Do Over

Chapter 24


"Didn't I just see you the other day?" President Reagan asked as Brian and I entered the suite he occupied at the downtown Brussels hotel. He didn't shake our hands, instead wrapping us in one of his bear hugs. "I'm so glad to see you both are unharmed."

"Thank you, sir." I said softly. The room was empty except for us. Nancy was not on this emergency trip and he'd kicked everyone else out, even the Secret Service.

"I've been told you both handled yourselves very well in Germany." Reagan said and I just shrugged while Brian nodded. "I've also spoken with your mother, Davey, and both your parents Brian. They're worried, and relieved you're okay. Of course, we couldn't give them full details but you were supposed to be 'on vacation' in Germany and all assumed quite correctly that you were in Berlin."

"I bet worried is an understatement." Brian said glumly. "We'll probably never get to leave the country again until we're eighteen."

"You have to not only get parental permission, but presidential authorization for that, my boys, and you won't be getting it again from me anytime soon." Reagan said with a hearty laugh. "Your parents and I did agree you could spend three days in Paris before heading home though. It'll be your last chance for a few years and the Secret Service agrees that nothing is likely to happen there, although you will be well protected just like my own kids are right now."

"How are we going to explain that?" I wondered aloud.

"We won't." He said. "They'll be dressed in plain clothes, not their tell-tale black suits. Once you get done with your little trip to Paris you'll head back home after a stop in D.C. That's where you'll be debriefed, Davey. What just happened seems to indicate they fear something you might know a lot more about than we previously believed. I actually had to threaten to use nukes if they went into Berlin before they backed down. When I put our forces on Defcon 2, they finally got the message and started talking."

"Sir, if they want Davey dead that bad, might they try something at home?" Brian asked with a very worried tone.

"That's one of the things we're worried about." The President told us. "We will increase the Secret Service detail in your hometown to provide 24-hour coverage, and there will be some added security in other areas as well. I've been told that there have been three death threats received against you guys as fallout from the convention. Apparently we all pissed off a lot of people. We'll use that with local police as a cover for why the Secret Service is there and why they need local police cooperation. As friends of the President, who are receiving death threats, it's not out of the ordinary for the Secret Service to get involved. If the press finds out, they'll make a story out of it, but it'll focus on the death threats. They're usually pretty good about that kind of thing."

"So we get no privacy." I mumbled and he laughed.

"No more than I do." He pointed out and I shook my head.

"But you were elected to office."

"And you chose to participate in an experiment that made you into a central figure in this era." President Reagan countered and I had to concede.

"He wins." Brian said to me with a smug smile.

"Yeah, well, so how long are we staying here?" I asked trying to change the subject.

"You two want to fly or drive to Paris?" The President asked.

"Fly." I said

"Drive." Brian said at the same time. We looked at each other and laughed. Before Brian spoke up. "You told me about driving from Brussels to Paris before and I want to see it for myself."

"Fine, we'll drive, but remember, that was in 2004." I countered. "They had better highways then, and didn't have border check stations like they do now."

"No border stations?" President Reagan asked with raised eyebrows.

"It's an EU thing." I explained. "Oh, wait, it's EEC right now, becomes the European Union later. Travel between member countries becomes a lot more like moving through the States. Heck, immigration between EU states was almost the same as the US states. There were a few more rules, but it was a lot easier for a German to move to France and vice versa then than it is now, or would have been, or will be, or whatever."

"That's...interesting." Reagan said before looking at the clock. "Well, I'll tell the Secret Service to have a car and agents ready to drive you to Paris. They'll check with you on the route you want to use later tonight. I'm sure you won't have to worry about border stations too much. Take care and enjoy yourselves."

"You too, Mr. President." I said while Brian just said "thank you" before we left. We got lucky, or the agents had planned ahead because when Brian mentioned he'd love to get out around Brussels at least once, the agents agreed to stop at a local restaurant. We sat at our own table while the agents sat nearby. When I ordered for us, using German for the first time on this trip, I included some wine with the order. Brian stared in amazement when it was brought, but I'd figured there wouldn't be any problems. After that, the agents drove us to the Royal Palace where we joined a regular tour they offered. At several points in the tour, I grabbed Brian's hand and held it, and each time it startled him slightly. When he noticed no odd stares from the other people, he relaxed some and leaned into an embrace with me that was definitely not mistakable as being anything other than romantic. One Belgian couple nearby smiled at us as we walked back towards the agents, who likewise didn't say or react to how we were walking.

As we drove back to NATO Headquarters, I explained how Belgium had stopped banning gays from serving in their military way back in 1972. Even among European nations, they were always more progressive towards gay people and would be one of the first countries in the world to allow full, legal gay marriage. Brian just smiled and remarked we'd have to come back here, if we were ever allowed out of our home country again.

After dinner, we were introduced to Thomas Castillo, the Secret Service Agent-in-Charge of our new full-time detail. He was a young man, no more than twenty-six and he explained that as of the events in West Berlin we would have a full-time detail of ten agents watching us at all times. That didn't mean all ten would be with us at all times, but that ten people were assigned. They would work in two-person, eight-hour shifts, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. That meant each one would only work eight out of every forty hours directly escorting or watching us, but they all had 'other' duties related to my detail that would keep them working with about every other day off. If we traveled outside of our normal routine, and probably on things like game day for whatever sports we were playing, they would involve more agents and local police to back them up, but we'd normally only have two agents in our general vicinity at all times.

