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You're Sending All Your Love to War

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They say you never hear the bomb that hits you, but Dick sure heard the Fw that dropped it coming, and the flack trying to take it out. Not that it did him any good; he and Strayer were standing in the middle of an open town square, with no cover in sight, and then the building next to them was exploding. In a moment of instinct Dick hadn't known his superior officer was capable of, Strayer threw himself at Dick, shielding him with his body as they both went down.

They hit the street in a tangle, Dick winded hard and face pressed into the mud. His hands pushed at the ground, trying to move, though his brain hadn't caught up with his instincts to tell them where. Then the blast wave hit. Dick heard each fragment of masonry hit the ground, and felt them thud through Strayer's body and then through his, driving them both deeper into the muddy square, and all he could do was close his eyes and wait for the air to clear.

When he heard the last brick fall, Dick forced a breath in, struggling under the combined weight of Strayer and whatever had landed on them. His ears were ringing, and he couldn't see for the mud caking his eyes, but he wriggled forward and out from under Strayer, trying to gather enough wind to yell for a medic. They were both caked in mud and brick dust, and Strayer didn't respond when Dick called his name. When put a hand on Strayer's shoulder, he could feel him breathing, but it was shaky and shallow, and Dick didn't know where to start looking for injuries.

The battalion was establishing quarters a block down, and the Able Company medic and half of its First Platoon were was there in less than two minutes. They had Strayer free of the debris and on a stretcher before Dick could even tell them he was okay, really, and pull himself unsteadily to his feet to prove it.

It took them even less time to get to the aid station, but somehow Nix was already there. He glanced down at Strayer before crossing to Dick and asking, "Bad?"

Dick shrugged. He had to conserve his breath for a moment before he could say, "Don't know yet. Waiting on the doc."

Nix gave Stayer a second look. The surgeon had his uniform shirt cut away now, and two medics were working on stopping the bleeding. Mud and blood mingled on his neck, staining his blond hair. "I meant you," Nix said.

"Oh. I'm fine." Dick swiped at his face with his sleeve, which only smeared the mud more deeply into his skin. Nix raised his hands like he wanted to take over—to sit Dick down and wash him head to toe—then dropped them. He bit his lip and peered into Dick's face, disbelieving. Dick added, "Strayer took the worst of the hit. I don't..." He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "Docs haven't said how he is."

"Yeah, you said," Nix said, and Dick realised he was being managed, that Nix thought he was quite literally shell shocked. Maybe he was.

"I'm fine, Lew."

On the table, the surgeon's movements had slowed; the bleeding stopped, he was doing a more thorough check over Stayer's body. Sensing Dick's eyes on him, he glanced up and said, "He'll need to be evaced to Mourmelon. Possibly Paris." He started rattling off a list of non-fatal but serious injuries, which Dick hoped Nix was following, because the ringing in his ears was getting louder, and the edges of his vision were blurry.

"I think..." Dick started, but couldn't remember what he thought.

Nix caught his elbow as his knees buckled and guided him to the edge of a cot. "How about you try being fine lying down, huh?" he said gently. He let his hand linger on Dick's arm for too long. He needed to be more careful, Dick thought vaguely. This wasn't their foxhole on the line outside of Bastonge. Everything between them was still so new that they hadn't yet learned the art of care.

"Thanks," he said weakly, and tried to wave Nix off, but everything felt heavy, and Nix's voice was muffled, like he was speaking from another room. That was good. Dick knew Nix should leave, but didn't want him to go, and closed his fingers around Nix's sleeve instead.

The medic said Dick had gotten his bell rung, but figured he'd be fine; Nix continued to hover, and Dick never quite managed to pass out. Instead he watched vaguely as Strayer was loaded into an ambulance, and listened to the engine noise fade into the clamour of the battalion's temporary quarters.

It wasn't until Nix said something about how Dick had to stop doing this that it sank in that he was in charge, and he had to get moving.

"I have to find Col. Sink," he said and levered himself to his feet. This time he did shrug off Nix's arm and headed into the street. They were moving with all possible speed to the line in Alsace to re-enforce the Seventh Army; they couldn't afford to go without a battalion commander.

