Gripping his cock by its hairy root, Sergeant Thomas John Bullen closed his eyes and stroked slowly upward. His other hand took hold of the fat, meaty sac of nuts hanging between his spread legs. Bull's balls felt heavy and full, in need of a good Sunday morning shoot, no doubt the reason he'd woken to find his bone buried painfully into the mattress.

Seasonably warm air gusted through the open windows, carrying the smell of autumn leaves and a trace of wood smoke into the bedroom. Bull smiled and shut his eyes. It was good to be home after his months on the road, though at first the house had felt so empty, the walls seemed to close in if he sat or pondered in one place too long. Having the guys over for some Sunday football would likely dispel the last of whatever he was suffering from after his almost yearlong trip. Seeing Inky, Sluggo, and Sledge might just be the thing that helped him put it all in the past.

But there were some things he didn't want to forget, and those memories had woken him stiff as a brick and humping the bedsprings.

Stretching out on his back, he jacked his thick eight-incher from root to head. His thumb teased the sensitive trigger of nerves on each upward stroke. 'Aw, fuck, Jamey,' he moaned. 'Hot fuckin' Texas dude.. '

He imagined the twenty-something first time cocksucker's handsome mouth encircling his knob and growled out his approval, masturbating to the memories of a one nighter in a cheap motel on a balmy September night.

Fondling his balls changed the fantasy, sending him back to another motel, this one in Seaside, Massachusetts, and the warm lips of a stranded Marine. His recollection of Chris Hendricks scraping an unshaved chin across the sac of his nuts coaxed the first drop of precome out of Bull's straining piss-slit. Opening his eyes, he looked down, dabbed his forefinger into the sticky wetness, and brought it to his lips. How many times since dusting off his motorcycle and hitting the highway had he tasted himself on another man's lips? The blinding flash of one particular encounter with three pumped baseball jocks somewhere in Arizona sent him beating his meat into overdrive.

'Derek...Sarge Finley...Jeff...fuck-!'

He arched his back on the bed and curled his toes.

Somewhere in Ohio, Jake Samuelson had licked the sweat and stink off his feet. The soles of Bull's Size-Twelves tingled with the memory of Jake's tongue and goatee, then burned with another - the pain of winning the Best Ranger Competition less than a month earlier. He'd limped for a week, but the incredible feel of Inky's cock rubbing his own into shooting had provided him with weeks of jack-off material. Sighing out a string of half-groaned swears, Bull pumped harder. Precome bubbled out of his dickhead, lubing his fingers on each stroke down.

It had been one hell of a year.

Smiling, he remembered that distant, snowy night in Pittsburgh when he'd gotten a taste of true-blue Hockey player prick. Recalling the near-violence of the sex he'd enjoyed with Bruce Andreychuk pushed him right to the edge of shooting.

'Yeah, Bull-!' he huffed through clenched teeth. The bedroom curtains stirred again under the influence of the warm November Sunday morning outside. Fresh pinpricks ignited across his bare skin. 'One hell of a fuckin' year!'

He didn't return there often in his thoughts, but as the pressure in his nuts intensified and he felt his cock go rigid to shoot, Bull remembered San Diego and the handsome, haunting face of Oscar De La Santos. The image proved so powerful, it sent him over the edge. Bull howled and stretched out, spreading his legs fully. He squeezed down hard, an action that trapped the spunk in his shaft and prolonged the initial shiver of his orgasm a moment longer. Unable to hold back any more than that, he released his grip on his cock and opened his eyes as the first salvo of juice squirted out, catching him on the chin. The next flew so hard and fast, it blasted him squarely in the face, spattering over his nose, eyes, forehead, even into his hair. The next two coated his chest. The fifth landed on his abdomen and in the patch of tangled hair covering his groin. The sixth and last was only a trickle.

Bull collapsed, drenched in his own seed. Releasing his spent, still-hard tool, he dipped his fingers into the puddles of sperm. After massaging most of it back into his skin, he brought his hand to his lips. The taste was salty and powerful.

Barely a minute passed when the doorbell rang. Bull looked over at the alarm clock. It was still too early for Inky or any of the other guys to be showing up. 'What the fuck-?' he sighed, crossing quickly to the bathroom. Grabbing a facecloth, he mopped up the load he'd just lobbed onto his face and chest, then he pulled a large beach towel off the shelf, wrapping it around his waist. He plodded barefoot to the front door, peered out the window, and noticed a new SUV parked beside his pickup in the driveway. Opening the door a crack, he came face to face with the handsome, grinning mug of Sergeant Gary Calhoun.

