Captain Delwin Jackson--Diggs to almost everyone who knew him--opened the only eye he was able to open, seeing first the photo of Tawna and the kids, Jamia and Jeron, that should be in his wallet but, inexplicably was in a frame too big for it and standing on top of a white laminated nightstand next to the bed. Because he heard the heavy breathing, the second thing he saw when he swept his glance down the side of the bed was the concerned look of a young man decked out in a lime-green tunic. The heavy breathing seemed to be associated with the surgical mask he was wearing.
Diggs felt like throwing up. Was it the lime-green tunic? Then he did toss it up, but strong hands were turning him to the side of the bed, placing a pan under his chin, and wiping his mouth with a wet cloth after he'd retched.
"It's OK, it's OK," he heard the man in the line-green tunic say, spoken with a slightly muffled voice and heard through the shot of pain running mostly down his right side. There wasn't anything fuckin' OK about it, he thought, but he was hurting too much and was too exhausted to care. He lay back in the bed and panted a shallow pant.
"You're back in the land of the living, that's all that matters now. It's the medicine, but you need that. Just get plenty of . . ."
But Diggs had already closed his eye and was somewhere else altogether. Somewhere not nice. Somewhere with loud explosions, permeated with sweat and fear, screams and the sounds of . . . battle.
* * * *
"Back with us again, I see. And not feeling as nauseous, I hope."
The same lime-green tunic. The same face with a mix of smile and concern. Or at least a similar face in the same lime-green tunic. No surgical mask. But then how could he think the face was familiar. How many times had he wakened to this face? A young face, red hair and freckles, but strong, good features. And caring eyes.
"Bucket, bucket," Diggs muttered, and it was there, and he was being helped to turn aside by strong hands, and a pan appeared under his chin. He stayed twisted over for some moments, making sure it was all out. All of the pains of before were still there, but this time he felt the hand patting him on the back and somehow the pain wasn't as intense as before.
"There, that's better. You're doing fine. You'll be just fine."
"Trucker, Jack . . . Steve?" The names burst forth in a drunken drawl through cracked lips. How long had it been since he'd spoken a word? Why those names? Why was that important enough to be his first question in he knew not how long? And then he remembered. The sweat and the fear. Off track, lost in the jeep. Where were they? It shouldn't be here. The explosions, the screams . . . the long silence. "Jack? Jack. Oh, no, Jack." His head hit the pillow and he groaned. The pain shooting through his right side again.
"You're good. You're safe," the soothing voice said. "You're at Landstuhl. Landstuhl U.S. Military Hospital, outside Kaiserslautern. Germany. You're safe, well away from it now. You'll be fine, Captain."
Diggs shut the one eye not already shut--his left eye--tight. He wasn't there, he wasn't here. He wasn't anywhere. Just like . . .
"Major Lord--Doctor Lord--will be by soon to talk to you. I'll let him know you're back with us again. He'll give you the technical talk, but I know it's weighing on your mind, so I'll give you the bottom line from what I heard him say."
Weighing on my mind, Diggs thought. Haven't even given it a thought. But then he realized that he hadn't been as out of it as he thought he had--for some days. It had, in fact, been going over and over in his mind in his semiconscious state. That and Trucker and Jack and Steve. His men. Jack, oh Jack. He was responsible for them, for him . . . for Jack.
"Your eye will be fine," the orderly, Corporal Prentice, continued. "They'll take the stitches out of it and you'll see fine again. Maybe a bit of scaring for a while at least. The arm's almost healed already. They got shrapnel out of your right side, but that's all sown up and healing. The leg will take awhile, and there probably will be a permanent limp. I'm sorry, I shouldn't be telling you this, but I know you'll want to know. Don't tell Doctor Lord I told you? OK?"
Diggs became aware of the hand laying on the hollow of his shoulder. And that it was skin on skin. He was naked under the sheet. Just now realized that. And he had a cast on his arm and leg. Bandages on his right side, dressing wrapped around his belly. A compress on his eye. A fuckin' walkin' mummy. Except not walking. For the first time he was becoming aware of himself, his body. And of that hand gently laying where his shoulder met the rise in the bulge of his left pectoral muscle. Strangely comforting. Reassuring.