Then he laid down the ground rules for our behavior while under his protection. He wasn't rude, he wasn't overbearing, but he let it be known without any doubt that he would not tolerate intentional violations of the ground rules. If you don't mind someone seeing everything you do, quite literally, then the ground rules were no problem.

"You better make sure none of them get offended at seeing two boys having sex." Brian warned him gently. Thomas Castillo smiled slightly.

"Let's just say suddenly being gay isn't as big a deal in some parts of the Secret Service." Castillo said and our eyebrows rose.

"Okay, let me just say this once: He's mine." Brian said very possessively. Castillo just laughed while I smiled.

"Oh, no worries there, boys." Castillo finally chuckled.

"Then let me say that HE is MINE." I said and this time got a full laugh. Castillo was fairly handsome, with brown hair and a well-tanned complexion. I knew plenty of gay men would be drooling over this Secret Service agent.

"I've been told about your two's...commitment." Castillo said with a grin. "I'm glad to see it's real and not just talk."

"So are we." Brian said firmly.

"Okay, I'll lay down the specifics of your team." Castillo confirmed softly. "The SAIC of the White House basically asked for ten volunteers who were willing to go on assignment in your hometown in Central California. It is for a six-month rotation, and they were very explicit that the subjects were a gay couple. Any agent who had a problem with that, and what we might observe between two sexually active young men were told not to bother volunteering. You got two others besides me on your team whom I'm pretty sure are gay, two women, and the rest are men who do appear to be open-minded. I got picked in part because of my experience on the detail for the President's oldest son, but also because when the White House SAIC asked me if I had any problems with homosexuals I told him 'of course not, I am one.' A year ago, I would have been out on my ass for that. Now, he assured me that telling him wouldn't hinder my career after your assignment is complete."

"Congratulations!" I told him and he smiled.

"I think I probably owe you two some thanks for making that change happen, even though it's not officially a policy yet." He said. "It was made pretty clear the Secret Service will be ignoring that rule until it's removed, even for details not related to you."

"Change works its way slowly, but it is always happening." Brian quoted from somewhere.

"Right, so now that we've established we're family, let's talk about Paris and what it is that you guys want on your vacation." Paul Castillo said and I smiled as we got down to discussing the drive. He wanted to take the Westerly route down to Paris, but I wanted the Easterly route that ran through Luxembourg. We could stop there at ten in the morning, tour the Palais du Justice, and then eat lunch at a restaurant I was pretty sure existed now. Actually, I know it does, because when I'd been there in 2001, they'd told me they opened in 1983. Then, we'd drive down into France after lunch. We'd have plenty of time to visit Champagne and tour around the small town for two hours before we'd take the A4 to Paris. We'd stop outside of Paris in a small town where I knew they had an excellent steak house for dinner, again a restaurant that had been open since the 1950's, and then we'd drive into Paris with the onset of night, and just as the lights of the city would be filling the sky.

Castillo managed to keep a straight face as I got 'all romantic' in my descriptions of what I wanted and did some quick figuring with a map he had. He cautiously allowed it was possible to do what I wanted, and then Brian started in on what he wanted the night we got to Paris and our dear AIC frowned. Castillo looked at me for support and I just shrugged and he finally added 'night-time boat cruise down the Seine' on the list of what we wanted after checking into the hotel. Then, we decided on a late night stroll down the Champs Elysees before heading into our hotel. Castillo informed us we'd be staying on that famous street at a very nice hotel there that would cost more than I wanted to think about. Somehow it had been worked out so someone else was paying things, but not the government when it came to our rooms. I was pretty sure the President had something to do with that since he was the only man I knew who could afford to blow a few grand on two night's hotel stay.

Brian was giddily excited about our trip to Paris actually happening and I ended up encouraging him to join me on a run in order to drain off some of his enthusiasm. We followed that up with a workout at the base gym and then headed back to the room, still escorted by the same two agents. When we got into the room the phone was already ringing and I picked it up to discover it was my mother, and she was pissed as hell.

"David Ray Jones, where the hell have you been?" She demanded angrily after I answered. I had to hold the phone away from my ear and Brian could hear her clearly from halfway across the room. "Do you have any idea how worried I've been? Your poor sister has been worried sick!"

"Hi Mom, I love you too." I said pointedly. "I'm glad you're doing well and so is Jenny."

"Don't take that tone with me young man." She said even more angrily. "What the hell were you two doing in Berlin that set off all that mess? I know you had something to do with that!"

"Mom, Brian and I were just sight seeing." I said quickly, knowing this was a non-secure line and anyway she didn't need to know anything. "General O'Keefe kept us safe so there was nothing to worry about. I'm sorry if you got upset, though."

"Don't hand me that bullshit." She said even more angrily and I let out a sigh. "I want you to come right home."

"Oh sure, you've been to Paris, it's no big deal if Brian misses it." I said sarcastically and then wished I hadn't.

"Don't try to pull that trick on me, young man." She warned me and I sighed.

"Mom, we'll be home in a few days. We're safe, we're fine and we're going to stay that way." I said as calmly as I could. "Try to calm down and I'll see you when I get back."

"I'm still your mother, you know." She spat angrily over the phone. "If I tell you to come back right now you will come back right now."

"Mom, do you really want to piss away the good relationship we've been rebuilding over the last few years?" I demanded angrily.