Nix opened his mouth, and then closed it and asked, "How about I give you a ride to Regiment HQ?"

Dick couldn't seem to get his thoughts back in gear, but he nodded and let Nix commandeer them a jeep. He wiped at the mud on his face again, then sighed and put his helmet back on. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to lean on Nix just a little. He was a wounded man after all.

By the time they made Haguenau two days later, Dick's ears had just about stopped ringing and the 222nd Infantry had halted the German advance without their support, though the fight had ground them up bad. They were in the process of pulling back, and the 101st was moving in to hold the line along the river.

Dick was listening to Sink lay out the battalion's quartering and lines when a jeep pulled up. The officer in the back seat was a Colonel from the 17th Airborne, who Dick had a vague feeling he'd seen somewhere before, possibly Upottery. He topped Dick's height by a few inches, and had the shoulders of a line backer. A square jaw and long, iron-grey side burns made him look a little like he'd stepped out of a ferrotype from the Civil War and into ODs and helmet.

Beside Dick, Nix muttered a curse under his breath. Dick turned to him, eyebrow raised, but Col. Sink was already introducing the man as Lt. Col. Chester Muldoon. "He's taking over command of 2nd Battalion until Col. Strayer is back on his feet," he explained. It just about figured that this was the first Dick had heard of it. He'd assumed that he'd be left to run the battalion on his own, much as he did when Strayer was nominally in command and physically miles from the line. "Colonel, this is Captain Winters, 2nd Battalion's XO, and my S3 Captain—"

"If it isn't little Lewie Nixon!" Muldoon interrupted. He had a deep voice with the gravel edge of someone who'd yelled orders over artillery for most of his life. "Your daddy said you'd made a soldier of yourself."

Even just watching Nix out of the corner of his eye, Dick could see the tightness around his mouth for a moment, then Nix smiled and replied in his usual self-mocking tone, "It looks that way, sir."

Sink's eyes flicked between Muldoon and Nix, and his moustache twitched before he said, "Captain Nixon has two stars on his wings, and I expect he'll have three by the time we make it to Berlin."

Muldoon took the mild rebuke with a nod, but gave Nix a look that said they'd talk more later. "What is our deployment, sir?" he asked, and Sink started over again.

While their superiors were distracted, Dick leaned towards Nix just enough that their shoulders bumped. Even the brief contact was enough to tell him that Nix's body was singing like a high tension wire. "Nix?" he asked in an undertone.

Nix shook his head and mouthed, "Later," so Dick let it lie.

Later turned out to be the very end of the day. Muldoon was not, it seemed, cut from the same cloth as his predecessor. Where Strayer had been more than happy to hand over the day to day logistical details—and indeed most of the tactical decisions—to his XO, Muldoon seemed to want to meet ever officer in the Battalion, no matter how junior, and inspect ever billet and OP personally. Dick spent the day trying not to be rankled as Muldoon altered the situation to his liking. The man undeniably knew what he was doing, and he had every right to run the battalion how he choose.

"Any word on Strayer?" Dick when he got to his billet and found Nix slouched on the floor at the foot of his bed, his boots pulled off, a bottle beside him.

"That bad, huh?" Nix asked.

Dick frowned. He shut the door and locked it before crossing to the bed and stripping out of his jacket and scarf. "No," he said. "He's a fine officer. He wasn't wrong about the mortar position at the river bend." If he was maybe a little over zealous on keeping men on watch versus letting them sleep, well, the 222nd had turned back the Germans from this very riverbank not twenty-four hours before.

"Yup," Nix agreed. "Not a bad word to say about old Chet Muldoon." When Dick leaned over the end of the bed to look at him, he got a blast of whisky off Nix's breath, and a good view of the grim lines around his eyes.

"So," he started carefully. "Lewie?"

Nix laughed, but he didn't sound like he thought it was funny. "I'm glad Luz wasn't there to hear that one. It'll get around anyway. Everyone knows what Chet thinks. Everyone believes him."

Dick slid to the floor and sifted so that his back was to the foot of the bed and his ankles were tangled with Nix's. "Friend of your father's, huh?"