"But . . . but your wars are over, Captain," spoken softly, hesitatingly, unsure of the reception this news would get, but evidently a message the orderly thought Diggs needed to hear. "Time . . . soon . . . to go home to them, the family. I don't know how you feel about that, but I'll bet your family will be glad you made it home."
Diggs looked up into the young, innocent-looking, handsome face, to see that the orderly was looking toward the nightstand--to where the photo of Tawna, Jamia, and Jeron had been placed in an oversized frame.
Diggs turned his head, shut his eye tight, and screamed a scream that only reverberated in his brain. He had to go back. His war wasn't over until Trucker and Jack and Steve were accounted for . . . were safe.
"It's really good news, Captain. You'll be fine; you'll be going home."
Corporal Prentice was leaning over Diggs' chest, wiping the tears away from his closed eyelids with a wet cloth.
Diggs willed himself back into unconsciousness. Hearing he would be fine, would be going home, sliced through him in a more painful way than the wounds on his right side did. He knew then that Tracker, Jack, and Steve wouldn't be fine. They wouldn't be going home. He remembered now how they looked when the explosion upended the jeep--right before he blacked out. Holding Jack in his arms. They had been his responsibility. They were the ones who should be fine, should be going home. Not him.
* * * *
"A handsome family," Corporal Prentice said, smiling at Diggs. He gestured toward the photo on the night stand.
"Yes," Diggs responded in a monotone, but not a belligerent one. He saved his belligerence for himself. The orderly had shown him nothing but kindness and patience over the last two weeks.
If Prentice noticed or was disturbed that he wasn't--still--getting more than one-syllable responses--and no proffered discussion--from the captain, he wasn't showing the knowledge. He knew it would change some day. Maybe today.
Diggs' torso was propped up a bit in the bed, and Prentice was giving him a sponge bath. The cast was off his arm and the dressing gone from his eye. There was progress in everything but his attitude, although it was only Diggs who didn't feel there was a change in the world of his attitude. Those caring for him in the six-man ward--which, primarily, was Corporal Prentice--were gratified at signs that the captain was prepared to reconcile himself to life. He hadn't referred to the men in his unit he'd lost for days.
But he hadn't referred to his family in the photo yet, either. That's what the medical staff was waiting for--for his thoughts to turn to going home . . . home to his family. Prentice was thinking of the captain going home too, but not as enthusiastically as the rest of the medical team was.
"You've healed quickly," Prentice remarked.
"A miracle," Diggs muttered.
Two words. Progress.
"That's not the miracle," Prentice responded.
"Um, sorry, I shouldn't have said. But it surprises me . . . that your muscle tone remains so firm. Really a good body, in musculature. A great body. You must have spent half your life in a gym. I would think that--"
"You think it might be a black thing?"
A whole sentence.
Prentice blushed. And on a redhead that was a noticeable thing. Diggs smiled, both amused and seeing the attraction of the corporal's finely sculpted features when highlighted with a blush. A curl of hair came down over his forehead in an "oh my gosh" touch in a face that had shown so much patience and concern for him over the weeks.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply."
"It's OK. I've heard that blacks can muscle up easier and keep it easier. Just didn't know that might be valid."
Three sentences. Real progress.
"If you want to keep the muscle tone, of course, you probably should start to receive massages. The doctor has that on your chart. We could start wheeling you down to therapy in a while for that, but if you want to get a start on that . . . you have such a mass of muscle . . . it would be a shame . . ."
"If someone could start me with massages here, that would be fine with me," Diggs said.
The corporal had moved the sponge bath down to the captain's thighs. If he noticed that Diggs was half hard--which would have been very difficult not to notice as the officer was horse hung--he didn't give any indication, other than maybe a certain tremble in the handling of the sponge.
* * * *
"I could take care of that for you, sir . . . if you needed relief. It's nothing to be embarrassed about. I know it's been a long time." It was spoken in a whisper, as if, perhaps if Diggs chose not to have heard it, it would never have been said. Or maybe in fear that the other patients in the ward would overhear it.
Corporal Prentice had been giving him a massage, and after spending considerable time on Diggs' broad chest, with bulging pecs and biceps, and particular attention to his right arm that was slowly coming back into tone, the young man was working on Diggs' thighs.