"Don't try that on me either. I let you get away with enough as it is, with stuff you have no right doing, really." She countered just as angrily. This wasn't going well, but then again arguing with my mother never did go well, no matter my age. "I think we need to discuss living arrangements when you get back."

"Fine, take them up with the United States Secret Service." I said angrily. "I've got ten agents following me everywhere I go now and they'll want you to have a house, set apart from the neighbors by at least ten feet where they can use low-light cameras and other surveillance equipment to have constant observation of anyone moving around on our property. Then, you'll have to contact the Department of Defense to have them move a forty-thousand dollar connection to their secure computer system, and it'll probably cost another million dollars to install it after the one they just finished. Oh, and don't tell anyone that it's a fucking secret!"

"Watch your language with me, young man!" She snapped angrily. "I don't believe you for a second about that other crap either!"

"Fine, call the White House." I told her. "You can talk to Nancy, she's there and she probably can tell you a little about the security arrangements if not the other stuff. She'll be able to tell you who to talk to and then some government guy will come out and tell you all the requirements and all the costs. I'll make sure to tell him that since it's really not necessary and you're just doing this because you're pissed and worried about my safety, that we'll pay the costs associated with my move, somehow, someday, even if I spend the rest of my life working to pay them off just so you can be happy."

"I'll do just that!" She yelled and hung up the phone. I let out a long sigh and it didn't help that Brian was sniggering his head off. When the phone rang five minutes later I picked it up and was almost relieved to hear Mom B's voice. That was until I heard her tone and she started chewing me out for putting her son in danger when Brian didn't have to go with me. I just sighed and handed the phone to my boyfriend while she was still railing on me. Brian was wise enough to hide his laughter until I was out of the room and in the bathroom, drawing a hot bath.

I had soaked in there for ten minutes when Brian came in, leaving a trail of clothes and climbing in the tub, laying face down on my chest. I instinctively wrapped my arms around him as the water lapped the edge of the tub. He was smiling, though, so his call must not have been as bad as mine.

"Mom sends her love and she's sorry she read you the riot act." Brian murmured against me. "She's just being a mother. She and dad are going to get Mr. and Mrs. Rush and then they're going over to calm your mother down. She said for us to go and enjoy Paris and they'll see us when we get home. Oh, and she said 'don't start World War Three while you're there'. Dad said just don't start a war with the French before they could surrender."

"Har Har." I said irritably, but I was also smiling a bit. The bath tub wasn't really big enough for two six-foot one guys but we managed somehow to relax in the hot water, and even get a little clean, although that led to another type of cleaning and a hell of a lot of sloshed water over the side.

"Crap, well, at least we're leaving in the morning and won't need the towels." Brian said after we'd sopped up most of the overflow. I just smiled at him, picked up the phone and called the maid service for more towels. A portly older woman appeared fifteen minutes later, was passed by security and proceeded to clean everything up while muttering in German.

"We have room service here?" He asked with some surprise and I pulled him onto the couch to watch television as the woman left. While we watched the French station, I explained that VIP quarters would have maid service if not hotel-style room service and he just shook his head in amusement. After watching a French movie about some WWII resistance woman who helped the D-day invasion, we went to bed, both of us excited about tomorrow's trip.

We were up before dawn, still not really adjusted to local time. Brian kept on trying to figure out why his body wasn't waking and sleeping like it normally did, and I kept trying to explain about different time zones but finally gave up. I ended up just telling him to go with the flow and sleep when it was dark.

Thomas Castillo joined our two agents in the car that took us down the road towards Paris. It was a large Rolls Royce, so we traveled in what was for us, style. The Belgian countryside was much as I remembered it: not that different from the United States with rolling hills and verdant green grasses leading to verdant green forest. Castillo, who was in the backwards-facing seat, proved to be quite knowledgeable about the countryside's history and named off several large WWII battles that were fought along the way.

"Crap, we have US History next year, don't we?" Brian asked and I nodded.

"Yeah, the section on Civil War to modern day." I added and he smiled.

"I wish we had a camera so we could take pictures of this stuff and use that in class for extra credit." Brian mused and I smiled.

"We can probably find a camera shop in Luxembourg." I told him and he nodded happily. Thanks to Castillo and what appeared to be a big guide to Europe, we did find the camera shop. For a moment I forgot that ATM machines were not really international yet and worried about having enough money. Then, I remembered the Euro had not yet been introduced, and I hadn't exchanged any money yet. Luckily, we had Castillo with us and he pulled out a government credit card, explaining it would cover our expenses and when we were back, we'd get a bill from the Secret Service for our incidental expenditures. Then, we went to the restaurant I'd selected and their fish in white cream sauce was as good as I remembered it being seventeen years down the road. Brian snatched shots of us at the Palais du Justice, and then we were off to Champagne. I think Brian was disappointed with that hamlet. It wasn't what he was expecting, but he got plenty of chances to show how little French he knew. Unlike most Parisians I'd met, the locals didn't take offense at his amateurish attempts at their language, but instead responded with enthusiasm and corrected him in a very friendly way. Maybe Parisian French were like New York Americans...a breed apart and considered rude by everyone else's standards.