Instead of answering, Nix dropped his head onto his knees and groaned. Dick took that as both a confirmation and a plea to not ask for details. Half the time he thought that Nix had joined the Airborne to get away from his family, who seemed determined to keep him States side for the duration of the war; the other half, he knew that it had been so that he could stay with Dick. Dick had never worked out how to handle that knowledge once it had come to him, but he did know that he was never going to be able to repay Nix for it. How do you give a man your life—your sanity?

"Hey," he said in a low voice, reaching across to twine his fingers through Nix's hair. "Pretty sure our rooms are the only two on this floor."

"Who could have arranged that!" Nix commented, voice muffled against his legs. He groped for Dick's wrist and squeezed it. "You planning to take advantage of it?"

Despite the day he'd had, Dick smiled and dug his nails lightly into Nix's scalp. "What if I am?"

Nix didn't answer, but unfolded his body and reached for Dick's face. He cupped the side of Dick's jaw and ran his thumb along Dick's cheekbone. "How's your head?" he asked.

Dick turned into the hand, kissing the heel of it, then the palm, looking up at Nix through his lashes. "Not going to slow me down," he said. "I've been thinking about this for months." Years, but he hadn't admitted that yet, and wasn't sure he ever would. What mattered was that they had a locked door and a quiet night for the first time since Paris, and there wasn't anything Dick couldn't do right now.

He leaned over and kissed Nix, catching the corner of his mouth and bumping his nose into Nix's, making him laugh and grab the sides of Dick's face to sort the angle out. He held Dick's face away from his until he could half turn and then tilted his head and leaned in to kiss Dick slowly.

It started gently, with Nix's lips just brushing his, then deepened as he felt Nix's tongue on his lower lip, just barely touching it. When Dick parted his lips and tried to lean in, Nix held his face steady and refused to be hurried. He tilted Dick's head a little more and sucked at his lip, paused with their faces almost touching, and deliberately bumped his nose into Dick's. They were too close to watch each other, but Dick got the blurry impression of a smile under Nix's soft black beard. When Dick smiled back, tentative and caught between the shock of how much he wanted this and the shock of actually getting it, Nix's smile widened into a gleam of teeth, and he bit Dick's lower lip where he'd first licked it—just hard enough to sting and make Dick pull in a small, sharp breath.

"Someday," Nix promised, "I'm going to fine a place with a big bed far away from everything, and I'm going to spend days finding out what sounds you make when I touch you."

"Do it now," Dick said, reckless with both lust and an abiding need to never let Nix stop kissing him.

"Oh, I wish," Nix said, his lips were still just short of touching Dick's and his dark lashes cast shadows on his cheeks. Dick wanted to memorise every detail, and to kissing it.

He also wanted to be wearing fewer clothes than he was. Nix was on top of that before he could finish the thought, undoing each of Dick's buttons with a tiny flourish, while kissing Dick's cheek and the corner of his jaw, and the edge of his ear. His lips were soft against Dick's stubble, and his breath tickled it through, making Dick shiver.

When he had Dick's shirt open, he ran his fingers up under the undershirt, frowning as his hand found the contour of Dick's ribs. "You've got to stop skipping chow," he said.

"Now is not the time to start sounding like my mother," Dick grumbled. He got the top two button's open on Nix's shirt, and then just hauled the whole thing off over Nix's head, undershirt and all.

"Right, sorry." Nix pushed Dick onto the floor and kissed his neck and then his collarbone and then his chest, pulling him out of his shirt as he went. He ran his hands down Dick's sides rising goose bumps as he went. Dick held onto his shoulders, loving how warm and solid he felt. He'd spent so many nights shivering shoulder to shoulder, wearing every scrap of clothing they owned, and holding onto memories of seeing Nix's pale skin in the lamplight. Now he was here, and Dick could touch whatever he liked, for as long as he liked.