There was no ignoring the captain's cock this time. It was fully hard and fully hard to ignore, and Prentice had clearly seen that Diggs had touched it several times with his own hand. It was evident that if Prentice weren't there and there were a way for Diggs to hide the evidence in the sheets, he'd be taking care of himself.
"If it will take away the ache in my balls . . . ," Diggs growled, close to the edge of exploding, increasingly over the series of massages Prentice had given--themselves increasingly sensual--having become keyed up and aroused.
Prentice was a handsome young man, and the lime-green tunic didn't hide that he was in great physical shape too--nor, in the last few days of massages did it hide that the massages were giving him a hard on as well.
Increasingly over the weeks, Diggs had grown to see the similarities between Prentice and Jack. Jack had been a redhead too, although auburn rather than strawberry-blond. And he'd been handsome and young and well built, like Prentice. And he'd been deferential and respectful--and yielding. And he had given Diggs relief.
The corporal was pulling the draperies around the bed but was back beside the bed quickly, taking Diggs' cock in hand.
He gave Diggs a nervous half smile but tried to take the tension out of the situation, speaking in a matter-of-fact way and trying a bit of joking.
"There's no reason to feel guilty about this, of course. It's a medical need and a medical answer," he said, but, although he had one hand wrapped around Diggs' throbbing cock, he reached over to the nightstand and turned the photograph down on its face. "Not something the family need see, of course."
Diggs didn't join in Prentice's little joke. He wasn't showing disapproval, though, his eyes were locked on Prentice's strong hand fisting his cock and was groaning his need.
Prentice worked the cock for nearly ten minutes, sensing the building toward release. "Shall we see if we can hit the ceiling, sir?"
Virile and in top shape--other than the wounds to body and soul--and not having any for two months, Diggs almost did.
* * * *
"They've moved me to this bed, by the window," Diggs said.
"You're senior in the ward now, Captain," Corporal Prentice answered. "So you get the privacy of the end bed--and you get a window." He was already pulling the drapes around the bed.
"And as far away from the other men in the ward as possible," Diggs added with an amused smile on his face.
"That too, sir. A massage special today . . . or perhaps the massage deluxe?" His words were bantering, joking, but Diggs could see something else in his face, a certain longing and need.
"I supposed a 'massage special' includes a hand job. But there's a deluxe model massage?"
"I shouldn't have . . . I'm sorry . . . but would you really be interested?"
"Yes, Prentice, if it's what I think it is, I'm interested . . . do you have a first name?"
"It's Paul, sir," he answered in a small voice.
"Yes . . . Paul . . . I would be very interested in the massage deluxe." Diggs reached over and turned the photograph on its face.
Paul Prentice was leaning over Diggs' midsection, a hand wrapped around the base of the thick, long cock, alternating from sucking on the bulb and trying to deep-throat the monster when the captain reached down with a hand running up under the hem of the lime-green tunic, through the fly of Prentice's briefs, and encased a hard cock. The corporal's breathing as he sucked the captain's cock became ragged, but he didn't back away from the bed.
After a few minutes, Diggs nudged him up on the table; brushed the hem of his tunic up to the young corporal's waist--awkwardly, as he had to do it with his right hand and his arm was still in a light cast; pulled off the redhead's briefs; drew in a heady breath of Paul's groin; licked down the strawberry-blond circles of his pubes and inhaled his balls to hear the corporal moan; and opened his mouth over a hard cock.
Laying, spent, the two in a sixty-nine embrace on the bed, Diggs whispered, "Del. The men know me as Diggs. But those closest to me call me Del."
Jack, near the end, had started calling him Del.
That night, amid snores rolling over the ward, the drapes pulled around the bed, moonlight streaming in the window, the family photograph on its face on the floor below the nightstand, Paul rode Del's cock. Del was on his back, his legs bent to give the heels of his feet leverage in the mattress, holding Paul by his slim waist. The heels of Paul's hands were buried in Del's taut nipples on his massive pectorals, and, leveraging off knees planted on either side of Del's hips, Paul rode the cock in increasing intensity until, with a muffled cry from him and a groan from Del, he collapsed on Del's chest, knowing that the bulb of Del's condom was filled, and feeling his own cream flow up Del's sternum.