'Inky-!' Bull exclaimed.

The other man stood dressed in old jeans, an older pair of sneakers, and a tight-fitting olive green T-shirt that showed off the artwork on his hard, pumped biceps. The left arm bore a half-naked woman and a ring of barbed wire; the right, a dagger and skull. Expensive aviator sunglasses covered his eyes. In each of his big, rough hands, Inky held a six-pack.

'You gonna stand there with your dick in your mouth, or you gonna ask me in?'

Bull flashed a dumb smile and opened the door. 'Good to see you, bro! Come on in.'

Inky strutted into the house and set the six-packs down. He and Bull moved together on instinct and exchanged a safe, buddy-styled bear hug.

'I didn't catch you in the middle of something, did I?' Inky asked. 'Or someone.' He aimed a pointer at the towel wrapped around Bull's flat stomach.

'Naw,' Bull chuckled. 'Just me.' He then made a jack-off motion with his right hand.

'Shit, dude,' Inky coughed. 'Glad we didn't shake.'

Bull ogled himself under the towel. 'Shake this. What the fuck are you doing here four hours before kick-off?'

Inky popped one of the warm beers and drank it so without complaint. 'Got a call from the other guys this morning. Sledge had some shit on base to fix and Sluggo's old lady's being a real cunt about them driving all the way up here just to watch a football game.'

'Fuckin' bitch,' Bull spat. 'We do this what - once a month during football season?'

'I know, bro. Anyway, they're gonna see if we can hang for next week's game down there. Me, I needed to get out of the house, so I hope you don't mind that I came up solo.'

Bull smiled and fired a playful punch at Inky's closest shoulder. 'Hell, no. I kinda need some time with my bud and a football game, too. 'Sides,' he chuckled. 'That's more beer and steak for us.'

'No shit.' Inky took a pause, then lifted his shades. His deep blue eyes locked with Bull's. 'There was something I wanted to ask you.'

'Sure,' Bull said. 'But I really need a shower.'

Removing the towel to stand buck-assed naked in front of the other man, he thumbed the direction of the master bedroom. 'Come on.'

Inky nervously chugged down another swig of beer and followed Bull in.

The hot stream hit the muscles of his lower back, working out what few kinks he'd woken with. Bull soaped up his chest, nuts, asshole, and feet while Inky lowered the hopper's lid, plunking down on it. 'I been wondering, Bull. Seriously - why did you up and leave like that?'

Bull shook his head and plunged his face into the water before answering. 'Truthfully?'

Inky took a heavy swallow and nodded. 'I know what you told the others, that you needed some kind of mental health break. But they're not me, dude. How long I known you - ten years?'

'At least,' Bull agreed. He aimed the shower nozzle toward his package and watched as the lather from the soap and the dregs of what remained from his last palm-driving session cascaded down the drain. 'And all that stuff about taking a break, it was the truth.' Stopping, he reached out of the shower. Inky handed him the half-empty beer can. Bull gulped down a mouthful of warm suds before passing it back. 'But there was something more. Almost a year ago, I got a letter from some chick I used to go with in my old hometown, twenty years ago. Turns out, she died soon after sending it.'

'What-?' Inky asked.

Bull nodded. 'In the letter, she told me about what happened after I left. See, I got in a lot of trouble when we were together, and joining the Army was my only chance to get my shit together.'

'You and me both, dude.' Inky extended his fist. Bull made one with his right hand, and the two men punched knuckles.

'Well, I wasn't the only one my stupidity hurt. I got her in trouble, too. Knocked her up. Only I didn't know any of this 'til last January.'

Inky's jaw dropped. 'You had a kid?'

'Yup. A son, named Jason. She raised him out there, out in San Diego.'

'Dude, that's great!' Inky exclaimed. 'Isn't it?'

Bull slowly shook his head. 'Doesn't want to see me. I've tried calling him. Shit, I rode cross-country hoping to meet him, get to know him, but all for nothing.'

'So you didn't even talk with him?' Bull affirmed Inky's question. 'So how do you know he was even there?'

'I don't.'

'Shit,' the other man laughed. 'He learned you were his old man. Maybe he ran off and joined the circus.'

