The Man from Swift Current
© 2011 Russ Nielsen
All Rights Reserved




Chapter 75: Quantico Marine Base, Virginia

Rick boarded the plane for Atlanta with a heavy heart.   He was already missing his lover boy and his quirky personality.   Rick had put on a bold face to keep Glenn from seeing just how much he was going to miss him. 

He approached the check-in counter.   The pretty blond behind the counter smiled at him and said, "Your ticket and a picture ID, please."

Rick smiled back at her and handed her his ticket, accompanied by his driver's license.   He looked at her name tag which said "Sherry" and asked, "Sherry, could I change seats to the exit row?"

Hearing him use her name, she smiled and looked him over.   His smile widened, as her eyes met his.   She flashed him a brilliant smile, and replied, "I'm sure we can get you into an exit row, Mr. Lernier."  She pulled up Rick's reservation.  "There is only one exit row seat left.   It's a window seat.   Is that okay?"

Rick nodded. "Yes, thank you."

She printed a new boarding pass and handed it to him.   "Enjoy your flight."

"Because of you, I will have good one.   Thank you," Rick said, giving her his best smile.   She blushed, prettily.   He picked up his carryon luggage and left the ticketing area.   It was nice to see he could still persuade women to do what he wanted, just by being his usual charming self.

He made his way through security, and found the waiting area for his flight.   He looked over the crowd of people seated there.   It appeared it would be a full flight.   He took a seat near the jet way and waited.  

He was feeling very lonely as he sat there by himself, lost in thought.   His thoughts returned to last night with Glenn.   He remembered their conversation:

"Rick, I am just not comfortable with the new outfits the girls got me.   It's just not me," Glenn said.   "I am not an exhibitionist, and never have been!   I may be proud of being gay, and I am not shy about letting people know it; but I don't believe in showing off my body in that way."

"Glenn, you don't have to keep those outfits.   I thought you looked very ‘hot' in them, but I agree with you that they don't fit your personality," Rick said.   He could see how much it still bothered Glenn that the girls had tried to turn him into someone he is not.   He thought he would try to lighten the mood, so he looked at Glenn suggestively.  "I loved seeing how they accentuated your physical assets, though.   Just thinking about seeing you in them turns me on."   He grabbed Glenn's hand and put it on his very hard pole.

Glenn leaned over and kissed me.  "Okay, I won't ever wear them, except when I want you to have sex with me!    I'll be your private dancer!"  

Rick kissed Glenn deeply.  "I am going to miss you, Babe," Rick whispered in Glenn's ear.    He remembered the gentle kisses Glenn had given him all over his body, starting with his mouth, and moving down his chin, then, to his neck.

Rick's thoughts were interrupted by the announcement that his plane was ready to board.   When his row was called, he joined the queue and made his way onto the airplane.   Reaching his assigned row, he threw his gear in the overhead bin and took his seat next to the window.   He had the window seat, so he watched as the other passengers boarded and wondered who would be joining him in the exit row.   Two men in business suits stopped at his row and began stowing their gear.   They appeared to be traveling together, since they were joking around as they seated themselves next to him.

The one in the middle seat turned to him, "Hi!  I'm Mark Ensign."

Rick shook his out stretched hand.  "It's nice to meet you.   I'm Rick Lernier."

"This is my co-worker, Jerry Stinchcomb," Mark said.

Rick shook Jerry's hand, as well.   "Nice to meet you, as well.   Where do you two work?"

"We work for a defense contractor.   We are heading overseas to join our military forces," Mark said.

Jerry said, "Are you in the military? "

"Yes, I'm in the Marine Corps," Rick replied.

Mark smiled at his friend.   "I won the bet, Jerry!   I told you he was in the Marines!"

Jerry pulled out his wallet and handed Mark a $20 dollar bill.   He looked over at Rick and said, "I bet Mark that you were in the Army, when we saw you in the boarding area by our gate.   Mark insisted that you walked more like a Marine, so we made a bet between us."

Rick smiled.   "I'm glad to know that I at least walk like a Marine.   I wasn't aware that there was a special walk."

Mark laughed.  "There isn't, but all of the Marines I know have a certain cadence to their walk, and you have that same way of walking."

Jerry interjected, "Mark always tells me he can tell a lot about a person by watching them for a few minutes.   Sometimes he is right on the money, other times he is way off base."

Rick looked at Mark curiously.  "Okay.   Let's hear what you discovered about me, as you watched me in the boarding area."

Mark grinned.  "I feel pretty confident that I'm right about you.   You are in the Marines, which we have already established that I guessed right about that.   I noticed that you are in a very loving relationship."

Rick did a double take.   Staring at Mark, he asked, "How do you know that?"

Mark laughed.  "You have a slight bruise on your neck that only could be made by someone you love, since no one would let anyone else get that close to inflict such a bruise; plus you looked so forlorn, sitting there by yourself.  I deduced that you left behind someone very special."

 Rick said, in amazement, "You are right about that.   What else?"

Mark continued, "I think that you have seen combat.   You have that haunted look that men get when they have seen their comrades die."

Rick nodded his head.  "Yes, that is true, too."

Jerry asked, "Can you tell us where you were stationed?"

Rick shook his head in the negative, "I'm sorry.   I can't do that."

"That's okay.  We understand.   We are flying to Atlanta, then, on to our final destination," Mark said.

"I am doing the same thing," Rick said.   They exchanged a few more pleasantries, until the pilot asked everyone to prepare for takeoff.

Rick closed his eyes and tried to relax.   While his seatmates kept up their constant chatter, his thoughts kept returning to Glenn and how he would handle being alone again.   The last two weeks had made a huge impact on how he felt about Glenn.   Maybe it was because they had been apart for so long, that it seemed that Glenn had opened up to Rick more than at any other time during their relationship.   Rick had been surprised at the depth of the wounds Glenn still carried from his experiences with his cousin, John, and his relationship with his ex-boyfriend, Ian.  

At the same time, Rick had opened up to Glenn about his feelings.   He shared with him how his parents had always called him their little mistake.   Rick had been there unwanted child.   They had always doted on his sister, Julie.   They had been good to him when it came to providing him with the basics; but he knew that Julie was their favorite, and that he would always come second in their affections.  His sister had been valedictorian, where Rick had to struggle to keep his grades above a C.    So his parents wouldn't point out the fact that Julie earned straight A's in school, Rick had always tried to win their approval by excelling in sports.  Of course, when she got married and moved away, Rick thought that, finally, he would win their approval, because his competition wouldn't be there anymore.   How wrong he was!   When the first grandchild arrived, his parents left him with friends, while they spent weeks at Julie's house.   The memory of his mother's words still stung, when he had complained about being left along for such long periods of time:  

"Maybe we will let your friends adopt you, so we won't have to be bothered with you anymore.   How would you like that?"  

He had just turned 13 and was struggling with the usual teenage issues when this happened.   Rick remembered how crushed he felt at his mother's words.   Then, the hurt had given way to anger at his parents for their attitude towards him.  

To make matters worse, he hadn't gotten his height, yet, and was one of the shortest kids in his class; which meant he got picked on a lot at school.   He had been the subject of more than a few irksome pranks.   His friends had tried to work with the school to stop the bullying that was going on, but to no avail.  

The school principal asked, "Why aren't his parents complaining to us if he's being bullied by the kids here at the school?"   Of course, telling him that his parents were away, visiting his sister; didn't help matters.

Over the last two weeks, Glenn and Rick had spent many long nights talking to each other, sharing their closely guarded secrets and their dreams for the future.   Mostly, they had shared their memories of their childhood experiences, starting with their first memories all the way through high school.  

He thought of Glenn's statement to their friends.  "We know each other so well, that we can tell what the other is thinking."   Glenn was right about that fact.  They had, indeed, grown very close over the last year or so.   So much so, that they could tell what the other was thinking; but there had always been some kind of barrier that prevented them from taking their relationship to a higher level.   Over the last two weeks, it seemed to Rick, that, whatever that barrier had been, it had disappeared.  

When Glenn agreed to see a therapist, Rick had been surprised.   When Glenn had first talked to him about what had happened between him and his cousin, John, he had nearly taken Rick's head off for suggesting he should see a therapist.   In fact, Glenn didn't speak to him the rest of that day, he was so angry.   This time, Glenn even thanked Rick for helping to set up the appointment with the therapist, and promised to continue to follow the get-well plan he had been given by Dr. Hansen.

Despite feeling sad at leaving his lover boy behind, Rick felt more confident than ever before that he and Glenn had a rock-solid relationship; one that would stand the test of time and distance.   Knowing that he could count on Glenn to be there for him gave Rick a sense of well being that hadn't been there when he had left him a few months ago.   It still didn't stop him from missing him, but it did offer him some comfort that Glenn would always be there for him; unlike his parents, who had always treated him like a nuisance, or at least his mother had.   He had to give his father credit for trying to connect with him through football; but Rick saw that it was a half-hearted attempt, at best.

Rick's thoughts then turned to the upcoming reunion with his commanding officer, and their eventual return to their duty station.   Rick felt comfortable with his new job as Lt. Col. Bachman's personal assistant.   He wasn't sure about what his duties would be, but he was sure that Lt. Col. Bachman would make sure Rick knew what he expected from him.

When Rick landed in Atlanta, he grabbed his luggage and caught a taxi to their condo.   He remembered that they had rented out their condo, so he decided to stop at Keith and Kerry's condo, instead.

He knocked on the door and waited for someone to answer.   The door was thrown open wide, and he was soon held in Keith's tight embrace.

Keith let his friend go and said, "It's good to see you, Rick.   Come inside.   Kerry and I were just sitting down to eat lunch."

