sharp angle out over his hard butt muscles, dripping precum. Drawing back, I was careful that the head of my cock didn't thrust between his buns to find his asshole. I closed my eyes and I really was fucking him. I wondered what he would do if I accidentally shoved my cock in him.

"You can come on my butt," he said.

He hunkered his muscular shoulders and tossed his head back and humped his butt up for me as if I really was fucking him and he was enjoying it. I fought to hold back at first. I wanted it to go on and on but I knew that even though he was acting like he was enjoying it, he was doing it for me, and he would soon tire of the charade. So I let it build up till I was humping his butt so hard the bed shook.

"Ohh... Oh, Godd, Jason... I'm... gonna... come," I hissed.

"Yeah, do it, buddy.... shoot it.... give it to me.... shoot it all over my ass."

I overshot his butt by a long way. With my cock at a sharp upward angle, the first several shots sailed up and landed on his shoulders and the back of his neck and in his hair. One shot clear up over his head and hit the wall. I pulled back so the last of my load spurted onto his butt and the small of his back. I watched the stuff slide down into the crack of his ass and slid my cock in it.

"Damn, Buddy! You fuckin' exploded!" he said. "That stuff's hot on my ass."

I was gasping and weak. I kept my weight up off of him but I didn't have the strength to move off. My arms were numb and trembling.

"Lay down on me," he said.

Godd, I thought, why is he doing this for me? I let my weight down on top of him and my cum-slick cock slipped down into the apex of his thighs. My cum was the lotion between our muscles. I laid my face on his shoulder in a pool of my own cum.

"I'm sorry I made such a mess," I said.

"Feels like body lotion," he said.

"I got it in your hair."

"It'll wash out."

I rose up to rub the cum over his butt, but the camera caught my eye. I picked it up and took a picture of his cum laden butt. He laughed. Then I rubbed the cum into the crevice. He reared his hips up and I used the stuff as body lotion, massaging his hole. Then I lay back down on top of him. I was in my own little heaven. I was so happy I wanted to cry but like a good, tough marine, I didn't. I felt Jason's muscles flex under me but he let me lay on top of him for a long time. He never made any move to get up. I finally had the strength and the will to shove myself up off his body. My cum clung to our skin, stretched between us like liquid cobwebs. I rose up and stood off the bed.

"Do you want the shower?" I asked.

"You go ahead. Do you want company?" he asked.

I put my hand down to pull him up off the bed but he pulled me down on top of him again.

"Just so you know, even though it wasn't the real thing, that was fucking hot," he said, hugging me tightly.

"Think how hot it would be if it was the real thing," I joked, but he didn't pick up on it.

In the shower, I washed his back and shoulders and his ass to make sure all the come was washed off. He seemed to enjoy it so I reached around him and began lathering up his chest and stomach. I washed his manhood then went to my haunches and washed his thighs and his butt.

"Why'd you do that?" I asked while I was on my knees.

He turned around and pulled me to my feet. "Do what?" he asked.

"What we did," I said, nodding toward the room.

"Pay-back," he said.

"Pay-back? For what?"

He looked at me, acting like he was trying not to. He had a funny look in his eyes, almost scary or panic, like a deer in the headlights.

"For what?" I asked again.

"For... for being there... in that. in that goddamned cage in that fuckin' cold water, and all those times when they... and in the cell with me......" He wrapped his powerful arms around me and pulled us together. "....for when I needed you," he finished, choking back a sob. Then suddenly he turned away from me and leaned his head against the side of the shower, his shoulders wracked with sobs.

It was more than I could take; I broke, too. I wrapped my arms around him and pressed my naked body against his naked body and cried with him and tried to comfort him by saying nothing, but just by being there.... when he needed me. He reached back with one arm around my hip to hold me against him. He held me for a long time like that under the spray of the shower and I held him, for as long as he wanted me to. I would never have imagined that such an embrace--the two of us naked under the shower--could be anything but sexual, but it wasn't. It was the embrace of a Navy SEAL who needed someone and was man enough to admit it, and I was happy that he needed me. It was several moments before he stopped crying and tossed his head back to let the shower spray hit him in the face.

"Fuck!" he swore angrily as he washed his face.

I didn't say anything; there was nothing to say till he spoke. I was just happy that he felt okay about baring his soul to me. He stepped out of the shower first and was drying off while I finished showering.

"Sorry I broke and got so sappy," he muttered.

"That wasn't sappy and you didn't break," I said.

"I don't like doing that," he said.

"You started to say something," I said hesitantly. "Something about what they did to you....."

"No need to go there," he said, shaking his head.

I didn't push it. "You need to get over it, Jason.... the opening up.... what you see as a weakness. You're human, just like the rest of us. But you got through it on your own, Jason, with your own courage. I wasn't there. Not really," I said.

"You don't know that. I do. You were there," he said, his voice steady and strong, speaking more matter-of-fact. "All the night-dreams and day-dreams and everything I thought about to keep my mind off......." He brought the towel up to his face, purposely to cut off his words. Then he went on. "I put them all in a list in my mind so I would remember what all I wanted to do when I got back." He handed me a towel. "It's a long list," he said, and walked out of the bathroom.

I didn't understand what he was saying. He was standing at the bed with his foot cocked up on the bed, drying his legs.

"Now I definitely want some pictures of that," I said as I picked up the camera again.

He laughed and began posing, making sure each one showed off his huge cock to its best advantage, even pulling it on it to get it hard.

"Shit, I need a wide-angle lens for this," I joked as he displayed his huge hardon.

"Something to show your grandchildren," he joked back.

For a couple of shots he wrapped his hand around his cock as if he was stroking it. I also got pictures of him from the back, bent over. In one he pulled his butt apart for me again. Then he stretched out on the bed, legs spread out, and began stroking his cock. He motioned for me to join him. I took his picture first. When I did, he put his arm out for me to lie on and pulled me in tight against his body. Neither of us spoke for a long time, and I wasn't going to till he did.

"You said I got through it on my own courage," he said in a soft, husky voice. "I was scared. For the first time, I was really scared. Hell, I was praying."

"Welcome to the human race," I said.

He cocked his head around and looked at me, his lips pursed in a tight smile that wouldn't quite come.

"Sometimes I don't think you are human," I said. "You're so damned tough and macho and steely-eyed.... fuck, even cold in the eyes sometimes."

"I have to be that way," he said.

"Not with me. It's okay to be human around me, like a minute ago. And a lot of us pray, stud. I prayed a lot these last many weeks," I said. "I spent a lot of time on my knees in the church even, begging some saint to bring you back safe."

"And I thought it was my jockstrap," he joked.

It was funny but I didn't laugh.

"I even made a pact with God," I said. "And broke it," I added.

"A pact?"

"A promise; if He brought you back alive and well, I.... I would walk away.... wouldn't touch you again."

He looked at me with a smiling scowl. "Why would you make a promise like that?"

"Because I thought if I got my life back on the straight and narrow, He might listen," I said.

"I didn't' realize your life was on such a crooked, wide path," he said.

"I'm Catholic, Jason. What we're doing goes against everything I was taught."

"I'm sorry I led you astray," he scoffed.

"You didn't lead me anywhere; I found my way all on my own," I said. "I even told a priest."

"About us?" he asked surprised.

"About who I was praying for, and why. He didn't condemn me for it."

"Then maybe God won't either," Jason said. "I mean, He's the boss up there and down here, isn't he? He's got all the answers."

"I wondered about that," I said. "When I told the priest I'd given up on the saint I was praying to, he introduced me to two saints he said would listen and understand. St. Sergius and St. Baachus. They were two fierce warriors on the Roman army who were openly gay."

"No shit, the church actually canonized two gay saints?"

"Well it might've been the Byantine church, I don't know," I said.

"I don't believe you were praying for me to get back just so you could have sex with me."

"You know it's more than that," I said.

"Then I don't think anybody's going to condemn you for caring about somebody." Then he smiled, one of those mischievous grins that made me tingle inside. "But since I made it back, whether it was the saint or my jockstrap that did it, sex was part of it, wasn't it?"

"Sex would be all of it, if that's what you want," I said.

"But it's not all of it," he said, his smile vanishing from his handsome face as he leaned down over me. "I want you," he said huskily, almost a whisper. "I want you so fuckin' bad, more than anything in the world right now." Then he brushed his face against my face as his lips found mine.

"You've got me, stud. Anytime."

"What about your promise?" he asked.

"I can't keep it," I said. "God probably knew that when I made it. He probably ignored it, or maybe He shrugged it off as so much nonsense the minute I made it."

It was a long, passionate kiss. It was Jason who grabbed the camera this time. He held it out at arms' length to take a picture of us kissing. When we parted, I told him, "I liked your beard."

He laughed. "You're nuts, you know that? You liked my beard, you like me all cruddy and smelly, you like my jockstrap that's never been washed....." He let his voice trail off as he rolled over on top of me, nudging his cock into the apex of my thighs again. I started to lift my legs up and he brought them the rest of the way to his shoulders.

We didn't get around to talking about the letter he had written and given to Toby to give to me.

Chapter Ten

Jason's Base Camp

I had a real hardon against the VC when I went back to work. Every one they brought to me I saw as one who had held Jason in that water cage or put their fuckin' cigarettes out on his beautiful muscles or tortured him in other ways. He never told me that's what they did, but I knew. I seethed with anger every time they brought me one. I hated the bastards and I used that hate and anger to get out of them what I wanted.

The war wasn't going well. It hadn't been for a long time despite the escalations, and if the colonel knew I was using unorthodox tactics to extract information, he didn't mention it. There didn't seem to be a plan for the war, and worse of late; no purpose. It was all about body counts, and they were lying about that. A lot of us were beginning to wonder what the hell we were doing in VietnFdimnessam. From the information I was extracting from captured prisoners I couldn't get any sense of a let-up or the slightest dissemination of the VC troop strength or any weakening of their resolve. From what I could glean they seemed to have an unlimited supply of living, breathing men that they could throw into battle. I talked to the colonel about it once and he told me I didn't have the big picture. I wasn't convinced anyone did.

Unlike me, Jason never wondered about his purpose and he had his own plan. I had told Jason that I would like to see how he lived so one day when he was in the city he commandeered a Jeep and we drove off to his base camp. I don't know how far we went but it was like we were traveling deep into the bowels of nowhere. Finally we rolled up to the compound. It was like a small, busy city carved out of the jungle. Way off to one side was a baseball field, with several guys in combat boots and shorts throwing a baseball. I let my eyes linger in that direction for as long as I dared. Jason took me to his hooch where he lived with a squad of nine other guys. It bore some resemblance to our barracks except it was a tent with a board floor and it was much smaller. It was hot and the six guys there had their shirts off or were in their shorts.

"Guys, this is Brad Courter, from Intel," he said by way of introduction, then went around and introduced me to the six other men. I got the impression they weren't overly impressed with meeting anyone from Intelligence. I was impressed with them, though. Watching their tanned, sweat-glistening battle-hardened muscles when we shook hands, I was having fantasies about being their hooch boy. We didn't stay long; just long enough to chat. I did get invited into a card game going on in the corner but I declined.

"Looks too serious to me, and I can't afford to lose any money this far out from payday," I said.

"Glad somebody's got something to live for," one of them mumbled.

Just then a lean, muscular guy stepped inside, his upper body glistening with sweat.

"This is Jude," Jason introduced me.

"Hey," he said with a wave of the glove on his hand. "You play baseball?"

"I didn't make the majors," I joked.

"Fuck, this ain't even the minors," he said as he walked over to a footlocker.

"Hey, what the fuck are you doing in my foot locker?" one of the other guys growled.

"I need your glove," Jude said. He found the glove and tossed it to me. "Get your glove," he told Jason.

But Jason was hesitant. "I'm up for it, but we head back now or you spend the night," he said. "We don't want to be driving that route back after dark."

It was a thought; spending the night. I envisioned being cooped up in the small, hot hooch with six or eight hard-muscled, sweaty guys and being passed around from bunk to bunk. It was only a dream, and it wasn't the reason I stayed. I stayed because I wanted to get in the ball game with these guys. Jason and I took off our shirts as we walked out to the field.

"What position," Jude asked me.

"Anywhere," I said. "I can fuck up one position as good as another."

