Summer 1998, Fayetteville, North Carolina, United
States of America
smelt of wet carpet and of tile grot. Of crumbling
plaster and fresh paint the realtor had hastily slapped
on in a spirit of forlorn hope to make it look slightly
less depressing. A large building that had once been
a furniture workshop and showroom, most of it double-height,
though there was office space on the second floor
that had been used by the managers and could be easily
converted into a small apartment well, small to civilians.
For a former Marine, it was going to be positively
palatial compared to some of the places he'd lived
in. Even with the addition of a roommate, his Delta-instructor
best bud who happened to be moving into the spare
its run-down state, the building itself was solid.
It was cheap, well located in a decent part of Fayetteville,
it had a large parking lot and it was his.
dumped his rucksack down onto the ground and walked
around, kicking up swirls of dust. He picked his way
around the space, the morning sunshine flooding down
from the windows set in the clerestory-style roof.
There were smaller offices and storerooms on the first
floor, the pipes already in a good position for the
wet areas, and the wide expanse of space, dividable
in so many ways, which filled in his mind's eye with
fitness equipment, a sound system, and the long shopping
list of gym gear living in his head. Or, more reliably,
on the new laptop computer in his bag.
other man in the room had been silent as Matt moved
around. He was so still and unmoving, he seemed to
barely disturb the air. Specks of dust settling in
his dark hair, Hooch stood, slightly leaning on a
cane, dark eyes tracking Matt's movements.
took a deep breath and turned around. Despite the
times he had visited here to inspect the building,
the long hours spent on the phone with the realtor,
the bank, the insurers, the builders, the architect
and what appeared to be every single remotely responsible
local government body in Fayetteville possible, the
realization that he had only taken the first steps
towards his new dream had set in. His name on the
title deed. A frighteningly large amount owed to the
bank. Pages and pages of sketches and plans and specifications
and a team of guys ready to start work the following
day. "Well? What do you think?"
big," Hooch commented. "How much did you
The question of money again. The only time they had
fights over the last months at Matt's apartment was
over money and the fact that Hooch tried to pay his
way in a manner that infuriated Matt, and Hooch just
wouldn't get it.
hoped his sigh was inaudible. While overflowing enthusiasm
was probably out of the question, it would have been
nice to have some sort of appreciative comment. "It
was a bargain, actually," he said, voice level.
much?" Hooch repeated, dark eyes in line of Matt's
sight, like a sniper rifle.
was that feeling again, the one he'd had far too often
in the recent months as Hooch recovered. The feeling
that he was being inched into a corner. Matt said
the figure. It wasn't something he needed to keep
a secret, but the fact that Hooch had pushed for it,
that was the bit that stung.
never told you about this part of living with someone.
Or else nobody else had a someone quite like Hooch.
nodded once. "I'll pay my way. If I'm going to
live here, I'll pay you rent."
he not wait more than ten minutes after getting here
before taking that up again?
" Matt stopped. Hooch's parents were
completely off-limits as far as conversation went,
so he was stumped as an example. "No." There,
one word. Not hard, was it?
not?" Hooch put the full force of his pig-headedness
into those two words. He'd had months of boredom to
perfect it, cooped up in one place, unable to do most
things on his own, let alone go out and do his job.
He'd never again go on a mission, and it drove him
insane, far worse than he'd expected and he'd expected
a lot. But he'd pushed it all down; down and away.
The constant pain had been the least of his troubles.
" Matt started. What were they, actually?
It wasn't 'boyfriend', that was trite and laughable,
certainly not 'husband', and he ran through the various
unsatisfactory options-lover (too icky), mate (eww),
no). Stumped, he tried again. "It's
not as though we're just roommates. You just
Matt trailed off again. Hooch had been increasingly
insufferable as he regained his strength, as though
all the energy that he wasn't using for his physical
recovery was channeled into being an unbearable prick.
We're not roommates, we're not even fuckbuddies. Does
that mean you get to keep me and I don't get to pay
my share?" The laser-beam stare was back in Hooch's
eyes. His whole body strummed with energy; an energy
he couldn't expend, no matter how much physical therapy
he did, and that goddammed, infuriating, fucking cane
was a symbol of how he was most definitely not himself.
share. We'll work something out as we go along. Like
everyone else does when they move in together. But.
You. Are. Not. Paying. Me. Rent."
what am I paying?" Hooch's fingers drummed onto
the cane's grip, in an ever faster beat.
threw up his arms. "Whatever one part of a couple
does when they move in together! The bills when they
come in and you're there! Flatware with bent prongs
and where none of the teaspoons match! A couch that
doesn't match anything I have! A movie collection
that doesn't fit on the shelves! A bed that doesn't
fit up the stairs or in the door! Stuff! We. Will.
Fucking. Work. It. Out." He was vaguely aware
that he was shouting at the top of his lungs.
opened his mouth as if to retort, but merely drew
in a sharp breath. He stared at Matt, while the tension
in his body shifted perceptively from fight to something
distinct downside of having a shouting match with
someone who didn't talk was that it tended to end
in a most unsatisfactory way, and Matt finished with:
"we don't have to work it out today, or tomorrow,
or to anyone's fucking schedule. It's home, and nobody
can fucking say what we fucking can or can't do here.
I don't know
just look at it. This,
this is the fucking beginning and
it's the beginning
what?" Hooch voice was quiet. "Of what is
this the beginning?" Up close, Hooch's pupils
were blown wide, and he had stilled completely except
for his breathing.
How was he supposed to be coherent when Hooch did
that? It felt disturbingly like being stared down
by a cobra. A horny one.
is that 'us' going to be?" Hooch's voice had
dropped another octave, until it hit a low rumble.
swallowed, then stared straight back.
we want it to be." He had no idea how he kept
his voice steady while being bored into by those eyes,
"and whatever we call it, but we're a couple,
and couples don't pay each other rent."
Hooch drawled, his low voice leaving no doubt about
his intentions. "I give you my word, no more
talk about rent if you give me your word: stop treating
me with those goddamned motherfucking kid gloves you've
been wearing for the past months. Stop it," he
drew in a slow, shaky breath, "right now."
eyes flicked downwards, then back up to Hooch's face.
" His eyes drifted back down.
"You can not be serious." This directed
at Hooch's crotch.
I ever been not serious?" Hooch raised his eyebrows,
cast a quick glance across the dusty and empty space,
then stopped at one of the steel girders. "Fuck
me, right there." He nodded towards it, "and
I'll never mention rent again. I'm going batshit crazy,
here. I need
damn, Matt, I'm going fucking insane
when you treat me like I could fucking break. I don't
give a shit about rent, or rooms, or money or however
the fuck I'm supposed to behave as part of a couple.
I. Just. Want. You."
very first thought, whether Hooch's pelvis would be
up to it, faded. Matt closed his dropped jaw, looking
for a suitable place. "Fuck, if this is all it
took to stop you acting like a spoilt brat, I should
have done this weeks ago."
you should have," Hooch murmured. He dropped
the cane to the floor, kicked it aside as if discarding
the past months, and started to move towards the steel
girder. "Fuck the pelvis, fuck no lube, fuck
everything, but fuck me. Now."
glanced towards the girder. "Not there, it'll
leave marks you don't want to explain to the medic."
He scanned about for an alternative, "the reception
desk." Already there, only a few feet away, and
made of smooth carved wood. Bolted into the floor,
it hadn't been removed when the previous tenants had
left, and was the perfect height.
nodded, and steered them towards the desk instead.
Only letting go of Matt when they reached it. He opened
his fly and pushed down his black denims and briefs
underneath. Impatient, when he turned around and bent
over, bracing himself on the desk. Elbows on the hard
surface, as far down as he could go.
fumbling fingers, Matt pushed Hooch's jeans and briefs
down further, before unzipping and shoving down his
own. He cursed his suddenly dry mouth as he tried
to get enough spit.
craned his neck briefly, saw Matt floundering, and
reached out to catch Matt's hand. He couldn't twist
that far, but Matt got the picture and leaned forward,
to have Hooch spit on his hand.
spread his legs as far as he could, then braced himself
for the onslaught that would be dry and painful. Deliciously,
goddamned painful; tearing into him and casting away
all the boredom, the pent-up energy, the badly ignored
hatred of his body that had let him down and that
wouldn't allow him to be again who he'd always been.
