By George Gardner

 The darkness bore down on him – hot, humid, foetid – like a filthy blanket smothering the life out if him. The ropes binding his wrists and ankles bit into his flesh. His feet and hands were numb from the restricted blood flow. His throat, parched and swollen from lack of water, burned like the desert sun which he knew was beating down on the outside of his prison. His lips, dry and cracked, had become painful and his tongue could find no spit with which to relieve them. His whole body ached form the savage beating he had taken at the hands of his captors

 “I guess this is it,” he thought. “This is how I die.”

 He tried again to loosen his bonds but the days of deprivation and violence had sapped his strength and he could do no more than wriggle feebly in their grip. One last attempt caused the wooden chair to which he had been tied to tip over and he landed heavily on the hard floor of his prison. The impact winded him and his head struck the concrete-like surface with sufficient force to stun him for a moment. His wrists were still lashed to the chair back but it had broken in the fall.

 As his mind cleared a little he managed to drag himself out of the wreckage of the chair. There was little more he could do with his hands still tied behind his back. As he struggled he felt his feet come into contact with an upright surface. He fought his way round until he could push himself up into a sitting position and leant, exhausted, against the hardness of the wall. His mind drifted.

 They had been filming in the desert to the west of Basra in southern Iraq. They’d been warned of the danger from terrorists and insurgents and they’d seen first hand some of the consequences of ignoring those warnings. Drive-by shootings on coalition troops and civilian kidnappings were becoming commonplace. Bombers seemed to be everywhere and even the native Iraqi security forces were not safe. But Neilson  had had  a nose for a story, so he’d reckoned, and three of them had set out from Basra on a tip-off from an allegedly reliable source that a cache of Saddam’s hitherto phantom weapons of mass destruction had been found deep in the desert. Their guide, however, had led them into a trap.

 Tom Neilson and Joe Hammond were dead. They’d shared his fate in the darkness for a few days but then their captors had executed Neilson – right there, right in front of his eyes, they had put a gun to the back of his head and had blown his brains out. Hammond, who’d been a family man with two young children, had tried to bargain for their lives. Their captors had laughed at him and then they had beaten him senseless. Later they had come back and tried to rouse him but the man had died. Hammond had been a good friend and they had worked together often.

 Then they had turned their attention to him. They had beaten and kicked him until he would have sold his soul to make them stop. Then had come the questions – the incessant and repetitious questions. Questions in a language he did not understand, or in English so bad it might just as well have been a foreign tongue.  He had known nothing of the things about which they had demanded information and so they had beaten him again and again until the pain could get no worse and he could only wait for oblivion to release him from his torture. As a final stroke they had tied him up and shut him in this dark, rank pit – by day like an oven, by night so cold that he shivered uncontrollably. They’d left him to die.


 He rested his head against the wall and tried again to moisten his cracked lips. He needed to urinate and the bitter irony of that situation coupled with his precarious mental and physical state made him want to laugh but all that came out was a dry croak which bore little in the way of humour.

 “Hey God,” he said into the blackness, his voice no more than a rasping whisper. “Will I get into Heaven if I piss in my pants?”

 He began to laugh again but soon the sound became wracking sobs of deepest despair.

 “Jesus!” he croaked. “Sweet Jesus, don’t let me die like this.”

  He repeatedly banged the back of his head on the wall as he fought to maintain a grip on his failing sanity. He relaxed and allowed his bladder to empty itself. The sensation as the hot liquid soaked his trousers and flowed between his legs and around his backside brought back echoes from the past and he began to laugh again.

 “Look, mom!” He sobbed as his wildly shifting emotions threw his mind back to his childhood. “The kid peed himself again.”

 His elder brother used to call that out at the top of his voice. He remembered the deep shame as his brother and his friends had laughed at and taunted him for his lack of control over his bladder. But he also remembered the gentle care and understanding of his mother as she had helped him to clean up.

 “Never mind, Scotty,” she used to say as she comforted him afterwards. “You’ll grow out if it, you’ll see.”

 He allowed himself to slip over on to his side. Lying on the hard, comfortless floor he curled himself up into a tight foetal ball and cried. He shivered as it began to grow cold - so very, very cold.

 “Goodbye, mom,” he whispered. “You too, Dad – and Will. I guess maybe I’ll see you again some day.”

 The shroud of darkness wrapped itself close around him and he lost consciousness.

 There was a sound. He’d been asleep but now he was awake and there was a sound. Somebody was outside. They’d come back to finish him off was his first thought. There was the scrape of a bolt being withdrawn and then searing brilliance stabbed down into his eyes as the door to his prison was opened. He saw the muzzle of a rifle poke down through the rectangular opening and he shut his eyes tightly, wondering if he would have time to hear the shot before the bullet ended his torment and his life.

 “Bloody hell!”

 The voice cut through the fog in his head. It had spoken in English but he kept his eyes closed nonetheless. There was a thump and he felt an impact through the floor. A couple of footfalls and them someone touched his shoulder.

 “Just shoot me,” he croaked. “Please – no more.”

 “Okay, mate,” came the gentle response. “It’s okay – I’m not here to hurt you.”

 “Whatever,” Harris groaned.  “Just let me be.” 

 “Take it easy,” the voice said. “You’re in a pretty bad way. How long’ve you been down here?”

 His mind fought to focus.

 “Days – maybe a week.”

 He felt the rope around his wrists being cut and pain arced through his flesh as the circulation returned. His ankles were also freed and then strong hands gripped him under his armpits and propped him against the wall again.

 “What do I call you?” The voice asked.

 “Scott,” he croaked. “Scott Harris.”

 “Okay, Scott, I’m Nick. Nick  Williams.”

 Harris felt something cool and wet touch his lips. His hands went up involuntarily and seized the water canteen as his fevered mind tried to assuage the thirst of days.

 “Steady, mate,” Williams said, pulling it away firmly but gently. “A little at a time. Just sip it.”

 He allowed the canteen back to Harris’ parched lips. The water was warm and flat but it tasted so good.

 “Whew! You don’t half pong!” Williams said lightly. “I think I better get you out of here.”

 Harris opened his eyes and tried to smile at the figure squatting down in front of him.

 “Thanks, buddy.”

 Again the blackness of insensibility closed around him.

 When consciousness returned he was outside. It was hot but there was a light breeze blowing and he was shaded from the sun by some old wooden boards which had been driven into the sand to form a makeshift shelter. He was still weak and still sore but someone was washing him gently and carefully. It felt wonderful, cool water on his face, his neck and chest. He didn’t move and just drifted as his hurts were soothed by the gentle ministrations.

 “You back with us?” Came the question.

 “Yeah, I guess,” Harris said, surprised now by the hoarseness of his own voice.

 “They gave you quite a going-over,” Williams said as he continued the soothing bathing. “D’you know who they were?”

 “I dunno. Neilson reckoned they were some kind of militia. Murdering bastards whoever they were. They killed Tom and Joe. They shot Tom right in front of my eyes. Blood…. his blood splattered everywhere – some of it even got on my face…. In my eyes. Jesus!”

 Harris broke down again, weeping loudly and uncontrollably

 “Okay, don’t try to talk too much, mate,” Williams said, grasping his shoulder comfortingly.

 Harris let himself sink into a mild euphoria as the washing continued. He felt his belt being loosened and then his zip was pulled down and his trousers were gently drawn away from his itching crotch. He felt Williams ease them down over his feet and then they were removed completely. His underpants were similarly dealt with and then it dawned on him that the other man was about to wash his groin area. He decided he didn’t care.

 “Looks like your bollocks are okay,” Williams said. “You tell me if I hurt you.”

 Gently, Williams washed Harris’ lower abdomen and then down around his genitals. Even in his perilous state Scott Harris could not escape the realisation that this situation - being at the mercy, and in the hands, of another man - was making him feel again something he had not felt for a very long time. He pushed the thought away as Williams moved on, now washing down his legs.

 “You’ve got a lot of cuts and bruises, mate,” he said as he finished. “I can’t see anything that might be broken.”


 “I’m going to roll you over and take a look at your back.”

 “I can manage that,” Harris said, attempting to sit up.

 Pain erupted in nearly every part of his body. His head began to spin and a great wave of nausea broke over him  as he sank back on to the blanket which protected him from the burning sand.

 “Oh shit!” he breathed.

 He felt Williams grasp his left shoulder and hip and then he was rolled gently until he lay on his front. Williams again proceeded to wash him all the way from his head down to his feet. It was a strange and strongly sensual experience. Before it was over, however, his tortured mind retreated again into the solace of insensibility.

 When he woke the sun was low down in the western sky. Harris felt less pain and a little stronger. He managed to raise himself until he was propped up on one elbow. He was still under the rough wooden shelter and he was wearing a clean pair of shorts. There were a couple of spindly palm trees  and a burned out jeep or similar vehicle. He remembered. This was the small oasis they had visited just before the ambush. There had been no-one their except for an old Iraqi man, who had smiled toothlessly at them, and a couple if sickly looking goats.
There was a figure standing a little way off, silhouetted against the fiery red of the setting sun.

 “Hey,” he called feebly.

 The figure turned and sprinted the short distance to where he lay. The other man knelt down beside him and Harris, for the first time, clearly saw the face of his rescuer.

 Williams was probably in his late twenties. He was about five feet seven or eight tall with close cropped blond    hair and deep blue-green eyes. There was a look of concern in those eyes.

 “You okay, mate?” Williams asked.