'Fuck you,' Bull chuckled. He cupped both hands together under the shower nozzle, and once they'd filled with water, he launched the contents at Inky.

Struck head-on, Bull's target jumped up off the toilet. 'Asshole!' Inky hooted. He grabbed the same towel Bull had worn about his waist and wiped his face. 'Seriously, fuckwad. You remember was going through your head at that age? Things got fucked up, you joined the Army. Ever stop to think your boy might have needed some time to get his head on straight, just like his dad?'

Bull twisted the water spigots off and pulled the towel from Inky's lap. Wiping dry, he said, 'Doesn't much matter now. Jason doesn't want me in his life, and I'm still trying to figure out what the fuck mine's all about. Still,' he said, cracking the outside of Inky's thigh with the towel. 'For a moron, you got a couple of brain cells in that gorilla mask you call a head.'

'I can even count to ten if I take off my sneakers.'

Bull waved a hand in front of his nose. 'Please don't!'

Inky fell backwards onto the bed. 'Dude, I'm fuckin' wiped. Last month's little trip to the Georgia wilds done trashed me.'

'Getting old, boy,' Bull said. He mopped the hairy warmth under his nuts one last time and stepped into a fresh pair of black boxer-briefs. Adjusting himself, he fished a white T-shirt, some old jeans, and a set of sweat socks out of his dresser before joining Inky on the bed.

'Fuckin' tell me about it,' the other man sighed. 'You know you're getting old when details of your last decent blowjob get mixed up somewhere between your first driver's license and senior prom.'

'I didn't know you graduated,' Bull said coolly, a mean smirk on his face.

'Fuck you, asshole,' Inky retorted. Bull pulled on his socks. Jeans followed, and finally the comfortable white T-shirt that hugged his chest and arms in all the right places. Like Inky, he grabbed an old pair of expensive black sneakers from the closet.

'Seriously, bro,' Inky continued. 'I envy you, having the freedom to just up and leave and have some wild fuckin' sex along the way.'

Bull sucked in a deep breath of the clean-smelling, freshly showered air around him and focused on the other man. Their eyes met in a bottled glimpse, the same look Bull saw a month earlier when they'd jacked their cocks together in the woods of Georgia. Like positives and negatives colliding, their gaze held an instant longer. Bull eventually broke contact and turned away. 'It wasn't all fun, dude. The sex was, but sometimes it came with a price.'

'What price?' Inky sputtered. 'Some of them ask you to buy rings?'

Bull froze at the bedroom door. He didn't answer right away, and knew his silence betrayed him. 'Hey, we're here to do guy stuff,' he eventually said. 'Not act like two chicks crying over marriage.'

One month had passed, enough time for a thin coat of dust to settle over the chrome and black metal case of Bull's Harley. For ten months, the hog had barely sat idle. Now, it hadn't moved in weeks. The garage door opened, dispelling the final trace of the morning shadows. Bull and Inky strutted in.

'There it is!' Inky exclaimed. 'The pussy magnet!'

'Yep,' Bull said, a bittersweet smile on his face. 'I kinda miss it, but hell -' He sent a thumb toward his new sports truck parked next to Inky's in the driveway.

'Not the same,' Inky continued. He placed both hands on the cool leather seat and rubbed it for good luck. 'Now, maybe some of your studliness will pass on to me. Maybe I'll get that blowjob I been dreaming about since my wedding day.'

Bull chuckled and crossed to the dusty shelves behind his workbench. He picked through the tools until pulling out a beat-up, old football. 'You game?' Inky nodded. 'Hell yeah!'

Deep grunts of male laughter filled the sunny, private backyard. For a brief time, Bull had no worries or cares. 'Go long!' he shouted. Digging in, he spun, snapped the ball in a play that matched the best any number of pro quarterbacks would make that day, then charged the intervening forty-odd feet after the man who caught it. Inky dodged Bull's advance, fell back, and broke for another few yards before a rough tackle sent them both to the grass. The impact pressed Bull's face into the mossy cleanness of Inky's right armpit.Dropping the football, Inky flipped him onto his back. 'You suck!' the other Army sergeant grunted.

'You wish,' Bull fired back. He bucked underneath Inky's mass of hard muscles. To his shock, one in particular pressed firmly against him. What the fuck? Inky's got a boner! Bull realized. That knowledge - mixed with the smell of the good, clean sweat of their play - drained all the moisture from his mouth and sent itchy pinpricks surging through his own tool. Inky shifted, an action that rubbed Bull's cock even harder.