Reckless. Dangerous. Demanding, and
Hooch groaned out, arms trembling on the desk, his
shoulders so taut, he could feel the tension ripple
down his spine, only to concentrate in the one point
of his body, that was forced to open up.
breathing was harsh, sweat beaded his forehead, as
he concentrated on forcing his entry. Discomfort for
him, too, and how he relished Hooch's surrender that
was everything but. The way Hooch's breath came whistling
through clenched teeth, small, suppressed sounds that
urged Matt on, that showed how much he wanted the
pain, wanted every single ounce of strength Matt could
give him, as he buried himself in Hooch's ass.
the ever increasing thrusts, Hooch gasped out Matt's
name, forced him on, harder, no holding back. To make
him forget the last months, and it was good, so goddamned
good, that he pushed Matt's hand away, as he tried
to stroke his cock. He wanted to feel the pounding,
the strength, the craved-for ache of Matt's cock deep
within his body.
lost himself, forgot everything but the lust that
kept spiraling higher the harder and faster Matt let
loose. When Hooch came suddenly, bucking and crying
out with relief, with pain, with everything that he'd
needed for so long, he took Matt by surprise.
own release, no matter how much he was lost himself,
suddenly made sense of one word, one confession, months
ago: masochist. And he came with the intensity of
knowing that he had given Hooch what he'd needed.
He'd made him come apart underneath his hands and
body, and he was so much in love with that motherfucking
bastard right now, that he pulled Hooch up against
himself, kissing the sweaty neck, and just holding
as he shuddered through the come-down.
calmed in Matt's arms, his heartbeat slowing down,
until it beat steadily.
are quite something, Matt Donahue." Hooch rumbled
I?" Matt murmured into Hooch's ear, feeling,
rather than hearing their heartbeats merge. "Something
good, I hope?" he teased as he carefully eased
his way out.
all good." Hooch took in a deep breath, and reveled
in the soreness and the knowledge he'd be a sticky
mess, hidden beneath respectable clothing.
quickly righted himself before pulling up Hooch's
briefs and jeans carefully, but not quite as slowly
or gently as he had been when helping Hooch dress
in the last few months.
turned around with a grin on his face. Relaxed and
sated, all tension gone for now. "So, about that
" he let out a sharp gust of laughter
at Matt's immediate eye rolling. "Calm down,
you fucked some sense into me. I get it now. The gym's
your new life and you want to pay for it, and couples
don't pay rent to each other. I need you to understand
that it's a new life for me, too. I want to pay for
nodded slowly. Hooch's stubbornness over the money
thing finally made sense. "Deal." He paused,
then rephrased what he was going to say, "do
you wanna look at the upstairs?"
if you get me my motherfucking cane?" Hooch quirked
a rueful grin. Stairs were still a bastard.
cane had somehow ended up halfway across the room
and Matt went to pick it up. The cane, that last remaining
aid, and Hooch actually asking for it was enough of
a concession in itself.
stairs were behind one of the doors near the reception,
which Matt thought would have been damned inconvenient
when the space above was being used as an office,
but gave a measure of privacy to an apartment.
had cheap synthetic carpet and paper-thin walls, the
memory of office furniture and the smell, like the
rest of the building, of dust and abandonment. On
opening the door at the top of the stairs, there was
a reception area, meeting room and boardroom with
a less-than-inspiring view of the parking lot, which
would be their living area and kitchen. The remainder
of the space was divided into a number of rather depressing
offices, where the status of the previous inhabitant
was painfully obvious by size and windows. Matt and
the architect had decided to reconfigure these into
two good-sized bedrooms, a compact study, and a bathroom.
the stairs reminded Hooch once more of what they'd
just done. He relished the soreness, following Matt
and looking around the place. Calm, with the tension
and anger literally fucked out of him, he gave a shrug.
don't have a fucking clue how it's going to look like,
I have the imagination of a gnat. You do what you
think is right, and let me pay for this place."
He hesitated, turned his head to look at Matt, as
he tried out a new word for the very first time. "Our
word made Matt smile. "Deal. But you gotta tell
me if you hate something."
gave a rare, bright grin. "I veto pink."
new life, for both of them, as Hooch had said. And
wasn't that fucking amazing.
Fall 1998, Fayetteville
the builders got started, work was underway remarkably
quickly. Carpet ripped up, floorboards polished, walls
put up, mirrors installed, wet areas tiled and plumbed,
a truly amazing amount of wiring and cable, and the
all-penetrating smell of fresh paint. Matt thought
that the place looked like the aftermath of an earthquake,
but it was his.
seemed that every waking moment was spent talking
to the builders, meeting with the architect, and setting
up the rest of the business: arranging for the equipment
to be delivered, interviewing new staff, finding himself
flooded with enquiries from freelance trainers who
wanted to use the gym as a base, while getting used
to the strange feeling of being without Hooch all
day, every day, unlike the past months.
had returned to Fort Bragg a couple of weeks ago,
when he'd been signed fit for desk duties, just when
the builders started in earnest. He had moved temporarily
into a room on camp, where he should have felt at
home in the impersonal four off-white walls. Yet he
didn't, because nothing was as it had been before
the desk job was driving him insane, cooped up day
and night within offices, while his old team was getting
ready for another mission.
caught up mainly on weekends still feeling their way
around their new life.
lunchtime, and Hooch was ready to leave camp, but
the prospect of spending the weekend in a building
site didn't appeal at all. He almost called Matt with
an excuse to stay in Fort Bragg, but he wouldn't lie
to Matt and there was no real point in staying with
a team that was no longer his. He grabbed his daypack
and made his way back to the gym, forced to drive
a rented car, because he couldn't easily climb into
his truck yet. With that extra annoyance, his mood
had deteriorated further by the time he reached the
place was almost finished, though the smell of the
polish on the hardwood floors and the various solvents
and sealants were enough to singe the hair. When Hooch
stepped through the entrance door, he recoiled from
the stink, then looked around. The equipment had started
to arrive, it was stacked in big boxes and shrouded
in protective plastic wrap.
was sitting in a paint-splattered office chair in
the office he had claimed as 'his' the makeshift desk
full of the various brochures, files and paperwork
he had accumulated.
him across the table was a perky looking blonde of
about eighteen, who was earnestly pointing out items
in a furniture catalogue.
are you?" Hooch demanded from the girl.
she stood up quickly and held out her hand, seemingly
unfazed by the pissed-off man in uniform. "You
must be Captain Bozic! I'm Mandy!"
brows shot up, then steepled in a pained expression.
At least he found the decency in himself to shake
her hand. "Mandy. You work here now?"
nodded enthusiastically. She was cheerfulness and
bounciness and sunshine. Behind her, Matt hid a smile
behind his hand.
Do you guys want anything for lunch? I'm just going
to be headin' off down for a couple of catalogues
for the apartment. This is so cool!"
Hooch tried to sort his thoughts, but he had a headache
forming behind his eyes, and the last thing he wanted
to do was to deal with an over-excited terrier in
female form. "I don't know." He looked at
Matt over her shoulder, with an expression that quickly
became one of helplessness. "Do we?" before
he realized what he'd said. 'We'. Shit.
didn't seem to notice as he handed over some bills.