Rick dropped his gear just inside the door of the condo, and followed Keith down the hall to the kitchen.   As he entered their kitchen, Kerry jumped up from the table and rushed to give Rick a hug.   "We've missed you and Glenn a lot," Kerry said, looking up at him.

Rick said, "We've missed you, as well.   I've spent the last two weeks with Glenn and Ben."

Keith smiled. "I'm glad you were able to take enough leave to spend some time with Glenn.   He was having a very difficult time when you left."

Rick said, with much feeling, "I know.   Ben sent me e-mails to keep me informed about how Glenn was doing."

Kerry asked, "When do you have to report back for duty?"

"I have to meet Lt. Col. Bachman this afternoon at the Atlanta airport for our flight back to Washington, DC.   He told me we have to take care of a few things at Quantico before we can return to our unit overseas," Rick answered.

Keith smiled and said, "At least we get to have lunch with you."

They continued to catch up with the latest news, and talked about how Glenn was doing at the University of Minnesota.   Soon, Rick looked at his watch and said, "I need to be going.   Do you mind if I use your bathroom to change into my uniform?"

Keith said, "Not at all.   You know where it is."

He quickly changed out of his civilian clothes and back into his uniform.   He repacked his clothes in his duffel, and returned to say good-bye to Keith and Kerry.

Keith and Kerry each gave him a hug and wished him well.   He gathered his things and called a cab to pick him up.   He made it to the airport just as Lt. Col. Bachman rang his cell phone to ask where he was.   He checked his bags to his destination and went to the designated meeting place, where he found his commanding officer waiting for him.

He saluted him smartly.   Lt. Col. Bachman said, "At ease, Marine."   Lt. Col. Bachman looked closely at Rick, noting every detail of the corporal's uniform.   When he was satisfied that everything was as it should be, he noted that Rick was very relaxed and seemed much happier than when he left him at the MARTA station two week ago.  The young marine had been in pretty bad shape, emotionally, when he last saw him.   He also noted, with amusement, the slight bruise on the young marine's neck.   Someone got laid last night; and, by the looks of it, they had a pretty good make out session!   He smiled and said, "It looks like you had a good time in the sack, from the look of your neck."

Rick blushed and replied, "Yes, Sir!"   Rick had forgotten that Glenn had marked him the night before.   He hoped that Lt. Col. Bachman wouldn't ask any questions about it.

Lt. Col. Bachman laughed, "I'm glad to see you scored while you were on leave.   I just hope you practiced safe sex.   Too many of our marines forget that in the heat of the moment."

Rick blushed even more.   Lt. Col. Bachman laughed again, "I'm sorry if I embarrassed you, Corporal Lernier."

"Not a problem at all, Sir," replied Rick, trying to recover his composure.   He wasn't sure how to react to his superior's comment, since he didn't know him very well.   If he asked him any further questions about his love life, he would have to lie to his superior officer.   Rick hated the fact that the military could exert so much control over his life as to interfere with his intimate relationships in his own bedroom!   Why did it matter if he had sex with a guy?

At first, his decision to join the Marine Corps had seemed like a perfect fit.   He and his fellow reservists loved cruising the bars, getting drunk and competing with each other to see who could get laid the most.   They had kept a running tally of each other's conquests.   Rick had been able to score with a different woman nearly every night, while his buddies weren't quite so lucky!  His comrades admitted that he was a real stud and that the women loved him.  He even managed to continue finding a new bedmate every weekend while he was studying at the university.   He reveled in the fact that women found him irresistible.   Then, he met Glenn and his whole world changed.   Now, the military lifestyle he had found so comfortable, didn't seem quite so great; in fact, he had come to hate it.

His thoughts were jolted back to the present as he heard his commander's voice.  "Let's get through security, so we won't miss our flight," Lt. Col Bachman said.

They proceeded to the security check point.   The lines were very long, and it took them nearly an hour to get through security.   They made their way, quickly, to the train which carried them to the terminal where they could board their flight.

Once they reached their gate, they found a couple seats facing each other, near the windows, so they could watch the planes coming and going.

As he carefully watched Rick, Lt. Col. Bachman thought to himself, "Corporal Lernier still doesn't trust anyone in the Marine Corps.   Sgt. Riehle specifically pointed out that this state of affairs was not good for a young marine on the front lines.  I need to do something to keep this young man from disintegrating, mentally and emotionally, before my eyes.  

I remember now that Sgt. Riehle had suggested that I should try to draw him out of his self-impose exile.   I tried to engage him in conversation a bit ago, but he didn't say much – responding to me in short, concise statements.   I wonder if we will ever be able to restore his faith and trust in the Marine Corps?    Somewhere along the line, we failed this young man.   I have always considered the Marines part of my extended family, and many of my fellow Marines feel the same way.   There has to be a way I can help Corporal Lernier.   Maybe if I talk about my family, he will loosen up a bit.   God knows that I need to talk to someone, myself, given what just happened to me."

Lt. Col. Bachman glanced over at his subordinate, with a thoughtful look on his face, and said, "You seem well rested and very content, Corporal Lernier.   I'm glad I followed Sgt. Riehle's advice to give you a couple weeks of leave.   I trust that things are going well at home."  Lt. Col. Bachman noted that Rick's resulting smile reached his eyes.    

"Yes, Sir.   The only bad part was leaving everyone to return to our duty station."

Lt. Col. Bachman nodded his head in agreement.  "I know what you mean.  It's always hard to leave your loved ones.   Leaving the kids is even harder, because they change so much in such a short period of time.   I have five children – four boys and one girl."

Rick smiled and asked, "What are their names and ages?"

Lt. Col. Bachman smiled inwardly as he thought to himself, "Good.   Maybe we can have a conversation, now that he seems to have taken an interest in my family."   Out loud, he answered Rick's question, "They are Michael -  age 18, David – age 16, Natasha – age 15, Gerald – age 11 and Andrew – age 8.   The oldest is attending college at the University of Georgia in Athens.   David is a junior in high school.   Natasha is a sophomore at the same school as David.   Gerald is in 6th grade and Andrew in 3rd grade in the elementary school in our neighborhood."

Rick said, "It sounds like you have a wonderful family."

For a moment, Lt. Col. Bachman didn't respond, as he considered whether or not he should confide in this very reserved young man.   The silence between them began to grow a little uncomfortable, with Rick wondering if he had said something to offend him.   He had seen the look of pain cross Lt. Col. Bachman's face, and thought that something must be wrong for so much anguish to manifest itself.

Finally, Lt. Col. Bachman spoke.  "May I call you Rick?"

Rick looked at his superior officer in surprise.   This wasn't the kind of question he would have expected from his superior officer.   He stuttered his response, as a result.  "Y-yes, Sir.   Why?"

Lt. Col. Bachman replied, "Because I would like you to become my confidant.   There are many things going on in my life that I would like to share with you; but only if I can be assured I can trust you.  I realize that it's not exactly military protocol for a subordinate and his commanding officer to be on a first name basis; but, when we are talking in private, I would like us to be able to address each other by our first names.   Is that okay with you?"

Rick nodded his head, not sure what to think of this turn of events.  He didn't say anything more, but, waited to hear what Lt. Col. Bachman had to say.

Lt. Col. Bachman said, "Good.  To start, my first name is Garth.   I grew up in Alabama, and moved to Georgia to attend college.   I enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve program to help me pay for school.   As you can see, I am still in the Marine Corps.   My civilian job is in construction.   My brothers are running my construction company in my absence.   I spent the last two weeks catching up on things with my business and getting to know my children again.   However, things aren't as rosy as I'd like them to be.   My wife has become convinced that I am cheating on her; and has threatened to divorce me and take the kids home to her Mom's place in Florida."

Rick didn't know what to say to this revelation, so he didn't say anything.   He nodded his head to show he was listening.

Garth's expression hardened into a mask of anger.   He continued, "She told me this afternoon that she was going to have me served with the divorce papers while I was at home on leave, but decided to wait until I returned to our duty station."

Rick said, "That's a terrible way to take leave of your family."

Garth nodded his head in agreement.   "It's been a rough couple of hours, Rick.   I am still in shock!   I didn't see this coming at all!   When I got home two weeks ago, everything seemed fine.   We took a quick trip to Florida to see her mother, and spent a few days at Disney World with the kids.   I thought we had the picture perfect family.   Our son came down from Athens to spend the weekend with us, and we had some good father-son bonding time."

Rick said, "It's a good thing you spent some quality time with your children."

Garth said, "Yes, I'm glad we created some good memories.   I'm feeling so angry.   I can't believe she would do this to me, especially knowing that I won't be back in the states until late next spring."

Rick suggested, "Why don't you talk to General McClellan about staying stateside until you've resolved the situation at home?"

Garth looked at Rick with a new sense of respect.   He hadn't expected someone so young to grasp the importance of being close to home during such difficult times as a divorce; especially where young children are involved.   His anger grew nearly a hundred fold at the thought of the damage his wife was about to cause to the lives of their young children by leaving him.

Rick noticed the red flush climbing Garth's face.   He asked, "Garth, are you going to be okay?"

Garth's eyes focused on Rick.  "I'm sorry, Rick.   The thought of the harm my wife intends to inflict upon our children with this divorce makes me extremely angry.   It makes me even angrier than her false accusations against me.   I have never cheated on her, or done anything that would endanger our marriage.   The only thing I can think of is that she has found someone to replace me, and has projected her infidelity onto me to help her justify in her mind what she's doing."

"Have you thought of hiring a lawyer?   It sounds like you are going to need a really good one."

Garth nodded his head.  "Yes, I have thought of it, but I have no idea who to even call.   Hiring a lawyer was the furthest thing from my mind until a couple of hours ago."