Nix bent to kiss him again as he tugged at Dick's belt buckle, and Dick let his head fall back and massaged Nix's shoulders, letting the little moans of pleasure that caused reverberate through both of their chests. Nix finally got his belt and fly open, and Dick arched up so that Nix could pull his pants off. He was already breathing hard, but it was Nix who stopped and rested his forehead on Dick's for a moment, holding both steady with hands spread across Dick's hipbones.

"We gotta slow down," he panted. "My balls are so blue, I'm not going to get my pants off."

"Or we could speed up," Dick suggested. He looped his arms around to grab Nix's ass and pull down while he ground up against Nix, their cocks rubbing against each other through Nix's pants. Dick didn't want to wait a minute longer, but Nix rolled off him, laughing.

"Jesus, Dick, these are my only ODs," he protested, stripping out of them, until he was sitting bare assed on the floor in just his socks and dog tags. He looked beautiful and ridiculous, and Dick loved him for both. "That's better." He crawled back over to sit astride Dick's thighs, and took Dick's hand in both of his. His eyes were dark and suddenly sincere, and he watched Dick's face over their hands as he kissed Dick's knuckles.

Dick shifted under him, trying to thrust up and rub their cocks together, but Nix was too heavy. Instead he pulled his hand down and twisted out of Nix's grip so that he could grip both their cocks together. Nix closed both his hands over top of Dick's, twining their fingers. The roughness of their callouses against the smooth hard skin of his cock almost made Dick come right there. Watching Nix's face, he could see him sucking in his cheeks and concentrating on holding on.

Now when Dick lifted his hips, their cocks slid together through their joined hands, the spike of pleasure taking his breath away, building and building every time either of them moved. Every breath Nix drew in sent a shiver of sensation through both of them, and Dick rolled his head back and bit his lip to keep from crying out.

Nix came hard on that, chest rising and falling with short shallow breaths as a high whine escaped his throat. His eyes never left Dick's, and his hands loosely caressed his come across both their cocks, making them slide easily together. The lazy, smooth pull drew Dick out, and up to the edge, but he refused to let it be over so quickly. His whole body built into the rush of lust and Nix's fingers laced with his, but he pulled in breath after deep breath and rode it like an air current. His hips rocked on their own now, pushing him up against Nix, and all he wanted to do was get closer.

"Time to go," Nix whispered, and slid his thumb all the way down Dick's cock and pressed on the spot between his balls. The little bit of pain pushed Dick right over. Hot release rolled through him, and writhed under Nix, jerking incoherently up against him until he was completely spent. "Christ, I love watching that," Nix said. "The look on your face when you come apart..." he bent and kissed Dick sloppily and then pulled away grinning. "We need to do this more often."

"We need to be careful," Dick said, but he couldn't really argue. Each time Nix touched him, it just felt too good to think of giving up. He reached up to grab the back of Nix's neck, pulling him in for another kiss.

"Yeah," Nix said, their lips just touching. "Very, very careful. Got it."

Dick didn't see a lot of Nix the next day either. Normally it would have amused him how swiftly the regiment's S3 could shift from seeing his duties as closely liaising with the battalion heads—2nd Battalion's especially—to mostly needing to personally reconnoitre the river bank half way to Strasbourg, but the memory of the tightness around his eyes when he'd talked about Muldoon drained the humour out of the situation. Dick felt a flush of retrospective affection for Strayer every time he half turned to say something to Nix only to find Zielinski at his elbow instead.

The last time he did this was in the little office Dick had been downgraded to on Muldoon's arrival. He'd been about to comment on something Speirs had said to Luz, but realised that it wasn't fit for the mixed company of Zielinski and his CO, and closed is mouth instead. Leaning in the doorway, Muldoon seemed to catch both the look and the shift in Dick's expression. He tilted his head slightly and told Zielinski to see what he could find for coffee.

"Col. Sink tells me that you and Lewie were at Toccoa together," Muldoon commented, not leaving the doorway. It was almost twenty four hours since Muldoon had rode into Haguenau, and this was the first time since that he'd mentioned Nix at all.

Dick hesitated. There didn't seem to be much in the way of sure footing on this pathway. "Yes, sir. We were," he said and left it at that.