"Just a some sandwiches and a couple of bottles
of soda on your way back."
put the money into her purse and headed out the door,
stopping on the way to admonish a painter roughly
three times her size for leaving open cans of paint
at the very edge of the dropsheet.
watched her go, waiting until she was well into the
parking lot before Matt asked. "Well? Any particular
reason you want to maim my new receptionist?"
was still staring at Mandy's retreating back, when
Matt's words filtered through. "Huh?" He
turned round, felt barely suppressed frustration well
up, when he caught the look on Matt's face. Open,
accepting, with the hint of a fond smile coupled with
fatigue. The last he could do, Hooch realized, was
to not add to Matt's stress. This relationship stuff
was hard, he'd never before had to take really someone
else's feelings into consideration.
scrubbed the heels of his hands over his face. "You
don't need my shit mood. Got enough on your plate."
He made an abortive movement across the building site.
Matt agreed, "so what's pissed you off so much
this time? Other than, of course, the complete and
utter buttfuck here. Any other girl would probably
have freaked and if you're going to be in the habit
of sending them into hysterics, I'd like to know."
let out a breath he hadn't been aware he was holding,
and set the daypack down. "Just the job."
At Matt's expectant gaze he understood he was supposed
to elaborate. If this was what people in relationships
did, damn, it was tricky. "My old team's getting
ready to head out."
made sense to Matt, then. "Ah," trying,
damnit, for the right words, "the missing it
or the sinking in?" He kept his distance, not
touching Hooch like he wanted. Too many people just
outside the door, painters, plumbers and electricians,
who could come in at any time.
don't know." Hooch shook his head, rubbed his
eyes again. He was damned tired and wasn't that ridiculous,
since all he'd done was paperwork and his physical
therapy. "Not being part of it, I guess."
He shrugged again as if it all meant nothing, while
it was anything but. He didn't feel like dealing with
it right now, and so he changed the subject. "How's
the upstairs going?"
snorted, "even further from finished than here,
but the painters haven't got there yet, so it doesn't
reek as much. Come and see."
the walls of the apartment had been rearranged into
the new plan, but were still bare plasterboard. The
tiling had been done for the open kitchen area and
the bathroom at the same time as the wet area of the
gym, so while the bathroom was fully functional, if
unpainted, the kitchenette was still nothing but some
taps with a bucket underneath, a fridge, and a microwave
precariously balanced on a cheap table.
had been living amongst the mess while most of the
work was carried out downstairs, the workmen venturing
to the apartment only when they needed to wait before
continuing the job downstairs. An air mattress on
the floor of one of the bedrooms indicated which one
Matt had claimed.
did a 360 degree. "Holy shit, you live in this?
I didn't expect it to be that bad." Suddenly
a hell of a lot less pissed off than before. "Guess
my own shit takes on perspective." He reached
out for Matt to pull him close. The place was a building
site of the worst proportions, but at least they were
alone. Touching Matt, holding the strong and firm
body close, had never lost its appeal, and it still
gave him a sense of grounding. "And that,"
he jerked his chin towards the air mattress, "is
chuckle was only partly muffled by Hooch's neck. "Officially,
I guess." He stopped. "How much space do
you think you'll need for your stuff? Though there'll
be space in the other room of course, and your study
down the hall."
need about the size of my CFP." It was good not
have to explain to Matt. They both knew which backpack
he meant. "I don't have 'stuff'. Table top for
my laptop, space for my kit, spot for my toothbrush
and razor, and a place to sleep, that's all I need."
He mock-headbutted Matt. "The latter preferably
not on my own."
while I'm here, and not while you're here. Though
probably with a better bed." Matt wanted to pull
Hooch down onto the mattress but that was going to
be an all-or-nothing effort. Hooch would get pissed
off again if he suggested trying to go down slowly,
but at the same time Matt didn't fancy explaining
things to Hooch's medical team. He settled for tightening
the embrace, hoping Hooch didn't notice his quick
calculating look down to the mattress. "We need
the spare for guests anyway."
had noticed the glance, hardly anything went unnoticed
with him. "What guests are you expecting?"
snorted, "Short list, I know
" he trailed
off. Not a lot of people who knew; fewer who could
carry the burden even if they were trusted.
about your, you know
" Hooch hesitated,
then forged on, "
your family?" This
was unknown territory and he had no idea how to tread,
but they'd been skirting around the subject of families
for ages. With Hooch's an absolute no, he was unsure
about the subject of Matt's.
shrugged a shoulder. "They know that I'm gay,
yeah, since before I joined the Marines. They're used
to DADT, but with them, it's all or nothing. One invite
and you're likely to get all of them Mom, Pop, brothers,
sisters, nieces, nephews, hell, even the cat and dog
in here. So, no, for reasons of space." A pause,
not quite knowing how to bring up the subject. "Mom's
been talking about Thanksgiving. What do you think?"
know about me?" The sudden note of panic in Hooch's
voice all too obvious.
know there's someone, and that he's still in,"
Matt replied. "They're not stupid. They know
I didn't quit, move halfway across the country to
a place I've never been to which has an enormous Army
base, and tell them that I'm still in the closet,
just because I woke up one morning and felt like it."
Hooch's face and sudden tension was anything but okay.
"I'm shit at families. Shit at relationships.
Shit at all that normal stuff. Hey, fuck, shit at
ninety-eight percent of life." He ran a hand
through his short hair, "and the two percent
I'm good at is fighting and fucking!" He tried
to reach for Matt to pull him onto the mattress.
first instinct was to grab Hooch and do just that,
but stopped. The gym was still full of workmen, and
Mandy was due back any moment. Though he'd locked
the door behind them, someone banging on it seeking
his attention would be almost as bad as them coming
in. More importantly, sex really wasn't what Hooch
needed, even if it was what he said he wanted.
stepped forward and took hold of Hooch's forearms,
feeling the tension strumming through him. "Much
as I'd like to screw you, or better yet let you screw
me, through that goddamned uncomfortable mattress,
that's not what this is about. You are quite extraordinary,
Hubert Bozic, so don't give me that bullshit, and
of course stuff's going to be different with us than
with regular joe shmoes."
you telling me you want me to visit your family?"
Hooch had faced unspeakable dangers, went alone and
on foot into the Mog, but this, this was above and
beyond anything he'd ever handled. "Goddammit,
they'd hate me!"
recoiled, the blustering defense coupled with the
obvious 'why?' both dying before they made it out.
"Course I do-we're partners." He tested
the word, so new and he could count the number of
times he'd said it out loud on one hand, "and
why wouldn't they trust my taste in men?"
I'm not what they'd want for you. I have the social
skills of an amoeba, and know fuck-all about living
a normal life. I can't stand too many people around
me, and don't like talking." Hooch shook his
head, "and because of me you still have to live
blinked. "They trusted me to know what I was
doing when I enlisted," he stepped forward again,
"do you think they'd do any different now?"
He kept his voice low, oddly reminded of a summer
camp, many years ago, trying to coax some wild creature
towards him. "I know it's soon. But
think about it." No lies, no false promises,
it wasn't as though he could say 'and we can leave
at any time if you're uncomfortable' because frankly,
the sheer logistics of getting from Flint back to
Fayetteville was a nightmare at the best of times,
let alone Thanksgiving.
Slowly and hesitantly, unlike the Hooch everyone-except
Matt-knew. "I'll think about it." Hooch
moistened his lips. Damn, when had he become such
a pussy? He was determined to cope, no matter what,
and he forced himself to let some of the tension out
of his body. "Tell me, how much would it mean
Matt thought, "I can't say I wouldn't really
want you to meet them. They'll like you. My Mom's
a great cook and she'd want to feed you up."
Keeping his voice low, "but seriously? What matters
to me is you, and if you don't want to come, then
we won't." The words hovered between them.
was it, the crux. Hooch wanted the same, 'what matters
is you', and wasn't that another first in his life.
"Alright." He nodded once, his decision
was made. If he could walk into hostile enemy territory,
he could dam well go to a family Thanksgiving, especially
if it was the family of the one person that truly
mattered: Matt. He'd paid a high price to learn that
was going to treat this like any other mission, and
to hell with everything else.
let out a breath he hadn't thought he'd been holding,
and one of his motherfucking big smiles spread over
his face. "Good."
they came back downstairs, Mandy had already been
and gone. The table had been cleared of most of the
clutter, and two bulging bags containing sandwiches
(labeled with fillings) were in its place. A couple
of bags of chips, two large bottles of coke with condensation
dripping down their necks, and a couple of large paper
cups, one filled full with ice, completed the arrangement.