"Maybe my Grandpa Scarborough can help you find someone reputable."

Garth looked at Rick for moment, trying to come to grips with the reality that he really needed to find a good lawyer rather quickly.  "Does your grandpa know any good lawyers in Atlanta?"

"He is pretty well connected, so I'm sure he can help you find a lawyer," Rick said.   "Do you want me to call him?"

"Sure, if you don't think he will mind me asking him for assistance," Garth said.

Rick flipped open his cell and dialed Grandpa Scarborough.   He answered on the first ring, "Hello, Rick."

"Hello, Grandpa.   May I ask you favor?" Rick asked.

"Yes, go ahead," Grandpa said.

"My friend, Garth, just found out today that his wife is going to divorce him.   Do you know of any good lawyers he could engage to represent him?" Rick asked.

There was silence on the other end of the line while Grandpa thought for a moment.   "Yes, I do.   Is Garth there?"

"Yes, he's right here.   Do you want to talk to him?" Rick asked.

"Yes.   Put him on, please," Grandpa said.

Rick passed the phone to Garth, who greeted Grandpa, and listened while Grandpa talked to him.   Garth explained everything that had happened, then listened some more.   He pulled out a pen and paper and started writing down what Grandpa was telling him.

Garth handed the phone back to Rick.   Rick said, "Thanks, Grandpa."

Grandpa responded, "Is your friend in the Marines?"

"Yes, Grandpa," Rick responded.   "He's my commanding officer."

"I thought that might be the case, from what you told me yesterday.   I know I don't need to remind you, but I am going to do it, anyway; because I love you very much.   Be careful what you share with him about your personal life.   You know he is under oath to report you for being gay.   If you desire to continue to serve your country in the Marine Corps, you will need to maintain your silence regarding your relationship with Glenn," Grandpa said, with concern in his voice.  

He paused to let Rick respond.   When he didn't, Grandpa continued,   "We love you very much Rick, and want what is best for you.   You know you can count on our love and support.   I'm glad you called me, and that I was able to help in a small way with your commander's problem.   Always remember he's still your commanding officer, and not your best friend.   Just because he has broken the boundaries that exist between officers and their subordinates does not mean that the boundary doesn't exist.   Do not cross that line and become too familiar with him.   Once you cross that line, you can't return, and it may well be your undoing."

"I know that, Grandpa."   Grandpa had confirmed the thoughts that had been going through Rick's mind as he listened to his commanding officer.   It increased his sense of unease with the entire situation.

"Good.   One more thing; we talked about your frustration with not being able to trust your fellow marines.   I have given it some thought, and I believe that you have discovered the right approach.   Only trust them in military matters.   Never trust them with details about your life outside the military.   I served in the Marines during the war, and I know how close we became, as a group of marines.   I also know that some of those men, whom I considered to be my closest friends, betrayed me in the heat of battle, when I needed their help the most."  

Rick knew Grandpa had been in the service, but had never heard anything about his experiences in the military.  Rick asked in surprise, "What happened, Grandpa?"  

"I won't answer you right now, but remind me to tell you when you are home next time.   It's a long story and I want to make sure I'm not interrupted when I share it with you.  But I will tell you that when we returned home, one of my buddies even started sleeping with my girlfriend, behind my back," Grandpa said.  Then, in a very serious tone of voice, he continued, "Rick, be very careful who you entrust with the knowledge of your relationship with Glenn.   I don't want to see you hurt."

"Okay, Grandpa.   They are starting to board the plane.   I will call you when I can.  I love you."

"I love you, too," Grandpa said.

Rick broke the connection, and looked over to see Garth deep in conversation on his cell phone.   As he listened, he gathered that Garth had called the lawyer Grandpa had recommended.   He waited patiently for Garth to finish his call.

Garth saw that Rick had finished talking to his Grandpa; so, he wrapped up his call and turned to Rick.  "Let's get on this flying tin can."

Rick smiled and joined Garth in the line to board the plane.   They found their seats.   Again, Rick had requested the exit row so he would have more leg room.   Rick took his seat next the window.   Garth had booked the aisle seat in the same row.   Garth said, "I hope no one takes the middle seat.   The flight to Washington, DC, isn't a long one, but it will be more comfortable without being cramped."

Rick nodded his head in agreement, but didn't say anything.   He turned to look out the window.   He watched the ground crew preparing the plane for takeoff.

Garth got settled in his seat, and watched the rest of the passengers as they boarded the plane.   At last, the pilot announced their imminent departure.   Fortunately, the middle seat remained empty!  He looked over at Rick and thought, "Now maybe we can have a conversation about what's bothering him."

Speaking aloud, he said, "I have shared the tragedy that has overtaken me today, and you have been a very attentive listener.   In fact, I have shared far more than I should have with you, since you are my subordinate.   I apologize for stepping over the line.   I appreciate your help today, and I hope I haven't ruined your day, with my problems."

Rick met his eyes, and said, "Not a problem, Sir."

Garth said, "Please call me Garth."

"I shouldn't Sir, especially since we are still in uniform.   Maybe when we are in civilian clothing, in a non-military setting, I would feel comfortable using your first name," Rick responded.   "Please don't be offended if I continue to address you as I should."

Garth thought for a moment before responding.   He admired Rick for reminding him of the proper protocol.    "Again, you have my apologies.   You are correct in reminding me that we should observe appropriate military protocol."

"Apology accepted, Sir.   I don't want to endanger either one of us, should we be overheard being so familiar with each other and it resulted in any disciplinary action."

Garth replied, "Sgt. Riehle was right to recommend you to me.   He told me you would be a great addition to my staff, and I am glad I followed his advice.   I want you to continue to keep me from straying from what is appropriate for someone in my position."   Garth considered carefully his next words, as he said, "Rick, Sgt. Riehle also told me that I needed to work hard to restore your faith in your fellow marines, after the events of the past couple of months."

Garth saw the look of surprise cross Rick's face, before it was quickly replaced by an expressionless mask.   He clearly had made a mistake and crossed into forbidden territory.

Rick turned in his seat to face his commanding officer.   Rick's surprise at hearing these words was quickly replaced with a white hot anger at Sgt. Riehle.   The anger was combined with the fear that Sgt. Riehle had revealed too much to this man, who was attempting to gain his confidence.   It made Rick even more paranoid than he was, already.   He suspected that there was something more at play here than a simple question about restoring his trust in his fellow Marines.

Rick answered in measured tones, as he tried to balance the need to show respect to a superior officer and the anger he felt.   "Sir, exactly how do you propose to restore my faith in the Marine Corps?   My fellow marines killed my best friend, and those same marines were major players in a drug ring."

Garth was slightly taken aback at the coldness in Rick's voice, and the anger he sensed in the rigid frame of the young man at his side.   He noticed the tightly clinched fists that Rick had quickly relaxed, after he saw Garth looking down at them.

Garth said, "I'm sorry if I have touched on a nerve.   It was not my intent to offend you.   I truly want to help you, if I can.   Sgt. Riehle said that you reminded him of his son and wanted me to take you under my wing.   I want to help you as much as possible to recover from the shock of the betrayal of your comrades, and the brutal murder of your friend, Sam."

Rick heard his words, but didn't trust the expression he saw on Garth's face.   "I appreciate your kindness and that of Sgt. Riehle.   The two weeks at home went a long ways toward relieving the stress I was feeling.   However, it will take more than your good will to convince me that I can ever trust my fellow marines with anything.   Those men from our post who are now in the military jail at Quantico destroyed what confidence I had in the military's ability to protect its own, let alone fight a foreign enemy."

Garth said, "I understand how you feel.   I have many of the same feelings, since those marines were under my command.   Speaking of them, we will be staying at Quantico for a few months, until we have finished with the preparations for their court martial.   You and I will be witnesses, as well as many of the others who were with us on post.   While we have been on leave, headquarters has rotated out most of the personnel who were there; and stationed them stateside, where they can be easily reached."

Rick smiled and relaxed a little.  "I'm glad to hear that we won't be going overseas for a while.   I don't think I would have lasted very long, if we were returning to our most recent duty station."

Garth returned his smile.  "I'm with you on that one.   Given what's happening in my life, it's a good thing we aren't going very far.   I will probably ask to be stationed a little closer to home as the divorce proceedings begin, so I can be near my children."

"That would be a good thing.   I know that some of my friends in high school had a very difficult time when their parents got divorced.   Going through a divorce is not easy on anyone," Rick said.   Rick looked at Garth for a moment before asking, "Have you thought of trying to reconcile with your wife?"

Garth didn't answer for a moment.   "I'm not sure that will be possible, with my being away from home.   I think she has already found someone else and is projecting her guilt onto me by accusing me of stepping out on her.   I found a couple of love notes on her dresser from someone named Kevin.   I chose to ignore what I found in hopes that it would turn out to be nothing.   It wasn't until I was getting ready to leave that she dropped her bombshell.   I asked the lawyer to hire a private investigator to find out who this Kevin guy is; and to see if we could turn up anything that would help me win custody of the children.   I am expecting this to get very nasty before we're through."

Rick frowned.   "I'm sorry to hear that there isn't any hope of you two getting back together."

Garth sat in silence for the rest of the flight.   In his anger, he had truthfully not considered reconciliation as an option.   Rick's question reminded him of his son, Michael.   Michael had been very upset about his parents' divorce, and had accused them of not trying to work out their differences.   By the time the flight was ready to land, Garth had decided he should at least try to salvage their marriage, if there was anything left to save.