 “I feel like shit, buddy.”

 “You don’t look so hot either,” Williams said with a thin smile. “What the fuck were you doing out here?”

 “News report,” Harris told him. “There were three of us. They killed the other two – Neilson and Hammond.”


 “Fox news.”

 “What happened to your escort?”

 “We didn’t have one. Neilson’s contact told him there would be no story if the military were involved so we snuck out of the city with just him and another guy.”

 “You came out from Basra?”


 “Me too. We were on patrol – got attacked and I got separated from the rest of my squad. I think I’m a bit lost.”             
 Harris felt his strength ebb away again and he sank back on to the ground.

 “You need some food inside you,” Williams said.

 “Can’t remember the last time I ate.”

 “I hope you like goat.”

 Williams disappeared from view for a moment and then returned holding a chunk of smoking meat on a rough wooden skewer.

 “I think it got a bit burnt,” he said apologetically.

 He knelt down beside Harris and pulled a large knife out of its sheath on his belt. He cut a small piece from the impromptu kebab and offered it up to Harris’ mouth. Too tired and weak to protest, Harris opened his mouth and allowed Williams to feed it to him.

 “I don’t think it would’ve lived much longer anyway,” Williams said. “It was half dead when I found it, poor thing. It doesn’t taste too bad, at least.”

 “There was an old guy here with a coupl’a goats when we passed through,” Harris said through a mouthful of stringy meat.

 “Whoever attacked you probably chased him off. There are militia and insurgents all over the place. ”

 The meat was edible and that was about all that could have been said in its favour.  Harris ate what he could as it was offered to him. Williams watched him thoughtfully as he, too, chewed on the rather tough fare.

 “You’re English, yeah?” Harris asked.

 The other man nodded.

 “Near enough,” he said. “Technically, I’m Welsh. I was born in Swansea but I was brought up in Bristol.”

 “I guess you can tell I’m a Yank.”

 “I sort of guessed that,” Williams said with a faint smile.

 Harris began to take greater notice of his rescuer as the sun dipped lower into the burning sand. He was slim and well muscled and he was wearing a tight white T-shirt and desert camouflage trousers.

 “Which branch of the military you in?” He asked.

 “Royal Marines,” Williams confirmed.

 “And you got lost?” Harris asked incredulously.

 “I got lost, yes,” Williams confessed. “There were eight of us on patrol, night before last, on the road north out of Basra. We were attacked right out of nowhere. I know three of the lads died before we even fired a round – I saw. We returned fire but they hit us with a grenade or something and disabled the transport. I got thrown out and I suppose I must’ve been out cold because next thing I knew it was daylight and I was lying flat out in the desert. I still had my kit and my rifle but there was no sign of my mates or the vehicle or whoever it was attacked us. I couldn’t find the fucking road, I haven’t got a radio or a compass, so here I am.”

 “So, if you were north of the city and we went west then where the hell are we?”

 “Fucked if I know,” Williams said with a deep sigh. “We’re at an oasis somewhere in the desert.”

 “I guess I can’t even be sure that guy led us west anyhow,” Harris said.

 “We can’t be all that far away from the road. I mean, I walked here.”

 “Guess not.”

 The temperature began to drop rapidly as darkness swept across the desert.  Harris shivered as the chill night breeze touched his near naked body.

 “I better get you back inside,” Williams said. “It’s going to get bloody cold.”

 He helped Harris to his feet and supported him quite easily. They made their way back to the rectangular opening which gave access to the small cellar in which Harris had been imprisoned. Williams gently lowered him down into the darkness and then he went to retrieve his kit. Harris leant back against the wall, still weak, still in pain but thankful for the timely arrival of the young marine. He heard a thud as the bundled kit dropped on to the floor. A second later Williams followed. Dim light filled the cellar as a candle was lit. Harris remembered the candles. They’d held the palm of Neilson’s hand over the flame of one. He could still hear the screams.

 “Okay?” Williams asked.

 “I still feel like shit but, yeah, I think I’m okay, Nick.”

 Williams unrolled the sleeping bag on the hard floor and helped Harris into it. Harris watched him quietly as he put on his shirt and jacket and made himself a pillow of the backpack. The gear was all desert camouflaged.  When he was done he came over and knelt down again beside Harris.

 “D’you need anything before we turn in?” He asked.

 Harris looked at him for a moment, strange feelings and forgotten desires stirring in his soul.

 “Will you be okay like that?” He asked. “It gets pretty damn cold, buddy.”

 “I’ll manage.”

 Harris hesitated for a moment.

 “Shouldn’t we huddle or somethin’ – share our body heat? I read that someplace.”

 Williams looked down at him, his eyes questioning.

 “You sure, mate?”

 “Hey look, buddy, I got nothin’ else to give you.”

 Williams smiled faintly and stood up again. He stripped down to a pair of tight  olive shorts and waited as Harris unzipped the bag. He extinguished the candle and crawled in. Harris felt an almost electric thrill as their bodies touched. There was no room for them to spread out in any case and so they were forced tightly together in the confines of the bag. Harris felt Williams’ arm slip over his chest and he allowed himself to settle back against the young marine.

 “Okay?” Williams asked.

 “Yeah, okay.”

 As he drifted into sleep Harris found himself revelling in the warmth and nearness of the other man. These feelings had reared up from deep within his psyche at odd times throughout his life. He had always felt more comfortable with his own sex than he had with women but there had never been anything overtly sexual in his relationships. His job of news cameraman had taken over most of his life and he had risen to the top of his craft, keeping himself in high demand. He’d become noted for working in difficult and dangerous situations and this wasn’t the first time he had fallen foul of the darkest aspects of human conflict. It was the first time, however, that he had fully expected to die.

 He awoke some time later in the pitch blackness. Nick Williams was still asleep, still tight against him, his breathing deep and slow. Harris allowed himself to wallow in the closeness of the young marine, the contact of their flesh, the heat of their bodies, the scent of their maleness and the gentle embrace of the arm which was still slung across his chest. Slowly and cautiously he brought his left hand up until it contacted the back of Williams’. He gently gripped the hand that had, with such care, ministered to him earlier and held it. Williams did not stir and Harris was stunned to discover just how profoundly comforting it was to be in that embrace. Other sensations chased through his body and odd, fleeting thoughts darted like startled fish in the dark shadowed pools of his mind. Almost absentmindedly he moved his position slightly,  pushing his buttocks back until they contacted firmly with Williams’ groin. Now he could feel the soft pressure of the young marine’s cock against his rear. His nerves were almost humming with repressed desire but still he could not admit the terrible want which was even now stiffening his own cock. In his weakened state it did not reach full erection and it lasted only a few moments but it was enough to set his mind running for cover from something it would not face - and yet he did not release his grip on the other’s hand as he surrendered himself again to exhaustion.

 Movement wakened him. Williams’ embrace tightened for a moment and then he wriggled his way out of the confines of the bag. Harris felt a huge surge of emotion. The loss of the comforting presence allowed all the fear and hopelessness which he had suffered to crash in upon him again and he almost cried out. He heard the trapdoor being opened and a small slit of brilliant sunlight lit up the face of his rescuer as he peered cautiously outside. As Williams slowly opened the trap wider the light gradually illuminated more of his lithe young body. Broad shoulders, strong chest, narrow waist and muscular legs were slowly revealed but that was not what drew Harris’ attention. The tight olive shorts encased a beautifully firm and rounded backside and, in the front, there was that sight which Harris fought and failed to deny himself. There was where Williams’ manhood made its distinct bulge in the material of the shorts. There was his downfall, now, as his eyes locked upon the sight and would not be torn away. Now he had looked. Now he wanted. Now he yearned to touch and be touched again by he man who had saved him from death and yet had, perhaps, doomed him to a fate which he feared even more.

 The floor of the cellar was split into two levels Harris noticed for the first time. Williams stood on the area, directly under the trapdoor, which was raised some two feet above the area where Harris lay. Harris continued to watch as the young marine hefted himself up through the opening and disappeared from his sight. Slowly he sat up in the sleeping bag. His body still ached and he still felt weak but he determinedly struggled out of the bag and crawled across the floor until he reached the raised area under the trap. It took an heroic effort for him to mount that step which he could have so easily negotiated only a few days ago. He lay in the patch of sunlight and stared up into the blue of the sky for a few minutes as he regained some strength and then he struggled to his feet and supported himself on the wooden frame of the trap. He could see out now but there was no sign of his saviour. His mind was still in a fragile enough state to let him believe that Williams had left him alone again. He collapsed heavily on to the floor and wept bitterly.

 A shadow moved across the opening and there was a heavy thud beside him. Strong, gentle hands lifted him into a sitting position and he saw the face of Nick Williams, so beautiful, so concerned, looking back at him.

 “Are you alright?” He asked. “What the fuck were you trying to do?”

 “I thought you’d gone,” Harris sobbed.

 “Don’t be daft, mate,” Williams said gently. “I won’t leave you – I promise.”

 Harris leant forward until his head rested against the younger man’s breast. He gripped the broad shoulders, one in each hand, and sobbed bitterly. Williams put his arms around the shuddering form and held him tightly.

 “Let it go, Scott,” he said soothingly. “You let it all out. I’m with you.”

 Harris melted into the embrace and gave himself up to his doom. He couldn’t fight it any longer. He was too weak and too tired.

 “Thanks, buddy,” he whispered as his control returned. “I guess my head is all messed up.”