On one end of the table was a high stack of catalogues
with pages helpfully marked with slips of paper.
wasn't far, though. She was audible from the main
area, doing an inventory of the deliveries and talking
on the phone to suppliers. Clearly, Hooch's life wasn't
the only one that was being ruthlessly, efficiently
and cheerfully ordered into place.
sat down to eat at the desk. Hooch in his customary
silence, more thoughtful than usual, while Matt rifled
through the catalogues and checked out Mandy's notes.
old is she again?" Hooch asked eventually.
Matt grinned, "you can just tell she's an Army
brat, can't you? Needs the job to pay her way through
college, sounds like she doesn't get along with dad's
new wife or mom's new boyfriend. Most importantly,
she's a good deal smarter than Cheerleader Barbie
she pretends to be." He looked down at the empty
bottle he was holding in his hands. "It'll all
Hooch nodded, "and you should get her to enlist,
she'd whip any platoon into shape." He finished
his coke and pushed the almost empty bag of chips
away. Setting the bottle down with a thud, he turned
and looked at Matt, fixing him with the intense stare
that meant nothing else was on his mind, and nothing
else mattered right now.
waited until Matt looked up at him, and then offered
a half-smile. "Yeah, it will okay."
Thanksgiving weekend, 1998, Flint, Michigan
air travel was awful at the best of times, let alone
Thanksgiving, where it seemed that the entire country
was on the move. Complete with screaming children,
excessive luggage, and the inability to do anything
so simple as read a schedule.
didn't help that Matt's stomach was turning into knots.
What had seemed like a fantastic idea only a few weeks
ago now loomed far too close, as they headed to the
taxi stand. It wasn't helped by a usually quiet Hooch
being positively silent and focused, as if preparing
for a covert ops.
streets flew by, at once familiar and alien, before
stopping in the suburbs in front of a plain brick
house with a high white picket fence. Matt let himself
in through the gate but before they had climbed the
stairs to the front door, it opened to a friendly
looking woman with a huge smile of welcome.
here at last!" Matt's mom pulled her son into
a warm hug while nodding at Hooch, "and you must
be Hooch. Welcome and thank you for coming all this
way and bringing Matt with you."
shook the woman's hand. He'd done his intel, his recce,
and brushed up on the lingo. He knew at least theoretically
how he was supposed to behave. This included not packing
any weapons not that he'd been able to smuggle them
through civilian air travel anyway. "Pleased
to meet you. Thank you for having me here."
knew Hooch's tone and the polite facial expression.
It was the one that screamed 'professional' at him.
led the way up the front steps, through the door into
the house, and up the stairs. The two men followed
in her wake, until she stopped in front of a door
near the back of the house. "Just put your things
in Matt's room, we're down in the kitchen when you're
the door was a small, tidy bedroom, spotlessly clean.
There were little plastic figurines lined up on the
windowsill, football trophies holding pride of place
on the bookshelves, and Marines posters covering the
walls, some looking rather tattered around the edges.
The space was dominated by a large wooden bed that
didn't quite match the rest of the furniture: newer,
and made up with crisp linens with the tell-tale sign
of being freshly out of the packet and the first time
through the washing machine.
put the extra blankets and pillows on top of the wardrobe,
if you boys are cold. Come down when you're ready,
everyone's nearly here." With that, Matt's mother
disappeared out the door and down the stairs.
looked at his silent partner, who'd made a choking
noise at the last sentence.
Hooch finally said, pointing at the bed, "isn't
your bed. Is it?"
no." Matt shook his head as he dropped his bag
on the ground. "This is new from last time. I
used to have a single."
Parents. Bought. A. Double. Bed. For. Our. Visit."
Hooch pronounced every word very carefully, staring
at the offending piece of furniture as if he was looking
through the crosshairs of a sniper rifle. "Oh
fuck." He dropped his backpack and scrubbed the
heel of his hand over his face. He hadn't expected
that; hadn't even expected to stay in the same room
as Matt. And now, not only in Matt's old room, looking
like it probably had before he'd joined the USMC,
but a bed that had been specifically bought for two
men to sleep in. Two men. Matt and himself. Fuck.
That was too much too soon. No closets to hide in
told you that they know," Matt felt slightly
defensive, "and considering how many people have
got to be here this weekend, it's a damn sight better
than the floor or the couch in the den." He sat
down experimentally on the bed, the mattress was firm,
and there was a thick goose feather pad on top. "Everyone's
used to not asking." He wasn't sure whether this
was to reassure Hooch, or himself.
I know they know. Confronted with the practicality
it throws me for a loop." Hooch sat down next
to Matt. "I've never been part of a family like
yours. The ranch is big, maids, gardeners, the lot,
and my parents played the socialite hosts. I haven't
got a fucking clue how to fit into a real family,
least of all as part of a gay couple."
smiled, trying to be encouraging. As much as he'd
pushed for this, the reality was something else. He'd
always thought that he'd be able to come out as soon
as he'd left the Marines, that his family could stop
having to tiptoe around certain things. But now, since
he was with Hooch, all those years of family conspiracy
would have to continue for a while yet. "You
ready to face the horde?"
me five minutes and that patented smooch of yours
and I'll be as ready as I'll ever be." Being
on a mission was one thing, but having to show more
than just a blank game face was entirely another.
chuckled and obliged with the kiss, which, though
it didn't last quite the five minutes, was still entirely
stood up, waiting for Hooch to collect himself, and
then exchanged one last look before heading out the
door and down the stairs, where a small, fast-running
object attached itself to Matt's leg.
Matt!" The little boy got everybody else's attention,
and they were immediately swamped by what seemed like
a never ending herd of very tall, very loud, and extremely
friendly people, all trying to hug Matt, slap his
shoulder, introduce themselves to Hooch and drag them
both into the dining room simultaneously.
suffered through the onslaught of boisterous, welcoming,
and most of all tactile people with what he hoped
was a friendly smile plastered across his face, which
might or might not have had more in common with rictor
mortis. He kept checking Matt's position in the room
from the corner of his eyes, keeping him in line of
sight at all times. Just like he'd do on a mission.
they were separated, and Hooch had to fight on his
own in the middle of the family that kept asking him
questions, one talking over the other; telling him
stories, welcoming him into the family and pushing
beer into his hand, while wanting to know how long
they'd been together and what he was doing in his
job and and and and
until Hooch was ready to
jump up and run. Holding the beer bottle in a white
knuckled death grip, his dark eyes wildly searching
for the exit. He couldn't answer those questions;
couldn't bear the close proximity of all those strangers.
He knew they meant well, but he couldn't cope with.
dear," came a voice, "I wonder if I could
trouble you to give me a hand with something?"
Matt's mother, who'd appeared out of the midst of
people around Hooch.
Hooch looked up, disoriented for a split second, and
wasn't that a shit reaction time for an elite soldier.
"Yes, of course, Ma'am." He stood up immediately,
relief barely disguised on his features, and followed
her less like an obedient puppy and more like an eager
led him into a small room off the kitchen, where a
couple of trestle tables was laid out. They sat down
at one which had plates with cute rabbits on them.
Since not everybody was going to fit onto the table
in the dining room, clearly these ones had been set
aside for the children.
tumbler with something stronger than beer materialized
in front of Hooch. "It's Anne," Matt's mother
smiled, "Ma'am makes me feel old, much as I adore
hearing it in that Texan drawl." She paused.
"Forgive me, but you looked a little overwhelmed
with my brood."