The drive between Champagne and Paris was the longest part of the trip, and the near-constant stops for toll-booths amused Brian to no end and exasperated our drivers who had to stop in order to change their money to French Francs. We'd convert some money in Paris where the rate was a little better, but it reminded me of things from a future that I wondered about still happening. I'd driven along this same road using my American credit card to pay the tolls, with Euros in my pocket that lasted me from Paris to Luxembourg, to Brussels, and on through Germany. I hadn't had to change them into other currency until I returned to England on that trip. Certainly progress like that was something I hoped would still happen. These border stations and having to change money were really a pain in the ass.

The steaks we had for dinner outside of Paris were fantastic. After dinner we continued on to Paris and I pointed out for Brian (while Castillo who had been cleared for knowledge about my memories looked on with subtle disbelief) where the turnoff for Euro Disney would one day be placed. Brian thought it was weird for Europe to have its own Disneyland, and when I mentioned Japan's having one Castillo burst out in a snort of derision at the same time Brian did. I just shrugged and waited for the expression on Brian's face as we entered Paris and he saw the Eiffel Tower all lit up.

It was too bad his camera didn't have a flash, because that gentle glow of happiness was something I knew I'd treasure forever. It wasn't a blazing burst of childlike happiness, or the subtle underscoring of adult enjoyment, it was just a pure suffusion of joy at really seeing Paris for the first time that filled his entire face. He gripped my hand, brought it to his lips and kissed the back of it as if to thank me.

Yes, Brian had wanted to go to Paris for years before he met me, and that was why he'd chosen to study French. Now he was going there for the first time, with his lover, and he couldn't have be happier, even as we entered the chaotic ring road that circled the city and was nearly rammed by four cars in quick succession. It wasn't an attack, just normal Paris drivers honking and shouting out their windows as they tried to ram anyone in their way. It didn't dim his reaction though as he continued to stare out the window and point out the many landmarks of that city.

For me, I'd been there once before, in this life and once in my future life, both times with friends or family. The first time I'd hated it with a passion, the second I found it passably enjoyable. This time though, I was finding out why they said Paris was best visited with your lover or spouse. There was just something about the night skyline that screamed romance and I found myself scooting over so that no distance separated us. Without breaking the grasp on my hand, he moved my arm so that it hung over his shoulder and we leaned into each other while Castillo politely looked out the other window.

We checked into the hotel, changing our money while we were at the front desk and headed upstairs. Brian tipped the bellboy, thanking him in much less accented French and we were in our suite. It had a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower and we could just make out the Arc at the end of the boulevard from the corner of the balcony. We stood out there in the crisp night air for a few minutes before Castillo entered the room and told us it was time for our boat ride, if we still wanted that.

Brian practically drug me downstairs and into the waiting car, forcing Castillo to hurry in order to keep up.

When people say that Paris is for lovers, they are telling you the complete, unvarnished truth. Whether it was that late-night cruise down the river, the later walk down the Champs Elysees, riding to the top of the Eiffel tower and staring down at the city while holding hands, or strolling through Notre Dame and the Louvre, hand in hand, doing it with Brian was ten times better than either of my previous trips. We even managed to squeeze in a few sights I hadn't caught my first two times, and spent half of the last day at Versailles before going back to Charles de Gaulle airport.

Castillo had twelve rolls of film we'd taken along the way. He carried them to make sure they weren't ruined by x-ray machines or other things that could happen to undeveloped film. We also had another bag full of gifts we'd bought along the way for family and friends, including several bottles of wine that Castillo promised he'd claim for us when we got back home.

The only real problem came when we got off the Delta 747 flight and went through customs. Apparently, we weren't able to speed by this set for some reason Paul never really explained, and the customs agent was quite perplexed at how we had stamps for leaving Belgium, entering Luxembourg, and both entering and leaving France but we had no entry stamp for Belgium and claimed to have been gone longer than the newest of the stamps. Fortunately, a Secret Service badge takes care of such questions pretty damn quickly.

We stayed in Washington for one whole day, spent entirely at the Pentagon except for the four hours I slept at the hotel. Then, it was a four-hour flight to San Francisco followed by a forty-minute flight to Modesto in a twin-engine propeller plane. Mom, Jenny, Brian's parents, and the Rush family were all there to greet us as we got off the plane, only Castillo follow us. I did recognize two other men in the terminal waiting over by the snack counter from the pictures Castillo had shown us. I was pretty sure none of the family except for the Rush's did. They would know because they'd be seeing more of them than everyone else.

"Thank god you're back." Mom said as he hugged me tightly while Brian's parents were doing the same. "You must be tired."

"Actually, I slept on both plane trips." I admitted. All I knew was that it was bright outside, my body clock was so messed up. "I'll sleep when it gets dark."

"Would you boys like some lunch?" Mr. Rush asked with a fond smile as we headed out after getting our bags.

"Sure." Brian said from where he was walking in between his parents. Jenny and Mom had surrounded me as well. We all drove in different cars, me with Dyadya and Tyatya because I could not fit into Mom's two-seater RX-7 with her and Jenny. That gave Dyadya time to tell me he'd talked some sense into Mom by showing her his study for a few minutes. That seemed to have settled her down some and she hadn't mentioned me moving in with her again since then.

With that settled, he proceeded to chew me out for yelling at my mother like I had.

By the time we reached the restaurant, I was well and thoroughly chewed over the way only a Russian father could manage to do. It was somewhat embarrassing, but it also felt good to have an adult man care enough that he would do what Dyadya did in that car. When we got out I gave him a huge hug, a kiss on each cheek and thanked him in Russian for caring so much. He smiled in that Russian understated way and hugged me back, kissing me as I had him.