"Hmm," Muldoon replied, and Dick would have given his next pass to know what that implied, but he sure wasn't planning to ask. He kept his expression blank, and waited. "I know his family," Muldoon said at last. "He had an adventurous youth, at Yale, especially."

Sensing the path narrowing further still, Dick just nodded. He felt torn between wanting Muldoon to keep talking—to betray any potential angle of attack—and needing to shut down implied criticism of his best friend before it could gain the strength of silent complicity. The weight of the latter grew as the silence continued, until Dick said carefully, "Lewis Nixon is an exemplary officer, sir. And a good friend."

Muldoon smiled, eyes crinkling, and in that moment he looked nothing other than kindly and avuncular. It was the kind of face that Dick knew he was meant to trust, but Nix's words caught at his memory: Everyone believes him.. So when Muldoon said, "I'm glad to hear that, son."

Dick nodded again, and didn't believe him.

It was almost 2300 by the time Dick got back to his billet, and he was wiped out. There'd been shelling from across the river all day, and the constant state of alertness rasped on his nerves. The headache left over from the bomb blast came and went, especially with exertion, and Dick just wanted to sink into hot, soapy water and sleep for three hundred years.

Finding Nix slouched across Dick's bed with his booted feet dangling off the side, arm over his eyes as he either dozed or tried to soothed Dick's soul in about the same way as a bath would have. He shut and locked the door before starting to strip down, saying, "Feels like I haven't seen you in a year."

Nix grunted, then raised his arm enough to peer at Dick. "Avoiding Chet," was all he said, emphasising the name like one would say viper. Dick's interest in their history had not been decreased by his earlier conversation with Muldoon, but he knew that if Nix wanted to tell him, he'd get to it in his own time.

"I still missed you," Dick said. He unbuttoned his shirt and shrugged out of it, then dragged his undershirt over his head. "Couldn't stop thinking about you, about doing this." He crawled across the bed until he was kneeling astride Nix's hips, hands planted on his shoulders, then he leaned in and kissed him.

For a moment, Nix lay quiescent below him, not responding, but then he looped his raised arm around Dick's neck and pulled him in. He opened his mouth, and let Dick run his tongue along the inside of his lip, tasting whiskey, and loving the sharp edge of Nix's teeth. Dick changed the angle so that he could kiss deeper, wanting to feel everything all at once and forget the day. Nix's hands dragged through his hair, pulling hard enough to sting, and Dick rocked his hips down unconsciously and dug his fingers into Nix's upper arms. He closed his eyes against the lamplight, and imagined they were somewhere far away from the German army, somewhere safe, and he could to whatever he liked with Nix for as long as he wanted.

"I needed this," Nix murmured, nuzzling his ear as he ran his nails down Dick's spine. "You have no idea how much."

Dick bit the his earlobe to get him to shut up, and when that didn't work kissed him again.

"I'll show you," Nix said, and out from under Dick, then slid off the bed until he was kneeling between Dick's legs, a hand on each of Dick's knees, spreading them apart. Dick lifted his hips so that Nix could strip him, and then leaned up on his elbows to watch as Nix fussed with his bootlaces and pulled his remaining clothes into a heap on the floor.

He'd needed this just as much as Nix had. He'd needed it since the moment he laid eyes on Nix at Fort Benning, for every day of the two years they'd spent circling each other, and every step of their advance across Europe, all the way to that night in Paris. Now that he had it, that he had Nix's hands running up the insides of his thighs, Nix's breath hot on his hardening cock—Dick knew that he could never give it up. The months on the line had been hard enough—when they could touch, but nothing more, not so close to the men—but knowing that if they made it through that they'd have a locked door and a safe place to be together—to have this—had made it bearable.

Nix licked from the base of his cock to the tip, sending a spear of lust through Dick. He dug his hands into the sheets and bit his lip to keep from crying out. He knew they had to keep quiet, even here, but never had noise discipline been harder, with Nix trying his best to take him apart. Nix's nails scratched down the insides of his thighs at the same time as he ran his tongue right around the head of his cock, and the soft-sharp sensations tore a gasp out of Dick. He panted hard and squeezed his eyes shut to regain control, because seeing the dark hair against his pale skin now would make him lose it, and he needed this to last. "Yeah, Lew," he whispered, and Nix hummed and swallowed his cock.