Got it." Hooch nodded, then allowed himself to
take in a deep breath, slowly expelling it as he accepted
the tumbler with a thanks. "I'm not used to
hesitating, "family. I'm sorry." He took
a mouthful of the brandy, relishing the burn down
his throat. "I've never been to a Thanksgiving
dinner." He couldn't call the formal affairs
at the ranch Thanksgiving dinner, and he'd been avoiding
them for ages.
was compassion in her eyes. "Then we'll just
have to make sure you have a good one this year,"
a pause, "and you're family to us now, too, even
if you're far away in Fayetteville." She didn't
reach out to touch him, as though she knew he wasn't
tactile the way Matt was, that he'd be uncomfortable
with the contact. "Matt sounds like he's very
happy there." There was a way that she'd said
it, both an inquiry if he chose to answer, or an observation
if he didn't.
drained the brandy to give himself some time. If he
was ever going to be successful on this mission, he
had to continue the recce to know where he stood.
" Hooch trailed off, then made
a decision and looked at her. "What has he told
you?" The 'about us' implied.
anything, her smile broadened.
Matty. You wouldn't think it, but he's always been
very careful with what he says, what he does. He's
never made a decision lightly, and most certainly
not in who he loves."
it had broken her heart for all those years her Matty
had been caught between the man and the job that he
loved. At first, she'd thought that it was a civilian,
and it had been the strain of a dual life on and off
base. She'd had her suspicions for the last couple
of years, but when Matty had called her to say that
he'd quit the Marines and was moving to Fayetteville,
she'd realized that she was way off the mark.
nodded. "He's the one who's always known what
inclined her head, "and no matter what he's said
in the past, it was obvious what you are to each other
the moment you walked up that drive."
hit Hooch like a sideways punch. "It is? What
is it that gives it away?"
almost said, 'because mothers just know,' but held
back, given what Hooch had said earlier, and how his
own mother likely did not know. "A feeling, I
suppose. It's hard to put into words. The way you
look out for each other, how you don't take your eyes
off him for very long, how you two need to almost
remind yourselves to stand a little further apart."
think strangers would notice, too, or is it a family
thing?" Hooch asked.
chuckled, warm and motherly, refilling his glass.
"Neither. It's knowing Matty, and knowing what
I was going to see. I wouldn't worry too much people
see what they expect to see, after all. Even Matty's
pop was shocked, when he told us he was gay, just
before he enlisted. To this day, I don't know what
took more courage. Besides," the very slightest
pause, "if Matty was old enough to go to war,
he was old enough to decide who to love."
nodded, and with the brandy refilled, he kept drinking.
He'd barely known this woman for more than an hour
and he felt more comfortable with her than he had
with anyone other than Matt for a long time. Or perhaps
it was the brandy talking on an almost empty stomach.
to the family," Anne raised her own glass, "we're
all so glad that Matty's found someone who appreciates
not to appreciate about Matt? He's remarkable."
Hooch smiled his half-smile, took a last mouthful,
and felt his tongue loosened. As far as missions went,
he was well and truly outclassed by this woman. "I
was worried," he spun the empty glass in his
fingers, "cradle snatcher, not house-trained
nor socialized." He paused, "one could think
that of the two of us I was the tougher one, what
with my job, but it's Matty who always knew what he
wanted. Took me torture to figure it out."
eyes had widened at the mention of torture, but she
didn't say a word. It was not the time, nor the place,
not here, not how. Instead, a rueful chuckle. "Ah,
'Matty', yes. It's so easy to forget, with him being
the youngest. He'll always be my baby, even when he's
long outgrows the old names."
and he'll always be the kid to me, because I'll always
be ten years older." Hooch felt comfortably mellow.
He hadn't been able to drink anything stronger than
weak lager for so long, thanks to medication, the
brandy was having quite an effect on him now.
poured a last, generous splash into Hooch's glass.
"I'm not too sure how much longer pop is going
to be able to hold the horde back from their dinner,
but I promise they're all much better behaved when
they're at the table."
glanced towards the door and the main room. "Your
family has been asking me questions. I understand
that, but most of them I can't answer. I don't want
to be rude."
nodded. "I'm sure by now Matt's managed to get
a word in sideways and reminded everyone just who
happen to be stationed at Fort Bragg, and
she paused, "as you will notice in time, it is
almost entirely impossible to offend any of my brood.
Unless, of course, you disparage football, hockey,
hunting or fishing."
was the distinct sound near the door of hungry children
wanting their dinner.
in no danger, then." Hooch's smile came easier
now that he wasn't on edge anymore. "Back into
the lion's den?" He finished his brandy and stood
up. Once more ready to face the family that was so
much like Matt, just in a very large dose.
made it seem accidental, but it was probably by design
that Hooch found himself sitting between Matt and
his mother, and across from Matt's fishing-fanatic
brother, who, after establishing that Hooch was from
Texas and lived in Fayetteville, immediately spouted
a bewildering lecture of fish species and river systems
of the South. Anne had been right clearly Matt had
spread a quiet reminder to the rest of the family
about topics of conversation best avoided, though
to a casual observer the impact seemed negligible.
Everyone still had lots to say, much centered on Matt's
antics as a child, stories that made him alternatively
blush and cringe.
more at ease now, Hooch relaxed even further throughout
the meal. Zoning out of the lecture on fish species
and rivers, with the occasional nod and inquisitive
grunt, he relished the food that was truly divine.
He hadn't had a home cooked meal like this in
ever. His parents' cook had been too professional
to create anything but sleek perfection. As it was,
he realized after a while that he was enjoying himself
more than he'd ever believed possible.
even laughed out loud when Matt's mom heaved more
turkey meat, mashed potatoes, dressing and gravy onto
his plate, because evidently he "wasn't eating
enough, was too wiry, and she had to fatten him up,"
which made Matt smirk and elbow him with a 'told you
everyone felt stuffed to the gills by the time the
older children came in to help clear the table, they
all suddenly found the elusive extra dessert stomach
when the table was re-laid and filled with pumpkin,
apple and pecan pies, and cookies for the kids. By
the time dinner was finished, Hooch's polite offer
of help was adamantly refused (much to his relief)
and they settled in for an after-dinner drink.
it was eventually time for bed, Hooch was quite relaxed.
shut the door behind them and gave Hooch another of
his legendary smooches, tasting of pumpkin pie and
nutmeg. There was a mischievous expression on his
face as he pulled away from the kiss. "In the
interests of full disclosure, my parents are just
on the other side of that wall," he nodded towards
the far side of the bed, "how quiet do you think
you can be?"
you fucking kidding me?" Hooch shot a glance
at the wall towards Matt's parents' bedroom.
grin got wider. "I think you deserve a reward
for being so well behaved," there was a wicked
gleam in Matt's eyes, as he quickly undid Hooch's
jeans and pushed them down, together with his briefs.
He got down on his knees and nudged Hooch against
the closed door. "Making small talk and not scaring
the kiddies, that deserves something very nice."
His breath was warm against Hooch's groin.
Hooch let himself get pushed against the door. "You
get turned on by making out in your teenage bedroom?"
Despite the teasing, he was already showing the stirrings
of interest. Not that Matt had ever failed to arouse
him. Whenever and wherever.
kept looking up at Hooch while he gave a few playful,
quick laps, barely flickering over the skin and leaving
only the faintest hint of coolness. "Not the
first time this room's seen a bit of making out,"
his eyes glanced over a few feet to Hooch's left,
"and more I lost my cherry just over there, you
giving Hooch a chance to respond he swallowed him
down with practiced ease, barely pausing as Hooch's
cock met the back of his throat.
mockery Hooch was about to come out with, it was swallowed,
literally, by Matt. All thoughts of teenage Matt were
gone, as the adult one gave pleasure to Hooch.
he did with his usual meticulous skill and the occasional
glance upwards at Hooch, eyes gleaming, as if daring
him to make more than a few muffled sounds.
clenched his fists at his side, no contact, except
for the heat of Matt's throat, his tongue that knew
all the sensitive places, and his hand. Hooch's face
contorted with the effort of control, but no sound
came out from between his gritted teeth, not even
as he came.
took much longer than was really necessary to swallow
every drop, ensuring that Hooch was clean with long,
lazy swipes of his tongue, before standing up and
doing Hooch's fly up again. The kiss this time was
softer, almost languid, just letting Hooch taste himself
as well as the faint ghost of nutmeg.
he got his heartbeat and breathing back under control,
Hooch took hold of Matt's shoulders and pushed him
back at arm's length, studying him with an ever growing
Matt Donahue," he finally said, "are going
to pay for that. Undress and onto the bed. It will
be christened tonight, and in absolute silence!"