 “Don’t worry about it, mate. I’ll look after you.”

 “I’m still so damn weak.”

 “Come on, then,” Nick said encouragingly. “I’ll take you outside for a while. I don’t think it’s very healthy for you  in here.”

 Williams helped him to his feet again and then, gripping him firmly around the waist, he easily hoisted Harris out of the cellar. Nick retrieved the sleeping bag and then he climbed out to join Scott in the blistering heat.

 “You don’t want to be out in this too long,” he said, leading Scott towards the rough shelter he had built.

 Scott had to lean heavily on the young marine or else his legs would have caved in under him as he stumbled along. Nick spread the sleeping bag out in the shade and helped him to sit down. As he drew his hands away from supporting the American, Scott gripped them firmly in his own and looked straight into the gorgeous  blue-green eyes.

 “I owe you, Nick,” he said hoarsely. “Big time, my friend.”

 Nick smiled at him and shook his head slowly.

 “I’m just glad I could help,” he said.

 Scott let go of him and Nick sat down beside him.

 “I expect somebody will come along by here eventually,” he said. “Somebody will have reported you and your mates missing - and they’ll be looking for me. I hope.”

 “Did you ever get to Al-Jazeera street in Basra?” Scott asked, settling himself as comfortably as he could.

 “With all the ice cream sellers? Yes, I did.”

 “All that death and destruction all around and there they are, still selling fucking ice cream in the middle of it.”

 “Life goes on,” Nick said with a shrug. “Saddam’s gone, the whole country’s falling into civil war, so they do what they always did. It’s what they know, Scott. It’s their livelihood.”

 “Damn good ice cream, too.”

 Nick shoved him gently and grinned.

 “Stop talking about sodding ice cream,” he chuckled.

 “It’s like that old movie – Ice Cold in Alex? – where those guys spent all that time in the desert. All they wanted when they got out was a big, cold glass of beer.”

 “So all you want is what? A raspberry ripple?”

 “Nick, I won’t give a shit just so long as it’s cold.”

 “And all we have is charcoaled goat and warm water.”

 “I can live with that.”

 “Only for a couple of days, Scott. If nobody comes along then  we’re going to have to try to get back by ourselves.”

 Harris regarded him quietly for a moment.

 “You know I won’t make it, Nick. No way, buddy. I’m way too weak. Best leave me here and you send back the cavalry when you get picked up.”

 Nick sighed heavily but he nodded his agreement.

 “I can’t very well drag you about in this fucking desert,” he said. “I could get us even more lost and end up in Saudi or Kuwait.”

 “You’ll do just fine,” Scott said.

 “Anyhow, I won’t leave you till I’m sure you can look after yourself, mate,” Nick said firmly.  

 Scott dozed lightly in the morning heat. Nick had disappeared briefly but he returned carrying the clothing he had removed from Scott’s battered body.

 “I washed them,” he said. “You didn’t half pong, mate.”

 “Yeah, well they weren’t big on toilet breaks.”

 “How do you feel?”

 “Better, I guess. My head’s clearer.”

 “You better have some more food. We have goat on the menu today,” Nick said with a grin.

 “Hey, my favourite.”

 “I’ve got some biscuits in my pack but they got a bit broken.”

 “I don’t mind broken.”

 “Okay then, and maybe I’ll take you down to the water later.”

 “Yeah, where is that? I see the trees and stuff but it ain’t really my idea of an oasis.”

 “There’s a hollow in the sand, there – see?” Nick said pointing his finger. “It’s very hard to spot but there’s a small pool at the bottom - and some grassy stuff.”

 “It sounds divine!” Scott said “Brunch an’ then the beach? Wow!”

 “Somebody’s feeling better,” Nick said with a smile. “Taking the piss now?”

 “Not from you, buddy,” Scott said sincerely. “Never from you.”

 They ate their ration of goat and drank some more of the warm, flat water from Nick’s canteen. Afterwards, Nick helped his friend to walk the short distance to the hollow at the bottom of which lay the small pool of sparkling water. They stumbled down the steep slope and collapsed together among the rough grass which grew around the margin.

 “I can wet you down again if you like,” Nick said.

 “I’d like that, thanks.”

 “Okay, I won’t be a jiffy.”

 Nick got to his feet and climbed back out of the hollow. He returned a moment later with the cloth he had used on the previous occasion and Scott realised as Nick soaked it  that it was the man’s own t-shirt that he was using. Nick came back to him and knelt down in front of him, wringing the cool water over his head. Scott lifted his face and let the water splash on to his skin.

 “Thanks,” he said quietly.

 Nick proceeded to wipe gently across his shoulders and chest with the same soothing care as he had done the day before. Scott leaned back and allowed him to work unhindered. As Nick went to re-soak the cloth, Scott again found himself fascinated by the round, neat backside in those tight olive shorts. As the young man turned to walk back to him he allowed his eyes to focus on the crotch. This time he didn’t try to fight, this time he just looked and savoured. Yes, it probably meant he was queer, he thought, but what the fuck? He was a live queer. He’d shied away from that admission all of his life but now he would happily have shouted it from the highest minaret in Basra if that meant the could spend just a few more hours with this young marine.

 “You okay, Scott?” Nick asked, seeing the odd expression on Harris’ face.

 “I was just thinkin’, Nick.”

 Nick began again, now ministering to his back. How Scott yearned to have him again remove his shorts and wash that area that no other man had ever touched. Scott felt his cock begin to stiffen and he was afraid for a moment that Nick would see his excitement and he would be betrayed for the faggot he was. He drew his knees up to his chest, which concealed the growing erection. Nick wet the cloth again and came back, expecting to wash Scott’s legs now. Instead, Scott held out his hand.

 “Gimme that,” he said. “You’re turn, buddy.”

 “You what, mate?”

 “Just give me the damn cloth,” he said firmly, looking directly into Nick’s eyes.

 Nick nodded his assent and Scott knelt up behind him and squeezed the cooling water over the cropped blond hair of his friend. Then he took the cloth in is right hand and began to wash the young marine’s back.
 “That is nice,” Nick sighed.

 Scott’s cock was now fully erect and straining in the shorts Nick had given him. The realisation that they were probably Nick’s own only served to fuel his growing desire, freed now from the repression which had for all his life denied expression to that part of his nature. Scott had to crawl, as he still dared not try to stand, to the water’s edge to replenish the cloth. This also served to cover his excitement from the gaze of the other. Nick lay down on his back as Scott crawled slowly back to him. Gently he squeezed some of the water on to Nick’s chest and began to work down towards his waist. Nick had closed his eyes and this allowed Scott to look and admire the strong young body lying quietly before him. His eyes ranged all over Nick’s form but he found that the prominent bulge in the crotch of the shorts drew his gaze more and more. As he moved the cloth across Nick’s wonderfully flat stomach the young man sighed and settled himself more comfortably. At that moment Scott saw the bulge move and then it began to grow quite rapidly. He tried to ignore it and moved on to Nick’s powerfully muscled legs but he could not resist looking back to the focus of his desire. He made a decision. He finished what he was doing and then he knelt facing his friend so that the straining front of his shorts would be plainly visible to him. Nick’s own erection was now full and it, too, stood up strongly in his shorts. The young marine had made no attempt to conceal it.

 “Nick?” Scott said quietly.

 Nick opened his eyes and looked at him and Scott saw his eyes flick down to look at his raging erection.

 “I don’t know what to do, Nick,” Scott whispered.

 Nick didn’t reply, he knelt up in front Scott and smiled, his gentle eyes locked with those of his friend.

 “Don’t be scared,” he whispered.

 “I am scared, buddy,” Scott said hoarsely. “I’m scared to death.”

 He felt strong hands grip his own and pull, drawing them closer and closer together until their bodies met. Arms enfolded him and Scott felt himself engulfed in feelings and sensations which threatened to completely overwhelm him.

 “Lie down with me,” Nick said softly. “You’ll be okay.”

 “I never did this before,” Scott confessed. “I’ve never even admitted to myself that I wanted to.”

 They lay down together by the still water. Scott put his arms around Nick and allowed himself to merge into the flood of new sensations which roared through his soul. Lips touched his and a great wave of feeling broke through his heart. Willingly he returned the kiss and held as tight as his diminished strength and battered flesh would allow to the young marine.

 “Tell me what to do,” he whispered. “Jesus, Nick, I need to be with you.”

 “You are with me, mate,” Nick said. “You’ll know what to do. Trust me.”

 Scott let his hands range all over Nick’s broad back but, more and more, he wanted to feel the hardness of his friend, wanted Nick to take hold of his throbbing erection and work it hard and fast until his balls emptied themselves and the lust in his soul was sated. Driven by this overpowering need he slipped his hand between their glistening bodies and reached for Nick’s cock. When his fingers closed about the iron-hard shaft he feared he was about to expire so intense were his feelings. Nick moaned softly and sealed his lips with Scott’s once more.

 “Touch me,” Scott growled as he began to stroke and knead Nick’s jerking cock. “Touch my dick.”

 He felt Nick’s hand grasp his rampant cock through his shorts and again their lips met and the passion and desire surged between them.

 “D’you want me to make you come?” Nick whispered.

 “I want us both to come.” Scott breathed, his voice heavy with emotion.

 Nick kissed him again and laughed softly.

 “Okay, Scott.”