I took left field. Jason took over as catcher. He had the legs for it. The game was fun, and the guys on the field were a lot friendlier than the six guys in the hooch. It felt good to work up a sweat, and it was nice to watch the other soldiers' muscles all sweaty. It was anybody's guess who won the game, and I didn't think anybody really cared. By the time the game ended it was getting dark. We went down to the river to swim and cool off before chow; yeah, I was spending the night and looking forward to it Not that I really expected anything to happen but a guy can dream..

Several guys were sent out on patrol after chow, four of them from Jason's hooch. I couldn't bow out of the poker game this time, and I lost some money, but I didn't mind losing to these guys. Dangerous as it was, I liked the different atmosphere of being in the jungle with the guys who were in the middle of the fighting.

"Brad, here, is the one who squeezes the Intel out of the gooks you bring in," Jason told the guys.

"Getting any good stuff out of them?" one of them asked.

"It's not what he gets out of them, it's what the pricks at the top do with it," another said.

I got the impression that Intel wasn't looked upon too favorably, and I tried to steer the conversation in another direction. I finally folded and backed out of the game and stepped across the aisle to sit on a footlocker and watch.

"You wanta hit the rack, you can have the bunk down at the end," one of them said.

"Is he on patrol? I don't want some guy to come back off patrol and find me in his bunk," I said.

"He was on patrol last night. He's on his way back home in a body bag," the guy said, calm as hell.

I felt strange sleeping in the dead man's bunk, but I didn't want to sleep on the rough, board floor. I had the feeling that they might have little intruders scurrying across the floor in the night. As the others were getting into the bunks, I held back to see how they slept. All but one of them stripped down naked, including Jason. Again, I had to fight to keep my eyes from wandering or fixing on him or any of the others. Oddly, none of them seemed to even notice Jason's magnificent nakedness. I supposed they were used to it.

A nightlight at the door cast a dim glow through the hooch. I could make out the men in their bunks but only as masculine figures. The guy in the bunk next to me rolled onto his side facing me and I caught a glimpse of his impressively hefty manhood hanging down over his thigh. I was terrified when I raked my eyes upward over his body and came into direct eye contact with him and saw the thin smile on his handsome face. He was coming on to me! For a fleeting few seconds, I considered the possibility. I could slip out of my bunk and crawl over to his and give him a blowjob without anyone seeing us. Or I could get up and go outside and maybe he would follow. But there was Jason to think about. It wouldn't be good for Jason if these guys knew about me. I turned over with my back to him and satisfied myself with the possibilities. But the longer I laid there the more I thought about it. Maybe the guy would consider it a favor, that Jason had brought me along for the purpose of servicing his friends. Nobody knew that Jason and I hung out together when he was in Saigon. I turned back over. The guy was still awake. When I turned over, he turned onto his side, facing me again. Our eyes met and the electricity sparked.

Still, I couldn't bring myself to move. If Jason was awake, I didn't want him to see me. We waited, the two of us, eyeing each other in the dim light. Then I heard snoring. The guy swiped his hand down over his sweaty chest and stomach. "Shit, it's stifling in here, I gotta get some air," he mumbled softly as he got up and headed for the door. I was surprised he didn't bother to put anything on.

I waited an appropriate but short moment and when I saw no movement in Jason's bunk I got up and went out too, also naked. I glanced down as I walked by Jason's bunk and he was asleep. I hoped. Outside I looked around and saw the figure of a man step back in the shadows of some trees overhanging what looked like stacks of ammo boxes, twenty yards away. I walked in that direction, into the shadows and heard him whistle softly. I followed the sound down the narrow pathway till I found him leaning back against a stack of cases. He was stroking his cock. I glanced around.

"It's okay, there's nobody else back here," he whispered.

I approached him pulling on my own cock, unsure what he wanted.

"Do you give head?" he asked.

In reply, I went to my knees. There was no time or reason for inhibitions or dancing around the issue; we both knew what we were there for. He lifted his cock and laid the head on my tongue and I sucked him in.

"OOOhhhhhh, Fuuuuccckkkkk!" he moaned softly.

He thrust forward and I let him shove his rubbery cock all the way down my throat.

"Ohhhh, Fuck!" he swore again. "Nobody ever did that before."

We alternated between me sucking his cock and him fucking my face. He didn't try to hold off. It was sex, pure and simple, for both of us. He needed it and I wanted it. It lasted about ten minutes, then suddenly he clasped his hands around the back of my head and humped my face for all he was worth. I mean, he pounded my throat with his big cock. Finally, he slammed his pubes against my face and held me there and ground his loins against my nose and belched hot cum down my throat. He must've been saving it up for a while; he shot off a hell of a load. I let him leave his cock buried in my throat; I was in no hurry to part. After a moment he slowly withdrew his cock and it fell with a soft, wet smack against his thigh. He let go of my head and put his hand down to pull me to my feet.

"Goddamn! I've never been deep throated like that," he said.

"Does this kind of stuff happen often?" I asked.

"No, not really. Sometimes when the pressure builds up. Not from lack of sex, the pressure from the war," he said. "Fuck, I needed that. Thanks."

"I could tell. Glad to do it. How long have you been saving that up?"

"Shit, four, five days," he said.

"It felt like four or five weeks worth."

"Yeah, there's always a lot. Do you take care of Jason?" he asked.

"No," I lied. "Not that I wouldn't like to, but he's so straight, I think he's got a ramrod stuffed up his ass. I don't know what he would do if anybody tried anything." Suddenly I felt like a slut, sneaking out of Jason's hooch to service one of his buddies.

"Probably the same thing I did; feed you his cock. If you could handle it," he said. "Fucker is huge."

"Have you ever seen him with a hardon?" I asked.

"Yeah, several times. HUGE!" He held his hands out about a foot apart.

"No way. Nobody's hung like that," I said.

"God's truth," he said. "Hey, want me to say something to him; tell him you gave me head?"

"No!" I said quickly. "No, don't do that."

"How do you guys know each other?" he asked.

"We don't really know each other," I said. "I met him in a bar, and we see each other now and then when he's in the city and have a beer together."

"Hey, I don't wanta sound selfish, but could we do that again?" he asked as he pulled on his rubbery cock.

I went down on him again. The poor guy needed it and I wanted it. I jacked off while I sucked him, hoping to get off myself, but he shot another nice load in my mouth before I could get off.

"Listen, I don't usually do shit, but I could finish you off by hand if you want me to. I owe you, for the two best blowjobs I ever had."

"Naw, I'm okay. You don't owe me anything," I said. "I was glad to do it. I'll do it again if you need me to."

"Shit, you're really hungry for cock," he said, laughing. "Listen, maybe I shouldn't be telling you this, but... well, one of those times when the pressure was getting unbearable, the entire hooch was on edge, everybody was drinking, we were playing poker, some guys were smoking grass. Somebody suggested strip poker and pretty quick we were all naked....fuck, we're naked all the time together, but this was different, you know. The conversation got around to sex, and guys started playing grab-ass and long story short, things got out of hand. Guys started jacking off, then trading hand jobs, then one of the guys dared another to go down on him. Like I said, we were drunk, and the guy did it. Nobody got fucked, but shit, guys were sucking cock....it was the wildest damn time I ever saw."

"Did Jason get involved?" I asked.

"He never went down on anybody, but there were a lot of guys swinging on his big horse cock. Fuck, the hooch smelled like cum for days. Must've been a gallon of the stuff shot off that night."

"Did you go down on anybody?" I asked.

He hung his head. "Not proud of it, but yeah, I did."

"Jason?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said. "That's what I was leading up to. If you wanted to try anything with him, I think he would be up for it."

"Thanks for the heads-up," I said.

"Thanks for the head," he said, laughing.

Jason and I headed back into Saigon the next morning.

"Hey, sign me out," he told one of his buddies.

"For how long?"

"Till I get back," Jason said.

There was no mention of me and his buddy leaving the hooch so I assumed Jason had been asleep the whole time. Back in Saigon he dropped me off at the Trent to get a room while he returned the Jeep he'd "borrowed" and we would meet back at Toby's. When I was checked in I went to Toby's.

I held up two fingers as I walked in.

"Are you thirsty, or do you have a friend coming?" he asked.

"Jason's meeting me," I said.

"Great. Hey, Steve got it," he announced casually as he was getting our beers.

"What?" It didn't register at first what he meant or who he was talking about.

"The sailor. Him and three others. Some gook tossed a grenade in the cab they were riding in, right downtown."

"The fuckin' bastards!" I swore.

"What?" Jason had just walked up to the bar. Toby told him what'd happened.

"Probably mamma-san on her way to market," he said sarcastically.

I felt sorry for Steve but my pain went deeper with the awful fear and reminder that it could happen to Jason. Suddenly I wanted to be alone with him. I wanted to be in bed with him and feel his naked body against mine. It was always such a comfort. But I couldn't just drag him out, so we spent the usual respectable amount of time in Toby's, laughing and talking with other GIs as they came and went. I was so relieved when Jason finally said we should leave. We headed straight for the hotel.

"Damn, it's too bad about Steve," I said as we were undressing in the room.

"Nothing we can do about it," Jason said.

This time, like every other time, was like the fuck of my life. Jason always put everything he had into it. But he seemed jittery, and quiet, afterwards. I thought he acted like he wanted to say something.

"Look, we never talked about it specifically," he started. "Guess there was no reason to before.... but my time is up in a few weeks."

I was devastated to be reminded; I grew visibly shaken. I knew his end date, but I'd put it out of my mind and forgotten all about it. "I guess I knew that," I said, calmly as I could.

"It slips up on you. It did me. Good thing somebody's keeping track." He looked at me across the pillow. "Hey, I'm re-enlisting," he said, as if to reassure me.

"For the same unit?.... the same duty?" I asked.

"Yeah. Hell, I'm good at it, and they need me," he said. "I'm going back to the world for a little bit; there're some people I need to see. My parents and my brother, and some old buddies."

"And some old girlfriends," I put in.

"I doubt if any of them are still around," he said.

"You never mentioned you had a brother," I said. He never talked about his parents, either, or home in general, but I had to figure he had parents, but honestly, I didn't know if they were living.

"It's not something that needed to come up," he said. "He's in law school. I'm proud as hell about that."

"He's got to be damned proud of you, too," I said.

He gave me a screwy look with a raised eyebrow. "Are you kidding? Him being in college, under the spell of those nut-ball professors, you can guess that we don't exactly see eye to eye on the war. Or much of anything else," he said. "I can understand why he can't be proud of me, though."

"Why wouldn't he be?"

"It'd be pretty hard for him to brag to his loony college friends about having a brother who's a Navy SEAL. Hell, he's probably back there burning me in effigy, or burning the flag or his draft card. He would disown me if he knew what I do."

"Your family doesn't know what your job is?"

"Nobody in my family knows anything about what I do," he said. "So far as they know, I'm in the Navy." He laughed. "I don't know if I ever even told them I was in the SEALs." He dug out his wallet and took out a picture and handed it to me. It had one side clipped off. "That's him."

"Who was standing beside him that got cut off?" I asked.

"Nobody. He was wearing a black armband on that arm," he said. "I cut it off."

"There are people who are proud of you. I'm one of them," I said.

He shrugged off my compliment. "If it weren't for my parents I wouldn't go back at all. There's nothing back there for me. I realized that when I went home after BUDS training. They said I'd changed."

"No doubt you were a changed man," I said.

"It affected my mom the most. It affected my dad, too; he just didn't understand any of it. My brother......" He paused and chuckled. "I think he was jealous as hell that his little brother put on the uniform and he didn't have the balls to do that. My mom, she just didn't want to lose her little boy. I told her, `Mom, you would have lost him anyway.' She said, "not to the war.' I think they just don't know whether to act proud or not, the way things are back there with all the protestors."

"Do you think they'll send you back to your same unit?" I asked.

"Yeah. But if they don't, the country's not that big. We'll still manage to hook up," he assured me. He smiled. "Speaking of which......."

I knew what he meant. He was ready again. So was I, anytime he wanted me. What we had together was feeling more and more like making love, although I doubted it was that way for Jason. Not intentionally, anyway, but it seemed he was becoming more gently attentive. Maybe it was my imagination or wishful thinking, but that time when he let me hump his butt, I would never forget it, and I liked to think it meant something.