The key rattled in the latch, and Dick only had a frantic half second to shove Nix off him and try to get to his feet. Dick tripped over his boots and he fell forward on the floor just as Nix crab walked back away from him. Winded Dick stared at the muddy paratrooper boot in front of them, then up long legs to the scowling face of Lt. Col. Muldoon.

"I see I have the wrong room," he commented, but he stepped in and closed the door behind him.

"Col. Muldoon, sir," Nix started to say, as Dick was pushing himself up to his knees.

"Stay where you are, Captains," Muldoon snapped. He stepped back so that he stood with his back to the door, blocking any hope of escape. Dick's brain kicked back into gear just then, and he opened his mouth to say... something, he didn't know what. Something that would save Nix. "Sir—" he started, but Muldoon cut him off.

"You will stay where you are until I am finished with you. Understand?"

Dick swallowed and dipped his head. Nix at least was dressed, but with Dick down to his dog tags, and with the position they'd been in when Muldoon had come in, Dick couldn't see a way to get them clear of this. Not unless Muldoon was a lot more forgiving than Nix had led him to believe.

That hope was crushed when Muldoon turned to Nix, ignoring for the moment Dick kneeling by the foot of the bed. "I see you continue to be a disappointment," he snapped, and for once Nix didn't have a smart reply about the Nixons of Nixon, New Jersey. He sat on the floor, staring straight ahead, eyes fixed on a patch of wall two feet in front of Dick, expression still as a death mask. "Report to the Regimental HQ at once, and stay there until you are relieved. I will be asking Lt. McLaren what time you arrived. If I don't like the answer, I will be talking to the MPs, about everything."

Nix's face was almost white, and Dick could hear he a shake in his breathing, but he didn't know if it was from fury or terror. Still, he spoke more or less evenly when he ask, "What about Capt. Winters?"

"I wish to discuss your situation with, Capt. Winters." Muldoon's tone implied that Nix should let the adults do the talking, and predictably, Nix started to rise to the bait.

Dick closed his eyes. They couldn't do this. "Nix!" he snapped, "you were given an order. Go!"

That got Nix to his feet, but then he froze again, staring wide-eyed at first Dick then Muldoon. Something on Dick's face must have broken though, because he nodded and snapped off a, "Yes, sir!"

Muldoon watched his face for a moment before stepping away from the door and letting Nix slide out through it.

The latch clicked behind Nix like the gates of hell closing.

Dick wished he'd been the one pushing his partner onto the bed. Then he could plausibly claim to have forced himself on Nix, and maybe take all the heat somehow. As it was, their relationship had been obvious, and he now feared it had been obvious all along. "You didn't accidentally open the wrong door, did you, sir?" he asked.

Muldoon snorted. "Smart boy," was all he said before lapsing into one of his unnerving silences.

Dick realised he was shaking, from shock more than cold, and his knees hurt, but he didn't move. For once his mind was blank, and no strategy, no exit plan came to him. All he could do was wait and hope for mercy.

"Do you know what they United States Army does to recidivist inverts?" Muldoon asked eventually. Dick realised he was being sweated, but that didn't reduce the effectiveness of the ploy.

"They are dishonourably discharged, sir," he said. With a blue discharge, finding work, getting a bank loan, going to school, or any other post-army tasks would become next to impossible.

Muldoon shook his head. "That is what will happen to you, with your nearly clean record and Col. Sink to protect you. What do you think will happen to Lewie Nixon?"

Dick shook his head. "Sir, Captain Nixon is—" he started, but Muldoon raised a hand to silence him.

"Don't give me that two stars on his jumpwings guff," he growled. "You know as well as I do that your friend has a talent for drinking on duty and being exactly where the fighting is coolest, and the whole regiment knows it too. As for recidivism, I think the disciplinary board would be very interested to hear from a character witness of my rank and experience, one who was familiar with his behaviour at Yale."