Meanwhile, Rick was thinking of Glenn.   He had bought Glenn's birthday present, and left it with Ben to deliver on Glenn's birthday on Saturday.   Rick had Donica pick up several pair of diamond studs in a variety of colors.   He had ordered some adult toys from one of the adult store web sites.   He knew Glenn would be totally embarrassed when he opened the package.   Glenn was pretty naïve when it came to such things.   Ben had helped him pick out some outrageous stuff, as well as some really fun things for Glenn to try out while Rick was away.   The thought of Glenn playing with his new toys made Rick's dick hard as a rock.    He tried to shift things around without drawing attention to how turned on he was.   Luckily, Garth seemed completely absorbed in his own thoughts to notice Rick's aroused condition.

The captain announced their approach to Washington Reagan National Airport, signaling the end of their flight.   The plane landed; and they deplaned, heading straight for the baggage claim.

Garth said, "There should be someone here to pick us up."

He had just finished speaking when a familiar voice called out to them.  "Welcome to Virginia, boys!" Sgt. Riehle exclaimed, as he approached the two men.

Garth smiled and reached out a hand to Sgt. Riehle, who shook it, and then, slapped him on the back.   "It's good to see you Sgt.," Garth said.

Rick acknowledged Sgt. Riehle's greeting, "Good to see you, Sgt. Riehle!"   He tried to keep his voice neutral.   The thought that this man knew too much about his personal life made him extremely nervous.

Sgt. Riehle said, "I'm happy to see you, Corporal.   Let's get your things and head south.   I'm sure you will want to get settled in and get some shut eye."

Garth said, "Yes, Sir.   Let's go."

Ben and I left the airport after seeing Rick off, and managed to arrive back at the house in time for us to catch our first class of the day.   I sat through it, trying to take notes.   I was walking down the hall to my next class, when Zach came up to me and wrapped his arms around my waist; pulling me close to him, and kissed me on the lips.

Laughing at my surprised expression, Zach said, "I didn't dare do that with your big, ugly boyfriend around to stop me!"

I punched Zach in the shoulder.   "You are such a tease, Zach!"

Zach released me, still smiling.   "You are not allowed to mope around, bemoaning your lot in life.   Rick made me promise to help you stay focused on school; and he gave me permission to give you a kiss, as long as it didn't go any further than that!"

"Rick didn't tell you that you could kiss me!   I know he didn't!" I exclaimed, looking at Zach's broad grin.

Zach's grin grew even broader.   "No, he didn't, but that won't stop me from kissing you, again; if you insist on walking around campus, looking like the world just came to an end!"

Zach put his arm around my shoulders, as we continued down the hall to the front entrance.   We found Mark waiting for us, outside, when we exited the building.   "It's about time you two showed up.   We need to hot foot it over to our Spanish class," Mark said, his impatience readily apparent on his face.

I looked at Mark in surprise.   "You two don't have a Spanish class.   What are you two up to, now?"  I looked at my roommates with suspicion.

Mark answered, with a grin, "We are accompanying you to your classes today, so let's get moving."

Mark put his arm around my shoulders, so I was sandwiched between these two tough hockey players.   Mark declared, in a very matter of fact voice, "Mr. Nielsen, you are now a ward of the Mark and Zach ‘Cheer Up Glenn' team.   We have enlisted the aid of many others who care about you, to help you adjust to life without your handsome lover boy.   We are going to introduce you to the joys of single life, where you can observe how the rest of us live who don't have a full time live-in partner to entertain us 24/7."

Zach laughed.  "Since we're now your roommates, we intend to keep you so busy you won't even notice Rick's absence except in certain circumstances that shall be shown you here after!"

Zach was being so goofy, I had to laugh.  "Okay, guys, I get the picture.   Seriously though, you don't have to go to all my classes with me."

"Yes, we do," Mark insisted, pulling me closer to him.  "I want you to introduce me to all the hot chicks.   You seem to know all the girls, so I want you to find me someone, like you helped Ben find Janice."

I looked at Mark as we walked towards class.  "Mark, you don't need me to find you a girlfriend.   You are so good looking you can have your pick of any girl or guy.   After every game, there are dozens of them asking for your autograph!   I have seen them!"

Mark laughed, self-consciously.   "Yes, that's true; however, they are asking for everyone else's autograph, as well.   I mean, I want someone of quality, not just someone who is an adoring fan."

Zach narrowed his eyes and looked slyly at his friend.  "You know, I can set you up with a great looking guy."

Mark said, "No, thank you, Zach.   I'm straight and intend to stay that way.   No disrespect intended guys, so don't go giving me a hard time about bashing gays."

I replied, "I won't give you a hard time, because you have always treated us with respect and dignity.   I can't say that about most of the straight people I meet."   I paused before continuing, "However, if you want to experience a gay relationship, we know of several men of ‘quality' with whom you could develop a warm and loving relationship."

Mark cocked his head to one side, before answering, "Okay, if that is so, set me up on a blind date, and we will see where it goes."

Zach and I came to a sudden stop.   To say we were stunned by what Mark had just said would have been a major understatement.   Zach was the first to recover from his surprise.  "Did you say what I thought you said?"

Mark turned around, grinning at the stunned looks on our faces.  "Yes, I did.   I want you to set me up on a double date with you and Todd this weekend.   I am willing to date a guy, but he has to be top flight.   I won't settle for second best, especially when I'm not sure about dating a guy."

I looked over at Zach.   "But didn't you just tell us you wanted me to introduce you to all the girls I know; and, that you were straight?"

"I did just say that, and I still want you to introduce me to any cute girls that you think I'd like to date," Mark said, still smiling at us.

Zach looked his friend in the eyes and exclaimed in frustration.  "Stop right there, buddy boy!   What are you trying to tell us, really?"

Mark shrugged his shoulders, and responded, "I guess I'm trying to tell you that I am okay with dating a guy; even though I am still interested in girls."

What Mark was saying wasn't making any sense to me.   I said, "But Mark, if we find a nice guy for you to date, you can't do it just on a whim.   It's not fair to string someone along, pretending you like guys, when you aren't really interested in them."

Mark answered defensively, "Why are you guys giving me such a hard time about wanting to go on a date with a guy?   Zach has been trying to convince me to go out with a guy for nearly a month now.   Is it okay with you guys if I try dating a man, to see if things can work out between us?"

"Only if you are upfront with him about your feelings about being gay, bi-sexual, or whatever, so you don't set up any false expectations on his part," I said, still a little perplexed at this sudden change in Mark's attitude towards dating men.  

Mark agreed, "That sounds fair.   I think I can be pretty candid about my feelings, and the fact that I'm not sure where I fit on the gay-straight spectrum right now."

I looked over at Zach.  "It sounds like Mark is serious."

Zach smiled.   "Yes, I think you are right, Glenn.   Mark, I will introduce you to a guy I think you should date, so you can give me a thumbs up or thumbs down, before we set you up on a date with him."

Mark smiled. "Deal!"   Mark and Zach bumped fists, and we continued on to my Spanish class.

During class, I couldn't concentrate on the professor, because I kept going over what had just happened.   Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine Mark would want to date a guy!   Wow!   I guess it goes to show that you can't always predict what someone will do, no matter how well you think you know them!

After class, Mark and Zach stood outside in the hallway.   Zach pointed toward a really great looking blond guy and asked, "How would you like to date him?"

Mark looked the guy over, and said, "I would, but he doesn't look gay."

Zach responded, "Mark, you should know by now that no one ‘looks' gay unless they want to make a statement."

Mark looked at me and protested, "But I could tell Glenn was gay from the moment I first met him."

I laughed.   "Mark, you missed Zach's point.   I don't care who knows I'm gay, and I am not afraid to show that I am interested in guys.   Did you think Rick was gay when you met him?"

Mark thought for a moment and responded, "No, Rick doesn't look gay at all.   In fact, he is so masculine that I would never have suspected that he was your boyfriend, if you hadn't told me."

Zach asked, "What about me and Todd?"

Mark replied, in surrender, "Okay, I get the point.   You're right about the fact that I have certain preconceptions about gays.   Yes, my ideas are stereotypes that have been created by the media to ridicule gays.   I'm sorry, okay?"

Zach laughed at his friend.   "I would have thought that you would have tossed out those outdated ideas about gays when you found out I was gay and had a boyfriend."

Mark blushed from embarrassment.   He repeated his apology, "I'm sorry, guys.   I just wasn't thinking."

"You still didn't answer my question.   Do you want to date Brandon?"  Zach asked.

Mark looked more closely at Brandon, as he approached us.   "Yeah, I guess so.   I am still a little nervous about dating a guy, though."

"No problem," Zach said.   "Let me introduce you to a really nice guy.   I think you won't be nervous at all, once you meet him."  

Brandon came up to Zach.  "Hey, Zach!   How are you, dude?"

Zach bumped fists with Brandon and responded, "I'm doing great!   Hey, Brandon, I want you to meet a couple of buddies of mine.   This is Glenn and this is Mark."

Brandon shook our hands and said, "Glad to meet you guys."

I gave Brandon a quick once over, trying not to be too obvious about it.   He had dark brown eyes, jet black eyelashes and eyebrows that formed one solid line above his eyes, and stood out in contrast to his blond hair.   He had a smallish button nose and a small mouth.   He smiled, showing perfectly straight teeth.   He had a really deep dimple in his right cheek.   I noted that he was rather thin, but I could see that he was well-muscled, despite his slight build.   He wore the athletic gear that avid biker's wear – tight fitting, and lots of spandex!   My eyes stopped at his crotch, where I enjoyed the sight of his package, which was nicely accentuated by the dark blue fabric of his spandex shorts.  The sight of his well muscled legs didn't escape my notice, either.  As I raised my eyes back to his crotch, I saw he had a biker's helmet strapped to his backpack that he had slung over his shoulder.  