Chapter Eleven

Jason Going Home

We were together every chance we got for the next several weeks. As time got shorter, our lovemaking, or sex, became more urgent and intense. It was as if we had to make every stroke of his cock, every spurt of cum count. I know it was that way for me. Every stroke brought us closer to parting and I had no idea when I would feel his muscular body against mine again, that handsome smile looking down at me.... his huge, hot cock plugging my ass or filling my mouth again, flooding my tonsils with its hot load of man cream.

Jason wouldn't tell me anymore when he was going out; he said he didn't want me to worry. I naturally assumed when he left that he would be heading out on another mission. I was a wreck inside anyway, thinking about him getting out and possibly being reassigned far away from me. Even though he was going to re-enlist, I was afraid he wouldn't be stationed close enough for us to see each other. And I worried. My worse fear was that something would happen to him before he went home. It happened all the time; a guy counting the days and suddenly his days are over. I never knew when I would see him again.

The next time I saw Jason in Toby's he was wearing a short-sleeve knit shirt, open-collar that showed a couple of inches of cleavage, and a sling on his right arm.

"What happened this time?" I asked.

"You remember, you told me somewhere out there they had a best shot too? I think I found him."

"How bad?" I asked, trying not to sound overly concerned.

"Pretty clean. It got me in the shoulder."

"Dammit," I swore under my breath, "you act like you cut yourself shaving."

"Hell, he missed his shot," he said, laughing.

"Looks to me like he made it," I said.

"Naw, fuck, I'm still walking. He missed his shot," he said. "Just as well, though, I can coast for the rest of my time till I go back." He leaned in closer, laughing softly. "Don't worry, I'm good to go."

So we went; to the Trent. Not knowing when he would show, I didn't have a room but I got one....number 238 again....while Jason strolled around. I was closing the street-side windows when he came in and bolted the door behind him.

"You're going to have to be on top and do all the work this time," he told me as he was struggling to get out of his clothes.

"Let's start with this," I said as I brushed his hands aside. It was a pleasure to take his clothes off of him. Touching his muscles sent chills through me. He sat on the edge of the bed so I could pull his pants off and his briefs pulled down with them. His big cock hung out over his balls that rested on the mattress. I pulled his briefs all the way off and handed them to him.

"Here, you might want to stuff these in your mouth," I said, jokingly.

"I don't think so," he said, tossing them aside.

He watched me undress. I was sometimes self-conscious the way he looked at me, but not this time. Tonight he had a hungry look. I heard him swallow when I was naked and turned around to drape my pants over the back of the chair.

"Oh, Fuck! Stay right there for a minute," he said.

I looked over my shoulder to see him gazing at my butt. I clenched the muscles for him, one then the other, while I dug the small tube of lube out of my pants pocket.

"Ohh, Geezusss, man, if you only knew what that does to me."

"I think I do," I said.

'Fuck, you've got an awesome ass!"

I was getting hard just from him ogling my butt. He was hard from ogling it.

"That was fast," I said, looking at his hard cock.

"You don't know how bad I need this," he said, reaching out to squeeze one side of my butt.

I squeezed some lube onto the head of his cock and spread it all the way down the shaft. Then I put some in my asshole and stepped up on the bed. Jason held his cock up for me to sit on. I squatted down till I felt the heat of his cock against my hole then I bounced up and down on it to stretch the muscles. He thought I was teasing him.

"Fuck, stop teasing.... slide down on it and ride me," he begged.

He should have had his briefs in his mouth when I rode down on his cock. He had to put his forearm across his mouth to stifle his outcry of pleasure. There was something sexy about being on top of the big stud with his battle wounds. And the wounds didn't affect his performance in the least. I didn't have to do all the work after all. I fucked him on top the first time but he took charge the second time, after I'd sucked him off. He bent me over the bed and gave me another ride that took the wind out of me.

Knowing it might be our last time together, I was hoping we would have some quiet time, just lie together and talk and touch our bodies together. But it boiled down to sex. I took it and I gave back in kind, and satisfied myself with that. I had to help dress him when we were finished. We left the hotel and stopped on the street where we usually parted company. Neither of said anything for a moment.

"Hey, I'll come to say good-bye before I leave," he said.

"You damn well better," I said.

Still, I was afraid he wasn't going to make it back to Saigon before he left. It was down to mere days unless his departure date had been changed. I was at Toby's every night waiting for him. Two nights... three... four nights passed and I was getting panicky. If he couldn't make it back one more time, surely he would call. Unless...... Godd, I ached just thinking about it.

Finally, the fifth night, Jason came into Toby's in his whites, without the sling.

"You're out of the sling already?" I asked.

"Not supposed to be, but I'm not going to wear a sling with my uniform. It's getting better fast; I'm exercising it," he said, flexing his muscles.

It was the first time I'd seen him in dress uniform and he looked stunning, if that can be said of a man. The way he filled it out in the chest and arms and shoulders was almost criminal. There was no room left in the sleeves. I thought he might have had the blouse tailored the way it tapered down to his slim waist. From there, his thighs fairly bulged against the white material and right where his thighs met, well, he could have been arrested for that display. Geezuss, I was surprised they let him get by with a bulge like that, but then what could they do? I could see that he had on boxers, which was the reason he wore boxers, because you could see through the material of his uniform. Once when he turned, I got a look at his butt and almost got light-headed.

There were medals on the left side of his blouse; over a dozen of them. It was the first I realized that he had medals, although it stood to reason that he would. He never talked about having any. I didn't recognize some of them but I did know the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star, none of which I had. I had about six of the others.

"Shit, you've got your own fruit salad going there," Toby said, nodding to the array of color on his chest.

He laughed and shrugged like it was no big deal. It wasn't, to him. "Yeah, it breaks up the monotony of the white, don't you think?"

Without it being said, we both knew this would possibly be our last night together for a long time. We said our goodbyes in a way that neither of us would forget. I had the small stash of extra cash on me that I'd saved up and when we left Toby's I turned down the street in the opposite direction from the Trent. I had suggested earlier getting a room at a better hotel but Jason said the Trent was okay; that it was where we ought to go. But that was for later.

"You're going in the wrong direction, or are we taking the scenic route?" Jason asked.

"Have you ever been to Rick's?" I asked.

"Not on my pay," he said.

"When was the last time you had a steak?"

"Shit, my memory isn't that long," he said.

"Well, we're going to refresh your memory," I said.

"Did you get a promotion you didn't tell me about?" he asked. "Hell, I don't even know anybody who can afford to eat there."

Rick's was a high-class nightclub with gorgeous strippers and the best steaks in Saigon. The place was owned by a Frenchman who had been in Saigon well before the United States got involved, way back when it was still called French Indo-China. Nobody knew how he got his hands on beef imported from the United States, and nobody cared. They were glad to pay the price.

Jason drew a lot of attention in his dress whites, or more correctly, the way he filled them out. The hostess looked him up and down with a friendly smile. It wasn't lost on me, either. I wondered if she was the madam. I had heard that Rick's also provided very discreet escort services.

"I know you want a table up front," she cooed.

Her attributes weren't lost on Jason either. He followed her rounded, rolling hips like radar. She showed us to our table and signaled a cocktail waitress. I put her off till after dinner. When the waiter came I took the menus and laid them aside. I ordered Porterhouse steaks, baked potatoes and salads.

"And to drink?" he asked.

"Hey, they've got Lowenbrau," Jason said.

"Two Lowenbrau," I told the waiter.

"Have you eaten here before?" Jason asked me.

"Not on my pay," I said.

"How are you affording it now?"

"I had some money saved back. I thought the occasion called for something special," I said.

"The occasion? You mean me going home?"

"Yes, I wanted to give you a proper sendoff."

"Hey, I'm coming back," he said.

"Yes, but we don't know if you'll be stationed near Saigon," I said.

"If I'm not, I'll find you, you can bet on that," he said.

Eating anywhere with Jason would've been a special occasion, but Rick's made it more special. He savored every bite of his steak, as well as the Lowenbrau.

"Do you remember how we met?" I asked.

"How could I forget?" he said, laughing. "You damn near ran over me."

"You were in the middle of the fuckin' street," I reminded him.

"I didn't know where the fuck I was," he said.

"When you bent over the front of my Jeep, I thought you were going to crawl right up over the hood and tear me apart."

"I might've if I'd been able to crawl up over the hood," he said. "Shit, I was holding onto the hood of your Jeep to stand up. I never thanked you for saving my ass that night, driving me back to the guard shack."

"Oh, I've been thanked a hundred times," I said. "Anyway, it was the guard on duty who saved your ass, not me. He let me take you inside the compound."

"Who's bunk did I sleep in that night?" he asked.

"You should be asking who else was in the bunk with you," I joked, laughing. Then I added in a more serious tone, "You don't know how I wished it could've been my bunk."

"Well, I hope we've made that wish come true," he said.

"Do you want to wait for the show?" I asked.

"It's your call," he said.

"No, you tell me. If you want to stick around.... maybe you wanta hook up with one of the strippers and take her back to the hotel."

"That wasn't part of the plan, was it?" he asked.

"Plans can change," I said.

"No," he said. "You made this night about me and you. Let's leave it at that."

"Do you want to stay for the show?" I asked again.

"It might help get me charged up," he said with a grin.

"As if you need help getting charged up."

I knew he wanted to stay and I was glad we did. I was surprised at the beauty and the talent; a good imitation of Las Vegas. It was after midnight when we left and headed for the hotel next door where I had a room. Actually, I had gotten a suite with a small sitting room and a balcony overlooking the street. In the bathroom was a very large bathtub along with a separate shower. There was also an ornate wall cabinet with all kinds of bath oils, bath salts, toilette water, bubble bath and soaps.

"Damn, this is nice. Are you sure you can afford all of this?"

"Stop worrying about it."

"You know what, I'm going to take a fuckin' bath," he said. "A nice long, hot bath. You wanta join me?"

"Can you get out of your uniform?" I asked.

"Yeah, I got into it," he said. "But maybe I could use some help getting out of it though," he added with a sly grin.

While he took off his shoes and socks I started the water running. "Hey, do you want bubbles?" I asked, half joking.

"Hell, yeah, why not?" he said. "Just don't tell anybody."

I poured in some of the bubble bath and the water fairly burst with bubbles. Then I helped him out of his clothes. Jason stepped in the tub and lay back in the water and watched me undress. The tub had the fixtures on the side, and I stepped in and lay back against the other end of the tub. I laid my legs over his and we slid down so our balls were touching.

"Do you think we can manage to do it like this, in the tub?" he asked.

"Are you kidding? Is there anyplace you can't manage?"

We managed. We languished in the warm water for a while and had fun playing ballsies, then I leaned forward and went down on him. When I had him hot and moaning he told me to stand up and turn around. He fucked me in the tub and thought it would be a fun idea to shoot in the water. He pulled out and sent long, thick, powerful bursts of semen into the water. The stuff shot out hard but then stopped and floated. It looked like a bunch of sea horses. We got out and dried off and went to the bed. We stretched out and gazed up at the ceiling fan.

"Seems like there're a hundred things we ought to be saying," he said.

That surprised me, and I wondered what things he thought ought to be said. I knew what I wanted to say to him. I was glad I didn't.

"I guess all the important stuff has already been said. Right?" he went on.

"Yeah. Whatever else I would say, you wouldn't want to hear," I said. "There is one thing, though."


"I'm going to make love to you before you go."

He cocked his head around with a smiling scowl.

"Not that.... hell, I wouldn't even think of trying to fuck you, for real, but everything else, it's open season."

"Well, if a Marine is going do it, I guess there's nothing I can do about it," he said.

I almost laughed. I couldn't lay finger on him if he didn't want me to. Yeah, I was a Marine, but I didn't have the training he had. He could disable me with one finger.

I don't know if it was love making to Jason but it was to me, in its purest form. I literally worshipped him physically, and he let me. I worshipped him emotionally as well. Not one inch of his big, muscular body escaped my lips. I took my time, and he let me. I made it last most of the night. I drove him half-crazy. He begged me to make him come but I held him off repeatedly. I finally did, but only after I extracted a promise that he would let me continue right through his climax, non-stop. I took his powerful load in my mouth and never let go of his cock. The second time I spent most of my time with my tongue in his ass.