Bull glanced up into Inky Calhoun's dark blue eyes, and again, something passed between them. Just as he readied to say something, the other man looked guiltily away and rolled off. A cool void replaced the pressing warmth over Bull's crotch.

'Come on, dude. You've got possession. Hustle - hustle!'

Dazed and half-stiff, Bull jumped to his feet and readied for the snap. The boundaries of their friendship restored, Inky executed a perfect toss. Bull jumped, caught it, and when he landed on both feet, the other man charged him.

'Hooah!' Inky bellowed.

Bull tucked the football under one arm and took off for the end zone, a pile of leaves he'd raked only the day before in anticipation of the backyard barbecue to accompany the big football game. Racing around the picnic table and dodging Inky at the gas grill, he made a dive for the leaf pile. Inky pushed it up a notch. Both men landed in a cushion of crisp autumn leaves.

'Touchdown!' Bull shouted. 'Yeah!'

'No fuckin' way,' Inky countered. 'You crossed outside the lines. Ten yard penalty!'

Bull gave Inky a good-natured shove. 'I won. Admit it.'

'You won jack, dude,' Inky chuckled. He pushed back, and soon both men were again struggling. It took a few moves, but Bull eventually flipped Inky onto his back and pinned him underneath.

'Give,' Bull demanded.

'Nuh-uh!' Inky spat. He pushed up. Bull braced his quads and ground his hips down. It wasn't unintentional at first, but again he felt the caged heat between Inky's legs stab into his crotch. With fresh, clean sweat dripping off his face to spatter across the other sergeant's cheek, Bull's eyes met Inky's, and this time, neither man broke away. 'I been thinking-'

'Shouldn't do that too often unless you're used to it,' Bull huffed.

The joke fell on deaf ears. 'About that weekend, what happened - you know, you and me, up in the woods. Fuck, Bull, it felt so good.'

Bull drew in a deep breath and nodded, unaware he'd unintentionally ground his cock into Inky's bulge until a burst of electricity shuddered through his body. He tried to swallow, only to nearly choke on the dryness in his mouth. 'Yeah,' he sighed.

Inky half-closed his eyes and rubbed against Bull's boner with his own. Looking down, Bull noticed a tiny circle of wetness stained the bulging crown in Inky's pants. 'I think about how good that was,' the other man whispered. 'The best I had in a long time.'

'That's sad, dude,' Bull answered. 'You and me and an old-fashioned circle jerk being the apex of your sex life.'

'Real sad,' Inky said. His tone was serious, verging on desperate. 'Bull-'

Before Inky could finish the statement, Bull rolled off him into the leaves. The movement put them side by side, both on their backs. 'Inky, we been friends a long time.'

'I know.'

Bull sensed the other man's deep blue eyes upon him, but couldn't face him directly. 'There's something I want to tell you, but it could end up costing us that friendship.'

Inky sighed out a comforting, 'No fuckin' way. We're tight, you and me. Shit, dude, what we been through, nothing's gonna make me think any less of you.'

Bull tipped his gaze in Inky's direction. The circle of precome coating his package glistened brighter. 'I lied to you, Inky. Lied about all those women I fucked on my swing out to San Diego. Truth was, I didn't fuck one chick out there. Not one.'

Inky's deep blue eyes widened. 'You mean all that head you got, all that pretty pink pussy - it was all bullshit?'

Bull hesitated. Eventually, he admitted, 'No, I fucked more face and tail than I can count. But - dude - it wasn't with.. women.'

A dumb look swept over Inky's square jaw. 'Whoa-!' he groaned. As the reality of Bull's confession sank in, Inky moved up to his elbows, and from there, to a cross-legged position in the leaves. Twigs and pine needles sticking from his clothes and close-cropped hair, he said, 'You saying, like you fucked around with.. dudes?'

Bull sat up. 'I told you the truth was gonna end it for us.'

Inky's handsome face suddenly hardened. 'You and other dudes. Shit, I never would'a guessed.'

A temporary silence settled over the leaf pile. Bull felt his heart race. The cadence rang in his ears. 'Well, say something,' he huffed.

Inky shook his head and snaked a hand down between his legs. 'What do you want me to say? How pissed-off I am?' Squeezing his package, he turned to Bull. A shit-eating grin cracked his harsh expression. 'Pissed-off that you didn't offer me some of what you been getting when you know how bad I need it!'

