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John doesn’t mind Afghanistan. It’s hot as hell in the summer and fucking cold in the winter, but there’s a clarity in the sky that he’s growing to love each time he goes up. The fact that he hasn’t cycled in nearly nine months is an added bonus, as far as he’s concerned.

Still, the doctors on the base aren’t happy about it. They’re worried that the stutter in John’s natural rhythm presages a potentially dangerous condition. Their warnings mean nothing to John, and he blows them off with assurances that he’s fine, not to worry, and hey, as long as he’s there, could they sign off on his flightworthiness? It takes a little longer each month to get them to agree, but John keeps pointing out that he’s healthy and no more insane than any other pilot on base, honest, and yes, he’ll report to the infirmary at the first signs his next cycle is about to begin.

John’s assurances that he’s fine remain true right up until the afternoon they’re no longer true, when it takes nine airmen and seven Marines to subdue him as he drops hard into cycle-induced pseudo-psychosis. He has brief moments of clarity, thanks to the heavy-duty drugs he’s on, and he uses his periods of lucidity to argue against the only known cure. In the end, though, his CO tells him to shut his goddamn mouth and accept that the United States Air Force owns his ass and will do whatever is necessary to get said ass back into the air as quickly as possible. John slumps at that and asks only that they dose him up as much as possible before sending in the strongest man they can find.

They drug him as requested, but when a Marine officer goes into John’s cell, the lock clicking loudly behind him, John’s mouth drops open in disbelief. “Begging your pardon, Colonel —” John blinks the sweat out of his eyes before focusing on the man’s nameplate. “Colonel Sumner, but you look at least ten years older than me and maybe ten pounds lighter. What the hell were they thinking?”

Sumner gives him a wry, challenging look as he starts to undress. “They were probably thinking a leatherneck could take down a zoomie’s pansy ass without breaking a sweat.”

The trash talk is familiar and comforting, and it’s enough to keep John steady as he launches himself off the bed and directly at Sumner. He has a moment to enjoy the startled look in the officer’s eyes before their skin touches and John’s world shrinks down to the neck in front of him.

Biting is John’s thing, and it has been since his first cycle. He likes the bruises he can make with his teeth and the judicious use of suction, and he absolutely loves the sounds that Sumner makes every time John finds a new patch of skin to work at.

A leg curls around John’s right leg, and that feels so incredible, even through two layers of cloth, that John barely notices when they hit the floor. And then he’s too busy scrabbling at Sumner’s belt to get his BDUs off now, damn it, and getting distracted by the hard length of Sumner’s cock that he doesn’t care how cold and hard the floor is. Instead, he ruts against Sumner’s leg, finding the perfect pressure to ease the deep cycle-induced ache he’s been suffering for two days, not giving a damn about Sumner’s comfort at all. He’d keep going, but then Sumner is pressing two points on John’s neck, and he goes woozy long enough for Sumner to wriggle out from under him.

John wants very much to object to this change of position, but Sumner is getting naked as quickly as he can, and that can only be a good thing. On the other hand, the view short circuits something small and essential in John’s brain. Slack-jawed with lust and need, he is so far from any kind of normal reaction at this point that he barely responds when Sumner finishes undressing and stands there, naked and erect and breathing hard. It takes Sumner grabbing John’s hand to snap him out of it and begin to slake John’s thirst for contact.

He strips John out of his scrubs and shoves him onto the bed, and that’s when John loses track of everything except what’s directly in front of his eyes. Sumner’s skin is a revelation to John: it tastes as good as it smells and feels as good as it looks, and the sound of John’s tongue rasping over the rough skin on Sumner’s neck is as fascinating to him as the sound of his tongue tracing the inside of Sumner’s upper left arm. If he were in his right mind, John would think there was something fundamentally wrong with a universe that gave him a Marine colonel who was a feast for the senses.

But he’s not in his right mind, and he won’t be for another two weeks at the very earliest. In the meantime, it’s early days yet, and Sumner shows no signs of flagging; instead he matches John move for move, need for need. A few days later, when they’re both exhausted, with Sumner asleep and John curled around him and nearly there himself, John thinks that Sumner would be an easy man to fall in love with.