"Goddam, this is more agony than getting my cock sucked," he moaned. "You're gonna make me come again doing this, aren't you?"

"In my own time," I said. "And I want you on your back, bent in half when it happens."

"You're gonna do that to me again.... make me shoot all over myself."

"With your mouth open," I added.

He pretended I was forcing him but in reality, he was a willing partner and I felt good about that. It made me wonder if he might have found the courage to reciprocate in some way. I didn't dwell on it though. There wasn't enough time and it wasn't that important to me at this stage in our lives. His pleasure was mine. I drove him nuts all over again. He was moaning and groaning and gasping for air, begging me to stop and give him a break, begging me to make him come again. I had him tilted up, bent in half so his cock was aimed right at his mouth. Hell, it almost reached his mouth. I gave his clenching ass everything I knew how. He tasted awesome and I pulled his hole wide open and buried my tongue to get more of his flavor.

It was more than he could take. He cried out, an animal-like cry, and I felt his asshole clench and sort of flutter and I knew he was coming. I kept tonguing his ass and kept him bent in half till I was sure he was finished. When I let him down he had white-washed his face and shoulders and neck. There were streaks of cum across his mouth and some over his nose and he was having a hard time breathing. He groped around and found his briefs to clean the stuff off but I wouldn't let him. As I lifted his legs and let them down on either side of me I leaned up over him with my face over his. Our eyes met but he looked away. But he looked back, just as I was lowering my face, a look of horror in his eyes. I brushed my lips over his cum-slick lips and flicked my tongue out. I kissed him. He tried not to kiss me back but he finally succumbed. It was easy to force my tongue into his mouth and I was surprised to find his mouth full of cum that he was trying not to swallow.

"Give it to me," I whispered as I lashed my tongue around in his mouthful of cum and sucked it up. He gave it up willingly but as our kiss became passionate I gave it back to him. I kissed him relentlessly, purposely forcing him to swallow his own cum. He fought it but finally gave in and swallowed. He even finished the kiss, with even greater passion.

"Damn, I don't believe you made me do that!" he gasped.

I laughed and said, "Like I could force you to do anything."

He swallowed repeatedly, using his own spit to try to wash down the taste of his semen. For me, it was the ultimate act of love from him, even though I knew the greater part of it was lust. Only pure lust could have powered him to do it. He simply got caught up in the moment and I forced him over the top. But when he fucked me the last time, I sensed that he was really feeling something besides the sex.

We took another bath in the early morning hours but we didn't have sex again. It was enough to lie in the bathtub together. That time when I started to get in the tub he took my arm and pulled me down on top of him and folded his powerful arms around me and just held us close. After a long time in the tub we got out and dried each other off then we lay on the bed till it was time to get dressed and head back.

I ached inside as he covered his muscular body with his clothes. I drank in every ripple of bulging muscle to carry the image with me till we could meet up again. I thought we would say good-bye in the room, but when he was dressed he was ready to go. It bothered me a little that he seemed so anxious to part. We stopped at the usual spot along the street, where we had to part ways, and it was an awkward moment.

"Well, I guess this is it," I said.

"For now," he said. He shifted his weight and I took in the movement of his muscles beneath his uniform. "You know, for all I feel and don't feel......." But he cut himself off.

"What?" I asked. I wanted to hear it. "I want to hear it," I said.

He laughed softly. "It's the only fuckin' thing I've been able to do in return in this relationship, and I didn't do it. I just wish I'd kissed you good-bye back in the room. I would do it now......."

"No. Just hearing you say it is enough," I said. "And that's not the only thing you do. It was nice, just lying in the tub together."

"Well......" He put out his hand.

We shook hands and parted company. I turned around once and he had turned around too. It was the first time he'd ever done that in all the times we had parted. He waved and I waved and mouthed the words, "I Love You" but I didn't think he saw me. If he did, he didn't acknowledge it. I looked around again but he was walking away. I took in the manly image of him once more; his wide shoulders and slim waist, the thick, muscular legs and his tight bubble butt churning inside his uniform pants... and I never looked back again.

I headed back to my barracks and began a raging battle against depression. Godd, I was going to miss him.

I didn't wage the battle solely in the barracks. I took it outside the barracks. Battling depression screwed up my head and made me do stupid things. I went to other bars besides Toby's at first, apart from other places we'd been together, and got drunk and got in fights and picked up prostitutes so often that I wondered if I might be going straight. Definitely, I had to acknowledge the Bi gene that was in me and acting up. But the other gene was still there, ever stronger. Over a short time I made other contacts at Toby's. It was easy. All I had to do was go back to the rest room and hang my cock out and see who else had his cock hanging out. From there all it took was eye contact. I made more contacts than I should've. So many that I was feeling guilty and ashamed. I was turning into an insatiable slut.

One night I went with some other guys... a cab full... to a house located on the other side of the city. I had seen all but two of the guys at Toby's from time to time but I didn't know if they were gay or straight. I didn't know who the place belonged to but it obviously belonged to someone with money; probably somebody dealing in the black market. It was built around a courtyard lush with gardens, perfect for entertaining. The rooms were plush by local standards. Gay or straight, everybody seemed to know we were there for sex and there was no time wasted in everyone getting naked. I sensed that nobody knew for sure, though, who was there to do what. I was leery about leaving my pants with my wallet in it, but what do you do with a wallet when you're stark naked. I wasn't the only one. But we needn't have worried.

"Don't worry, nobody will take anything," one of the guys told us. "I've been here before."

What we didn't know was who was going to provide the sex. I couldn't help noticing, though, how at ease everyone seemed to be, running around naked. Food was laid out by three young, slim and cute Vietnamese boys, along with plenty of drinks. They called them boys but they weren't underage; they just looked like it.

I still didn't know how it was going to go down. After I got some food in my stomach, I grabbed a beer and went out in the courtyard. Another guy followed close behind. He was a year or two older than me, nicely put together although not as heavily muscled as me. He was lean and tight. And hung. Biggest hung guy there. Shit, he had meat hanging almost to his knees.

"Nice place," he said, looking around the gardens.

"I wonder when the girls are going to show up," I said, as a way of possibly feeling him out.

He chuckled and shook his head. "I don't think this is ladies night out," he said.


"You've never been here before," he said. "I'm surprised. You hang out at Toby's a lot."

"Is that a prerequisite for being invited here?" I asked.

"You could say that."

"So, if this isn't ladies night.....?"

"Well, if it's not ladies night out, it must be boys' night out," he said.

"Are we talking about the Vietnamese boys?"

"Oh, yeah, among others," he said.

"And who are the others?" I asked.

"Whoever happens to team up. I thought... actually, I was hoping that's what you came out here for," he said, with a wave around the courtyard.

"I was sort of wondering if that's why you followed me," I said with a smile.

"I would follow that ass anywhere," he said.

"Is everybody here okay? I mean, we're not going to get busted by the MPs are we?" I asked.

He laughed. "I am an MP and the only thing I want to bust is your cherry, but I expect that big stud Navy SEAL you hang out with at Toby's has already done that."

"Maybe so, but you could still do some damage with that rocket launcher you're carrying around," I said, eyeing his big cock.

"Well, now that the formalities are out of the way," he said, laughing, as he stepped up on the concrete bench. "How about we start out with some flute music? Do you play skin flute?"

"I never played one that big, but I'm sure you could teach me," I said. It was a lie-Jason was bigger-but it made the guy feel good.

"First lesson is to start practicing before it gets any bigger," he said.

I had just wrapped my hand around his cock when two more guys came out. I jerked my hand away.

"Don't stop on our account," one of them said.

The guy standing on the bench put his hand on top of my head and guided me back to his cock. I opened my mouth and sucked it in. The other two guys watched for a moment, groping each other, then one of them reached out for my cock. We ended up with me astraddle the bench, bent over with one of the other guys stretched out on the bench under me, sucking my cock while I sucked his buddy's cock and my guy fucked me. He didn't pop my cherry, of course, but he did a damned good imitation.

Later I ended up back in a dark corner of the garden behind some trees, with another young, hunky marine who was hot and desperate for sex. I gave it to him and very unlike Jason, he returned the favor. He said it was the first time he'd ever done anything like that. I believed him. Another guy found us and joined in. By the time the fourth guy crept into the darkness I'd been fucked three more times and given back in kind.

I didn't know how many it took to make an orgy but I knew we had reached full orgy status when all three of the Vietnamese boys were brought in on it. We passed them around and they were so small that we tossed them around like rag dolls. I picked one boy up and stood up on a bench with him and held him upside down so I could eat his ass while he hung down and sucked my cock, while another guy behind me ate my ass out. The boy was the tightest, most exquisite fuck I ever had. And a short time later I was on top in a sixty-nine on one of the benches when one of the hunky Marines approached, walked around to the end of the bench and started fucking me, and at the same time two of the boys came up and stood on either side of the bench in front of me, their steely hard cocks throbbing against each other and I sucked them both at the same time. The reward was sweet as they both exploded in my mouth at about the same time.

With the help of the booze, we literally fucked ourselves into a stupor. I woke up as the new day was dawning, still in the corner of the garden, entangled with two other GIs and one of the Vietnamese boys wrapped around me. I felt the boy's cock throbbing against my butt. When he tried to put it in me I crawled out of the pile of bodies and stumbled off to find my clothes. I wasn't sure I ended up with all of my own clothes, except for my pants, but they fit so I guess mine would fit the other guy. They were mine; and my wallet was still intact.

I didn't wait for the others to leave. I left alone, in a bit of daze; I couldn't quite believe that such a place existed, or that I had taken part in an orgy. When I got back to the barracks and showered, I took off a pair of shorts that had a laundry mark that wasn't mine. I threw them away; I didn't want to have to explain wearing somebody else's shorts. Suddenly there was a horrific explosion.........

Chapter Twelve

Military Escort

I was promoted to Sergeant and there was a celebration at the Dragonfly with some of the guys from the barracks. Most of the guys got laid, including me, but it wasn't Ling. Later I went to Toby's to celebrate by myself more quietly. Toby looked like he wasn't feeling good.

"What'll you have?" he asked rather quietly.

I gave him a blank look. It was the first time he'd ever asked me what I wanted to drink. He always knew.

"The same," I said with a curious look.

He got my beer and instead of sliding it across the bar like he always did he reached over and set it squarely in front of me. I saw a sad look in his eyes and he glanced away from me a couple of times, like he was avoiding me. His mood wasn't conducive to celebrating my promotion. I gave him another curious look and took a drink of beer, looking at him over the top of the bottle.

"You... haven't heard," he said finally in a soft, flat tone.

"Heard what?" I asked.

Toby released the air from his lungs with a pained look on his face.

"Heard what?" I asked again, now with panic in my voice.

He still hesitated, like he just couldn't get the words out.

"Heard what, dammit?" I asked, and in those few seconds that lapsed I grew panicky.

"Jason's plane went down."

The air went out of me like a giant fist had slammed into my midsection and the blood left my head, leaving me light-headed. It seemed like everything around me stopped--literally ceased to exist--and I was sitting there alone in an empty limbo. I slid up onto the bar stool because my legs weren't going to hold me up. I felt sick to my stomach.

"My Godd!" I whispered. "He... he's... he's not....."

Toby just shook his head.

I downed the rest of my beer and Toby put a glass of whiskey in front of me and set the bottle beside it.

"I'm sorry, Brad. I am so fuckin' sorry."

I sat there staring into the empty glass. I needed a drink but I didn't have the strength to lift the bottle to pour it. I gasped in deep breaths of air, trying to quell the sick feeling in my stomach. I was going to lose it. Toby poured some whiskey in the glass and I downed it.

"Where? When?" I asked, setting the glass down with a loud crack.

"It's fuckin' crazy. They were on their way back, they were stopping for refueling and something went wrong. There were only two survivors."

I wanted to ask if Jason was one of them; if he was just hurt, but I knew better. I put my hand to my head and closed my eyes tightly, fighting down the emotions that threatened to burst free. I couldn't lose control. Not right there in Toby's. Jason would expect more than that from me.