He reached to grope Matt's hard-on through his trousers.
a raised eyebrow, and pretending a nonchalance that
his strangled gasp and increased breathing betrayed,
Matt stepped back out of Hooch's grasp. He pulled
his sweater up over his head, before kicking off his
shoes and pulling down his trousers. The room was
small enough that it was only a few steps backwards
to the bed, and he landed on it with the faint puff
of feathers in the duvet as it was hastily pushed
to one side.
remained standing at the side of the bed for a while
longer, feasting on the sight of the perfect body,
laid out before his eyes. Not touching, not talking,
just looking while taking his fill, until he moved
onto the bed at long last, still fully clothed.
the next hour, he took his time to explore the body
he knew so well, attempting to re-learn it all over
again, with only his lips, teeth and tongue. He almost
had to gag Matt, to keep him from making noises he
couldn't hold back, until he finally, mercifully,
allowed him to come.
bastard," Matt's grin was weary and his voice
hoarse, as though the effort of keeping quiet had
put strain on his vocal cords. He looked up at the
ceiling, where a few glow-in-the-dark stickers remained,
then returned his gaze to Hooch. "I thought you
said a proper christening," the pointedly looked
at Hooch's crotch as he spread his legs further, lying
back on the pillows.
trying to tell me you never got fucked in here? I
thought you'd lost your cherry in this room."
Hooch let his finger run all the way down from Matt's
smooth throat, along the chest, down to his spent
Matt's purr was noncommittal, "not for more than
ten years, not in this bed, and not by you."
He pushed up lazily into Hooch's hand.
that case, one more day won't matter." Hooch
flashed a downright mean grin, then stretched out
beside Matt. Still fully clothed, hands beneath is
head, he looked up at the glow-in-the-dark stickers
on the ceiling. To all intents and purposes ignoring
his more than half-hard cock. "Go to sleep, kid.
I'm a middle aged man who needs his rest."
made a muffled sound of outrage but there was no budging
Hooch when he was in one of his moods. Grumbling about
sneaky, unreasonable, sadistic Deltas, he turned onto
his side, careful to present a tempting sight of muscled
back and butt, and then, to all appearances, obeyed
and went immediately to sleep.
chuckled quietly, eventually got up, but not without
running his hand all the way along the smooth, bare
flank. Soon after, the sound of the shower running
came out of the bathroom, and a few minutes later
the mattress dipped when a slightly damp, fully naked
Hooch climbed into bed behind Matt. He pulled Matt
against his body, holding him. Something he'd never
done before the capture.
house was silent, and it didn't take long for Hooch
to fall asleep, lulled by Matt's steady breaths and
the warmth of his body.
bodies, pain and stench, death, filth and ever more
bodies. Fear, all-encompassing; fear he'd never admitted.
Fear to give up, just give into the pain and the stink
and let himself fall down, far down, down into the
woke with a start. He was drenched in sweat, on his
back, while the sleeping body beside him lay curled
up, making a soft snuffling sound. Hooch lay still,
trying to force his wildly hammering heart to calm,
while ruthlessly pushing back down the sound of terror
that tried to rip out of his throat. The cover was
off his body, sweat cooling in the air. The last thing
he wanted was to wake Matt. He couldn't bear for him
to know, not Matt, not having to explain to him that
there was more of a legacy from his captivity than
the scars from cigarette burns and pelvic surgery.
he had himself under control, with the same recklessness
he applied to anything in his life, he slipped out
of bed and searched for shorts and t-shirt. He couldn't
stay in the bed, not with the damp patch of his terror
and sweat on the sheets. He padded quietly downstairs
and into the kitchen.
only dared to switch on a small light above the sink,
and while he'd love a hot drink, he didn't want to
wake anyone, nor felt it appropriate to make himself
at home in a home that wasn't his. So he merely filled
a glass with cold water from the tap and sat down
at the kitchen table, sipping the water while staring
into the faint glow of the single lamp.
movement in the corridor alerted him to someone approaching.
Hooch looked up a few seconds before Anne appeared
in the door. She gasped and held a hand against her
chest at the sight of him, illuminated in the faint
glow. "Oh," she said, "sorry, you gave
me a bit of a fright. Is everything alright? I was
just getting myself a cup of peppermint tea would
you like one too?"
half stood, but sat back down when she spoke. "Yes,
anything, please. Tea is fine. Thanks." Carefully
avoiding her question if everything was alright. What
was he to say? Things were okay, of course they were.
If only he didn't dream of that goddamned stench.
seemed to sense that he needed silence, as she boiled
water and readied the tea. Soon, she had two large
pottery mugs full of the brew and placed one in front
my dad came back from the war," she said in a
conversational tone as she sat down, "he had
trouble sleeping nights now and then, particularly
if it was in a new place. It made for interesting
family holidays, to say the least." She turned
the mug in her hands, as though conscious that chatter
was the last thing that Hooch needed.
looked at her without any expression, until a ghost
of a smile crossed his face. "None of your kids
could ever hide anything from you, right?"
smiled. "No, but we've been very lucky with our
brood. None of them have felt the need to conceal
anything. Discretion, sometimes, of course."
Letting that hang in the air, and allowing Hooch to
pick up on it or not, as he chose.
nodded. "Fine line between concealing and discretion,"
a pause, "and protection."
a line nonetheless." Anne's fingers tapped on
the handle of the mug and Hooch was struck by how
similar in shape they were to Matt's. "He never
hid from us that there was someone. He simply never
said who. And might I say that we are very glad to
find out who it is."
ghost of a smile crossed Hooch's face again. The similarity
in speech and manners was striking, and oddly comforting,
too. "Thank you, but you don't know who I really
am, what I've done, what I've seen."
tilted her head. "I don't have to. In any case,
I am fairly sure you're not allowed to tell me."
She reached out a hand and put it on his forearm.
"You and Matt found each other, and you let him
bring you here. That's all that matters, here and
minute twitch of his arm, an automatic reaction he
could not control, before he relaxed into the touch.
" he trailed off, studying
the hand on his arm. He finally looked back up. "Tell
me, Anne, do you think Matt would ever feel sorry
course," the answer was immediate, "but
that's not the question you're really asking, is it?"
steady, penetrating eyes, just like Matt's, bore into
it's not. Of course not." A rueful smile flitted
across his face. "I should have asked if he'd
ever pity anyone." Again this almost-there smile,
and then a shake of his head. "No, wrong again."
He met her gaze straight on, with a fearless one of
his own. "Do you believe he would ever pity me
if he knew I am perhaps not as tough as thinks?"
eyebrows went up. "First, I think your particular
starting point of toughness is rather off the far
end of any normal scale. Second
" she hesitated,
"forgive me if I pry, but Matt's already nursed
you through a very bad illness or injury?"
Hooch nodded once, no more than a curt jerk of his
chin. "Almost a year ago now. I came out of my
last mission with a broken pelvis." The art of
understatement one he'd learned too well.
didn't pry further into the injury. "I thought
so. I think if he was going to pity you, it would
have been then. But no, I don't believe he did, because
that's simply not how the two of you work, is it?"
but there's something he doesn't know. Something that
isn't physical." Unspoken that for Hooch physical
injuries were acceptable. Others
then, and understanding in her eyes. "Matt is
very perceptive, you know," another pause, "and
a much lighter sleeper than you might suppose."
deep furrow appeared between Hooch's eyes, as he pondered
her words. "But if he knows, why does he pretend
well," Anne's fingers curled around her mug,
"probably for the same reason we never said anything
to my dad about his sleepless nights." She took
a sip, "pride is a touchy thing, isn't it?"