They staggered into the house, nearly tripping over their own feet on the way in. Once the door was shut, Inky grabbed Bull and tackled him onto the couch. The other man's mouth, warm and sour, smashed into Bull's, heavy with a masculine taste. Bull kissed hard and deep before breaking the seal. 'The bedroom, buddy-' he huffed around Inky's lips.

Inky nodded and kicked off his sneakers. The other Army sergeant's T-shirt followed, and soon they'd left a trail of clothes and leaves from the living room to the bed. Bull yanked off his jeans. The action left him standing only in his socks, boxer-briefs, and dog tags. Inky fell on top of him with his pants around his ankles. They landed on the bed in a tangle of arms. 'Do it, buddy,' Inky begged. 'Suck on my fuckin' cock!'

Bull moved over his buddy's chest, sliding a hand down the taught, muscled ridge of the other man's abs and happy trail into the musty-smelling patch of coarse hair poking from the elastic band of his underwear. 'You're sure?' he asked, groping Inky's package. One feel of the sticky, pulsing column in the other man's shorts was all it took to convince Bull he was.

'Yeah,' Inky growled. 'Gobble that prick before I blow my load!' B

ull smiled and tugged down Inky's briefs. The other man's cock snapped back, striking his stomach with a loud slap. Two fat, hairy sacs of come-filled balls slipped free, smelly with the musk of their touch-football game. Bull tucked the elastic of Inky's underwear beneath his nuts and leaned in, brushing his tongue across the sensitive skin along his buddy's cockhead. Inky tensed beneath him and grunted out a half-legible swear. 'Aw, fuck-!'

'Like that?' 'Fuck, yeah!'

'This'll feel even better.'

Gripping Inky's cock by its furry root, he sucked the head and a few inches more into his mouth. Each gulp went accompanied by a firm stroke upward, then an open-mouthed plunge down until Bull's chin scraped Inky's nuts and his nose vanished into coarse bush. Inky writhed beneath him as Bull let loose, sucking harder and faster. The salty, pungent taste of precome ignited across Bull's tongue.

'I don't fuckin' believe this,' Inky moaned. 'Don't believe it feels so awesome!'

Smiling up at his Army buddy, Bull spit Inky's cock out of his mouth and dove deeper. He licked each sweaty nut until the other man's ball-bag glistened. Once that was accomplished, he sucked each nut, one at a time. 'Roll over,' he commanded, continuing to pump Inky's dong.

The painful bliss on Inky's face flattened. 'Wha-?' 'We ain't stopping here, bro. You're getting that taste of what I did on my trip west, all of it.'

'I don't know-'

Bull let go of Inky's cock and grabbed one of his solid, hairy ankles. 'Over!'

A moment later, Gary Calhoun's hard, square beaut of an ass was up and open. Bull toyed with the low-hangers dangling under his fuzzy pucker and admired the image a mere foot from his face.

'Fuckin' nice,' he sighed. 'I been looking at this hairy ass too long without getting a taste of it.'

Bull extended his tongue and slowly targeted his face between the other man's Army-toughened butt cheeks. Clean-smelling sweat gradually gave way to bitterness the closer he came to Inky's asshole. The strangely addictive tang quickly had him licking and slurping deeper into his buddy's knot.

Inky howled his approval and pushed back. 'Fuck - eat that shithole!'

Without hesitation, Bull chowed on the other soldier's can, alternating between sucking on the pucker and licking his way from the top of his crack down to the smelly, furry patch of skin between asshole and balls. He sighed a hot breath across Inky's loose sac and asked, 'How'm I doing?' W

ith a painful expression and beads of sweat covering his handsome face, Inky stepped over Bull's face, baring his rock-hard, dripping bone. 'Great, bud. Suck my cock. I need some fuckin' head!'

Bull licked his lips. 'You got it, but first - ' Reaching down, he freed his own throbbing eight-incher from the leg of his boxer-briefs. Bull's thick cock snapped up to attention. 'I need some of what I've been giving.'

Inky settled back on the bed, again looking nervous. 'Dude, I don't know if I can, you know, suck your dick.'

Bull passed a hand through Inky's sweaty buzzcut and shook his old buddy's head. 'It's okay, bro. Just you and me. Do whatever comes natural.'