"He got to see his family, at least," Toby went on in a consoling tone, but if it was supposed to be any consolation, it wasn't. Not for me.

"Geezuss, all that guy did, and he went down in a goddamned airplane?" I said. Toby had refilled my glass and I gulped down another drink of whiskey.

"Do you need to use my rooms for a little bit?" Toby asked.

I shook my head. "No. No, I... I have to go someplace." I poured myself another drink, downed it and stood down from the barstool.

"Brad... are you going to be okay," Toby said.

I waved him off. I exited the bar and sucked in the night air, pungent with the odors of a city that didn't concern itself about air pollution. It smelled good to me. It smelled like war and I sucked it in like it was an aphrodisiac. I walked hard in the direction of the church. I needed God worse than I'd ever needed Him in my life and it wasn't all for good and holy reasons. I was angry. I had no right to be; I had broken two big promises to God. But I wanted some answers as to why this stupid thing had happened, and I had a few things to say to the saints. And the patron saint of military men... whoever he was... where the hell was he? I wasn't sure what a patron saint did; the thousands of good men being killed in this God-forsaken place didn't give him good standing on my book.

I wasn't any calmer by the time I got to the church but I entered with the reverence and respect that had been instilled in me as a boy. I was angry, but you didn't show anger in the house of God. I took a pew in the front and knelt down near the grotto of the saint I'd first prayed to for Jason's safety. I didn't look up at the statue. Suddenly I didn't have anything to say to him, and if he had anything to say to me, he could have God strike me down to get my attention. I had questions for St. Sergius and St. Baachus but I didn't voice them. I looked up at the crucifix instead.... stared at it for a long time, and felt a calm come over me. There He was, hanging on the cross, dead. Dead, like Jason. For the first time, I think, I felt bad that Christ had died, but God help me, at that moment I felt worse that He had taken Jason. I don't know what it was, but the tension left me and I realized that it wasn't all anger, but grief that consumed me. I felt comfort in the knowledge that Jason was with that man on the cross now, in His arms instead of mine, where he truly belonged, for I believed with everything in me that Jesus Christ and the soldier are the only ones who vow to lay down their lives for their fellow man and in that bond I believed that a soldier goes to Heaven without impediments, no questions asked.

I tried to fight down the emotions and the tears. I didn't know why. I don't know why anybody does that. It's there and it's going to be there till you let it out or it's going to hurt worse if you don't. In my case I didn't let it out, it escaped on its own. I started to recite the litany of prayers I'd learned as a boy... Hail Mary, full of grace.... but my shoulders slumped and I sobbed. I lost it completely. I cried so hard, it hurt.

I heard footsteps coming into the church, then someone moved into a pew close behind me. I didn't realize how close till I felt a big, strong hand on my shoulder.

"Hey, buddy.... excuse me... Geezusss, what's wrong?" he asked. His voice was hard and deep. When I didn't answer he got up and moved into the pew beside me. He was a stranger, intruding on my space, yet I was grateful for his presence. I was more grateful when I felt his arm across my shoulder and saw that he was in uniform.... combat fatigues.... and suddenly he wasn't a stranger, and I didn't care that this soldier was seeing me cry.

"I know how it hurts," he said.

How did he know? He didn't even know why I was hurting. But he did.

"I lost my best friend a month ago. I'm still hurting," he said.

He wasn't a priest so I felt no need to confess anything about my feelings for Jason, to explain the depth of my feelings. It went deeper than that anyway, beyond the sex we'd shared. The soldier was offering me compassion. After a few minutes though, I wanted to be alone.

When I began to regain my composure he asked, "Do you want to go have a beer or something?"

I shook my head. "I want to stay here for a while," I said.

"Okay. I understand. I'll be at the Dragonfly. I'll be there for a while." He went up to one of the grottos, lit a candle and knelt down. There is something ultra-masculine about a broad shouldered, tough soldier on his knees. After a few moments he got up and left. He nodded as he walked past me and I wondered who or what he had prayed for.

I sat in the soft dimness, letting the grief engulf me. I didn't raise hell with the saints as I'd intended. I wasn't angry anymore. Jason would've frowned on it anyway. He would've been embarrassed with my grief. But it was my grief, not his. I sat numb for over a half hour, not even trying to grab onto any of the thoughts running through my head. I was just there, in a space with the heat of the candles warming it. Suddenly there was no real purpose or need and I didn't know why I was there. I suppose I wanted to feel the warm embrace of an understanding being that would comfort me or make the awful truth go away. But I didn't feel it. All I felt was numb, and my own presence, very much alone, in the empty space, made hazy by the dozens of flickering candles. Finally, I crossed myself and stepped out of the pew. I still didn't look at the statue of the saint. I wasn't angry, but I thought he had a lot to answer for. I wondered if it was too late to meet up with the soldier.

I walked the few blocks to the Dragonfly. When I went in he saw me and waved me over and signaled to the waitress to bring me a beer.

"I'm glad you decided to come," he said.

"I just needed a little more time back there," I said.

"Jack Burnside," he said, putting out his hand.

"Brad Courter." I sat down.

"I know it fuckin' hurts, man," he said.

"How did you know?" I asked.

"Because I just went through it. I've still got the pain in the pit of my stomach. It's going to be there for a long time. Guys say it never goes away. How'd it happen?" he asked.

"His plane went down."

"He was a pilot?"

"No, he was coming back from the States. He was a Navy SEAL. He had just re-enlisted then he went home to see his family. He was a sniper, for Chrissakes, he was a POW and he escaped, and he gets it in a damned plane crash."

"God, what a fuckin' waste," he said.

"He would have thought so," I said.

"Me and my best friend enlisted and came over here together," he said.

"How'd you get past it?"

"You don't. You deal with it," he said.

I teared up once and Jack actually reached over and put his hand on mine. I eased my hand back. "People are going to think something funny is going on," I said.

"Guess what. I don't give a fuck," he said. Then he reached over and grabbed both of my hands in a tight grip.

Sure enough, some wise ass walked by and said, "Why don't you faggots take your lover's quarrel outside."

Jack was on his feet in a flash and had the guy by the throat and threw him back across the table. He grabbed his balls with his other hand. "Watch who you're calling a faggot, unless you want to eat your balls for chow," he growled angrily as he gave them a hard squeeze.

The guy yowled with pain as he thrashed and kicked to try to get out of Jack's grip, but Jack cut off his air with his hand around his neck. I jumped up and grabbed Jack's arm.

"Hey, it's okay. He didn't know."

Jack eased his grip around the guy's neck but as he brought him up off the table, he shoved his knee into his groin for good measure.

"His buddy just bought the farm, prick," Jack told him, shoving him away.

"Aww, fuck, I'm sorry," the guy moaned.

"It's okay, man," I said.

"Can I buy you a drink? I am such an ass. Please, let me buy you a drink," he begged.

I said okay and he went over to the bar and came back with two beers. "I'm sorry. I apologize, to both of you. Seriously, I'm sorry."

"It's okay," Jack said, sounding rather impatient as he waved the guy off.

We talked for over two hours and I felt better, and maybe he did too. Maybe Jack needed me as much as I needed him. We promised we would stay in touch; meet up at Toby's sometime. He said he had been to Toby's once but he heard it was a gay bar. I told him I'd heard the same thing but I had never seen anything out of place there and that seemed to satisfy him. At least he never suggested meeting someplace else.

I dug out Jason's letter and went to Colonel Brown and requested leave to escort Jason back home and asked him to arrange it if he could.

"You knew Petty Officer Seaborne?" he asked as he looked over the letter.

"Yes, sir, very well."

"I'll see what I can do," he said.

A couple of hours later, he called me into his office. "Get your shit together, your orders are being cut; you're the escort," he said. "I'm giving you some extra time so you can go see your family while you're there. You'll need to go over to his unit and pick up his personal stuff. Take one of the Jeeps."

"Yes, sir."

"And Courter, go through his stuff carefully, make sure his mother doesn't get something she shouldn't," he said.

"Yes, sir."

I found my way to his unit, showed the lieutenant my orders and he had a young PFC show me to Jason's bunk and foot locker, although I knew where it was. He carried a pair of cutters that he used to cut the lock.

"You need anything, let me know," the PFC said. "You want some coffee?"

"Yeah, thanks."

He came back with a cup of coffee.

"You need anything else, let me know." He came back a few minutes later with a form on a clipboard. "The LT says you need to list everything and sign for it," he said.

"Even the stuff I don't send back to his parents?" I asked.

"No, don't list that stuff. Just get rid of it."

I began making the list, in detail; his shaving kit, shorts, T-shirts, socks, a few letters and pictures, a watch, a choker necklace, the presentation boxes containing his medals. It didn't surprise me a whole lot that there wasn't anything in Jason's locker that his mother shouldn't see, after I confiscated four condoms that I put in my pocket. I doubted if they would be any great surprise to her but she didn't need to have those and I didn't list them on the inventory sheet. I noted on the form who all the letters were from and if there were any pictures in the envelopes. On the very bottom of his footlocker, tucked under a pair of athletic shorts I found his tattered jockstrap. My heart surged with emotion as I picked it up. I almost held it to my face to capture his smell but I caught myself. I also found an envelope with the words, "In case of my death deliver to Cpl. Brad Courter at Intel, Saigon." I smiled. I was a sergeant now.

I felt a chill holding the letter in my hand. We had never discussed the letter or Jason's arrangements. It was a moment or two before I could bring myself to open it. A twenty-dollar bill fell out.


I hate to put this burden on you, but you're the one I want to handle it. If you can't do it, I'll understand, but I'm asking you. I won't get sappy, but I want you to know that you've been the best buddy I ever had; like the brother I never had. I know, I've got a brother, but you're a lot more of a brother than he is. Don't bother trying to make my folks understand any of this. I don't expect them to. You understand, and that's what matters; that and what I stood for are not forgotten. And I know you will make sure that what I stood for is honored. You know what I want; full military honors. And that's not just for me; I want it because it's for the rest of the guys who are still fighting and dying over here. I want my death to mean something, Brad. It has to mean something, otherwise what the hell was it all for? I'm not sure mom or my dad will want the flag. If they don't, you take it. It does not go to my brother! He would probably burn it, and it would only mean more to their cause that it covered my casket. Being with you was great, in every way. You taught me a lot and you gave me a lot. I only wish I could have given back just a fraction of what you gave me but you knew I wasn't built that way.

My GI insurance is made out to you since you're responsible for everything. After everything is paid for, give what's left to my parents. Take the twenty bucks and have a beer on me. Take what you want of my stuff. I would like for you to keep the medals and my discharge papers unless my dad and mom ask for them, which I'm sure they won't. There's another sheet attached to this letter that gives you full authorization to take care of everything, including the final arrangements. Didn't want to include it here because what I've said here is none of anybody else's business. It's been a hell of a ride, Marine, and I'm honored that you were there with me. Take care of yourself. Stay safe, and say hello to Toby for me. I love you, man. I know you told me that once but I never said it back. I do, though, and I'm saying it now.

Your buddy,


Tears were running down my face and I stayed knelt beside his footlocker for a moment to regain my composure. I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was the PFC.

"Can I get you anything, Sergeant?" he asked quietly.

"No, I'm okay. Listen, could I have another one of these inventory sheets? I screwed this one up," I said.

He brought me another sheet and I started over again, this time leaving off the medals and ribbons he said I should keep. He would have a set on his uniform. I also kept a choker necklace, two pictures that he was in, his athletic shorts and his jockstrap. These were all things that meant more to me than they could ever mean to anyone else. Then I inventoried the stuff on the shelf and the stuff hanging on the rack at the head of his bunk. It was mostly uniform shirts and pants, caps, gloves and such. Another guy came into the hooch in full combat gear and walked past me, didn't say a word. I wondered if he didn't know Jason had been killed; maybe he was just getting in from a patrol and hadn't heard. He looked beat. He shed his gear and started taking off his clothes. Suddenly I recognized him. He was the guy I'd sucked off over by the ammo dump. He grabbed a towel and headed out of the hooch. Our eyes met for a second as he walked past me and I was sure he recognized me. He paused and turned around, with the towel slung over one shoulder.

"Sorry about your buddy," he said.

I glanced over my shoulder. "Thanks," I said. He stood there, in a stance that made me wonder if all he was doing was showing off his body, trying to tempt me.