I looked up to meet his brown eyes.   Brandon held my gaze and asked earnestly, "Glenn, do I meet your approval?"

I laughed, self-consciously.   "Was I that obvious?  I was trying not to be."

Brandon grinned broadly.   "Yes, you were ‘that' obvious.   You still didn't answer my question."

I could feel the color rising in my cheeks, as I answered him.  "Yes, you do."

Brandon laughed.   "Good.   I was beginning to get worried there, for minute!"  

I thought, "Wow! I could really go for this guy.   Mark had better grab this guy before someone else does!"  

I responded to Brandon, "You don't have to worry, Brandon.   You look great!   I take it from your gear that you do a lot of cycling!"

Brandon looked over at Mark and continued, "I try to keep in shape by cycling to school every day.   I carry a change of clothes in my backpack, so I don't embarrass the girls in my classes.   I just haven't made it to the men's room to get changed, yet."

Zach asked, "Would you like to join us for a night out, on Friday?"

Brandon turned to Zach.   "Sure.   Isn't your boyfriend coming down from Duluth?"

"Yes, Todd will be here.   I want you to meet him.  Glenn and Mark will be there, as well as some of our other friends."

Brandon said, "I'll be there."   Brandon looked at Mark, who had been watching Brandon closely.   "Don't we have chemistry together?"

Mark looked surprised.   "Who do you have?"

"I'm in Fessenden's class next hour," Brandon said.

"I am, too.   I guess I haven't paid very much attention to who else was in the class," Mark said, smiling rather sheepishly.   Mark thought to himself, "How did I miss seeing this guy?   He is rather cute, and I love the fact that he's doesn't mind showing off that he's well endowed."

Brandon said, "Don't worry about it, Mark.   Have you completed the assignment that is due today?"

Mark smiled and replied, "Yes, I finished it this morning."

"Would you mind helping me?   I still have a couple of problems to do, and I'm afraid I won't get them done," Brandon said.   "I don't have a very good head for chemistry.

Mark said, "Sure.   Why don't we go over to the classroom and we can work on your stuff?   No one uses that room this hour.   I often go early, to try to get in a few extra minutes of studying done before class."

Brandon smiled, gratefully.   "That would be great!   Thanks for helping me."

Mark looked over at Zach, "Do you mind if I leave you to keep an eye on this joker?"   Mark pointed at me as he said this.

Zach laughed.  "Go with Brandon.   Glenn and I will be just fine.   See you at lunch.   Brandon, you're invited to join us for lunch, just in case Mark forgets to invite you."

Mark laughed.  "Zach is always teasing me about how forgetful I am, sometimes."

Brandon smiled.  "Zach, I'll make sure Mark doesn't forget when lunch is, okay?"

Mark looked over at Brandon and laughed.  "Come on, Brandon.   Let's get that homework done."

As the two left us, I turned to Zach.  "Those two seemed to have hit it off."

Zach replied, with a grin, "Yes, I sent a text message to Brandon to meet me here, so I could introduce him to Mark.   Brandon has had his eye on Mark since the beginning of the semester.   He knows that Mark and I are roommates, so he asked me to try and set them up."

I looked at Zach.  "Well, you did a good job playing matchmaker today!"

Zach laughed.  "We'll see if it works out.   Mark has talked about dating a guy before, but has never followed through with it."

I said, "I guess we'll see just how serious Mark is about it, this time."

After my next class, we met up with Mark and Brandon for lunch.   Brandon had changed out of his cycling gear.   He replaced it with a skin tight white microfiber exercise shirt that showed off his well-defined pecs and abs, which were clearly visible through the fabric.   He also wore khaki pants and trainers.   Brandon seemed to be floating on air.   He was smiling and laughing at something Mark said, as we joined them at their table.  That's when I noticed with surprise that Mark and Brandon were holding hands under the table.  

Zach and I sat down, and I asked, "How was chemistry?"

Brandon grinned, broadly.  "Absolutely ducky!"

Zach looked across the table at his friend, and asked, "Where did you get that saying?"

"I heard it somewhere the other day and thought I'd try out on you guys," Brandon said.   He then started quacking and flapping his arms.

"What else did you hear?" I asked, laughing at Brandon's imitation of a duck.  

"Well, since you asked, I heard this one as well – I'm doing just peachy, on my way to ducky!" Brandon said, laughing.

 "You are too weird!" Zach exclaimed, laughing at our friend.

Brandon responded, in a semi-serious tone of voice, "Why thank you, Zach!   I pride myself in being out of the ordinary!"

Mark said, smiling, "I agree that you are quite out of the ordinary, Brandon."

Hearing the tone of Mark's voice made me look up from my lunch to stare at Mark in surprise.   Mark saw me looking at him.  "What?  Can't a guy say anything around here without you guys trying to find a hidden meaning in it?"

"I wasn't looking for any hidden meaning at all, Mark.   I think that Brandon is an extraordinary guy, and I'm glad you remembered to bring him to lunch with us," I responded with a smile.

Mark blushed, "I've asked Brandon out on a date tonight."

Brandon's smile lit up his face.  "We are going out clubbing tonight!"

Zach said, "Just remember to call me if you need a ride home."

Mark said, "We will.   Brandon, do you want to join us for a work out at the gym this afternoon?"

"Sure.  What time?" Brandon asked, enthusiastically.

Zach said, "We usually go about 2 o'clock.   Glenn, you should join us, as well.  We could help you bulk up a bit.   You know, you could really surprise your boyfriend with a nicely muscled body, like mine."

 I laughed, "Okay, I get the message.   I know I have slacked off the weights.   Ben has been on my case to start working out again.   I used to train with Ben and his teammates in high school, but I haven't done much since then.   I go out running every day to keep in shape, but I guess it wouldn't hurt to add some weightlifting to round out my exercise program."

Brandon said, "I'm glad to have someone to work out with now, since I usually go to the gym alone."

Zach teased his friend, "Admit it, Brandon, you go to the gym to check out the guys!"

Brandon blushed, but laughed, "True enough!   Since I don't have a boyfriend, I need to keep an eye out for a potential new one."

Mark grinned mischievously, and said, "Well, you can come with us and look us over!"

Brandon returned the grin, "I think I will do just that!"

We chatted some more about our classes and our homework assignments, then we headed home to change into our gym clothes.   Brandon walked his bike alongside of us, as we walked the few blocks to the house.

Brandon walked in the front door and looked around.  "Wow!  You guys have a really nice place here."

Mark said, "Thanks.   We just moved in.   We used to live down the street until Ben and Glenn bought this house."

Brandon looked at me in surprise.  "You own this house?"

"Yes, I own it jointly with my cousin, Ben, and my boyfriend, Rick," I replied.

"That is so awesome!" Brandon exclaimed. 

 Zach and Mark had already disappeared upstairs to change.   I said, "Brandon, you can change in my room.   Follow me."

We went upstairs and down the hall to my master bedroom.   I opened the door and Brandon followed me in, closing the door behind him.

"The bathroom is through that door," I said.

"Thanks," Brandon said.   He went in and closed the door.

I pulled out my gym clothes and started to strip off my clothes.   I was down to my Speedo bikini briefs when Brandon entered the room.

I turned to see that he was completely naked.   To say I was completely turned on by the sight of this gorgeous guy in my bedroom would have been an understatement.   My dick got so hard so fast it hurt.   Of course, the Speedos couldn't hold me in, so the top of my dick popped out of them.

Brandon grinned, walked over to me, grabbed my dick, and started to massage it, while pushing my Speedos down so they slipped to the ground.   Brandon put his arm around me and pulled me close to him.   He kissed me, pushing his tongue into my mouth as I moaned in pure pleasure.

His kiss left me breathless and his attention to my dick felt wonderful.   It was a minute or two before my brain kicked in and told me I needed to stop Brandon.  

I gently took his hand off my dick, and put my hands on either side of his face, "Brandon, you are a wonderful guy and I am really, really attracted to you, but I need to stop you from going any further before we both regret it."

Brandon's face fell and he tried to look away from me.    "Brandon, look at me."  He looked into my eyes.  "Brandon, you are the best looking guy around, and you can have anyone you want to be your boyfriend, but you need to remember to observe certain limits.   I want to be your friend, not your lover.   More than anything, I want you to find the man of your dreams, and I will do my best to help you do that.   I have found my guy, and I won't do anything to hurt him, nor do I want to hurt you.  Even though we might enjoy the sex while we were fucking each other, we would feel horrible, afterward.   That is not something either of us needs to have in our lives right now."

Brandon looked sheepish.  "I'm sorry, Glenn.   It's just that all the guys I've met lately only want to have a quick fuck, and that's it.   There is no relationship, no attachment - just a good fuck."

I released Brandon's face and took him by the hand.   I led him over to sit down on my bed.   I sat Indian style on the bed, facing Brandon.  "Brandon, Mark could really fall for you if you treat him right."

Brandon looked surprised.  "How do you know?"

"It shows in how he looks at you," I said.

"But we just met a few hours ago!" Brandon protested.

"Yes, but you and Mark seem to be made for each other.   However, you two need to decide if you are ready for a serious relationship," I said.

Brandon said, "Can't we just have good sex and leave it at that?"

"No, Brandon, Mark is not that type of guy.   You will learn that soon enough.   Think about what it is that you really want from Mark.   Are you just looking for a good fuck, and you will move on to the next guy when you get bored?   Or are you ready to find Mr. Right, and maybe work on forming a more stable relationship," I said.