Nix had mentioned other men, in the past, but Dick knew that it didn't even have to be true. Whatever court martial they faced would listen to Muldoon, especially when he came with salacious tales and family connections. "He'll go to prison," Dick said, and he knew that that would be the same as lining Nix up against a wall and shooting him. Prison would just be slower.

"A special prison, where the head shrinkers try to figure out what's wrong with him and all the other sexual psychopaths they lock him up with," Muldoon agreed. "I would hate to be the one to tell his daddy why that was, or for word of it to get out in his home town, but you understand how a secret like that would be hard to keep."

It'll get around anyway, Nix had said. Everyone knows what Chet thinks. Everyone believes him.

But Muldoon was opening the door a crack, just with his words; he was showing Dick that there could be a way out. If he wasn't, why were they still here, and not with the MPs? "I would hate that too, sir," Dick said, and tried not to let himself hope, though what hope there was in being blackmailed, he didn't know.

Muldoon dropped to a crouch in front of Dick and met his eyes. "I'm glad we agree, son," he said, and smiled. It was same kindly smile from before, but this time Dick saw the shark behind it even more clearly.

Dick's mouth was so dry that he had to clear his throat before he could ask, "Is there anything I could do to prevent that from happening, sir?"

He sent nearly all his pay home, and he wouldn't engage in graft, or do anything that reduced the circumstances of his men, but there had to be an offer within in there somewhere. If there wasn't, Muldoon wouldn't be asking.

Muldoon took hold of Dick's chin, tipping his face first one way and then another as he studied him. "I see Lewie still has good taste," he said, almost as if to himself.

Dick's stomach was sinking faster than his mind could run, and his gut knew what was coming even as he asked, "What do you want from me, sir?"

The silence that followed drew out so long that Dick started back when Muldoon stood abruptly. "Col. Strayer is expected to be fit for duty in ten days, at which time I will return to the 17th. Until then, I expect you to report to my billet at 2130 on the nose, and once there you will do whatever I ask of you, without complaint. An exception will be made for emergency situations that call both of us to the line."

The room seemed to be dimming, and for a moment Dick wondered if something had happened to the generators, but no, this was the same feeling as four days before, getting his bell rung by German bomb: shell shock. Dick swallowed and squared his shoulders. He knew exactly what Muldoon was asking of him, and he also knew the consequences of refusing him. "Yes, sir," he said. "And Capt. Nixon?"

Muldoon reached down and actually patted his head, smoothing the hair that Nix had ruffled not so long ago. "I expect Lewie will not need to know. You may tell him whatever strikes you as plausible." Meaning he expected Dick to lie for him. No problem there. Dick nodded, and relaxed a hair. Whatever happened to him, he could keep Nix was clear of it. "Additionally," Muldoon snapped, "I don't expect to share your time with another officer. Do you understand?"

Dick nodded again. No telling Nix, no sex with Nix, not that that seemed likely after this. "Will that be all, sir?"

"Yes, Captain." Hand still in Dick's hair, Muldoon stepped forward until the front of his pants brushed Dick's nose. "A demonstration, if you please."

"Sir," Dick said. Nix had always accused him of being too straight forward, and maybe that was true, but Muldoon was speaking clearly enough, for all that he hadn't said anything outright. Even R. D. Winters, quasi-Mennonite teetotaller from rural Pennsylvania could understand this. He'd just thought he'd have had a little time to prepare himself.

Dick took a deep breath, and then reached up to unbutton Muldoon's fly. He had to clench his hands into fists for a moment to get them to stop shaking before he worked at the belt and buttons. When he got the fly open and pulled aside the briefs, Muldoon was already half hard underneath. Dick stared at the cock, at the pale skin rising out of the olive drab fabric, the way it curved up, the bunch of skin around the head, and the faint lines of veins. It was bigger than Nix's, and Dick knew he wouldn't be able to swallow very much of it.

Dick touched it with the backs of his fingers, then made himself act decisively and wrapped his hand around the base. As his hands worked the delicate skin over Muldoon's cock, Dick had to force himself not to think of Nix. He'd never touched another man before Paris, and this felt as familiar as it did wrong, the sense memories tied to something that had given him so much happiness before. If he closed his eyes, he could probably pretend that this was something else, something he wanted, and that might make it easier. Then he could let his body move on instinct, like he was assembling an M1, and keep his mind free of the humiliation of his position. But he couldn't do that to Nix. Dick couldn't put his best friend's face on this.