It wasn't a gay thing, it was a Russian cultural thing and I could care less what anyone except Brian thought, and he knew it wasn't a bad thing.

Throughout dinner, Brian and I took turns telling all about our drive through Belgium, Luxembourg, and France, our days in Paris and all the things we'd seen and done. Several times, Mom or one of the other parents tried to bring up Berlin, but we ignored the question and instead talked about Paris. It wasn't until we'd eaten that my brain registered the fact that Trevor, Brandon, and Brandon's parents weren't here.

"Where are Brandon and Trevor?" I asked when I had made that realization.

"At practice." Mr. Rush said, his smile knowing what our reactions would be.

"Holy shit, we have to go." Brian muttered, standing up and nearly pulling the table cloth with him as he headed for the door. Dad B just laughed and slowed him down stating he'd already talked to the coaches and we were excused for the first day only, but we were to show up this afternoon and talk with them briefly.

I hadn't even realized it was Monday, two weeks before school started, and the start of football practice.

Fortunately, lunch was pretty much over. Mom and Brian's parents had to get back to work. Mr. and Mrs. Rush were watching Jenny for Mom, and offered to take us to the school so we could at least meet with the coaches. We rode in the back seat of Tyatya's car with Jenny between Brian and me. My little sister talked the entire way there. She was quite excited that her and two of her friends were going out for the volleyball team at my old junior high school.

In all honesty, she could use the exercise.

Mr. Rush dropped us off at the school, with the Secret Service car pulling into the parking lot as he left. One thing we wouldn't have to worry about for a while was a ride. Brian and I made our way towards the varsity practice field, taking a few moments to watch the freshman team on the first day of practice. Coach Halpern waved at us as we passed by and we returned it with broad smiles.

Coach Mueller, who had taken over for the old varsity coach after the man had gotten hired at CSU Chico, frowned as we approached him. He was a heavy-set man, with dark hair and a bushy black mustache, and had never smiled that I could remember. He was running the team through wind sprints on the first day and nodded for us to come onto the field.

"Hi coach, we just got into town, sorry." Brian said when we were standing next to him.

"You know, I don't like sophomores on my team and you expect me to take you when you arrive late and not dressed for practice?" Mueller told us in a rough voice. "Do you think you are special because you go to Europe and hobnob with the President that you do not have to do what all the other players on my team must do in order to play?"

"No coach, we're sorry, we got delayed in Berlin or we would have been back here in time for the start of practice." I said quickly.

"Who are those guys?" Mueller asked, jerking his head to where the two members of our detail were standing by the fence, watching the practice casually. They were wearing jeans and t-shirts and I wondered where their guns were hidden. Their dark glasses were in place though, as were the near-invisible radios.

"They are from the United States Secret Service." I said softly, hoping it wouldn't make him madder. "They're here to safeguard us. There's been some bomb and death threats against us."

"Why should you be on the team if you will put all of us in danger?" Mueller demanded in what was almost a calm voice.

"You think football should be stopped just because someone doesn't like a few players?" Brian challenged him. "They're here to make sure there is no danger, which is better than if there were no one here at all."

"Fine, be here tomorrow morning, seven a.m." Mueller said grumpily. "Team practice starts at nine and you will be sweating like pigs by the time everyone else arrives. Tell your guards to stay out of my sight, too."

"Will do, coach." Brian said and we began to walk off as he muttered "Two players show up late and my defense coach is going to be a week late. This season is going to suck big time."

"Master Chief Cole's one tough cookie, Coach Mueller." Brian said. He'd had a chance to meet the guy while I was being debriefed in the pentagon.

"You met him as well?" Coach Mueller said with some surprise. "How did you meet him?"

"Um, we met his commanding officer in Germany and stopped in to say hi on our way through Washington." Brian temporized pretty well. "He had me doing push-ups five minutes after I introduced myself saying he wanted to see what pieces of shit he'd have to work with."

"Ha! Finally something good happens." Mueller said with less of a frown. Maybe that was his way of smiling. "I only met him at his interview and wasn't as impressed as our dear principle. Get your asses off of my field until you're in uniform."

"Yes, coach." Brian and I said together and trotted off the field.

"Chris, and J.T., right?" Brian asked the two agents as we got near them.

"Yeah, I'm Chris." The blond one said while the brown-haired one just nodded.

"Coach wants you guys out of sight during practice if you can manage it." Brian said in a rush. "Mind giving us a lift home?"

"Uh, we'll work something out and sure." Chris said with a shake of his head.

Tuesday morning sucked utterly. Despite the times we jogged in Europe, those days and the weeks leading up between them and football camp had seen us get woefully out of shape, something Coach Mueller spent a lot of time telling us the next morning. He threatened to send us to J.V. right away, but when the rest of the team showed up, he was telling them the same thing. That night, I was so tired I didn't even bother stopping by Brian's.

Since we lived in two separate locations, the members of the detail assigned to watch Brian lived in a home across from his that had been rented for that purpose. That first week, there were a few blunders that had to be smoothed over, but things took shape pretty quick. Paul Castillo was a good AIC and handled the few problems with relative ease. I think the fact that Brian and I spent most of each day together made things a lot easier for everyone.