 He took a firmer grip and began to stroke Scott’s bursting cock harder and faster. He made no move to free it from the confines of his shorts but Scott had no objection. He was on fire and out of control, careering down the slope to crashing relief. Scott copied his actions and together the hurtled towards release.

 “You ready?” Nick panted.

 “Yeah, I’m there,” Scott said through gritted teeth.

 Scott felt his cock harden even more. The electric sensations surged through his flesh and concentrated in the ultra sensitive nerve endings in its head. He felt Nick’s cock swell and leap in his grip and then together they were seized in the searing flames of their orgasmic inferno. As his own cock jerked again and again Scott could feel Nick’s pulsing strongly in his grip. Nick’s free hand went behind his neck and pulled their lips tightly together again. He felt the warmth of his friend’s seed trickle over his fingers and the tangy smell of their mutual release filled his nostrils. Nick held the kiss and continued to work on Scott’s cock until he was fully expended, only then did he release the other man from his grip.

 Scott didn’t move away. He looked down to where he still gently squeezed Nick’s softening cock. He saw the large dark area of wetness and felt the warm slickness where the result of Nick’s orgasm soaked into the cloth of his shorts. He looked at his own shorts and saw that he had produced a similar result.  He leant down and kissed the young marine once more.

 “Okay?” Nick asked, his eyes showing again that he was concerned for his friend.

 “That was so fucking amazing,” Scott said, flopping down beside him. “I wouldn’t ever have believed it could be like that.”

 “Now you know.”

 “And how, buddy.”

 Nick nudged him gently in the ribs making him wince.

 “And you came in my shorts,” he said with a grin.

 “You came in your shorts, too,” Scott shot back. “Shit, that made me so horny when I realised I was wearing your underwear.”

 “Worked for me, too,” Nick chuckled. “You’ve got a gorgeous arse, mate. I nearly jumped you when you were crawling down to the water.”

 “Yeah, well I didn’t want you to see I had a boner.”

 “I thought you were getting horny,” Nick said. “So I didn’t try to hide it when I got hard.”

 “I have to tell you,” Scott said, “that was the horniest thing I ever saw in my life, Nick.”

 Nick laughed softly and held his hand, stroking the back of it with his thumb.

 “I think you’ve had a very sheltered life, mate.”

 “Well, I guess that was my own fault,” Scott said with a heavy sigh. “I knew – I mean, way deep down inside of me – I knew what I was but I wouldn’t face up to it. But here? Now? I thought I was a goner, buddy, until you happened along. I saw you today, looking out of that trapdoor, and for the first time I didn’t have the fight to resist what I felt. I knew I wanted you. I knew I wanted your dick and your lips and your arms and all that stuff. That’s what faggots want, isn’t it?”

 Nick raised himself up and propped himself on one elbow from where he could look down on the American.

 “Yes, I suppose,” he agreed. “But there’s more to it, Scott. Okay, some guys maybe go through their lives like that, just drifting from one shag to the next, but there is more, mate.“

 “Love, you mean?”


 “From what I’ve seen, buddy, that doesn’t even work for the straight guys.”

 Nick shook his head and smiled thinly.

 “You’ve only been queer for five minutes,” he said lightly. “How did you get so cynical so fast.”

 “My folks split up when I was a kid. Most of my buddies’ folks split up – even one set of grandparents split up. My best buddy, who I was best man for, and his wife split up. What’s to be cynical about?”

 Nick sat up, cross legged, on the hot sand and looked at him quietly for a moment.

 “My parents are still together,” he said. “One set of grandparents has been together for sixty-two years. My best mate – I couldn’t be his best man because I was out in Northern Ireland – he and his wife are expecting their first kiddie. One kid I knew at school, yes, his parents split up but, on the whole, mate, my experience is the opposite of yours. That doesn’t mean that I believe things will always work out for the best because I know they don’t. I’m not going to shut myself off from my feelings just because I might get hurt, Scott. If you never take the chance you’ll never know.”

 “Okay, so you’ve never been hurt……”

 “I didn’t say I’d never been hurt,” Nick interrupted. “I got  my little heart broken more than once when I was a kid – you know? The usual teenage crushes and stuff. It takes a while to learn that just because a guy plays with your dick doesn’t mean he wants to spend his whole life with you. It doesn’t even mean he’s queer.”

 “You ever had a serious…. What? …. Boyfriend?”

 Nick grinned at him.

 “Yes, two of them,” he said. “One for five years from I was nineteen until I was twenty-four. His name was Rod and I thought he was The One. I thought we’d be together forever, Scott, then one day I came home from a training exercise and he’d gone. No goodbye, no reason, he just went.”

 Nick bowed his head sadly and Scott felt an overwhelming urge to take the man in his arms and comfort him but he resisted. With returning strength and mental stability the old repression was trying to re-assert itself.

 “The other one? Well It was going okay until I got sent out here. He couldn’t take the strain of worrying about me, he said. Didn’t stop him taking up with some other squaddie who’s also out here, though.”

 “I think you just made my point for me,” Scott said quietly and with no satisfaction.

 Nick shook his head but he continued to stare into the burning sand.

 “I’m twenty-nine, Scott. I’ll be thirty in a couple of months, if I don’t get my arse blown off. I’m not ready to give up yet – not by a long shot.”

 “And I gave up before I even got started – Is that what you’re telling me?”

 Nick raised his eyes and looked directly into Scott’s.

 “Give yourself a chance, mate,” he said. “You’re not that much older than me. I had five great years with Rod in spite of how it ended up. I wouldn’t change that even if I could.”

 “Yeah but, in a way, wasn’t it just living a lie? You loved the guy - sure, even I can tell that, - but did he love you?”

 Nick smiled thinly.

 “Yes, he did,” he said and Scott saw a tear glisten in the corner of his eye. “I know that he did.”

 “So why’d he run out on you?”

 Nick shrugged and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.

 “I don’t suppose I’ll ever know,” he said. “I had no idea, Scott, no inkling that anything was wrong. Maybe he just got scared.”

 “Was he in the military?”

 “No way!” Nick said with a hint of a smile. “He worked on the railway. Platelayer.”

 “What about the second guy?”

 “He was just Pete,” he said sadly. “He’s got a thing for men in uniform so maybe I should’ve been a bit more wary but I liked him and he seemed to like me so….. .”

 “So you gave him the chance and he dumped you, too.”


 “And you’ll let some other bozo maybe do the same thing to you again?”

 Nick nodded slowly.

 “I have to try, Scott. I have to believe that, somewhere out there, there’s the man I was meant to be with.”

 “It ain’t me, Nick,” Scott said firmly. “I’m nearly forty years old, buddy, and I don’t think I’m the settling down kind. Not for anyone.”

 “How do you know?” Nick asked and there was an edge in his voice

 Scott stared at him.

 “You don’t, do you? You’ve been so busy avoiding the truth about yourself that you’ve never given yourself the chance to love anyone, Scott.”

 Scott smiled wryly at the younger man.

 “I always thought it was us older guys who gave the lectures,” he chuckled. “Yeah, okay, maybe you’re right, Nick, but maybe I’m right. I’ve known me a lot longer than you have and I ain’t such a great person, buddy. I’ve strung women along, maybe hoped I’d figure out what it was other guys saw in them, but they’d start going all broody on me and I’d be outa there as fast as my queer little legs would carry me.”

 “Did you shag any of them?”

 “Yeah, of course I did.”

 “Was it any good?”

 “I guess. It didn’t come anywhere close to what I felt with you, though.”

 “I’ve never been near a woman,” Nick confessed.

 “So how the fuck d’you know you’re queer?”

 Nick grinned at him and laughed. He gripped his crotch and stared straight into Scott’s eyes.

 “This knows,” he said firmly. “Just like yours knows. I’ve never wanted to go with a woman – couldn’t see the attraction. A big, gaping pussy just made me feel sick.”

 Scott held his gaze.

 “You know, you’re right,” he said. “I always thought the same.”

 “Scott, I can’t force you into anything, mate,” Nick said, his clear eyes blazing with emotion. “When we get out of this we’ll go our separate ways and you won’t ever have to see me again. I’d like things to be different but we can’t always have what we want.”

 “So tell me what you want, Nick. You want me to love you – is that it? You want us to settle down and maybe raise….. ,“ he looked around, “….goats ‘r something? Look, buddy, I owe you my life and, yeah, I feel something for you but you have to understand when I tell you I don’t exactly know what it is I’m feeling. You wanna risk getting that heart of yours broken again?”

 Nick didn’t blink or look away.


 “You’ve been out in this sun way too long,” Scott said levelly. “I’m an asshole, buddy, a grade ‘A’ certified, screwed up asshole. I don’t even love myself.”

 “Won’t you even give it a chance?”

 “I can’t, buddy,” Scott said firmly. “I owe you too much to risk hurting you like that. You’re one hot and sensitive guy and you deserve far better than I could be for you.”

 “But you don’t KNOW that,” Nick said, his voice breaking and tears showing in his clear young eyes again. “You can’t know what might happen. Nobody can.”

 “I now enough, Nick,” he said gently. “I won’t take the chance. It’s hard enough for me to face myself in the shaving mirror some days – how d’you think I’d feel if I hurt you?”

 “Doesn’t that tell you something, Scott?” Nick demanded. “Why would you care about hurting me?”

 “I do care, Nick,” Scott said. “Believe me, buddy, I care but that doesn’t mean I could fall in love with you.”

 “So you regret what we did?”

 Scott had to think for moment.