"Did you and him ever hook up?" he asked bluntly.

"No," I said, without looking around.

"Too bad. Too damned bad. He was a fuckin' stud. Hell, there were times when I was tempted," he said. "You taking him back?"


"It's not going to be pleasant back there," he said. "He was a fuckin' hero if I ever saw one. Don't let 'em take that away from him."

"I won't. Guaranteed," I said.

He didn't say anything else and I looked around to see if he was still there. He was looking at me.

"When you get back in country and get settled back in, look me up," he said. "If I'm not around, ask for Gary; leave word."

I let my eyes rake over his naked, muscular body, his chest glistening with sweat.

"Okay, I will," I said. I watched him walk out of the hooch, my eyes lingering at the very masculine frame through the screen door. I had no intentions of looking him up when I said it, but maybe I would.

I double-checked everything then found the PFC and told him I was finished and asked if he could get me a duffle bag to put everything in. I couldn't find Jason's duffle bag.

"It's under his mattress." It was Gary, coming back from his shower. "He always kept it under his mattress."

"Okay, forget the duffle bag. Do you want to go through the stuff and verify my list?" I asked, handing the PFC the clipboard.

"No. If he trusted you, I do," he replied and signed off on the sheet.

I breathed a sigh of relief; I didn't want to have to explain the things that I hadn't put on the list.

"I didn't list these," I said, taking the condoms out of my pocket to show him.

"Right. His mother doesn't need to have those little mementos," he said.

"Did you know him?" I asked.

"No, not really. I just came in country a few weeks ago. He was out a lot of the time. Wish I had, though. I heard a lot about him."

I knelt down and pulled the duffle bag from under the mattress. I felt something in it. I dug around and pulled out his KaBar knife and an NVA bayonet wrapped in a blanket.

"Shit, I didn't list these," I muttered.

Gary stepped over beside me and quickly wrapped them back up in the blanket and shoved them back into the duffle bag. "Fuck it, keep 'em," he said under his breath. The towel he had around his waist came unknotted and fell to the floor. I picked it up. I was looking squarely at his manhood.

"Those things will mean more to somebody back home, and if you list them and turn them in, somebody else will just grab 'em," Gary said. "Hell, he was your buddy, you keep 'em yourself. He would want you to have them."

All the while he was talking, I was listening with my eyes shifting nervously, trying to avoid the display of manliness in front of me. I felt guilty over the thoughts I was having. I suddenly realized how it must look, me down there on one knee, with Gary standing naked right in front of me, and I stood up.

"Can I have my towel?" he said.

"Oh. Sorry." I handed it to him.

He smiled. "I think we recognize each other, don't we?"

"You looked familiar when you came in the hooch," I said.

"Should've looked real familiar just a minute ago," he said with a tight, knowing grin.

"That's what I thought," I said.

"I know it's probably not the time, but if you need to get your mind off of things, maybe I could offer some distraction," he said.

"Boy, I would like to," I said. "But... no, it's not the time."

"I understand. Maybe some other time. Like I said, look me up when you get back in country."

Before I closed the duffle bag I dug out one of the olive green handkerchiefs. Outside I scooped up a handful of dirt and tied it in the handkerchief and stuffed it in my pocket.

Back at my barracks I took out the medals, the KaBar knife and bayonet, and the other things I had left off the list. As an afterthought I also took a pair of his briefs and one of his Navy SEALs T-shirt. If anyone said anything, I would simply say I took them.

That night was a quiet hell for me.

Next day I went to see Toby just before time to leave, wearing full dress blues. I didn't know why, I just needed to be in a familiar place where Jason and I had been, with someone who knew him.

"Damn! Don't you look studly," he remarked. He got me a beer but I turned it down.

"I don't think I should be drinking," I said.

"It'll be waiting on you when you get back," he said. "When are you leaving?

"In a couple of hours."

Much to my surprise, Toby came out from behind the bar and gave me a bear hug. Fuck, he felt good. His body was hard as a rock.

."I'm sorry as hell," he said. "But keep it together."

"I will."

"I wanta know when you get back, first thing," he said.

"This'll be the first place I stop," I promised.

When I got back to the barracks, my Jeep and driver were waiting to take me to the airport. I went inside and got the duffle bag and the driver took it and hefted it into the Jeep, then we were on our way. I wasn't prepared for the scene that greeted me when I boarded the big C-130. It was full of flag-covered caskets. I thought it odd that I was the only non-crew in the cargo hold. The engines came to life and the plane shuddered.

"Grab a seat and strap in," someone said.

I asked him which one was Jason Seaborne.

"I couldn't tell you," he said.

"Can you find out?"

"Hey, we just fly 'em home. It's up to the guys at the other end to sort 'em out," he said.

I saw red. I grabbed him by the front of his shirt. "He was my best buddy! I wanta know who I'm sitting with! Find him!" I yelled in his face.

He reared back, surprised. "Disengage, Marine," he said calmly as he gently removed my hand from his shirt. That's when I noticed his rank. He was young but he had more stripes on his arm than I ever hoped to have, and I had laid hands on him.

"Sorry, Sergeant," I mumbled, stepping back with my hands up. "Sorry." I turned and sat down with my head in my hands.

"Sit tight, Marine. I'll see if I can locate your buddy."

"I'm fuckin' sorry, Sergeant," I said again.

"It's okay. I shouldn't have been so crude. I should have known you're escorting somebody back. But we take so damned many of them back, if you let yourself think about it; that there's a GI in every one of those boxes.... and you think about their families.... well, sometimes it's easier to think of it as just another cargo flight. That's how we get through it."

The sergeant came back with the manifest and went up and down and between the rows of caskets, checking each one till he came to Jason's.

"Right here," he said, laying his hand on the casket.

I moved down and squeezed into a space not meant for passengers.

"I'll get you a blanket. It's going to get cold up there," he said.

He left and came back with a blanket. "You'll need to be strapped in till we're airborne," he said.

"How come I'm the only escort back here?" I asked as I settled into one of the canvas and web seats along the side of the plane.

"The manifest says you requested it."

"Yeah, I did, but nobody else did, with all these?" I asked with a wave toward the caskets.

"Not everybody flies back with the body. Some fly commercial and meet the body at the other end. And a lot of times the assigned escort is already stateside."

"I'm sorry I lit into you like that," I said again.

"I'll get over it," he said with a chuckle. "Take care of your buddy. I'll be back to check on you."

Chapter Thirteen

Bringing Jason Home

We lifted off out of Saigon just after sunset on a big C-130 and began island hopping back to the States. I sat with Jason's casket the whole way, or laid beside it, wrapped up in a blanket, staring at the flag-covered coffin. I took off my uniform so it wouldn't get wrinkled and lay in my shorts and T-shirt, hovering under Fnever knewa blanket. I tried to picture him inside the casket. I couldn't. He couldn't be dead, I tried to tell myself. Not that stud of a man. He was invincible. Indestructible. One of the crew came back with a cup of hot coffee.

"Sarge said you probably need this. You doing all right?" he asked.

"Next time I'm requesting first class," I said.

In the cold black of the night I lay beside the casket and shivered and cried. Sometimes I slept.

We landed in San Diego for re-fueling. I quickly donned my uniform, making sure the OD green handkerchief was in the pocket. I hadn't given a thought to what it would feel like being back in the States again. The plane taxied to the edge of the field, to a hangar apparently reserved for receiving the bodies of dead GIs. A Marine honor guard was standing by, as well as a crew to unload. I was stunned when I got out of the plane to see a gathering of protestors just a few hundred yards away, on the other side of the fence. They were waving peace flags and yelling angry epitaphs. I stood and watched them for a moment, welling up with anger.

"Don't let 'em get to you. That's what they want," said one of the honor guards.

"Geezuss, how do you put up with that?" I asked.

"Those scum bags meet every plane," he said.

"Hey, it's what you're fighting for, their right to protest," said another Marine. "I just wish they would take a fuckin' bath once in a while."

"Just give me a rifle or a hand grenade, they won't need a bath," I muttered. It frightened me that I meant it. I actually think I could've gunned them down. They were yelling things about my best buddy. The anger was about to burst out of me. I started off in their direction.

"Hey! Do Not Approach!" someone yelled.

I turned around to see the master sergeant from the plane.

"I'm fighting for their right to protest but I got no say in the matter?"

"That's the way it is," he said.

"Of course, if you happen to meet up with one of them in a dark alley, that's another story," drawled one of the Marines.

Walking away was the hardest thing I had to do. In the terminal I found the head where I washed up. I had a light growth of beard but it would wait till we landed in Dayton. I grabbed a bite to eat at the cafeteria and hung around the lounge till time to fly out. I watched the caskets being separated and loaded onto different planes for their final destinations. There were several more escorts now and we were taken from the military terminal to catch our civilian flights.

There were more protestors in the terminal, not protected behind a fence. I took it as long as I could then approached someone and asked if they couldn't put a stop to their chanting. He said he was an employee of an airline, not the terminal, but he suggested I get hold of airport security. Just then I saw two of the pricks go into the men's restroom. To hell with security. I followed them in.

"You guys are in the wrong restroom. This is the men's restroom," I said as I stepped up beside them at the urinals. I couldn't help noticing the guy next to me glance down at me. "No, I guess you are in the right place," I said sarcastically, shaking my cock at him. He quickly looked away. I didn't have to piss. I just stood there for a moment then stuffed my cock back in my pants and zipped up. I stepped back to wait till they were finished. One of them stepped back and rushed out without even washing his hands. I think he sensed something. Smart guy. I looked around as his buddy was stepping back from the urinal, and seeing no one, I grabbed him by the front of his shirt.

"Listen, you filthy scumbag, they're wrong. I did not fight to give you the right to yell shit about my best buddy laying under one of those flags, and he didn't give his life for the likes of you bastards. I'm telling you, haul your sorry asses out of here till I board the plane with my buddy to take him home."

"We have the right to peaceable assembly," he said in a mincing tone.

I grabbed him around the neck, tight, as I pushed him against the wall. I was so angry I couldn't even speak. I held him in my grip till he was turning a funny color, and for a split second, I thought I might squeeze the life out of him. I let go, but slammed my knee into his groin, hard. I'd choked him too tight and he couldn't cry out but he doubled over and slumped to the floor. "Have a peaceable assembly," I said. I left him there; turned to walk out just as someone was walking in. I didn't know if the guy saw what happened or not. I think he did, and didn't care. He looked at the guy lying there, and walked past him to the urinals. I was shaken as I left the restroom; shaken that I could've killed the guy with my bare hands.

The plane took off for Wright-Patterson in Dayton, Ohio, with six caskets aboard. There was some hassle over me staying with his body on that flight but I won out. I stayed with his body every leg of the journey, except in the hearse.

In Dayton, along with the waiting hearses, there was also a military sedan furnished for me to drive. So I followed the hearse on the drive to his hometown, a small town called Dunnsport, between Dayton and Columbus. I showed the funeral director the letter putting me in charge but told him I wanted the family to be there to oversee the arrangements. I was there only to see that he had full military honors. He said he would call Jason's parents to make an appointment.

From the funeral home I found my way to Jason's parents' house. I was welcomed and treated with restrained respect. I thought they might be angry over their son's death and would have liked to take it out on me, maybe even blame me for it. I wouldn't have blamed them if they did, if it helped them with their grief. They had every right to blame someone and I would take it for them. The four of us, Jason's mom and dad and his brother, Allen, went to make the arrangements. I didn't like Allen from the start.

Allen was an ass from the get go. I offered him to ride with me to the funeral home, thought we might get to know each other. He looked at the military sedan with contempt, said a surly no thanks, and got in the car with his parents. He was no better at the funeral home. As we were standing aside while the funeral director talked to his parents, he asked "Does that make you feel proud?" indicating my uniform.

"Damned proud," I said, unflinching. "He was a good man and a fine soldier."

"Well, I guess this isn't the place," he said and let it go.

His parents accepted the fact that Jason had asked me to make his arrangements and they seemed okay with it, especially when they saw that I was depending on them to make the decisions. I wanted them there. His brother was another story. The casket was picked out and we were back in the office where the funeral director explained that he would arrange for an honor guard and order the flag, and a military marker to be placed later. That's when Allen interrupted.