On Wednesday afternoon, we had a meeting with the Principal and Agent Castillo where the exact arrangements for coverage during the school year were discussed. Brian and I discovered we were to be leashed, with transmitters we would have to wear all the time. The transmitters both had 'panic' buttons if something went wrong. The agents on duty would be allowed to use the teacher's lounge for most of the day and would only enter the school's halls if the panic buttons were pushed. Castillo had us walk over every inch of the school to make sure the transmitters could reach the receiver that was installed into the teacher's lounge. We had a radius around the school of almost five hundred feet that we could go at lunch, but if we wanted to go anywhere further off-campus, we had to discuss it with the agents first, or every cop in the city would be looking for us.

"Any way I can get you to hook these up to all my students?" Mr. Borsch asked them with glee after we'd gone over all the details. "It'd cut down on ditching tremendously."

We also had panic buttons that we were to carry with us at all times. There were three or four for each of us, so we'd have no excuse on why we didn't have one at any given time. During practice we'd be under direct observation of the agents on duty, but we were still required to have a panic button somewhere on us. Football uniforms don't have pockets, so we both ended up carrying them inside our protective cups, nestled against our cocks.

Thursday after two hours of practice the agents on duty rushed onto the field and pulled us off of it until they figured out why our panic buttons went off. It seems too much sweat shorted them out. We ended up attaching them to the insides of our helmets. They were uncomfortable, but by the end of the week we were use to them.

On Saturday, I got a phone call at home from Master Chief (Retired) Marcus Cole. He was thirty miles out and wondered if I'd be so kind as to get a few of my friends together to help him unload his truck. I knew Navy Master Chiefs, and I didn't get a few of my friends together. I got everyone I could get in touch with. That included both Brandon and Trevor, who were on the J.V. team this year, as well as several other people from our old freshman team. Brian and I were the only ones from that team to play Varsity, so we hadn't seen any of them since our return to town.

Brandon managed to bring his quasi-boyfriend Sean Rule with him somehow. All fourteen guys who I had gotten in touch with showed up and we were busy catching up with each other by the time a yellow Ryder truck pulled into the driveway of the house that belonged to the new teacher and coach. Master Chief Cole was a very non-descript looking person with mouse-brown hair, bushy mustache, and a lean body that held much more strength than he looked to have. His wife was a decent-looking woman with brown hair and they had three kids, two boys age eight and six, and a four-year-old girl that stole the hearts of half the guys there with one smile.

"It's good to see you boys brought some friends." Master Chief Cole said to Brian and I as we approached his truck. There was a nice Ford pickup attached to it on a trailer hitch and he threw a set of keys in our direction. "Why don't you two get the truck off the trailer and unhitch the thing so we can start unloading while I meet the rest of these guys."

"You got it, Master Chief." Brian said as he caught the keys and we trotted over to the truck. When we were out of earshot of the rest of the guys, who were now introducing themselves to the man, Brian leaned over to whisper to me. "I told him how I'd told Coach Mueller we both met him instead of just me meeting him in Washington."

"Cool." I said, trying to take the keys from him, but he was having none of that. I got to unhitch the truck and he backed it out, parking it on the curb while I unhitched the trailer from the moving van. Master Chief Cole was leading the herd of football players plus Sean towards the back by the time I got the hitch out of the way.

"Okay, does everyone understand their assignments?" He was saying in an authoritative voice. There was chorus of affirmative comments and he looked at me sharply while Brian trotted back up the driveway and threw his keys to him. "Jones, Breckenridge, open up the truck and start handing stuff down. I'll call out where it goes and the boys will take it inside. The old lady is showing the Rule boy where all the rooms are and he'll give directions when they get inside. The truck is packed by rooms so there should be no confusion. I'll be in the back yard with the kids and wife if there are any problems. Got it?"

"Got it, Master Chief." I replied with a smile. Yep, your typical Navy Master Chief. He organized the work details, made sure everyone knew what they were doing and then he disappeared while the work went on. Instead of sitting in the Chief's mess watching pornos though, he'd be in the back yard playing with the kids and hassling his wife who'd probably try to peek in on things with a worried look. I turned and opened up the large truck's cargo door, and we went to work.

"Damn good job." Master Chief Cole said one hour and twenty minutes later. He was looking at his watch as he spoke. "Twenty minutes under schedule and you boys didn't break anything or knock any holes in the wall. You guys head into the back yard. Mrs. Cole has some sodas and other refreshments for you. If you hang around, I'm taking Jones and Breckenridge to pick up some food for a barbecue."

"Hell yeah!" most of the guys shouted, or some version thereof. A near-stampede led the way through the house and into the back yard while the Master Chief led the way to his white Ford. Brian and I crawled into the passenger side, with me in the middle and Cole took off at a break neck pace.

"That brown Buick with a guy and girl in it is your detail?" He asked after we'd gone a mile.

"Yes, Master Chief." I said and he chuckled.

"I'm retired now, Jones." He told me with a laugh.

"I heard you can take the Master Chief out of the Navy, but you can't ever take the Master Chief out of the Master Chief." I quipped and he laughed hard as we pulled into Lucky's supermarket.