 “Yeah,” he said. ”In a way I do. And I know it was my fault - I don’t blame you for it, Nick.”

 Nick’s eyes bored into him and a look of anger clouded his youthful countenance.

 “Your fault?” He snarled. “Your fucking fault? It wasn’t anyone’s fault, Scott. We didn’t do anything wrong. I wanted you – you wanted me. We had our fun but it’s not what you want so let’s just leave it at that, okay? You don’t have to come it with the self deprecation and the guilt trip. Just tell me to fuck off, mate – I can handle that.”

 “Can’t do that,” Scott said. “Hey, look, Nick – I’m only trying to protect you, buddy.”

 Nick leant down until his face was only inches away from Scott’s

 “I don’t need protecting, mate,” he snarled. “I’m not afraid of what I feel.”

 With that he got up and scrambled angrily out of the depression in the sand. Scott lay still, stunned by the force of the younger man’s anger. A few minutes later a chunk of goat wrapped in a palm leaf landed by his right ear. He sat up and looked at it then he smiled and began to eat. He knew what it was that stirred in his heart. It was the same bright hope which burned within his friend but Scott Harris feared that flame. He had spoken the truth to Nick for he did seriously doubt that he could ever accept his nature enough to allow himself to love and be loved by another man.

 Or could he? He had to admit that what he felt for Nick Williams was more than just friendship and far more than just lust. He felt bad that he had angered his friend. He missed the comforting presence as he sat, alone, beside the water. Williams had had a profound effect on him, he had to acknowledge that, but their situation here was far from normal. Maybe each of them had simply answered a need in the other for comfort in this strange and hostile land. He’d go back to California and Nick would go back to wherever the hell he’d come from and whatever had pushed them together could be forgotten.

 Except that it couldn’t. Harris realised very quickly that he would never be able to forget. What had passed between them was so firmly enmeshed with the horror of all that had happened to him here that he knew it would live with him for the rest of his days. If he was completely honest with himself it was the one part of the whole horrifying experience he didn’t want to forget. He did feel strongly for Nick Williams, not just for his body or for his looks, but for the man. There was a deep sincerity and honesty in the young marine and an openness which allowed no attempt to conceal how he felt.

 “I hope somebody Up There is keeping track of all this,” he whispered aloud.

 Williams slithered back down the slope at that moment.

 “You better get out of the sun for a while,” he said flatly.

 He helped Harris up the slope and back to the shelter by the palm trees. He let him down gently on to the sand and handed him the water canteen. As Harris drank the younger man walked away and flopped down in the shade against the trunk of one of the palms. He didn’t look towards Harris and settled down as if he were going to take a nap. There was little else to do in the burning heat of the midday sun so Harris also lay back and allowed himself to fall asleep. He was still weak and he was still sore and tired but he was beginning to feel a new strength and resolve permeating his soul.

 “Maybe you are right,” he whispered towards his friend.

 Later, when he awoke again, Williams was nowhere in sight. Harris struggled to his feet and managed to stand without collapsing. His legs still felt shaky but he was standing. He could see Williams’ pack still lying by the palm but still there was no sign of his friend. Harris stumbled to the trapdoor which covered the cellar – some sort of store or shelter he guessed – but Williams was not their either. Neither was he down by the pool in its hollow in the sand. Harris sat down heavily on the rim of the hollow and felt miserable.

 “I guess I asked for this,” he muttered. “Jesus! I am such a fucking asshole!”

 Yet, in spite of himself, he knew Nick Williams hadn’t left him. The man had promised he wouldn’t and Scott Harris knew that the promise would be kept. He didn’t know how he knew with such certainty but he knew it as clearly as he knew his own name.

 Harris got up again and made the effort to walk all the way around the hollow at the centre of their little domain. His legs hurt from the blows they had received and his muscles were stiff from lack of use but he persevered. Having managed to complete that task he went to the trees and stood before the spot where Williams had lain earlier. There was still the indentation in the sand where the man’s backside had left its mark. Harris’ clothes lay, neatly folded, next to the backpack. He picked them up and went back to his shelter. There he stripped off Williams’ shorts and put on his own. He dressed himself, leaving the front of his shirt unbuttoned. The effort had tired him but he stumbled the short distance back to the hollow. In trying to negotiate the steep slope his weakened legs could not cope and he tumbled down the slope and into the water.

 “Shit!” he spluttered as he sat up in the shallow pool.

 The water felt wonderfully cool but he didn’t stay in it for long. The extra weight of his wet clothing made it more of an effort to move but he struggled out on to the margin and rested for a moment. When he had gotten his breath back he knelt by the water and washed Williams’ shorts. That done he crawled painfully up the slope and lay, panting, on the rim. He knew he couldn’t lie there for too long or the scorching heat of the sun would finish him. He forced himself to his feet again and staggered back to the shade where he collapsed, exhausted but content that he had made progress and had, at least, done one small thing for his friend.

 The sun was low in the desert before Williams returned. He was hot and tired but still he came straight to check on Harris.

 “Where’ve you been?” Harris asked.

 “Missed me, have you?” Williams said curtly.

 “Yeah, actually, I have buddy,” Harris replied. “I took a little turn around the ol’ ranch here, and I fell in the damn water hole, but I did wash your shorts for you and I made it back here all by myself.”

 “You’ll be hungry, then.”

 “So must you be. Where were you, Nick?”

 “Not far. I just went for a look round. See if I could spot anything - like a road or maybe somebody coming to find us.”

 “I take it there was nothin’?”

 Williams shook his head. Harris got to his feet again and placed a friendly hand on the young marine’s shoulder.

 “You sit here, buddy,” he said firmly. “I’ll bring you some food this time.”

 Williams looked at him uncertainly but Harris pressed down on his shoulder urging him to sit. Williams complied and Harris walked off as steadily as he could towards their food which hung in a wrapping of palm fronds in the shade of one of the trees. There was about enough left for one more day, he reckoned. Water wasn’t a problem but without food they wouldn’t last long. He untied the bundle and carried it back to his friend.
Williams watched him quietly as he made his unsteady way. Harris knelt down in front of the young marine and smiled sheepishly at him.

 “I’m sorry,” he said sincerely. “I am so, so fucking sorry, Nick. I don’t know what I’m doin’ here, buddy – it’s all new and strange to me and I guess maybe I am scared of what I feel.”

 Nick smiled thinly at him.

 “I’m sorry, too,” he said. ”I had no right to come on so strong with you. I think I can understand how you feel.”

 “I’m glad one of us can,” Scott said wryly.

 “Are you alright?”

 “Yeah,” Scott said as his depressed spirits began to lift. “Yeah, I’m good, Nick.”

 Nick took his knife from its sheath and handed it to Scott. He carved a couple of chunks of the blackened and dried up meat and passed one to Nick.

 “Well this just gets better an’ better,” Scott said as he examined his own share.

 “Thank you,” Nick said quietly.

 “What for?” Scott asked. “You’ve done everything up ‘til now while I’ve been lying about like some lard-assed Sultan.”

 “Just thanks, mate. My gob runs off in top gear while my brain’s still in neutral sometimes.”

 Scott looked at him blankly.
 “Okay, I understood all the words there but, all put together, I have no idea what you’re saying to me.”

 Nick smiled at him.

 “I talk before I think,” he said.

 “Oh, yeah – right. Well I guess we all do that sometimes. Anyhow you didn’t say anything out of line. You had a right to be mad at me.”

 “No, I didn’t,” Nick said firmly. “You’re hurt and you’re weak and you’re probably still in shock and I came along and …. well, I should’ve left you alone instead of letting my bollocks take over.”

 “As I recall it was me came on to you.”

 “I provoked you.”

 “Hey, can we stop passing the buck on this one? Nick, buddy, I wanted to be with you. I wanted to be with you right from that first time you washed me.”

 “And do you still regret what we did?”

 “I don’t know for sure,” Scott sighed. “It’s kinda like I want to regret it but I don’t. Does that sound crazy?”

 “Just a bit.”

 They ate their ration of goat and finished off their meal with a couple of Nick’s broken biscuits and a drink from his canteen. As darkness raced across the sand the temperature plunged rapidly.

 “I can’t believe it can get this cold this fast in a freaking desert,” Scott complained.

 “We better get you inside,” Nick said getting to his feet.

 Scott allowed his friend to help him up and together they walked to the trapdoor. Nick dropped through easily and helped Scott down into the warm darkness. Scott waited by the trap until Nick went back and retrieved his pack and the sleeping bag. Scott took the bag and unrolled it on the floor as Nick lit the stub of candle. There was an awkward silence for a moment. Scott stood more or less in the centre of the cellar while Nick stood by the raised area under the trapdoor. Scott looked at his friend in the dim, flickering glow of the candle. The young marine’s face showed an air of uncertainty but those brilliant eyes still shone in the poor light. Scott Harris knew what had to be done. Now or never time. Either he surrendered himself, utterly and completely, to his nature and to this handsome young marine who so obviously held deep and tender feelings for him or he doomed himself to a life forever lonely and barren.

 “C’mere, Nick,” he said softly.

 Nick hesitated only for a moment and then he took the couple of steps  which let him stand before his friend. Scott smiled wistfully and slipped his right hand behind Nick’s neck.

 “What the hell did you do to me?” He asked hoarsely.

 Before Nick could answer he drew their lips together and kissed him warmly.