"Look we don't really want all the military honors, the uniforms, the guns," he said. "We would like to simply put my brother to rest in peace."

I looked at his parents, wondering if he had talked it over with them, but I couldn't tell whether or not they agreed with their son. I was hoping they didn't and would speak up. When they didn't say anything, I did.

"He wanted military honors," I said.

"That decision isn't up to you," Allen said curtly.

"I'm sorry, but I have a letter that the deceased wrote to Sgt. Courter stating his wishes and requesting him to be in charge of the arrangements," the director said, "even so far as to making him beneficiary of his life insurance."

"Well, now, that's interesting," Allen said.

"For your peace of mind, I've signed the insurance policy over to the funeral home," I said in as kindly a voice as I could muster. "They will return the unused portion to your Mom and Dad." I would have been dubious about doing that but the couple obviously knew and trusted the man. I didn't mention the twenty bucks I'd kept out of Jason's personal stuff. I wasn't stealing it. He told me to have a beer on him, and that's what I would do.

Allen glared at me. I looked at his parents again but got no clue what they were thinking. Finally, his mother spoke up.

"You know better than anyone what he would have wanted," she said to me.

"He made his wishes known," I said simply.

"There is the decision whether to have an open or closed casket," the funeral director said.

"Open," Mrs. Seaborne said, without hesitation.

"Open at the wake, but closed for the funeral," her husband put in. She patted his hand in agreement.

When the arrangements were made I started to excuse myself and leave the family alone.

"Where are you going?" Mr. Seaborne asked.

"I was going to get a room at the motel," I said.

"You'll do no such thing," Mrs. Seaborne said with indignation. "You can take Jason's room."

I was taken aback. "I... don't think I should do that."

"You brought him all the way home. We would be honored to have you stay in our home and I think he would want you to stay in his room," she said.

It would have been impolite to argue so I went back to the house. Allen dropped his parents off and left. Mr. Seaborne was waiting on me and met my car in the driveway when I drove up.

"I'll get your bag," he said when I opened rear door.

"No, that's all right, I'll get it." But I stopped in mid-motion when I saw the firm determined look on the man's face.

"The Marines didn't teach you to respect your elders? I said I'll get your bag."

"Yes, sir," I said and backed off. It was the first I really noticed the resemblance to Jason. The man could easily handle my bag. I went around back and opened the trunk.

He paused to look at the duffle bag when I lifted it out. I wasn't sure he saw Jason's name, rank and serial number or if he even realized it was his. I almost asked him if he wanted to carry it but he had my travel bag so I hefted the duffle bag onto my shoulder.

Mrs. Seaborne met us at the door and I followed her up the stairs with her husband behind me, carrying my bag. He set the bag down at the door and she showed me into Jason's room. The first thing to catch my eye when I walked in was the weights and the workout bench that took up about a fourth of the space. I set the duffle bag down.

"This is Jason's personal belongings," I said, shrugging the duffle bag off my shoulder.

"Just put it over there beside his dresser, we'll get to it later," Mr. Seaborne said.

"Make yourself at home," she said. "The room is just like Jason left it....he was just here, you know.....," she said. "We thought he would....." She stopped again, choking off her words. But then she quickly recovered. "We thought he would want to use it for a little while when he got back, before he went on with his life. But he told us he re-enlisted."

She seemed nervous about being in the room and I understood why she probably couldn't change anything in it. I thanked her quietly but profusely, which seemed to give her permission to leave. It wasn't what I'd planned but I was grateful for her hospitality. When I was alone, I stood in the middle of the room and looked around. It was eerie; both comforting and disturbing at the same time. The room seemed to wrap itself around me, as Jason himself had done so many times. It was easy to imagine him there; I could almost feel his presence. I tried to imagine the day he walked out of this room to become a Navy SEAL, expecting to return and find everything just as he'd left it; and when he did return, he would find that nothing was as he'd left it.

I walked around the room taking in every detail. The bed that he'd slept in such a short time ago was still wrinkled where he'd sat on it, I suppose, to put his boots on. There was still a towel draped over the barbell from where I was sure he'd worked out when he was home. There were several pictures of bodybuilders stuck to the wall. A football sat cocked against the pillow. A bulletin board displayed some concert ticket stubs, a dried boutonniere, some old newspaper clippings from the sports page, several pictures of him and his teammates as well as pictures of him and various girls. There was a concert poster on the opened closet door. I thought it poignant that even his closet door was open, no doubt the way he'd left it. His clothes still hung in the closet, including his athletic jacket. I checked it out. It hung heavy with medals and awards, and I wondered if he felt the same about his athletic honors as he did about his military medals....no big deal. Probably so.

Oddly, there was a GI Joe doll standing on his dresser, barefoot, with no shirt. I couldn't help noticing the striking resemblance. I would learn later in conversation with his parents that he had patterned himself after GI Joe.

Mrs. Seaborne called me down to supper.

"You take Jason's chair," she said, pointing to a chair at the opposite end of the table from her husband.

I felt uneasy about it but I didn't argue. Whether it was meant as a gesture of hospitality or honor to her son, these people were not to be argued with.

"I expect you call it dinner, but in Dunnsport, we call it supper," Mr. Seaborne said.

"I call it chow, all three meals a day," I said.

The three of us made casual and pleasant conversation during supper. I wondered but didn't ask where Allen was. I thought he should have been there to comfort his parents. He was, after all, the surviving son.

"You've probably gathered that Jason and Allen didn't see eye to eye on things," Mr. Seaborne said.

"Allen and Jason never saw eye to eye on anything," Mrs. Seaborne said, laughing softly. "Sometimes I wondered how they both ended up in the same house. You would think one of them was an orphan," she joked.

"Jason was very proud of his brother, being in law school," I said. I wanted them to know that.

"We were very proud of Jason," she said.

"He would be glad to know that," I said. I did my best to steer the conversation away from matters of war and military and began asking about Jason when he was a little boy and a teenager in high school. They told me stories that made us laugh, and some that made Mrs. Seaborne tear up. It was a much more relaxed conversation. I offered to help with the dishes after supper.

"Oh, my, no," Mrs. Seaborne said, throwing up her hands. "The kitchen is my domain, I would never allow the men-folk in there."

"So you're saying Jason never had to do dishes?" I asked light-heartedly.

"He did plenty of other things. He was a hard worker at anything he did, but no, I never let him in the kitchen, except when he pestered me," she said.

So Mr. Seaborne and I got out of her way and retired to the living room. A picture frame on the bookshelf held two pictures of Jason; one of him in his dress whites, the other in combat uniform. Another frame had pictures of him in high school; one in a tux and another in his gym shorts and sneakers. And wearing the tattered jockstrap, I was sure. Surprisingly, Mr. Seaborne didn't turn on the television as I expected he would, if only as a focal point to ease the tension. Instead, he sat down, cocked one leg over the other and started talking.

"Tell me about my son," he said. "We never really knew him after he joined the Navy."

"I can sum it up in a few words. He was the best fighting man and the bravest man I ever met," I said.

He nodded. "That doesn't surprise me. He was never one to let a wrong go unnoticed and he never waited for somebody else to do something about it. If he saw it, or heard about it, he took care of it. Got himself into a few scrapes that way," he said with a smile.

"He was never one to shy away from a scrap, I know that first hand," I said.

"Got into a few fights, did he?" he said with a chuckle. He nodded thoughtfully, as if he were remembering something. "There was a young punk kid who rode his bike through the neighborhood....didn't live around here....and he would make vulgar remarks about the girl who lived next door. She wasn't such a pretty thing, but she didn't deserve that. Jason beat the tar out of him. He must've been no more than ten or eleven. We never saw hide nor hair of the kid after that."

"That doesn't surprise me," I said, and I related the story of how Jason and I had taken down the four GIs in an alley in Saigon.

I tried to walk a fine line, talking about Jason, without getting into details about what he did. I wanted to offer his medals but Jason had been specific that they should ask for them.

"Tell me about my son," the man said again, this time with a firmness in his voice that wasn't to be ignored, a tone that demanded answers to questions unasked.

I dropped my head like a little boy being chewed out. "He was a Navy SEAL, I'm sure you knew that," I said, looking back up at him.

"What do Navy SEALs do exactly?" he asked.

"I'm a Marine so I don't know exactly, only that they're the most highly trained and the toughest fighting force in the world."

"I thought the Marines held that distinction," he said.

"We do, publicly," I said. "The SEALs shy away from any kind of publicity."

"Well, I guess that explains why we were never able to get much of anything out of him."

"Understand, he wasn't allowed to divulge much of what he did," I said. "And the rest.... well, they just don't talk about it. There's a code of silence."

He sat quietly, looking at me, his eyes unwavering, as if he were waiting for me to continue. I was about to tell him that his son was a sniper but just then Mrs. Seaborne came in from the kitchen to join us. I was glad for her presence. She turned the conversation to Jason's boyhood again and that was much easier for all of us to talk about, although I got the impression that her husband wanted to know more about his military life. It got late and the conversation waned and I excused myself to go up to bed. No, I asked if I could be excused. That was what you did with people like Mr. and Mrs. Seaborne.

"Let me know if there's anything you need," Mrs. Seaborne said.

I undressed and hung up my uniform, trying to imagine Jason there with me; two high school boys, and I was staying over. After I showered, something compelled me to dig his jockstrap out of my bag. I stood naked in front of his workout mirror and pulled it on. For that brief moment, I was Jason, stuffing my manhood inside his worn jockstrap. I was Jason stretching out on the workout bench to do some bench presses. I wasn't going to work out but I wanted to press the same weight he did. I quickly came back to the reality that I wasn't Jason when I could barely push the barbell up off the rack. I didn't bother the plates on the bar though. I left them the way he'd left them. I was awash with emotion as I got in his bed, still wearing the badly tattered jockstrap. It looked like somebody had been chewing on it. I crawled between the sheets he'd slept on only a short time ago and tucked his football in my arm and cried.

The next morning, Mr. Seaborne came in to wake me. I noticed that he was careful to stand back from the bed; he never touched me.

"The Missus is starting breakfast."

"Thank you," I said, stretching languidly. Surprisingly, I'd gotten a good night's sleep. I was a little embarrassed when the football tumbled out of the bed.

"Jason used to sleep with his hand wrapped around that football," the man said.

"Yes, it was here, on the bed, I didn't think I should move it," I said.

He looked all around the room. "I suppose she'll turn the room into a shrine for a while," he said, rather absently.

"I can understand that," I said.

"Well, come on, son. We didn't have a chance to finish our conversation last night, so if you don't mind, I'm going to pester you while you shave and get dressed."

"I don't mind, no, sir," I said. I kicked the sheet off and swung my legs over the edge of the bed. Again, I was embarrassed to be wearing Jason's old, ragged jockstrap. I saw that he noticed but he didn't say anything. I wondered if he knew it was Jason's. He probably did. It was probably the only jock Jason had worn all through high school, from the looks of it; maybe even in grade school. I was long accustomed to being naked around other men, but it was different, the man being Jason's father. But he was waiting. I dug out a pair of shorts and slipped them on over the jockstrap to go shave.

Mr. Seaborne stood in the doorway of the bathroom and watched me shave.

"Used to stand here and watch Jason after he started shaving," he said. "It was the only time we had to talk. Stood here and talked to him when he was home the last time, while he was shaving."

I wondered if he was trying to picture me as his son. "I don't mind, sir," I said again.

He delved into the war; what it was like being in Vietnam, and the people. He asked me what I thought about the protestors.

"I don't like 'em much," I said.

"As far as I'm concerned, they need to all be rounded up and sent over there," he said flatly.

It sounded like he was including his other son in that statement, and that surprised me. He glanced down for a moment then looked up at me; a penetrating look that made me turn my head toward him. The look in his eyes sent a chill down my spine.

"I don't know how or what to ask, but I know there's a lot you're not telling me," he said, his look unwavering.

"I don't know what you mean, sir," I said.

"You don't have to call me sir."

"If you don't mind, sir, I do," I said, glancing at him in the mirror, unblinking.

"All right," he said, nodding.

He waited.

"I wasn't in his outfit. I don't know everything he did on a day to day basis," I offered. It wasn't a total lie.