Brandon didn't answer right away.   He looked away from my searching gaze, and said, "I'm afraid of forming a more permanent relationship, Glenn.   The last guy I thought was Mr. Right turned out to be Mr. Wrong.   I really got hurt by him, and I swore to myself that I would never make myself that vulnerable, again.   That is why I have played the field, and have tried not to have sex more than once, or twice, with any one guy."

"So, why are you pursuing Mark if that is all you want from him?" I asked, seriously.

"Mark presents a challenge to me.   I thought he was totally straight, until I saw him with Zach one day.   I decided that day I would make Mark my next conquest," Brandon admitted.

"Brandon, you seem to be a really nice guy.  Zach is a pretty good judge of character, and I don't think he would set up his best friend with just anyone.  The fact that he introduced you to Mark says a lot about the kind of guy you are.   Not only that, I think you don't need to consider every guy as a challenge to you.   You don't have to show us how you can dominate or seduce us.   That's not the kind of people we are, and neither are you.   Please reconsider your motives for dating Mark.   I think if you just let go of your hurt and anger over how your ex-boyfriend treated you, you will find that Mark is a great guy.   Mark has a generous heart, and loves his friends unconditionally.   Please be gentle with my friend.   You deserve to be happy, Brandon, and so does Mark.   Don't ruin this opportunity by treating Mark as your next conquest, in a long line of guys who have fallen to your charms," I said.

Brandon nodded his head.  "I'll give it some thought."   He paused for a moment, before grinning widely, "But you have to admit that you really wanted me to fuck you!"

I laughed.  "You are hopeless!   Yes!   I want you to fuck me, but the answer is still a very firm, ‘No!'   So, don't keep trying to seduce me with your gorgeous body and charming ways!"

I got up and pulled on my gym shorts while Brandon returned to the bathroom and came out a few minutes later dressed in his biker gear.   I looked at him in surprise, "Don't you have some gym clothes?"

"No, I didn't bring anything with me, since I didn't plan on coming here after class.   I usually return home, and change there," he said.

I walked over to my dresser and pulled out a pair of gym shorts, t-shirt and some sweat pants.   "Here try these," I said, handing them to Brandon.

He took them, stripped down quickly and pulled them on.   He walked over to the mirror to see how he looked.   "They fit me pretty well.   Thank you," Brandon said.

He walked over and gave me a hug.   He kissed me and said, "I had to have one last hug and a kiss.   Thank you for taking the time to talk to me.   I'm sorry I tried to seduce you."

I held him close and looked into his eyes.  "Brandon, you are a wonderful person.   You have a lot going for you:   beauty, intelligence, grace, charm, and an unbelievably great personality!   Never forget that you deserve only the best in a mate.   Don't settle for one night stands, or second rate guys.   We take care of our friends around here, and I consider you a friend."

I noticed that Brandon's eyes were bright with tears.   "Thank you for being my friend," he said, his voice cracking with emotion.

I put my fist up and we bumped fists.   Brandon's usual jaunty behavior quickly reasserted itself as we joined the guys.   At the gym, we found most of the hockey team was already there, doing their work outs.  

Zach and Mark were enthusiastically greeted by their teammates.   Zach introduced Brandon to them, as we passed them headed to an empty workout station.  

Brandon said, "Thank you for inviting me to work out with you guys."

Mark smiled, "You're welcome.   Will you spot me?"

"Sure," Brandon said, and stood behind Mark's head to spot him, as Mark began working the bench press.

We worked out really hard and returned home totally exhausted.   It felt good to get my muscles all pumped up and stretched out from lifting weights.   We showered and changed clothes.   I offered Brandon his choice of outfits from my wardrobe, since we obviously were close to the same size and build.   That way, he didn't have to go home to get something appropriate for his night out with Mark.

Much to Mark's surprise, Brandon chose one of the sexy outfits the girls had gotten for me.   When Brandon came downstairs, Mark whistled and walked over to give Brandon a passionate kiss.   "Wow!   You are such a stud!"

Brandon grinned, and winked at me over Mark's shoulder.   "Thank you, Mark.   I hope I didn't overdo it."

Mark grinned at his date.  "You look great!   I'm going to be the envy of every guy in the club!   I'm going to have to fight them off to keep them from trying to horn in on our date."

Brandon blushed at Mark's comments and his appreciative stare.  "Do you really think I am that good looking?"

Mark answered, in surprise, "Brandon, you are so hot I don't have the words to describe you."

Mark took Brandon in his arms and kissed him.  He looked deep into Brandon's eyes, and said, "Brandon, thank you for honoring me by going out with me tonight.   Never forget that you are a wonderful guy, and I intend to treat you like the royalty you are.  You are my Prince Charming, remember?"

Brandon's blush grew deeper.  "Yes, I do remember that you told me you wanted me to be your Prince Charming, while you helped me with my homework.   It's just that nobody has ever wanted me to be their Prince Charming before today.   The guys I have met only wanted to pleasure themselves by fucking me, and treated me like a slut."

Mark said, "Those are other guys.   You just had to wait until you met me!   Don't shut me out, Brandon, or assume that I am like those other guys who want to use and abuse you.   Please give me a chance to win your heart."  

Brandon smiled, "Okay, Mark."

Mark asked, "Are we ready to go clubbing?"

Brandon replied, "Yes, I'm ready."

The two studs left the house, holding hands.   I looked over at Zach, who smiled, and said, "I think they are off to a good start, don't you?"

"I hope so, Zach," I responded, thinking of the little chat Brandon and I had in my room, before we left for the gym.

My birthday dawned bright and clear.   It was a little cold and I was glad to have an extra comforter on my bed this morning.   I lay there thinking of my lover boy, when my peaceful reverie was suddenly interrupted.    The door popped open, and all of my roommates came into the room and jumped on my bed!

Ben said, "Good morning, sleepy head.   We've been waiting for you to come downstairs for nearly an hour now, so we decided to come up here, instead."

I sat up and leaned against the headboard.   I smiled at the whole gang –Zach, Todd, Adam, Robbie, Justin, Mark and Ben.   I was surprised to see Brandon, but didn't have time to ask any questions before Ben turned to the group, and said, "On the count of three.   One, two, three."

They all started singing "Happy Birthday."  When they finished singing, each one handed me a birthday present.   I opened them in the order I received them, and thanked them for the wonderful gifts.   Then, Ben said, "There is one more gift from someone very special."

Ben knelt down and pulled out a box from under my bed.   I hadn't noticed it there before, "When did you put that in here?"

Ben said, "It came yesterday, and I managed to get it upstairs without anyone seeing me do it."

He handed me the box.   "It's from Rick.   He ordered it before he left, and wanted to make sure you had something to open on your birthday from him."

Ben motioned for everyone to gather around, so they could see what Rick had gotten me.   I opened the box, and, as I started pulling things out, the guys started whistling, hooting, and howling!   I was turning about as red as I could get, as I continued to pull out more things from the box.

There were several different sets of dildos of all sizes and shapes.   Some looked very real, while others were very colorful.   There were butt plugs with vibrators, and still others that had beads.   There was a wide variety of other adult toys I had never seen before.  

Robbie was the first to say something, "If you don't want those, will you give them to me?"

Zach laughed.  "No, he won't, little brother.   Rick intended them for Glenn's use."

Justin said, "If you have any questions about how to use those toys, please don't hesitate to ask me."   He started laughing at the expression on my face, as did many of the other guys.

Adam said, "Don't worry, Glenn.   I'm sure you'll figure out how to use those toys, soon enough!"

Todd poked his brother in the ribs.  "As if you know how to use them."

Adam laughed and responded, "I know more than you know, big brother."

Todd looked at his little brother for a moment, then, broke out laughing, "I'm sure you do."

Ben handed me a DVD and a neatly wrapped present, and said, "Rick wanted me to give these to you, with instructions that you shouldn't watch the DVD until he's on the phone with you tonight."

I looked curiously at my cousin.   "What's on it?"

Ben shrugged his shoulders.  "I don't know.   Rick made me promise not to watch it, and to give it to you, today."

I opened the present and gave a loud whistle, as I realized what Rick had given me.

Ben looked over, and asked, "What did Rick give you?"

"He spent a whole wad of cash to buy me several new sets of diamond studs.   See, they are in a variety of colors," I said, holding them up for the guys to admire.

Justin said, seriously, "You are the most fortunate guy I know.   You have found Mr. Right.   I hope you appreciate just how special Rick is."

I exclaimed, "Believe me, I do!"

The guys each came over and gave me a quick hug, before leaving me to get dressed for the day.   Mark and Brandon were the last ones to leave.   They came and sat down on my bed.   Before I could ask the question that I had been burning to ask, Mark said, "Brandon and I are boyfriends.   We wanted to know if we could share the spare bedroom.   I know you and Ben had planned to make it into an office, where we could all study when we needed to do so."

I looked at the two of them holding hands, and watching me closely to see if I would agree to let them stay with us.   I smiled and responded, "Of course, you are welcome to move into the spare bedroom with Brandon.   There is one condition, though."

Mark's grin quickly left his face at the mention of a condition.   "What is it?" he asked, anxiously.

"You have to keep the noise level down in there, so we can get some sleep!   I know how loud two guys making out can get!  Congratulations, you two!   I am very happy that you found each other," I said.

Brandon leaned over and kissed Mark, "See, I told you Glenn would let us stay here together, if you just asked him."

Mark smiled at his new boyfriend.  "You were right, Brandon.   I'm sorry I doubted you."

Brandon grinned.  "Glenn, thank you for everything; and I mean, everything!"

Mark looked at me, and said, "I didn't know I would be so happy being in love with a guy.   I wish I had listened to Zach sooner.   He tried to tell me that loving a guy was so much better than trying to deal with women and all their emotions."