 “You were right, Nick,” he said. “I don’t know what could happen with you’n’me. I don’t know if I can handle these feelings out in the big ol’ world, buddy, but if you’re willing to take that chance on me then I guess I at least owe you that chance.”

 He felt Nick put his arms around him and hold him gently. He felt the stiff brush of blond hair against his cheek as the young marine laid his head on his shoulder.

 “We can but try,” Nick whispered. “I don’t know what’ll happen to us either, Scott, I just know what I feel for you.”

 “Well know that I feel for you, too, buddy. Maybe I don’t understand what it is right now but I guess we’ll find out, if we get the chance.”

 Nick raised his head and leaned back until he could look into Scott’s face.

 “Maybe it’s all that goat,” he said with a mischievous smile. “There’s only one way to find out, Scott.”

 “Ah, so you’re not so certain after all.”

 “I’m sure enough,” Nick said. “I knew within five minutes of meeting Rod that I loved him.”

 “So quick?”


 Scott pulled Nick back into his embrace and held him as tightly as his hurts would allow. The younger man did not resist. Scott allowed his hands to slip down on to the firm roundness of Nick’s backside.

 “I need to be with you, Nick,” he whispered.

 He felt the arms around him tighten and then their lips met. Scott felt once more the great surge of passion course through his battered flesh and he willingly allowed himself to be swept away by it. Together they knelt down on the sleeping bag. Very gently Nick removed Scott’s shirt. Even in the dim candlelight the bruises on his torso stood out against the lightness of his skin. In hypnotic fascination he lifted Nick’s T-shirt over his head. The younger man’s chest was hairless and sweat glistened on the lightly tanned flesh. Scott placed one hand gently over the heart of his friend and felt the vibrancy of that young life beat beneath his touch. Nick placed his own hand on top of Scott’s and held it. His eyes blazed in the flickering light and he smiled.

 “I so want you,” Scott whispered.

 Nick lay down on the sleeping bag and gently drew Scott down until they lay together. His hand slid carefully across on to Scott’s abdomen and then down until it was caressing his fully erect cock. Scott reached across and lightly brushed his fingers over the prominent bulge in Nick’s crotch. The camouflage did nothing to conceal the excitement trapped inside.

 “God, that is so hot!” Scott breathed.

 He leant over and again and again their lips met as their spirits intertwined. Scott felt Nick loosening his belt and then probing fingers slowly pushed down his zip and went in and gripped his manhood. Scott lay quietly and watched in fascination as Nick gently pushed his hand under the waistband of his shorts and then drew his rampant cock out into the candlelight. The young marine held it and stroked it slowly, pulling the foreskin back as far as it would go and then sliding his fist back up until it engulfed the swollen head. Scott reached over and, with trembling fingers, he unzipped Nick’s trousers. The smell of sweat and arousal hit his nostrils as he slid his hand in and along the rigid member. Around the head he felt the warm slickness of pre-come soaking into the tight olive shorts. He released Nick’s cock from its confinement and worked it gently as Nick had been doing to him. He was transfixed by the sight of it and watched almost trance-like as another large bead of pre-come rose from the slit and was spread out by his slow manipulation, making the whole head of Nick’s cock shiny and slippery.

 “Oh wow!” Scott whispered. “That is so nice, buddy.”

 Driven now by unfettered instinct Scott moved down until his lips were poised just above Nick’s glistening cock head. The smell of man threatened to overload his senses and, without another thought, he engulfed Nick’s rock-hard organ in his eager mouth. The young marine gasped and Scott tasted more pre-come on his tongue. He slid Nick as far into his mouth as he could. It was a wonderful sensation having the rigid member in his mouth. He probed into the slit with the tip of his tongue and was rewarded by another gasp from Nick and yet more of the slightly salty fluid oozed into his welcoming mouth.

 “Stop a mo’,” Nick said urgently. “I don’t want to come just yet.”

 Scott released him with some reluctance and moved back up so that his lips could again find those of his friend. Now their kisses became more passionate as the furnace of their mutual desire burned hotter. Nick pushed Scott on to his back and went down on him with such fervour that Scott felt pain erupt again in some of his wounds. It passed quite quickly and he felt his whole being centre itself around the exquisite sensations Nick’s attentions were producing in his throbbing cock. Nick knew when he was too close, however, and released Scott from his mouth. He crawled down to Scott’s feet and gripped the bottoms of his trousers. He yanked them off and then did likewise with his shorts. Then he stood up and began to remove his own.

 “Hey! I wanna do that,” Scott protested.

 Nick grinned down at him, obligingly tucked his rampant cock back into his shorts, zipped up his fly and re-fastened his belt. Scott knelt and squinted up at him.

 “That’s better,” he said. “I can unwrap my own guy, thank you.”

 He undid the belt himself and pulled down the zip. He slipped his hands inside and around until they rested on the firm round buttocks. He allowed Nick’s trousers to fall round his ankles and then he moved in and buried his face in the aromatic fabric of the shorts. When he’d savoured enough, he yanked them down and again took Nick’s cock into his mouth. He felt Nick’s hands rest on his head as he slid his lips back and forth, back and forth over the shaft of that beautiful cock. Soon Nick tried to make him stop again but he would have none of it this time. He wanted to feel the young marine come in his mouth. He wanted to taste the hot seed and feel the warmth of it slide down his throat. He gripped Nick firmly by the hips, making it clear he wasn’t going to relinquish his cock until it had expended itself. Nick began to breathe heavily. His grip on Scott’s head tightened and then, with a loud moan of ecstasy from the young man’s lips, Scott felt the thing in his mouth swell and become even harder and then the hot nectar he craved was pumping into his mouth. Scott continued to work gently until there was no more. Nick leaned down and kissed the top of his head.

 “That was awesome, mate,” he whispered.

 He knelt down with Scott and enfolded him in his strong arms. They kissed and held tight to each other for a few moments and then Nick carefully pushed Scott back until he lay flat on the sleeping bag again.

 “Now it’s your turn,” he said with a grin.

 “I won’t take long,” Scott whispered. “I nearly shot my load when you came in my mouth.”

 Nick lay beside him and he felt himself engulfed once more in the warmth of his friend’s mouth. He put his hand on Nicks shoulder and squeezed it firmly as the young marine worked on him. It took only a few moments for the rush to begin. Scott tensed as the climax built in his loins.

 “I’m comin’ Nick,” he groaned. “Oh shit!”

 His head reeled as he was wracked by the fury of his release. Nick had taken the whole length of Scott’s cock into his mouth and Scott felt himself being milked until every last drop had been coaxed from his pulsing organ. When he was done, Nick moved back up beside him and they snuggled up tight together.

 “Thank you,” Scott whispered.

 “Stop thanking me, will you?” Nick chuckled. “And, by the way, that was fucking unbelievable for a beginner.”

 “You reckon I’ve maybe got some hidden talent?”

 “Not too hidden, I hope.”

 Nick got up and he went and extinguished the candle. Together they settled into the sleeping bag and lay with their arms tight round each other.

 “Are you alright, Scott?” Nick asked.

 “I’m great, buddy. I’m whacked but I’m fine.”

 “So I’m ‘your guy’, am I?” Nick said, hugging him tighter.

 “I said that, didn’t I?”

 “I’d like to be your guy, Scott.”

 “I know, Nick,” he sighed. “Gimme some time?”

 “I understand, mate. I won’t push you.”

 Wrapped in each other’s arms they fell asleep.

 Scott Harris snapped awake to the sound of gunfire outside. Nick was already out of the sleeping bag and peering cautiously out of the trapdoor. He had his rifle in his hand and he motioned for Scott to keep quiet. Scott crawled over beside him and also peered out of the narrow opening. They was no-one in sight but there was more gunfire and it was getting closer.

 “Can you use a gun?” Nick whispered.

 “Do bears crap in the forest?” Scott replied.

 “Get my automatic, then. We could be in trouble, mate.”

 Scott scrambled back to where Nick’s kit was lying on the cellar floor and took the pistol from its holster. He paused to put on his trousers and shirt and then crawled back to his friend.

 “I got it. You want to go put your pants on?”

 “Tired of looking at me already are you?” Nick said, flashing him a nervous smile as he hurriedly dressed himself.

 “The hell I am!” Scott said in a tone not entirely un-reminiscent of John Wayne.

 Nick rejoined him, laughing quietly.

 “See anybody?” He asked.

 “No but they’re getting real close.”

 “Look, if anyone comes this way, you get as far back as you can in here and leave them to me, okay? If they get me you still have the automatic.”

 A great bolt of fear arced through Scott’s heart. The possibility of his own death paled against the prospect of having to watch his friend die.

 “No,” he said firmly. “I’m staying right here beside you, buddy.”

 Nick had no time to respond as four armed men ran into view. There was another burst of gunfire and one of them fell face down in the sand.

 “Militia,” Nick said.

 “Yeah, but who’s chasing them?”

 “Don’t get your hopes up, mate. It could be a rival group.”

 Suddenly the trapdoor flew open. They spun round and found themselves looking up into the stunned face of an armed militiaman. Scott froze for a second but, as the young Arab man took  a step back, he saw the barrel of Nick’s rifle swing up and there was a shot. His ears rang from the sound but he saw the muzzle of their assailant’s gun pan towards him. His grip tightened on the pistol as his arm swung upward. The weapon leapt in his hand and the man crumpled to the ground.

 “Gotcha!” he breathed.

 Then he noticed that Nick was no longer standing beside him. He looked down and saw a still form on the floor by his feet.