"Grab a basket and follow me." He said as we got out, still laughing. We went down the aisles with him pointing to something, Brian putting it in the basket and me pushing the cart. I kept on smiling to myself the entire time. Navy chiefs don't lift a finger when there are men to do the work for them. They direct the work, they supervise, but if they lift a finger it better be a real emergency or there's hell to pay. He didn't speak except to ask if we had any vegetarians in the group, unless he was telling us to put something in the basket. When we got back to the truck, we placed the bags in the truck bed and got back in the cab. He didn't start the vehicle though, but instead looked at us closely. "You two don't look queer."

"We've been together three years end of October." Brian said with a shrug.

"General O'Keefe said you'll be doing the NJROTC thing." He said sternly. "I don't take no pussy-footing around. If you're doing it to make me think queers can serve in the military, don't bother. We had one on my team and I'd stand by him any day. I don't want anyone in my NJROTC that isn't there because he wants to be there."

"Chief, you know where we were the other week." Brian said and Cole nodded.

"I've also received clearance on Paradox." He said, the current codeword for my case file. "I don't believe half of what I was told, but if it's true, Jones, you don't have anything to prove by me. I don't know why you'd want to pussy foot around with tying knots, relearning the general orders, and the other stuff the sea cubs do."

"Brian wants to get something close to a military experience." I answered him with a steady gaze. "We do most things together because we enjoy them more. After I got out the first time around, I was pissed at the Navy, but after a few years I calmed down. The Navy was a good thing for my life, I was messed up at seventeen, and I was messed up after the Navy for a bit, but the discipline and the camaraderie did me good while I was there. I've got other options in life now and most likely won't need to join the Navy, but it'll be good for me to do this, kind of like getting back in touch with something I did enjoy. Hell, it'll be good to go to sea again. When we deployed to the gulf in '90 and '91 we rode transports with our small boats all the way over and I enjoyed being in blue water instead of brown."

"What happens in '90 and '91?" He asked me and I shrugged. "Master Chief, you may be cleared for Paradox, that doesn't mean you need to know everything about it. Let's just say it was a fun time and your teams did a damn good job."

"Fine, but don't expect me to trade stories with you anytime soon." He said with a grin and I just shook my head. "You were E-4, right?"

"Yes." I answered and he nodded.

"Okay, Breckenridge, you already told me your reasons and if you stand by them, I'll be glad to have you boys on board. How many of your buddies do you think will be interested?" While he talked, he started the truck and began the short drive back to his house.

"Honestly, we've been so busy with practice we haven't had much of a chance to talk to anyone about it yet." Brian said and Cole frowned. "We did talk to Brandon and Trevor, our best friends, and they said they'd mention it to some others."

"Then we'll hit them all up while I'm feeding them grub." He said. A minute later we pulled up to the curb of his house. "You boys have this food brought inside."

Brian got out and started to pick up the bags while the Master Chief went to talk to the two agents who had parked across the street. I put a hand on Brian's arm and shook my head, stopping him. He looked at me with a blank look.

"Brian, he said we're to have the food brought inside, not take it in ourselves." I pointed out.

"You're reading too much into that." Brian said with disbelief. I just shook my head and walked inside. Brian hesitated for a moment and followed me, sans grocery bags.

"Hey, Trevor, Brandon, Sean, Reynolds, how about helping us bring the stuff out back?" I yelled as I opened their back patio. The guys I called trotted over quickly, although Reynolds had to put the chief's daughter down first. He'd been throwing her into the air. I also noticed the Master Chief had a damn nice pool, or it'd be damn nice as soon as it was cleaned. His two boys were playing a game of tag with several of the guys while his wife talked to several others near a cooler of sodas. Brandon and I took the lightest bags while the others hefted the remaining stuff inside and took it out back to where Master Chief Cole's barbecue was set up. Mrs. Cole was busy directing them to lay the bags out on the top of the very nice brick barbecue pit that must have come with the house. Cole himself led the two agents inside, following right behind Brian and me.

"Okay, Jones, you convinced me." He said with a smile as we set the bags down outside. Reynolds, who'd overheard the comment looked confused but shrugged it off as Cole told him to start laying out the charcoal in the pit.

Two hours later we were spread out over the deck or the lawn, all rubbing full bellies and relaxing in the afternoon heat. Everyone had eaten more hot dogs, burgers, or barbecued chicken than they could safely hold and even the Master Chief's kids were too full to move much. It was then that Master Chief Cole stood to give his pitch about the NJROTC.

"I want to thank you guys for coming here and helping out." He said as he stood. Mrs. Cole was smiling as she sat next to him and nodded her agreement. "I understand most of you are on the JV squad so I won't be seeing you at practice on Monday. Hopefully some of you will be in my P.E. classes. Even if you aren't, you boys feel free to pop by my office anytime. The door's always open if you want to say hi, or if you're having problems that you'd like to talk about. I was a Navy Master Chief for twenty damn years and I promise you, none of you will have anything going on that I haven't heard before, whether it's problems with parents, friends, girlfriends, or even boyfriends."

That last thing he said while looking over at us. Brian was lying on the grass with his head in my lap while I struggled to sit up with my arms braced against the lawn behind me. I was feeling drowsy and it wasn't easy to keep from falling asleep. Master Chief Cole's comment got a round of friendly laughter and I noticed Sean inch closer to Brandon where they were sitting on the pool deck.