I laughed at Mark's statement.  "Mark, I think you had better hold on tight, because you are in for a wild ride if you think guys don't have emotions.   We have them, and sometimes they make things very difficult.   Don't go dishing it out to the girls when you see them, or they will set you straight, as well.   My sister will tell you that I was as moody as any girl during my high school years."

"But you don't seem to be as emotional as some of the girls I've dated," Mark responded.

"That's because I have Rick to help keep me on an even keel.   You'll find that you will help each other to be more stable, and, as a result, you both will be much happier than when you were single," I said.

Brandon smiled and patted Mark on the back.   "Come on, Mark.   Let's go get my stuff and move it over here from my old apartment."

Mark and Brandon wished me a happy birthday, again, and left me to get ready for the day.   I put on a new pair of diamond studs and pulled out my usual pair of jeans and a blue golf shirt.   I tried to style my hair like the girls had done; not being very expert in using all the equipment they had bought me, I soon gave up and just ran a comb through my hair and called it good.   The girls were trying to be helpful, but I am just a farm boy who happens to be gay – not someone who is out to shock the world by being so flamboyant as to be called a flaming faggot.   I don't need that kind of attention.   I pulled on my socks and trainers, and headed downstairs to see what the rest of the crew were doing.

It wasn't long before the girls all came over for lunch, and helped Ben bake a birthday cake for me.   Everyone sang happy birthday to me again, and we had cake and ice cream.  

The girls also brought me birthday presents.   We all moved into the recreation room, so everyone could watch as I opened my gifts from the girls.

Donica handed me her present and said, "Open mine first!"

I grinned up at her, as I opened her gift.  "What did you get me, Donica?"

"Just open the box," Donica commanded.

I looked inside and whistled, "Wow!  You broke the bank Donica!"   I pulled out a gold necklace with a broken heart.   On each half was inscribed a name – mine on one half and Rick's on the other.   The two pieces snapped together to form a complete heart.   In the center of each half was a small diamond.   I unclasped the latch and the chain put around my neck.   I stood up and wrapped my arms around Donica's waist, and gave her a kiss on the cheek.   "Thank you so much.   It's so beautiful."

Donica said, "You're welcome."

Each of the others presented their gifts, in turn.   They had all gone in together to pick up all the toiletries they thought I needed.   It was obvious that they had spared no expense to get the best products on the market.

"Thank you everyone," I said, feeling overwhelmed by their generosity.

I stood up to give each one a hug and a quick kiss.   Irene held on to me for moment longer than the others, as she whispered to me, "When did Mark decide he was gay?"

I whispered back, "I don't know.   You will have to ask him."

Irene nodded her head and let me go.   She headed across the room to where Mark and Brandon sat, holding hands and laughing at each other's antics.

I thought for a moment that I should head her off, before she created a scene.   Irene sat on the couch next to Mark.   Brandon smiled at her and said, "Irene, Mark tells me you're a wonderful musician."

Irene blushed and replied, "I do okay.  The really fantastic musician is Glenn."

Mark said, "Yes, Glenn is pretty good, but so are you, Irene."

"Thank you, Mark," Irene paused for a moment, as if she was thinking how to ask her question.   She finally asked, "Mark, how long have you known you were gay?"

There was a sudden silence in the room, while everyone looked to see how Mark would respond to Irene's question.

Mark smiled and answered her, "I haven't decided whether I'm gay or not.   All I know is that I have found my soul mate in Brandon.   He makes me very happy, and I hope that I make him just as happy."   He leaned over and kissed Brandon.

He turned back to Irene.  "I didn't just wake up one day and discover I was attracted to guys more than girls.   I have been attracted to both for a long time now.   I just never dated a guy, because I was too afraid of being rejected.   It always seemed that all the good looking guys were straight, and would have decked me if I had asked them out on a date."

Irene said, "Thank you for telling me.   I find you very attractive, and I had hoped that we could be more than friends.   To say I'm not disappointed that you found Brandon would be a lie.   I'm glad that you found him, and he makes you happy."

Brandon asked, "Irene, can we be friends?   I hate to think that I caused Mark to lose a good friend, because he fell in love with me."

Irene didn't answer right away.  "Yes, I think I would like that."

Everyone in the room breathed a sigh of relief that things had worked out between them.   I had worried that things would get ugly.

Our friends stayed the rest of the day with us to play games, watch videos and have a good time.   Brandon and Mark made another trip to Brandon's apartment to get the remainder of his things.   They soon returned, and all the guys helped move his stuff into their room.   They only needed one bed, so it left quite a bit of room for a dresser and a desk.   Both of them were positively beaming when they came back downstairs.   It was kind of obvious what they had been doing, while the rest of us were trying to decide whether to order pizza, or go out for burgers.   We finally tossed a coin and ordered pizza.   While we waited for the pizza to be delivered, the guys dropped by the local convenience store for some beer to go with it.  

Despite enjoying the company of my friends, the rest of the day seemed to drag for me; since I was very anxious to see what was on the DVD Rick had given me.    I'm not a very patient person, and waiting is not one of my strong points.   Finally, everyone went home, and I retired to my bedroom and closed the door.   I got undressed and put the DVD in the player under the TV set, and waited for my boyfriend to call.   I must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I remembered was hearing my cell phone ringing, and fumbling around to find it.

I answered it and heard Rick's voice, "Happy birthday, lover boy!"

"Thank you!   You embarrassed the living daylights out of me this morning!" I exclaimed.

"Oh?   And how did I do that, when I'm not even there?" Rick said, laughing at me.

"Your present of adult toys had everyone whistling and hooting at me.   I haven't had a moment's peace all day!"

"Good.   I counted on the guys harassing you about those toys," Rick replied, still laughing.

"Rick, I've never seen things like these, before.   I don't even know how to use them, even if I wanted to try them out," I said, still a little embarrassed at how naïve I was when it came to adult toys.

Rick laughed, again, "I know, sweetheart.   Your innocence is part of your charm for me.   Now, turn on the DVD and I will talk to you about how to use the toys I gave you."

I clicked on the play button on the remote and waited.   At first, I wasn't sure what was going on in the video.   As I watched, the realization hit me what Rick had done!

"Rick, you didn't?!!"

"I sure did!   Do you like it?" Rick asked, a little anxiously.

I was still so surprised I didn't respond for a moment as I watched what was happening on the screen.   Rick asked, again, "Do you like it?"   This time he sounded worried.   Maybe he'd stepped over the line with his partner.

I finally responded, "Yes, I like it, but I'm still amazed that you managed to film us making love without my knowing about it."

"It was quite easy.   You are always too amped up to pay much attention to what's going on around you, since all of your attention is on me.   You'll find that I filmed us from several different angles, and then, I spliced them together," Rick said.   "Are you mad at me for filming us?"   Concern tinged his voice.

"Yes and no.   Yes, I'm a little upset that you filmed us, without consulting me first.   You should have trusted me enough to talk to me about what you had in mind," I said, trying not to let my disappointment overwhelm me.   "It stings just a little.   Those are some of my most treasured moments with you, and I don't want them to become common, or pornographic.   I love you, and I don't want to share any of those special moments with anyone else, but you."

"I'm sorry, Babe," Rick said, realizing he had, indeed, crossed the line.   He had been so intent on surprising his sweetheart he didn't stop to think of the possibility of upsetting Glenn by filming their most intimate moments.   "Can you forgive me?"

"Yes, I forgive you.   I know that you did it to make me happy, and, despite my better judgment, I like watching you fuck me.  Damn!   I miss you, Rick!"  

Rick breathed a sigh of relief.   At least, Glenn wasn't mad at him.   "I miss you, too, Babe.   I wanted you to have the DVD to help you remember me."

"I wasn't having any problem remembering you before, but, now, I'm so horny, it hurts.   Do I always make that much noise?  Are there any other copies of this video?   I don't want it to make its way onto the web." I asked, anxiously.

Rick laughed.   "Yes, you always make that much noise and more, at times.   No, there are no other copies.   I deleted the videos after I finished editing the final product that you have in your hands."   He paused for a moment, before continuing, "I didn't think about the danger of it getting loose on the web when I made it.   Glenn, I'm really, really sorry I made that DVD," Rick said, morosely.   "Can you forgive me?"

"It's okay, Rick.   If you deleted them all, we should be okay.   I will keep this one under lock and key, until we decide what to do with it.   I'm going to watch it just to see what you filmed of us," I said.   "I'm going to need to jerk off soon, or I'll burst."

Rick relaxed when he heard Glenn say he was going to watch the DVD.   He was afraid Glenn would be so angry that he wouldn't even watch it.   He knew once Glenn saw it, that things would be okay.   The DVD was his tribute to Glenn and the love he felt for him.   He had never intended it to be pornographic or dirty in any way.

Rick's attention was brought back to Glenn, as he heard him exclaim, "I had no idea that watching you fuck me could be so arousing!   Damn!  Rick!  You are such a stud!   I still can't believe I make that much noise when you fuck me!"

Rick started laughing.  "I'm glad you like your birthday present."

"Yes, thank you for your birthday present," I said.   "What else is on here?"

"Just watch it and you'll see," Rick responded, hoping that his lover boy would approve of what he had recorded for him.

The scene changed and Rick's image came on the screen.   I could see he was sitting at my desk, recording the video via my webcam.   "Glenn, I am recording this for your birthday.   I hope you enjoyed the opening video.   I want you to know how much I love you.   You mean everything to me.   I have put together a slide show which I will add to this DVD.   I wrote a special script, just for your birthday, to accompany the slide show."

I spoke to Rick on the phone, "The slide show is just starting."

Rick said, "I'll wait while you watch it."