 “Nick?” He said as he dropped to his knees.

 There was no response. Then he saw the blood. There was a large, oozing wound in Nick’s left shoulder. The whole left side of his face and head was blackened and bloody from the point blank flash of the weapon.

 “Oh, sweet Jesus no!” Scott breathed. “Oh my God, Nick?!”

 He ripped off his shirt and pressed it firmly against the wound. Nick was breathing but his breath was laboured and shallow.

 “You hang in their, buddy,” Scott sobbed. “Jesus, don’t you die on me, Nick.”

 The shooting had stopped. He could hear voices above. They were speaking English.

 “Hey! In Here!” he yelled, jumping to his feet.

 There was sharp crack and something whined past his ear.

 “Hold your fire!” A voice barked.

 Two men dressed in the same gear as Nick’s approached him cautiously.

 “There’s a guy hurt real bad in here,” Scott said, tears coursing down his cheeks. “You gotta help him. Please!”

 “Okay mate, you just put that gun down. Nice and slow,” said one of the men.

 Scott did as he was told and the two men came a little closer but they still kept their weapons trained on his head.

 “Any more weapons in there?”

 “Yeah – yeah, there’s his rifle. For God’s sake guys, He’s one of yours. My buddy’s dying in here.”

 “Who’s your buddy?”

 “Nick. Nick Williams. He needs help real bad, guys.”

 The two men exchanged glances and one of them lowered his rifle.

 “Okay, mate, you climb out of that hole and let me take a look.”

 Scott didn’t want to leave his stricken friend but, after years of working alongside them, he knew how the military worked. He heaved himself painfully out of the trapdoor and knelt on the sand.

 “Hands on your head.”

 He did as ordered and the second marine moved cautiously towards the cellar.

 “He’s dying in there,” Scott sobbed. “For pity’s sake help him!”

  The marine reached the trapdoor and peered carefully down into the opening.

 “I see him,” he said. “It’s Nick alright.”

 The other marine walked over to Scott and made him lie flat on the sand. He searched him and then he slung his rifle over his shoulder.

 “Okay, you can get up now,” he said.

 “Just help him,” Scott said, tears still pouring from his eyes.

 “You come with me, mate,” the marine said more gently. “You look like you’ve had a pretty hard time yourself.”

 “I’m okay,” Scott sniffed. “I don’t want to leave him.”

 “John’ll take care of him. Don’t worry, mate.”

 “He’s hurt real bad.”

 The marine helped him to his feet and slung one of Scott’s arms around his neck. He led him away from the cellar and towards the trees where two armoured vehicles were now standing.

 “Sarge?!” He called as they approached.

 The officer looked up from three prisoners who were lying flat on the scorching sand.

 “John needs the med kit, sarge. We found Nick and this bloke in a hole back there. Nick’s hurt.”

 The sergeant sent another man off with the medical kit and then turned his attention to Scott.

 “And you are?” He said.

 “Harris,” Scott replied. “Scott Harris, Fox News.”

 The sergeant nodded slowly.

 “Well, mister Harris,” he said gravely “I think you’ll find you’re in rather a large heap of shit. There were three of you?”

 “They’re dead.”

 “And I lost two men running around looking for you,” the sergeant said angrily. “Who the fuck do you think you are?”

 “Me? I’m nobody, sir. You call me for all the shit-headed motherfuckers you like – I don’t care – just you make damn sure my buddy is okay.”

 “I thought you said…. .”

 “I mean the guy lying there in that hole with a bullet in him,” Scott sobbed. His legs folded under him and he collapsed on to the scorching sand. “He saved my life, sir, and now there isn’t one damn thing I can do to help him. Do you know how that feels?”

 The sergeant squatted down in front of him and placed a hand on his shoulder.

 “I do, as it happens,” he said. “It goes with this job.”

 They took care of Scott. They’d put up a couple of tents and somebody gave him water to drink and someone else examined his wounds but all the time he could think of nothing but his friend. The image of him lying there, still and bloody, in that rank cellar was fixed indelibly in Scott’s mind. How much later he didn’t know he heard someone come into the tent where he lay.

 “Okay, mate?” A voice said.

 Scott opened his eyes and looked up into a face  he didn’t recognise.

 “Nick?” He asked.

 “He’s in a bad way,” the man told him. “John and Billy got him out of that hole but he needs more help than we can give him out here.”

 “He’s going to die,” Scott said, his voice hollow.

 “Maybe not. The sarge is trying to get them to send a chopper to lift him out.”

  “He saved my life.”

 “Maybe you saved his,” the man said. “It was a bullet from the automatic that killed the Arab. Nick’s rifle hadn’t been fired.”

 Scott let the whole awful scenario replay in his head.

 “Maybe I did,” he said. “Maybe it wasn’t enough.”

 “You get some kip, mate. I’ll bring you some grub later.”

 “I don’t want it. Can I see Nick?”

 “I’ll ask John. He’s looking after him.”

 The man disappeared leaving Scott alone with his thoughts, all of which were centred on his friend. He felt numb and detached from everything. There was just a great, black void waiting to swallow him whole. Gladly he would have cast himself into it if only Nick Williams might survive.

 He dozed a little but then he heard a sound in the distance. Getting rapidly closer, it was the distinctive sound of rotor blades. The helicopter was coming for Nick. Scott struggled out of the tent and shielded his eyes from the glare of the sun. In the distance a black dot was approaching.

 “Looks like he got it,” said a voice beside him.

 “Thank The Lord,” Scott said.

 “They’ll be here in a minute. You better come now if you want to see Nick before they take him.”

 Scott followed to another, larger tent. Inside, lying on a low cot, was Nick Williams. His shoulder and half of his head were swathed in bandages. The one unbound eye was half open.

 “He’s awake,” John told him. “He’ll be a bit groggy from the morphine but you can talk to him.”

 Scott knelt down by the cot and wept like a little child. He took Nick’s hand in his and pressed it against his cheek.

 “Hey, buddy,” he said, his voice breaking and tearful. “How you doing?”

 “Fucking awful,” Nick replied in a barely audible whisper.

 “You hang in there, Nick,” Scott said. “There’s a chopper coming for you.”

 “I hate those bloody things.”

 “You need to be in a hospital, buddy. It’s the quickest way out of here.”

 Outside the helicopter was touching down. John came back over to them and checked on Nick.

 “Okay, you’ll do,” he said. “Sorry mate, we can’t hang about,” he added to Scott.

 Two other men came into the tent and they set about transferring Nick on to a stretcher for the flight back to Basra.

 “You take good care of that guy,” Scott told them. “Real good care.”

 The men exchanged puzzled glances but they carried on with their work. The tent flap opened and the sergeant stuck his head inside.

 “Okay, lads. You need to be out of here right now.”

 Scott took Nick’s hand in his again and held it tightly.

 “I’ll see you back in Basra,” he said. “I swear, Nick.”

 He felt his friend squeeze his hand and then he was being carried hurriedly away. Scott flopped down on the sand and hung his head.

 “Dear God,” he said. “Let him make it. I…. .”

 His head snapped up and he scrambled to his feet. Half stumbling, half running he launched himself out through the tent flap. He ran as fast as he could after the men who were carrying Nick away from him.

 “Hey!” He yelled after them. “Hey! - wait up a second fellas!”

 The men didn’t stop but Scott managed, with a superhuman effort, to catch up to them as they loaded the stretcher into the chopper. Hands grabbed his shoulders and tried to drag him back but he shrugged them off, ignoring the pain this caused from his own injuries.

 “Lay off me!” He snarled. “I’ll only be a minute.”

 Hands were still on him but they allowed Scott to bend over his friend until his mouth was beside Nick’s ear.

 “Can you hear me buddy?” he said above the noise of the whirling rotor blades.

 Nick nodded his head slightly.

 “I love you, Nick,” he said.

 Nick’s eye blinked and Scott saw a tear trickle from the corner of it and run down his friend’s cheek. The hands on his shoulders now dragged him back and away from the chopper. The engine roared louder and it leapt into the air, swung round and sped off across the desert.

 Scott stood between the two men who had restrained him and stared after the receding chopper.

 “I love you, buddy,” he said, tears still streaming down his face.

 The sergeant stared at him thoughtfully for a moment then left him to his thoughts.

 A little later the marines struck the tents and he was bundled into the back of one of the vehicles. It was very hot and uncomfortable but he didn’t care as they sped across the sand.

 “Where’ll they take him?” He asked the sergeant.

 “Home, if he’s lucky.”

 “Yeah, but he’ll stay in Basra for a while, won’t he?”

 “I don’t know. It depends on the transport situation. I doubt that they’ll fly him out with that bullet in him.”

 Scott’s heart convulsed in his chest.

 “How bad is it?”

 John answered him.

 “It was the angle the bullet hit him from,” he explained. “It went in almost vertically down through his shoulder and there was no exit wound so it must be still in him. It was very close to his neck but I’ve got no way of knowing where it ended up. I do know it hit his collar bone. The powder burns are pretty bad and I think he might lose the sight in his left eye – I can’t be sure though. “

 Scott swallowed hard.

 “Thanks for levelling with me,” he said.

 “How’d you get to know him, Mate?” John asked.

 So, as they lurched and bumped across the burning sand, Scott told them the story of how he and Nick Williams had met. He omitted any reference to their lovemaking but he left the listening marines in no doubt that he was extremely fond of their colleague.