Hooch took a sip, then studied the green tinged contents
of his mug. "Matt
" he finally looked
up, "I don't want to
" he shrugged
and his face contorted for a moment in an expression
of helplessness and frustration. "I don't know."
always do want to keep them from knowing the horrible
things in the world, as though if they didn't know
about it, somehow it would mean that the world wasn't
all that bad." After a pause, that seemed to
stretch out forever, "true enough that even most
Marines won't have seen or gone through the things
you have but that doesn't mean he doesn't know very
well." She sipped her tea. "Dad never really
did do anything about his sleepless nights. There
wasn't much that could be done, back then, even if
he had sought help. They all wanted to simply forget,
but that's not possible for anyone, even if they wish
Hooch's voice was soft, "that's it. If I pretend
he doesn't know then it didn't really happen. It's
length of his silence matched her earlier one. Time
for thoughts and understanding, perhaps even the beginnings
of some realizations.
respect your opinion, Anne. What would you do?"
him know, from you, and not just guess." She
put the mug down gently. "He may or may not be
able to make things any better, but I suspect both
of you will be the better for it. You both are burdened
with too many secrets already, and maybe he can be
upfront to you, too. I suspect he's been trying to
make sure you're too exhausted at night to dream."
eyes flew open at the last bit. One thing to talk
about what was innermost with her, another for the
mother of his lover to imply them having sex. "I
he stammered, "yeah, I guess, Matt
Despite his best efforts, he colored slightly, hiding
his discomfort behind the mug as he drained the last
of his tea.
talk to him." He sat the empty mug down. "Thank
welcome," Anne tried not to smile at Hooch's
fluster and fumbling. "Anytime," she added,
as Hooch left the kitchen, and she finally let herself
grin widely into her cup. She'd been worried about
him, but strangely, though clearly Hooch was a dangerous
man to others, she didn't doubt at all how much he
loved her baby boy. And that, at least for now, was
what she cared about. The rest could wait, a very
long time if need be.
Hooch returned to the room, Matt was awake and sitting
up, the covers bunched around his waist. "Hey,"
he looked anxious, "something wrong?"
Hooch sat down on the bed in his shorts and t-shirt,
pulling himself up to lean against the headboard.
"Everything okay now. Had some tea with your
mom." He looked at Matt, studying the handsome
face and that goddamned perfect body, and yet all
he could see right now was what he knew resided beneath
the attractive exterior. "C'mere a sec."
scooted closer, but there was still a wary concern
in his eyes. "The last time you went all funny
like this you told me you were a masochist,"
he grumbled, "any new surprises?"
quite." Hooch chuckled low, as he wrapped his
arm around Matt's shoulders to hold him close. It
felt damn good, and it had only taken him a few years
to realize that. "How often have you noticed
me waking up in the middle of the night?"
froze momentarily, then relaxed. "Less often
than when you first came to my old place," he
said, after a few moments' reflection.
huffed. "And you never said a word." He
mock-slapped the top of Matt's head with a couple
of fingers, taking his time before he continued. "It's
always the same. Always the room we were locked up
frown was hidden in Hooch's shoulder. "Nightmares?
Hooch looked down and right into Matt's eyes. "I
never told you any details, I didn't want to burden
" he shrugged gently, "I made
that decision without giving you the chance to decide
for yourself. You're no sensitive flower, you're a
tough guy, Matt, I don't always keep that in mind."
He took a slow, deep breath. "It's time to ask
you now: do you want me to explain what I dream of?"
nodded. "Yes," he moved out of Hooch's grasp
and tugged at the covers, "but you should get
under here. Central heating's not that good."
Pausing while Hooch pulled off the t-shirt and slipped
out of his shorts, then got under the covers, before
Matt scooted up close again, a hand ghosting over
the scars left by the cigarette burns. "Never
wanted you to think I was digging, not when I didn't
know when I was going to hit a mine."
held Matt close, looking up at the ceiling, the night
light still on. Not having to look at Matt while talking
made it easier, and for once he allowed himself some
cowardice. "I fractured my pelvis in the landing,
you know that, and you know I was tortured. Cigarette
burns were the easiest, much worse to be dropped from
a height, landing with my broken pelvis, and then
manipulating the broken bones." Hooch's voice
was matter-of-fact, nothing else would do. "That's
not what I dream of, though. What I didn't tell you
was the place I was locked up in. A room with hundreds
of men, all prisoners. So many, we stood crammed,
pushed against each other. The stench
get rid of it. Piss, shit, sweat, decomposing flesh.
Each morning the corpses were shuffled towards the
door." Hooch paused a moment. "Eventually,
I wanted to let myself fall back and give up. That
would have meant death, but I couldn't care anymore.
That's the worst, knowing I gave up then." He
paused again, forcibly relaxing his hand and his fingers,
which had gripped Matt tightly. "I was saved
by kindness. Fellow prisoners held me up, made me
swallow food and liquid, took the weight off my pelvis.
It's their arms I literally owe my life to."
movement in his arms as Matt shuddered, and then stilled.
"Yes." Because what else could be said that
wouldn't add to Hooch's burdens? Matt's hands soothing
Hooch, his chin on Hooch's shoulder. "Often?"
he asked. "You don't toss and turn or anything
so it's hard to tell when it happens."
that often." Hooch threaded his fingers into
Matt's hair. It felt good, for more reasons than he'd
ever cared to examine. "Had a lifetime of having
to be silent in any situation, guess that's helping
now." He let out a soft sound of brittle amusement.
"It mostly happens when I'm in a new place, a
new situation. Never figured I'd need stability and
routine in my life. I've turned into a boring old
Never." Matt wriggled closer. "Plenty of
new stuff this weekend, too." He stopped. "You
said you talked to Mom
she tell you about grandpops?"
she did. That why you enlisted?" Hooch let his
fingers run down to the back of Matt's neck, rubbing
circles over the short hair there. "She also
told me you made sure you tired me out every night
so I'd sleep dreamless. Now that was fucking embarrassing."
wasn't the only one who evidently found that embarrassing,
as Matt burrowed into Hooch's shoulder. "Oh,
she would do that," he groused, "not that
you seemed to object." He added, then sighed.
"When I was a kid, I wanted to be just like grandpops.
He was at D-Day, the works. I used to think of him,
what he'd have thought, what he would have done, when
I was in the Gulf." A pause. "He died when
I was ten."
you ever feel you were doing what he did?" Hooch
increased the pressure of his fingertips. "I
wanted to believe that what happened to me was for
the good of our country, but it didn't work. The country
knew jack shit about the reason why I was out there."
quite the same thing, now, is it?" Matt sighed,
"or at least it didn't
doesn't feel like
the same thing at all, no matter what bullshit they
feed us." And yet he still did his job. "The
you mentioned it once, in the hospital.
You saw me." Hooch didn't quite make it a question.
moment of my life," Matt's voice was muffled,
"I think that was when I knew you meant more
to me than anything. All the more so that
He trailed off. No point re-iterating the craptastic
situation after Hooch's capture: Matt unable to get
any information or even seek any out, without raising
some very awkward questions. Just getting to see Hooch
at hospital had involved new heights of ingenuity
and outright lying to achieve. Not to mention having
to skulk around the corridors to avoid Hooch's family.
Hooch murmured, "I'm here now, in your goddamned
teenage bedroom, and I'm only sometimes back there
in my dreams." He craned his head so he could
look down at Matt. "I'll even go see a shrink
if you want me to, or have a mug of hot cocoa before
bedtime, if you prefer." Hooch smiled, one of
his rare ones, which warmed the darkness of his eyes.