Muldoon's hand pulled Dick in, pressure light, signal clear. Dick licked his lips before closing them around the tip of the cock in front of him, and tried not to hear the deep grunt of satisfaction Muldoon made in response. Dick could feel Muldoon's pulse speeding up though the veins against his tongue, and when he sucked lightly, Muldoon's body twitched under him. Forcing his mind away from the times he'd done this with Nix, Dick balanced himself with one hand on Muldoon's thighs and kept the other closed the other around the base of his cock. He knew that the scrap of his callouses set against the softness of his tongue, the warmth of his mouth against the chill of his fingers would hit hard, and he wanted to get this over with.

The fingers in Dick's hair dug deeper, and Dick let Muldoon pull him down until his cock filled Dick's mouth to the choking point. His jaw already ached from the stretch and sustained position, and Muldoon had stopped moving, holding him in place while Dick shuddered and panted and struggled not to retch. That was okay. Nix would never do this to him, and Dick wanted to feel different. He wanted this memory to have as little to do with that handful of memories of Nix as he could. It would be over between them after this, he thought, but he wanted to hold onto the something.

Dick swirled his tongue along the bottom of Muldoon's cock, and tightened his lips to fight back the nausea. Muldoon started to rock his hips, grunting softly with each thrust, and Dick closed his eyes and sucked as steadily as he could with his breath catching.

He was starting to choke in earnest, but he could feel Muldoon's body pulling tight, and the room filled with the sound of his short, panting breaths. Dick held on, eyes screwed shut, and took each thrust as it came, his mind running in small and smaller circles that mixed prayers that this would be over soon with a growing hope that he would suffocate.

Muldoon came hard, yanking at Dick's hair, and holding his head steadily as he jerked forward in tiny, ragged shoves, each one spurting semen across Dick's tongue, filling his mouth. Dick tried to swallow, but it lacked out of the corner of his mouth, and he felt it slide down his chin and then drip onto his chest. He let his hands fall and kept his eyes closed, waiting for Muldoon to finish.

He didn't finish. Even when his cock was soft and spent, Muldoon kept his hold on Dick's hair. He waited, unmoving, until Dick opened his eyes and looked up. "Next time, son," Muldoon said, voice a hair rougher than before, but otherwise unruffled, "I expect you to keep your eyes open unless I tell you otherwise." Then he stepped back, withdrawing from Dick's mouth. Again he took Dick's chin and tilted his face to study him. Whatever he saw made him smile. "I will see you at 2130 tomorrow," he said, and wiped his hand on Dick's shoulder, smearing semen across his skin.

"Yes, sir," Dick replied said, voice too small and choked sounding, but Dick didn't break eye contact until Muldoon was finished closing his pants and was stepping out of the door.

When he was gone, Dick folded in on himself until his forehead touched the floor and his arms covered his head and neck, and knelt there not thinking for some time. He didn't know what to do now. What could he possibly do? He wanted Nix, but Nix was the one person in the world he couldn't go to right now, and every one else...

Dick realised he was shaking so badly that his head was knocking on the floor and he made himself sit up and pull the wool blanket off the bed to wrap around his shoulders.

He needed to pull himself together. Nix's life was on the line, and possibly those of his men as well. He needed to keep close to Muldoon, to make sure that he was never alone with any of the men, especially Nix. Dick needed to be able to make sure that he was in fighting shape in case the Germans tried to cross the Moder River. There would be assignments, and defences, and patrols, and maybe even an advance into German-held territory, or a jump onto it, and Dick didn't trust Muldoon with any of it, not any more. He would have to check everything, and to check everything, he had to stand up and face the next day, and the day after that.

He made himself get up and go over to the wash stand to rinse his mouth and wipe his face and chest. He dressed in his uniform save for his boots and curled on the bed—blanket again wrapped tightly around him—and tried to sleep.