 It took several hours to reach Basra and he wasn’t entirely surprised to be arrested and confined, under guard, to the secure compound where he and other foreign nationals lived in slightly less danger than on the outside. A doctor came and examined him and gave him some pain killers and then a guy from the US administration came and yelled at him a lot. Somebody brought him food that wasn’t goat but he could think of nothing but Nick. Scott flopped down on his bed and fell asleep.

 Twelve hours later he awoke to someone hammering on his door. He got up groggily and waited patiently while all his aches and pains reported in.

 “Yeah, it’s open,” he called. “No locks here.”

 The door opened and the Royal Marine sergeant from the previous day strode into the room. Scott looked up at him and his heart froze.

 “Nick?” he said.

 “He’ll be okay,” the sergeant said.

 Scott buried his head in his hands for a moment as relief washed over him.

 “I thought you’d come to tell me he was dead.”

 “No, he’s okay,” the other man said with a thin smile. “Look, mister Harris, I’m not going to beat about the bush. We all know Nick’s gay, we’re his mates, and it doesn’t matter to us. He’s a great bloke and he’s a good marine but if it gets back to the brass that he’s like he is then they’ll turf him out on his ear on any excuse they can find. Just watch what you say because you never know who’s listening. The lads in the chopper won’t say a dickie bird but you be careful. Nick has an awful lot to lose.”

 “I know, sir,” Scott said quietly. “Look, I was in a mess. I’d lost two of my buddies, I’d been beaten half to death, I’d been starved and I was on the brink of losing my mind. I only realised after they took him away that, yeah, I loved the guy. I had to tell him. What if he’d died and I hadn’t told him?”

 The sergeant looked slightly uncomfortable for a moment but then he smiled.

 “Look, mate, I can’t say as I understand what it’s like for blokes like you. If you say you love him then I’ll believe you. Just be careful – for both your sakes. This is a Muslim country, remember? The penalties for things like that tend to be a bit …. Biblical.”

 “Is he going back to England?”

 “In a day or so, yes.”

 “Will I get to see him before?”

 The sergeant thought for a moment.

 “No queer stuff?”

 “I swear.”

 “Okay, I’ll see what I can do. I can’t promise, though.”

 “What’s your name, sergeant?” Scott asked. “I’d just like to know who I’m in debt to.”

 The sergeant grinned and pointed to his name tag on the pocket of his shirt.

 “Thank you, Lee Chapman,” Scott said sincerely. “Sorry, You’re not seeing me at my best – which ain’t all that hot anyhow. I’ll be damned if I know what that guy sees in me.”

 Chapman smiled at him again.

 “I sometimes wonder what my wife sees in me,” he said. “I suppose it doesn’t matter so long as she knows. I just thank God I’ve got whatever it is.”

 “Thanks. That helps - sort of.”

 “I better go, mister Harris, I have to make a report about a helicopter that got diverted somehow.”

 “Then I’m even deeper in your debt, Lee,” Scott said. “You’ll never know what this all means to me.”

 He held out his hand to the marine sergeant who took it and shook it firmly.

 “I’ll be in touch, mister Harris,” he said.

 “Okay thanks – only next time call me Scott,  will ya?”

 “Scott, of course. I’ll contact you as soon as I know anything.”

 Chapman left him alone. Scott bowed his head to his chest.

 “Thank you, Lord” he whispered. “I’ll do my best for him. I swear I will.”

 For two days Scott kicked his heels in the compound. There was no news about Nick and it was very likely that he himself would be deported back to the US at any moment.  He ‘d been very closely questioned about his ordeal and the circumstances in which he had come to shoot and kill the man who had been, apart from anything else, an Iraqi national. Demands were being made that he be charged with the killing. He couldn’t go anywhere outside of his room, not even to the toilet, without his guard. He wasn’t even allowed to use the phone. The hours dragged by and the nights were sleepless and interminable. Then on the third day Lee Chapman came to see him again.

 “Nick will be flying out today,” he said. “If you still want to see him we have to go now.”

 “You can spring me from here?”

 “For an hour or so, yes. You know they’re going to kick you out?”

 “Yeah, undesirable. That’s me all over.”

 “You have to understand, Scott,” Chapman said. “To some here that man you shot was a hero, a Martyr for Islam. Killing you would be seen as a source of great blessings for the one who got you.”

 “Right now I think I’d like to stay alive, Lee,” Scott said. “Now I have something worthwhile to live for.”

 Lee led him out of the hotel and into the back of the same armoured vehicle that had carried him back from the desert. It was a fairly short drive to the military hospital but Scott found himself increasingly on edge as they drove through the war ravaged city. They stopped briefly at the checkpoint outside the hospital and Lee handed Scott a laminated visitor pass.

 “Clip that on and try to look as if you’re supposed to be here,” he said.

 Scott looked at him and grinned.

 “This isn’t kind’a like that helicopter getting diverted, is it?”

 “What helicopter?” Lee said innocently

 “Oh, that one. Right.”

 They got out of the vehicle and Scott followed Chapman into the large, prefabricated building. Men saluted him and he saluted back. Scott stayed close and slightly behind him and tried to look inconspicuous. They stopped at a desk and Lee spoke briefly to an orderly who pointed them towards a room a short distance away down a side corridor. Lee opened the door for Scott and he went in. Nick was there, propped up in a bed, still swathed in dressings but looking rather better. Scott stared at him and felt the tears rising in his eyes.

 “Nick?” he said, his voice husky and shaking with emotion.

 The one uncovered eye opened and looked at him.


 “Yeah, it’s me, buddy.”

 Scott walked over to the bed and looked tearfully down on his friend.

 “How the fuck did you get in here?” Nick asked.

 Scott winked at Chapman.

 “Get in where?” he said.

 “Be like that, then,” Nick said with a little smile. “How are you, Scott?”

 “I’m great, buddy, an’ it’s okay – this guy knows.”

 Nick looked across at his sergeant who didn’t appear to be paying attention.

 “I promised not to make a scene and he snuck me in to see you. I hear you’re going back to England.”

 “Later today”

 “I’m getting shipped out, too.”

 “Back to the states?”

 “That sort of depends on you, Nick.”

 The young marine blinked in surprise and  just stared.

 “You hear what I said to you while they were loading you into that chopper?”

 “I heard.”

 “Don’t you believe me, Nick?”

 “I believe you, Scott,” Nick said with thin little smile, “but I’d really like to hear you say it again.”

 “I kinda promised your sergeant here that I’d be a good boy and not push it with …. that sort of stuff ,” Scott said. “He doesn’t want you losin’ out if some homophobe asshole rats on you to the brass.”

 “There’s nobody here but us.”

 “Yeah, that’s true and he has heard it before, kinda. I got a tad emotional out there in the desert.”

 Lee smiled and pointedly turned his back.

 Scott sat down on the bed beside his friend and took his hand.

 “I love you, Nick,” he said softly. 

 Scott leant down and kissed him gently but briefly full on the lips.

 He felt Nick’s grip on his hand tighten and saw again a tear run down the young marine’s cheek.

 “So, do I go back to the States or…. where, Nick?”

 “You’re sure?”

 “I’m sure enough, yeah.”

 “I could be laid up for quite a long time.”

 “I waited forty years, a few more weeks or months can’t make all that much difference.”

 “I still might lose this eye.”

 “Nick, lay off with that shit, will you?!” Scott said in exasperation. “I know how bad you’re hurt, buddy. John told me on the way back. It doesn’t matter to me. You’re still Nick. You’re still the guy I love.”

 Nick smiled at him.

 “London, then,” he said. “That’s where they’re taking me.”

 Lee rejoined them.

 “Sorry chaps, we have to go,” he said. “Don’t worry, Nick, I’ll see this man knows where to find you.”

 “Thanks, sarge. Thanks a million.”

 Chapman slapped him affectionately on the shoulder and then he turned and let the two men have a last moment together.

 “I guess I’ll see you in London, Nick,” Scott said sadly.

 “It should be only a couple of days.”

 “Yeah, I know that but I don’t want to have to leave you again.”

 “I don’t want you to go either,” Nick said. “So you better leave now before I land us both in trouble.”

 Scott leaned down and kissed him again and then he walked to the door where Lee Chapman was waiting.

 “See you in London, buddy,”

 Scott followed Chapman back into the main corridor. Lee stopped again at the desk and was handed a small manila envelope. Scott followed him back out to the vehicle and he was driven back to the compound. Chapman escorted him back to his room. Just outside the door Chapman stopped and handed Scott the envelope.

 “That’s what you need to know about where Nick’s going. It’s a civilian hospital so there shouldn’t be a problem with visiting him,” he said.

 Scott took the envelope and looked up into the soft brown eyes of the sergeant.

 “Why?” He asked. “Why you doin’ this, Lee.”

 Chapman smiled at him.

 “Why not?”

 “Some folks could give you a million reasons why not.”

 “Fuck ‘em” Chapman said with a shrug.

 “You are one heck of a guy, Lee,” Scott said sincerely. “I hope we’ll run into each other again sometime.”

 “Maybe we will,” Chapman said. “You look after young Nick, Scott. And yourself.”

 He held out his hand. Scott shook it and they took their leave of each other.

 A few hours later they came for Scott Harris and unceremoniously bundled him on to a plane bound for the UK. He had nowhere to go, no job and no friends in England but he was happier than he had been in a long, long time. For the first time in ages his future looked shining bright - as bright as the eyes of the man he loved.


© 2004 George Gardner