The slide show began with photos of when we first met, while Rick narrated his thoughts and feelings about each one.   It progressed through photos of us at the pool at Grandma and Grandpa Scarborough's home, his family reunion in North Carolina, our trips to Mexico and the beach.   He had included photos of all of our college friends, and our adventures.   He ended with a photo of us, which had the caption, "I'm trying to be the right man for you, because I intend to be your forever lover."

Then, Rick's image appeared on the screen again.   Rick said, "I will always be your sweetheart.   Happy Birthday, Glenn!"   The screen went dark blue as the DVD ended.

My eyes were full of tears as I spoke to Rick on the phone, "Thank you for the wonderful birthday gift, Rick."

Rick replied, "You are welcome, lover boy."

"I love you for thinking of me.   I'm sorry for getting on your case about filming us.   I was just a little taken aback, seeing us making out on screen," I said, hoping Rick would understand why I was upset.

Rick said, "It's okay, Glenn.   I understand why you felt I had betrayed your trust.   I didn't think it through, completely, before I did it.   Next time, I promise I will consult you before I do anything like it, again."

I asked, "Are we good?"

"Yes, we're good.   I am glad your birthday has been a good one for you.   I've got to go, sweetheart.   I will call you tomorrow night," Rick said.

"Okay, I love you, Rick," I said.

"I love you, too," Rick responded.

The next day, Rick was approached by Lt. Col. Bachman.   "Corporal, we have been asked to help out with the local scout troop here on base.   Your records show that you are an Eagle Scout.   Is that correct?"

"Yes, Sir," Rick replied, looking at his superior officer with surprise.

"Follow me," Lt. Col. Bachman said, turning on his heel and leaving the office.

Rick followed him outside, and climbed in beside Garth in the jeep that had been assigned to them from the motor pool.   He drove to building #3305, where the boy scouts were holding their weekly meeting.

Lt. Col. Bachman said, "The scout master has asked us to help him teach firearms safety to his troop."

Rick nodded his head, and responded, "Yes, Sir."

Lt. Col. Bachman asked, "Do you remember what it was like to be a boy scout?"

Rick answered, "Yes, Sir."

"Good.   Sgt. Riehle thought you might enjoy working with the scouts," Lt. Col. Bachman said.   He observed the same closed look come across Rick's face as the last time he had mentioned Sgt. Riehle to him.   He wondered what had happened between Sgt. Riehle and his subordinate; that caused that expression to appear on Rick's face.

They entered the building to find 12 young boys, between the ages of 12 and 18, gathered around two men, who appeared to be their leaders.

Lt. Col. Bachman introduced Rick to the men, "Corporal Lernier, this is Sgt. Mason and Sgt. Slade.   They are the scoutmaster and assistant scoutmaster for this troop."

Rick shook their hands.   Sgt. Mason said, "Welcome.   We are glad to have you here today.   Let me introduce you to the boys."

He went around the circle of boys and named them, "Mark, Chad, Selby, Chip, Steve, Mike, Norman, Kenny, John, K'shawn, Cory, and Greg."

The scouts nodded their welcome.   Sgt. Slade said, "We are in the process of instructing the boys about gun safety.   We are planning to go to the firing range next week, but we need to make sure every scout knows how to be safe around firearms."

The discussion continued, with Lt. Col. Bachman and Rick demonstrating how to take a gun apart, clean it and reassemble it.  

Rick worked with Cory and Greg, showing them how each weapon functioned.   They talked as they worked together.

Rick asked, "How old are you guys?"

Cory said, "I'm 17 and a senior in high school."

Rick noted that Cory looked much younger than his 17 years.   He was short and very skinny – about 5'4", with dark brown hair and brown eyes.   Cory looked like he was closer to 12 or 13 years old 

Rick looked over at Greg.   Greg said, "I'm 17 as well.   Cory and I are at the same school.   I'm on the football team."

Rick looked closer at Greg, and noticed that he indeed was built like a football player.   Greg had dirty blond hair, which had super blond highlights, and blue eyes.   His nose looked like it had been broken several times.

Rick asked, "What position do you play?   You look like a linebacker."

Greg grinned.  "That's what I am.   I'm 6'3" and weigh 230 pounds.   Coach says that I play pretty well."

Cory said, "And he doesn't mind getting hurt.   He broke his nose a couple of weeks ago.   They stuffed some cotton pads up his nose and he went back out on the field and finished playing the game."   It was obvious to Rick that Cory held his friend in very high esteem.

Greg said, "It was nothing, Cory.   Cory always makes a big deal of things.   We have been friends since kindergarten.   I don't know what happened to Cory, but he hasn't grown much since 7th grade."

Cory laughed.  "You are right, Greg.   I haven't grown at all.   I get picked on all the time, except when Greg is with me.   He protects me, and, the others guys have learned, from sad experience, not to mess with me when Greg's around."

Greg smiled. "We have this agreement – I protect him from being beat up and he helps me with my homework.   I'm not so good at math, you see."

Cory laughed.  "That's an understatement!"

Greg smiled. "Cory has always been good at math, and he is the only reason I have made it through my math classes."

Cory looked at Rick and asked, "May we call you by your first name?"

Rick answered, "Yes, you may.   My name is Rick."

Cory asked, "Rick, do you like being in the Marines?"

Rick thought for a moment, as he tried to decide the best way to answer this young man's question.   He finally answered, "I did when I first joined the Marine Corps.   It was all very exciting and new.   It gave me a chance to be on my own, and it provided some structure to my life."

Greg, noting Rick's uncertainty, asked, "So, what about now?   Do you still feel the same way?"

"No, I don't," Rick replied.

"What caused you to change your mind," Greg asked, curiously.

"My life's circumstances have changed.   I've met someone I love and I don't like being away from them.   Being deployed makes it really hard to keep a relationship going," he answered, as truthfully as he could.

"So do you still like being a Marine, otherwise?" Greg asked.

"Yes, I like being in the Marine Corps," I said.   "I just don't like being away from home.   I am in the reserves and I am in the middle of a one year deployment," Rick answered.

Cory said, "I understand what you mean.   My dad has been deployed overseas before, and it's been hard on my mother and us kids."

Greg said, "My Dad is never home.   He has been deployed overseas for nearly two years.   He was home for only six months before that.   He has missed nearly all of my football games."

Rick asked, "When are your football games?   I'd love to watch you play."

Greg smiled, "We play this next Friday at 7 PM.   I will give you directions to the school."

Greg wrote down the name of his school and the directions to the football field.

They continued chatting about things of interest to the two teens.  Later, they played dodge ball with the rest of the boys.    At the end of the scout meeting, Lt. Col. Bachman signaled to Rick that it was time to go.  During the short ride back, Lt. Col. Bachman asked, "Would you be willing to help take the boys over to the firing range next week?"

"Yes, sir," Rick answered.

"Good.   I think it will be a very rewarding experience for you to work with those fine young men," Lt. Col. Bachman said.   He had watched Rick working with the boys, and was convinced that he had found the answer to regaining Rick's trust.

After completing his assignments for the day, Rick bid good night to his commanding officer and returned to his barracks.   The first thing he did was call Glenn.

Glenn picked up on the first ring, "Hello."

"Hello, sweetheart.  How was your day?"

"Good.  I am going with Justin tonight to audition for the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus.   Justin thinks I will certainly make it into the chorus."

"I know you will.   You have a wonderful voice and I'm sure they will recognize your musical talent, right away."

"Thank you for your vote of confidence, Rick.  I am so nervous.   I wish you were here with me.   Everything always turns out right when you are with me."

Rick's heart went out to Glenn, as he responded, "You know that you always have my love, even when I am not with you.   You will do fine."

"Okay.   How was your day?"

"I worked with a group of boy scouts today."

"How did that go?"

"It went okay.   We taught the boys how to take apart and clean the guns they will be shooting."

"Why did they have you work with a Boy Scout troop?"

"From what little Sgt. Riehle and Lt. Col. Bachman have said, I gather they think that I have lost all confidence in the Marine Corps.   I think they are trying to get me to trust the Corps again, and this is one of the things they think will help me."

"Well, that is true isn't it?  Based on what you have told me about what happened, I think that any reasonable person would come to the same conclusion you have about the men and women you serve with in your military."

Rick tried to control his anger about Glenn's reference to "your" military.   He didn't respond while he regained control over his emotions.

Glenn heard the silence on the other end, and rightly concluded that he had said the wrong thing, "I'm sorry, Rick.   I didn't mean to offend you."

Rick's anger left him, just as quickly as it had come, "I'm sorry, Glenn.   It's just that I am very sensitive about the military right now.   I am so frustrated with them trying to get inside my head.   I want them to back off and leave me alone!"

"It's okay, Rick.   It sounds like they are trying to help you.   Why don't you confront them directly with your questions?   That way you won't be guessing at what they are trying to accomplish.   It might even resolve some of their concerns about your mental and emotional health, since they have expressed some concerns about your level of trust in the military."

"I guess that might help.   I am afraid to really talk with them too much; for fear that I might slip up about our relationship."

"I understand your concerns, but you can't continue to bottle things up inside of you.   Why don't you ask to meet with a therapist?"

"That won't work, since the therapists work for the military, too," Rick said.

"Can you go to a private therapist?   They surely must understand that dealing with anyone associated with the military will be suspect, no matter how well intentioned their actions may be."

"I will ask about it," Rick promised.   "Thank you for trying to help me, Glenn.   I miss you."

"I miss you, too.  I love you."

"I love you."

"It's time for me to go to my audition.   I will call you tomorrow to let you know how I did."

"Bye, Babe."

"Bye, sweetheart."

Prev To be continued . . .