"Some of you boys may have heard that we're starting up a Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps on campus this year." Cole continued. "Now, I'm an enlisted man. I joined the navy when I was eighteen, made it through SEAL training and served with the teams until three years ago when I was given a desk job in the Pentagon. NJROTC isn't like being in the Navy. It's meant to give high school students like you an idea of what the Navy is like, some discipline, and some physical conditioning. If you decide to enlist in the Navy, like real men, you'll get service credit, even maybe a higher starting rank, and believe me the extra pay is worth it. You go in as an E-2 and you'll make more starting off, and you'll make more the entire time you're in because you'll get promoted earlier.

"If you go on to college and join the regular ROTC to become a Reserve or Active Duty officer, you'll get credit there too. The school is still in the process of approving the NJROTC on the campus, but once that is done, you'll even get some credit here at school, now. Jones and Breckenridge have both said they wanted to join so they're my first recruits. We'll have drill three times a week, and it's going to be mornings before school since we all have football after school. There'll also be sessions every other Saturday when we don't have games, and one week each summer you'll have the opportunity to spend time on real Navy ships.

"It's a real good opportunity to learn about the Navy, especially if you're not sure what you want to do with your life. I'm not a recruiter, I'm not going to try to get you to join the Navy, but this will be a damn good chance to find out what the Navy's like, learn some good things that will help you no matter what you do in life, and to have some fun. We'll be going to a navy gun range nearby, learning to shoot, and some other neat stuff. There's a Naval Air Station about two hours away and you never know if we'll be able to bum some rides on their jets or stuff like that. I'm not promising any of that will happen, mind you, but its stuff I want to try to do for y'all if you join up. If you're interested, see Jones or Breckenridge. They'll have the forms your parents need to sign, dues information, and all the other stuff you'll need. Get that stuff back to them and show up the Monday school starts, zero six-thirty hours outside the P.E. Building. If you have any questions about the group, see Jones, Breckenridge, or myself. Now, let's get this yard cleaned up before you head home."

I was surprised that while we picked up the yard, bagged the trash and made phone calls for rides home, ten guys total came up to us to make sure we got them the forms the Master Chief talked about. Two more said they were going to talk to their parents first but might want to do it. Poor Sean kept on looking like he wanted to say something but backed down anytime one of us came near him. I wasn't the only who noticed either.

"What's bothering you, Rule?" Master Chief Cole asked the smaller teenager. Sean still hadn't hit a growth spurt and stood at little more than 5'5". He'd started to get a little pudgy over the summer, and his freckles stood out all over his body as normal for him. He jumped slightly when Cole spoke to him.

"Um, nothing, sir." Sean said in a small voice.

"Son, it's either Mr. Cole or Master Chief." Cole said firmly and Sean nodded, appearing to be slightly afraid of the man. "Rule, you thought at all about NJROTC?"

"Um, it sounds cool but I could never do it." Sean said, lowering his head to hide the look of shame on his face.

"Why the hell not?" Cole demanded sharply. "I see two arms, two legs and all the normal equipment on you. The only thing I see at all wrong with you is that you could use some more exercise, but that Reynolds boy is still fatter than you. If you're wanting to do NJROTC, why the hell don't you say so?"

"Uh, um, my parents won't let me." Sean said. "They've only just started letting me out of the house on weekends."

"What's wrong with you?" Cole asked and I winced at the same time Sean did. "Did you get yourself arrested for something stupid? You get yourself on drugs, or drunk all the time?"

"Um, no, Mr. Cole." Sean said in a small voice, starting to blush.

"Then why are you grounded by your parents and why wouldn't they want you to be in the NJROTC?" Cole demanded in a tone slightly softer.

" don't like me." Sean said with a downcast expression. "They don't like me because I like boys."

"Is that it?" Cole said with a laugh. "Hell, boy, that ain't shit. You go out, get your ass drunk, beat up four guys, cause five thousand dollars in damage to a bar, and end up married and you'll be in trouble. How are you getting home?"

"Bra..Brandon's parents brought me." Sean said in a voice that was near to full of disbelief.

"Let me tell the wife I'm taking you home." Master Chief Cole said. "Will your parents be home?"

"Mom will." Sean said weakly. "She'll be mad because I was supposed to be home an hour ago."

"Well, that's a problem right there." Cole said sternly. "Go over to the phone and call her, tell her where you are and that I'm bringing you home myself. Then wait for me out by the truck."

"Yes, si..I mean Mr. Cole." Sean said and turned to head towards the phone. The Master Chief watched him for a moment and came towards where I stood with Brian.

"That was the boy you told me about, wasn't it?" Cole asked Brian.

"Yeah, thanks, Master Chief." Brian said with a slight grin. "His folks keep him cooped up in the house all the time and won't let him do anything. Hell, they've only let him out of the house a few times this summer according to Brandon. I figured there was no way they could say no to you."

"You said his dad use to be a Navy mess cook?" He asked Brian and I stared at my boyfriend in surprise.

"Yeah, on subs." Brian said and Cole nodded.

"Well, I'll set that fucking cook straight." Cole said, and then paused. "Well, you know what I mean. You boys get home as soon as things are cleaned up."

"Yes, Master Chief." Brian said with a smile. I just looked at him in surprise. Sometimes he surprised me so totally that I could kiss him for days.

"What?" Brian asked all innocently as I stared at him.

"I love you." I said softly and gave him a quick peck on the cheek before heading to make sure the trash cans were not overflowing.


As with all my stories, E provides immeasurable input, grammar checking, and all those other lovely editing thingies that make the story so much better!


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