Slowly, Inky reached down and placed his hand over Bull's. Bull released his tool into the other man's grasp. 'That's it, pal. Pump me like you do your own prick.' The rough fumble of Inky's inexperienced fingers excited Bull even more. He growled out an appeased sigh and lowered his Army buddy's head closer to the crown of his cock.

'Suck it. Suck my bone, dude!'

The warm, wonderful pass of Inky's straight-soldier tongue over his boner filled Bull's eyes with stars. Once the explosion burned down and he was able to see again, he looked between his legs to see Sergeant Inky Calhoun contentedly nursing on his dick.

'This is too fuckin' good to be true,' he growled. Inky momentarily spit out Bull's cock and tugged his boxer-briefs all the way down. 'Could be a hell of a lot better if you went back down on me.'

Bull eased onto his side. 'Let's bring it home, buddy.'

Inky assumed position, and both men settled into a comfortable sixty-nine. For the next few minutes, they sucked away in a silence broken only by the hungry slurps of mouths over dripping cocks. This was the last thing Bull had expected, and the best he could have hoped for. He knew Inky was getting close by the increased flow of precome over is tongue and the throaty moans the other man made around his cock. He's gonna come, Bull thought. And I intend to make this the best nut-blast he's ever had. Bull remembered every trick he'd learned, every nuance he'd been taught by the men he met on his long cross-country trip. Humming up and down on Inky's cock, he teased the sensitive area of skin between his ball-sac and asshole with a thumb while the same hand toyed with his low-hangers. And while he sucked the thick, veiny cock down his throat, he used his tongue to massage the sensitive skin under Inky's dickhead.

The extra effort paid off. Inky's cock turned to steel between Bull's lips; A few seconds before dumping his own cream down the other soldier's gullet, Inky rewarded him with four steady shots of pure Army spunk.

'Yeah!' Bull hooted. He threw up a hand. Inky met the high-five, and together, naked, they lurched off the couch and pumped air as Atlanta's fiery new Running Back connected for the touchdown in Jacksonville's end zone. The field goal kick was on the money, putting them up by thirteen at halftime.

Bull strutted to the fridge and returned with two fresh cold ones, his cock tick-tocking the entire way.

'Shit, dude,' Inky laughed. 'You just blew your second load and you're already up again.'

'Fuck yeah,' Bull said. 'I got the balls of an eighteen-year-old.' He glanced over the half-empty bowls of chips, pretzels, and peanuts. 'What do you say we throw on some clothes and go fire up the grill. I got enough meat for a dozen tailgate parties.'

'Sure, buddy,' Inky agreed. 'But first -' He clapped a hand around Bull's reawakened rod and hauled him back to the couch by it.

'What?' Bull asked.

Inky met him eye-to-eye. 'Dude, you done something really good for me today.'

Bull shrugged. 'For real? You ain't feeling funny or guilty, are you?'

'A little,' Inky admitted. His face grew serious and hard again. 'Fuck, I'll get over it. You trusted me enough to come clean, and damn, dude - if I didn't get the best damned blowjob this big fuckin' dick of mine's ever had.'

Bull unintentionally licked his lips. The saltiness of Inky's last load could still be tasted. 'I'm glad, pal.'

'So now, I want to give you something back, something to thank you for all of this.'

'What you got in mind?' Bull asked.

Inky called at half past nine Tuesday morning. With coffee in hand and in full dress uniform, Bull hustled into his office, catching the phone on the third ring. 'Bullen,' he growled.

'Yo, bro, it's Sergeant Calhoun.'

'Inky,' Bull said, smiling. He brought the steaming cup to his lips. 'What can I do you for?'

The voice at the other end answered, 'More what I've gone and done for you, dude.'

'I'm listening.'

'I made a few calls around base, some to Camp Merrill. Remember I told you that hunch I had, about your boy maybe going someplace to get his head on straight, just like his old man did when you were his age?'

Bull's stomach pulled tight under the influence of an invisible set of fingers. 'Inky-'

'Like I said, checked around Benning. No records of any Jason Kendall passing through on his way to finish Ranger School.'

'Look pal, I've already accepted this.'

'Would you let me finish?' Inky interjected. 'As I said, no Jason Kendall. However, down at Camp Rudder in Florida, seems there's some tall, mean, top-of-his-class ugly mother fucker by the name of Jason Bullen.'

The pressure on Bull's insides doubled. He felt the coffee cup slip from his hand and the splash of the scalding liquid on his leg after it shattered at his feet, but froze where he stood. 'What-?'