"You know more than you're telling me," he said. "Was he ever hurt?"

"He was shot in the shoulder by a VC sniper," I said. "He laughed about that; said the guy was a lousy shot."

I glanced in the mirror and the man met my glance, still waiting. He knew there was more that I was keeping from him. I felt guilty telling things that Jason would not have wanted me to tell. But he wasn't the one standing there facing his father. And I thought the man had a right to know.

"He was a POW for a while; but he escaped," I went on. "He got mangled up pretty bad one time in a vehicle accident."

"I noticed some scars when he was home. Were they from the accident or was he tortured?" he asked bluntly.

"I honestly don't know," I lied.

"You don't lie much better than he did," the man said.

I glanced at him again in the mirror and our eyes met.

"You don't have to tell me, but by God, don't lie to me," he said.

"I'm sorry, sir," I said, lowering my eyes and holding the razor down to rinse it off. "Yeah, he, uh... some of the scars were probably from his time as a POW."

"Did they put him in one of those cages down in the water, do you know?"

I began to tear up. I laid the razor down and gripped the edges of the sink. "Sir, it's hard for me to talk about this, he was my best buddy," I glanced back up and looked in the mirror for some understanding. But he was relentless. I could see where Jason got his steely eyes.

"It's hard for me to ask the questions and hear the answers; he was my son," he said sternly.

I hung my head then looked back at him. "Yes, sir, he spent some time in one of those cages and I honestly don't know what else they did to him. He only talked about it one time when we were...." I caught myself, about to tell him we were lying together after his son had fucked my eyeballs out. "We were having a beer right after he escaped," I finished. "He told me just so much, then he clammed up. I never asked him about it again and he never talked about it." I would've liked to tell him how he managed to survive, with his big cock.

"Were some of the marks I saw cigarette burns?" he asked in an even tone.

"Yes, sir."

"Those bastards will rot in hell," he said.

"Yes, sir."

Again, he waited. There was only one more thing but I was reluctant to tell him. Maybe it was against regulations. But the colonel had told Jason the mission--taking out the commanding general of the North Vietnamese Army--didn't happen.

"He was a sniper," I said, finally.

"Was he good at it?"

"Yes, sir, the best. He was an expert rifleman." I wanted so bad to tell him that his son had assassinated the president of Vietnam, but of course I didn't. I wanted to say, "And the man fucked my brains out every chance he got," but of course, I couldn't say that either.

"We won't talk about these things to his mother," he said, with a tone of finality that told me the conversation was over.

"Yes, sir."

I was surprised when Mr. Seaborne went to work. She said it was his way of coping. I sat and drank coffee with Mrs. Seaborne at her breakfast table for a while and listened to her tell stories about Jason as a boy growing up. She didn't ask any questions about his military service or the war. I still wondered where Allen was. As a way of excusing myself, I told her I needed to gas up the car. I needed gas but I wanted to be alone in Jason's surroundings. I drove downtown, parked and walked around, trying to absorb what Jason might have felt when he was a teenager. I went in and out of a couple of stores; a clothing store and a sporting goods store and it was easy to see him there. Dressed in civvies, it was easier to blend in. I found his school and walked out on the football field. I felt his presence everywhere I went.

"Can I help you, mister?"

I turned to see a burly youth walking toward me. He was younger than me by a couple of years.

"I was just looking around," I said.

"You're the escort for Jason Seaborne," he said.

"Yes. I just wanted to see where he played."

"Would you like to see the locker room?"

"Yes, I would."

We walked across the field to the school, the boy chattering about Jason's athletic prowess.

"He was ahead of me in school," he said. "Everybody looked up to him. Especially the freshmen and sophomores. He was a great athlete." He chuckled softly. "The guy was a stud, actually. Everybody wanted to be like him."

He led the way into the locker room and showed me Jason's locker. It still had his name on the door that stood ajar.

"Another guy, Patterson, was using the locker but he never took Seaborne's name off the door; he put his name below Seaborne's name and he left his helmet and jersey right where Jason left it," he said as he opened the door. "When we heard he was killed, Patterson moved his stuff out and ripped his own name off the door. It's Seaborne's locker now and that's the way it'll stay. He was a Navy SEAL, but he was a jock first."

With little imagination, I could picture Jason there in the locker room, naked, dripping wet from his shower, laughing and joking and cavorting around with his teammates, and I was envious of them. I was overwhelmed by the boy's near hero-worship. Jason would have been impressed, too, if a little embarrassed. The way the boy went on talking about him, it was obvious that Jason had attained legendary stud status in his old school. I thanked the youth for his time and the tour.

"I'll see you at the wake," he said.

I ate lunch at a small café. Again, even out of uniform, I was recognized as Jason's escort. When I'd finished eating I asked for my ticket.

"There is no ticket," the man who I took to be the owner said.

"Why not?"

"I wouldn't charge Jason for a meal here, I won't charge one of his buddies. Especially the one who brought him back." His voice was stern. Like Jason's father, the man was not to be argued with. I thanked him and left.

I walked and drove around for a while then went back to the house to change into my dress uniform for the wake. The honor guard arrived at the funeral home; a seven-man contingent from a Marine detachment from Columbus. I supposed that was okay with Jason, that they were Marines instead of Navy. I introduced myself as the escort. One of the Marines took his place at the foot of the casket, at stiff attention. I went up to him.

"Listen, you can stand at parade rest, but come to attention when his parents come in, or any military," I said. Then I took my place at the head of the casket. The rest stationed themselves around the room, standing at parade rest.

I had a hard time not looking at Jason lying in the casket. He looked so damned handsome in his uniform, his chest covered with ribbons, and I was so damned proud of him. The funeral director brought Mr. and Mrs. Seaborne into the room and we all snapped to attention and remained so till they had seated themselves in the comfortable chairs near the casket. People began to arrive and it surprised me and pissed me off how many people seemed to ignore us in uniform, or looked at us with contempt, and it saddened me that the anti-war mentality had permeated even this small community. I spoke to or acknowledged people only if they spoke to me first. I wondered where his brother was. Maybe he wouldn't show.

I was appalled and really pissed when he showed up in jeans wearing a black armband. He was with four other guys, all wearing armbands, with two girls who had black ribbons in their hair. I began to seethe inside. I couldn't stop them all but there was no way I was going to let Allen walk up to Jason's casket wearing his black armband. I motioned for one of the Marines to take my place at the casket and I went to meet the "protestors" before they could move into the viewing room. I motioned his brother into the small anteroom next to the office.

"Give me the armband," I said.

"We're all wearing them," he said in a surly tone.

"Those other cowards can do whatever they want. You're his brother."

"Who the hell do you think you are to order me around? I have the right to express my feelings in any way I wish."

"Yeah, he fought for that right, but you're not going to do it here," I snapped in calm anger. "You know, Jason told me he was proud of you and he understood why you couldn't be proud of him. Well, I don't understand and I'm not even going to try. This isn't about you or your asshole cowardly friends. This is a military service to honor the bravest man I ever knew. Now give me the arm band, or I'll take it off of you."

"You wouldn't dare," he said, laughing nervously.

"Watch me," I said in a low, even tone. "Trust me, you will lose, and it will not be pleasant," I added. "Now give me the armband; if I have to take it off of you I'll shove it down your throat."

He hesitated then took off the armband.

"Wise choice," I said as I stuffed it in my pocket. "You can have it back after the wake," I said.

"Fuck you. There're plenty more where that one came from."

"Don't show up wearing one at the funeral tomorrow," I warned. "And tell your friends. Nobody wears the armbands tomorrow."

"I don't know why my brother put you in charge of the arrangements in the first place," he growled.

"I think I'm looking at why," I said. "He didn't trust you. And obviously with good reason."

I took my place at the head of the casket again. Allen came through the line with his friends just like other mourners, not as his brother. I considered it an insult. He should've been standing with his parents. He paused at the casket with a look of sad contempt. I wanted to smash his face in. I half hoped I might get a chance to do that later.

It was apparent that Jason had impacted a lot of lives in one way or another. It didn't surprise me that a lot of girls were at the wake; a lot of very sad, emotional girls crying on each other's shoulders or with their heads buried in their boyfriends' chests. In my perverted grief, I wondered which or how many of them had lain under his muscular athlete's body and known the awesome pleasure of his manhood thrusting inside them. There were a lot of his high school buddies there, too, looking even more studly with tears running unashamedly down their faces. What did surprise me were the younger kids, some barely in their teens, who I'm sure Jason never knew. You were a hero, I thought; more than you knew.

At one point Mrs. Seaborne took two young men up to the casket and she turned to me and asked what all the medals were for. "The boys want to know, and I would like to know, too," she said.

I approached the casket with her, and her husband joined us. "I can explain them, but they are all listed on his discharge papers," I said. Then I went on to explain the ribbons. "That is the Expert Rifleman Badge, that one is the Good Conduct Medal, that's the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Silver Star," I said, pointing to each one. "That one is the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross, the Distinguished Pistol Shot, Distinguished Marksman, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, that's the POW Medal, Combat Action Medal, Navy/Marine Achievement Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon, the Navy/Marine Commendation Medal and his jump wings."

"Wow!" one of the boys said.

"He was a real Marine," the other said.

"No he was Navy. A Navy SEAL. I hate to admit it but that's a cut above a Marine," I said.

"My goodness, we had no idea," Mrs. Seaborne whispered. She looked at her husband. "We didn't know he was a POW. He never wrote us about that."

Mr. Seaborne gave me a wary look but I felt I had to say something. "He was captured but was held for only a short time before he escaped. He said he was treated okay," I lied.

"Thank God for that!"

"Well, you can thank him partly, because he escaped," I said with a kind smile.

"He never wrote us much, period," Mr. Seaborne said.

"He didn't talk much about what he did, not even to me," I said. "For him it was just another day at the office."

I didn't know how long the line was outside to get into the funeral home but it went by without interruption for four whole hours and a bit beyond the scheduled time. When everyone had left, the funeral director excused the honor guard and gave Mr. and Mrs. Seaborne some time at the casket. Allen stood with them for a moment then left; his friends were waiting. Mrs. Seaborne put her hand out to me and pulled me in close to the casket. She squeezed my hand and sobbed quietly.

"He was so young," she whispered, patting his hand. "He was only seventeen when he went in. We should've never signed the papers."

"He wouldn't want you say that," I said, putting my arm around her frail shoulders.

The two moved back and left me at the casket alone. I stood with my hands clasped over the edge of the casket, fighting back more emotions than I thought I could handle. These were the last moments I would ever see him; tomorrow the casket would be closed. I closed my eyes and it was if I had died with him. God, I wish I had! Our entire time together passed before me in that brief moment. I could almost feel his hard muscles rippling against me, his hot breath and rough beard on my neck, his massive cock invading my body. God, let this not be true! Let it be a dream that I can wake up from! But it wasn't. When I opened my eyes I saw the awful truth of him lying there in his uniform, still so fuckin' handsome, and his hand was cold to the touch. My shoulders slumped and I broke down in sobs.

I felt a gentle hand on my arm and a firmer hand on my shoulder. His parents were comforting me. Again, I mouthed the words, 'I Love You' as I had when he walked away the last night I saw him.

After the wake, Allen again didn't show up at his parents' house. I didn't ask why, or where he was. For me it was better that he wasn't there but I thought it showed great disrespect for his parents. We sat on the front porch for a short while and I listened to them relating stories about various people who had come to the wake, and how many people were there and how wonderful the Marines looked. Nothing was said about their other son. I was tired and I ached inside and I again asked their permission to be excused to go upstairs to bed.

"Sergeant," Mrs. Seaborne said as I was at the bottom of the stairs. They had walked me in.

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Dad and I were talking and....if there is something of Jason's you would like to have, we would be honored for you to have it."

"Maybe you'd like to have his football," Mr. Seaborne said with a knowing look and I knew he was remembering me with the football, wearing his son's old jockstrap.

"Or his GI Joe," Mrs. Seaborne put in.

Their generosity struck me. I bit my lip to keep my emotions in check till I could speak. "Yes, I would like that, thank you very much," I said.

I was more at ease my second night in Jason's room. I felt like I belonged there, in his bed, hugging his football, sleeping in his jockstrap.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . continued



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