They sighed and kissed, feeling the pulse of each other calm down.
Eventually, Paul whispered in a trembly voice, "Sorry, Captain, I just couldn't . . . I thought about you--about what we did--all day, and I just couldn't--"
"Shush, Paul. I'm going to turn you now and fuck you again."
He proceeded to do so, turning Paul on the buried, reengoring cock, to where Paul's back was pressed into Del's torso, embraced closely in Del's arms. Del laced his legs in Paul's, spreading and raising the young orderly's thighs, and began pumping up into him again.
Holding him close, a hand muffling his mouth and nose, keeping the young redhead from crying out over the top of the drapes, knowing that he was digging so deep, pistoning so fast, that Paul couldn't stifle his reaction. Fucking Paul just as Jack had liked to be fucked. Fucking Paul but also fucking Jack. Thinking of Paul but also thinking of Jack. And pounding, pounding, pounding. Pounding it all better again--or trying like hell to.
If he noticed that Paul was crying, he didn't remark on it. Del was crying too.
When Paul left, the photo was back on the nightstand, but still laying on its face.
* * * *
"Good morning, Captain. And how are we doing this fine morning. I understand you'll be leaving us in a few days."
"We are doing fine, corporal. I haven't seen you in the ward before, I don't think. Haven't seen Corporal Prentice today either."
"Corporal Prentice has been transferred to another ward, sir. I'm Corporal Shelton. I've come to take you down to therapy. According to your chart, you should have started massages down there in addition to the leg therapy you've been doing some time ago. Don't know how we overlooked that, sir. But you certainly don't seem to be behind in the maintaining the muscle tone department."
"Maybe it's because I'm . . . oh, forget it. Prentice was transferred, you say?"
"Asked to be yes, sir. Says he likes variety and there was an opening in the burn unit. Oh, is that photo of your family, sir? Mighty fine looking crew."
"Yes . . . and yes," Diggs answered. But when the orderly returned him from therapy, the captain turned the photo over on its face and turned his head toward the window.
* * * *
"I've come to drive you to . . . oh, it's you, Captain Jackson."
"Yes, it's me, Del, Paul."
"I . . . I didn't know who . . ."
"I asked for you specifically to drive me to the party, and I asked that they not tell you who you were picking up."
They were at the bachelor officer's quarters on the U.S. airbase at Kaiserslautern. Del, healed except for the cane he had to use and that still grounded him from driving himself, was staying at the BOQ, waiting for transfer to his next billet. The party in question was one the Landstuhl Regional Medical Facility held monthly for all military personal being released from the hospital.
"OK, I see." Paul sounded confused, though, like he didn't see at all. "But you're not dressed for the party."
"I'm not dressed at all," Del said, pulling the sash of his robe open and parting it. Paul sucked in his breath at the magnificence of the captain's muscular body. Del was approaching full erection.
"Why did you walk away from me, Paul? Just that one night. You came to me. I didn't demand it. Wasn't I good enough for you? Is it because I'm black?"
"Not good enough for me? Shit." It came out as a gasp. "I couldn't. I just couldn't. It wasn't enough to turn the photograph over. It was your family. You have a family. Even turning the photo over . . . I just couldn't."
"It wasn't because you didn't want to?"
"Shit, no. How could you think that? I came for it . . . even with the barrier of that photo."
"That photo is of my sister and her kids, Paul. That's not my wife; not my kids. I don't have a wife and kids, Paul. I'm gay. I fuck men. Usually one man at a time while it's working out, though. I joined the army to be with men, to fuck willing hard-bodied, young enlisted men. I'm partial to redheads, if you must know."
"Sir. Captain Jackson . . . Del."
"I'm not going back to the States. I've arranged a NATO liaison post in Frankfurt, just an hour's drive away. So, if you're interested, I think I'm overdue for one of your deluxe massages."
He reached over and slammed the door to the corridor shut as Paul sank to his knees, cupped Del's balls and the base of his cock with a hand, and guided the cock into his mouth.
Jackson didn't require a long massage however. He soon had Paul bent over the bed on his belly and was massaging the young man's ass channel doggy style with a big, black cock.