'Not a common name, dude,' Inky continued. 'And from what his instructors tell me, kid must come from some pretty strong genes.'

Bull wasn't sure how long he stood immobilized by the news, a wide, disbelieving smile on his face.

'Shit, you alive up there, bro?' the voice on the end of the line asked.

Bull choked out a simple, 'Yeah.'

'You got a pen handy so's I can give you the extension where you can reach his instructor at Rudder, or do I got to do everything for your sorry ass?'

A knock sounded at the door to Bull's office, a thunderclap that sent his already-drumming heart racing even faster. He'd never felt so nervous or unsure about anything. The simple acts of standing and bidding the visitor outside entrance to the room seemed to take forever. Worse, he felt the room spin and had to press his knees to the desk for support. The doorknob turned. The door opened. A tall and impressive figure of a man marched in.

'Private Jason Bullen reporting as ordered, Sir!' he growled in a deep, impressive baritone. Bull focused on the young man's face. The image was so powerful, it sent a shudder racing down his spine and distorted everything in his line of sight like the surface of a pond overcome by ripples. Once his vision stabilized, Bull was able to study the man on the other side of the desk.

The new recruit stood a hair shorter than him, somewhere shy of six-foot-three. Dressed in full uniform, his dark brown hair had been buzzed down to a typical jarhead cut, but that was where anything typical about him ended. Dressed in full uniform, he was shockingly handsome, a cut above any other good looking young man Bull had ever met in his life.

Glancing quickly down, Bull noticed the visitor's big hands and even bigger booted feet, and upon the shirt of his crisp uniform, he wore the simple but telling Ranger Patch. This square-jawed young man wasn't just a soldier; he was among the toughest stock in all the Armed Forces. But it was the eyes that proved the most telling. They were blue, the exact color of Bull's own. Trained straight ahead, it was as if they were looking right through him.

'At ease, Private,' Bull said, raising a hand.

But Jason Bullen didn't relax. In fact, he seemed to go more rigid, a fact not lost on Bull. 'Do you know why I requested your transfer to this unit?

'I have some knowledge of that, Sir!'

Bull rounded the desk, an action that put him within mere feet of the young soldier. Every inch of his skin tingled with pins and needles. 'Jason,' he sighed under his breath. Still, the Private refused to meet him eye to eye. 'You know who I am, why I wanted to see you.' The many prepared speeches he'd rehearsed to death over long months on the road to California evaporated. 'I probably don't have the right to tell you this, but your mom - she was a good woman, too good for a dick like me.'

The hard lines around Jason Bullen's eyes softened slightly. 'My mother was a fine lady, Sir!'

Sucking in a deep breath of the tense air in his office, Bull said, 'And I'd like the chance to try and be a good father.'

Jason shuffled where he stood.

'I'm not saying you gotta like me instantly or that we pick up like some happy family that's been together for twenty years. And no matter what, don't expect things around here to be any easier on you just 'cause we share the same blood.'

'Sir, this soldier expects nothing to be handed to him, Sir!'

'Good,' Bull snapped. 'Because it won't be. In fact, you may have to bust your ass twice as hard under my command.' Forcing a smile, he said in a calmer voice, 'All I'm asking for is a chance.'

To his surprise, the handsome young man, his son, finally tipped his eyes in Bull's direction. 'A chance, Sir?'

'That's all. I won't push you in this matter. Just get to know me and let me get to know you. You might not like me, but at least you'll get my side of what happened. Hell, you might even end up thinking I'm pretty cool when all is said and done.'

Jason inhaled deeply, and for a split-second, Bull recognized the hurt and anger behind the young soldier's stoic facade. He'd worn the same expression on his own face twenty years earlier.

For the first time since his search to locate the young man standing before him began, Bull understood Jason's pain. He also realized there might be no reconciling it. But just when the tenseness in the air grew unbearable, Private Jason Bullen nodded. 'Okay,' he said, his voice cracked with emotion. 'Okay, dad.'

Bull had no idea what the next few days or the months ahead would hold for them, if it would work out or blow up in his face. But of all the things he didn't know, the one thing he was sure of was that the Army would make a man of his son, a man he could be proud of, the same way it had made a man of him.

He extended his hand. To his surprise, Jason accepted and shook it, bringing a good start to the day Sergeant Bull never expected.



the Hitman

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