"I belong hide and hair to one Matt Donahue with
a loud family and a very clever mom."
you haven't even managed to survive brunch yet,"
Matt answered the smile, "I swear, I've never
been able to work out how she gets Thanksgiving dinner
and brunch done every year." He freed a hand
from the tangle of duvet and ran a finger down the
length of Hooch's nose. "As for the rest of it,
we'll just take it as it comes. If I can be of any
followed the fingers with his gaze until he was cross-eyed.
"If I wake up again from that dream, can I wake
you? Seems that being talked out of that godforsaken
place of my dreams works quickest." He gave Matt's
neck a squeeze. "I am making the assumption we'll
soon be sleeping in the same bed every night. The
apartment's almost finished?" He yawned, the
late hour finally catching up with him. "I'm
looking forward to informing my superiors of my change
know you can wake me anytime" A chuckle from
Matt, "I'd like to see the looks on their faces."
Then, serious, "you think any of them know?"
Unspoken 'about us.'
don't think they know, and if they do, they carefully
don't want to know." Hooch looked positively
amused. "They'll soon have a hard time 'not knowing'."
chuckled quietly, his fingers lightly tracing up Hooch's
cheekbone. "Sleep? We've got another few hours
yet before the madness starts again and you promised
a proper christening of this bed."
smiled a little. "Not sure I can right now, Matt."
of Matt's rueful smiles, as he deliberately misunderstood.
"I'll let you get away with it, for now, after
the heart-to-heart and all. But I'll be gagging for
it in the morning, just to warn you," echoing
Hooch's words earlier in the night.
long as you don't mention your mom along the way,
I am sure I'll be ready and waiting." Hooch slid
down and onto pillow before reaching for the light.
He held Matt close, his arms around him, as they went
off to sleep at long last.
was grateful that his body clock was still on Marines
time when he blinked awake in the hazy predawn, still
curled around Hooch, who was still asleep, his face
relaxed. Unusual in itself, because Hooch tended to
drift away during the night.
to wake Hooch just yet, Matt slowly inched himself
away. Propping himself up on an elbow, he took in
the rare sight. Even during his recovery, Hooch was
almost always awake before him.
minimal shift in breathing would alerted Matt to Hooch
sliding from asleep to awake. "Still a frog,
not a prince yet, no matter how long you stare."
Eyes still closed, a smile stole onto Hooch's features,
keeping the frown at bay for a while longer.
that deserved a proper kiss, and Matt dived in. "Enough
of the fishing for compliments," he said as he
came up for air, "but I think that's enough to
wake Sleeping Beauty?" He wriggled closer suggestively.
chuckled in the back of his throat. "You could
always try to kiss me awake lower down."
wicked grin spread over Matt's face as he pressed
closer, feeling Hooch harden fully. "I think
you're quite awake already," he reached over
and behind Hooch to the dresser, where he'd left the
was tracking him with his eyes, lying as still as
a stature. His grin, though, began to widen, as Matt
pulled the duvet back over them and moved about. Somehow,
not being able to see what Matt was doing under the
covers, made it all the more erotic. A few moments
later Matt had straddled Hooch and was looking down
time for a swap of places." Hooch's voice remained
quiet, always aware of the parents asleep in the adjacent
room. He flipped them both over, letting the covers
slip off, as he loomed over Matt, grinning down. "I
bet you my ass that you won't be able to stay silent."
the wager on, he threw himself into preparing Matt,
like he'd throw himself into any mission: with utmost
focus and equal skills. He knew just how to speed
enough and yet not too much, before he buried himself
into Matt's body, unleashing the strength of his own
to give ultimate pleasure, his own secondary right
gasp at Hooch's entry was only barely muffled, and
the grip on Hooch's arms tightened as Matt fought
to keep silent. Usually a vocal lover, the effort
to keep quiet showed in the tension in his muscles
and his tightly gritted teeth, fighting against Hooch's
skill and the urge to cry out. When he came, he bucked
and bit his lip, but made no sound.
he had his breath back, he smirked up at Hooch. "I
do believe that means I get to collect."
hadn't come yet, holding himself back for Matt's benefit,
and he stilled any movement at Matt's smirk, matching
it with one of his own.
smile grew lazy and replete, like some big cat lazing
in the sun as he tilted his hips upwards. "I
suppose you can finish what you're doing first."
immediately began to move again. Long, slow thrust,
looked like he was going to purr, but remembered the
terms of the bet and raised his arms to grasp the
headboard. Watching Hooch from under hooded lids,
clearly enjoying himself.
Hooch let go he didn't do it with absolute abandon,
but with a single focus that burnt through Matt. All
of Hooch's lust and need, all of his strength, gathered
in one point only, in the connection between their
made hardly any sound, controlling himself except
for his harsh breath, and when he came, his eyes flew
open, looking straight at Matt, as he shuddered through
when he'd calmed down after collapsing on Matt, sweat
and cum between their bodies but neither of them caring,
he murmured sleepily, "guess you won."
chuckled and held him tight, enjoying the weight and
the sound of their heartbeats thudding together, but
not the sound of the radio-alarm turning itself on
in the next room, followed by movement. "But
not in time to collect," he said softly into
the almost-asleep Hooch's ear, before easing himself
out from under Hooch, sliding out of the bed and pulling
the covers up over Hooch before finding some clothes
and padding to the bathroom.
next few days were spent with Matt's family, the two
of them being constantly overfed both in the house
and when Matt took Hooch to all his old haunts. He
was introduced as Matt's buddy from back in the Gulf
War, in need of some good old-fashioned feeding up
at Thanksgiving, which was true for Hooch, who hadn't
been back to his normal weight yet. It got easier
around Matt's large, loud and loving family, as they
realized that Hooch wasn't as tactile as they were,
and that they needed to give him space.
the time they were ready to go, Matt's mother dropped
them off at the airport with plenty of encouragement
to come again, and boxes of cookies and cakes to take
with them because they "could both do with some
home cooking." She was surprised to find herself
embraced by Hooch, who murmured "thank you"
into her ear before letting go.
gave one of his grins as they waved goodbye, just
before heading to the boarding gate. "Told you
you'd like them," he said to Hooch, as he shouldered
his rucksack and balanced the box of cookies.
answered Matt's grin with one of his own. It was an
odd feeling, he thought, but not at all an unpleasant
one. A home, a partner even a proper family unlike
his own, things that had been the furthest from his
mind the day he had enlisted, two decades ago.
November 1998, Fayetteville
they returned to Fayetteville, Hooch stopped at the
threshold of the apartment, staring, because the whole
place had been finished while they'd been away. When
he asked Matt how the fuck he'd managed to get anyone
to work over the Thanksgiving weekend, he just grinned
apartment had clean and simple lines, leather, white
and chrome, with comfortable furniture that was just
right for two tall and fit men who didn't give a crap
about nicnacs and for whom the idea of interior decorating
brought them out in hives.
was the first true home Hooch had ever had since he'd
joined up at eighteen, and even the ranch had never
truly felt like home, except for the stables and the
wide open land. This place, though, did, and it scared
the shit out of him, because it was so goddamned good.
bedroom got christened that night when Matt demanded
the payment of Hooch's lost bet, and the next day
saw a pleasantly sore and almost mellow Captain Hubert
Bozic deal with a piece of admin in his life he'd
never expected to deal with: the cancellation of his
quarters on base and the change of his address.
part of him had hoped that it would just slip by in
the black hole that was administration on the base,
but unlike countless other forms that had disappeared,
it was not the case. The polite but firm summons to
the office of the Colonel came all too soon.
seriousness with which this triviality was being taken,
was evident straight away. The Colonel was sitting
at his desk, frowning, when Hooch came in. "Sit,
Captain." It was between a request and an order.
face immediately settled into the blank expression
he'd mastered no matter the circumstances. This was
going to be a pissing contest, he could read the signs
as if written in neon capitals above his superior's
head. "Good morning, Sir." Hooch greeted
despite the lack of courtesy he'd received, and sat
down. Two could play this game, and while he wasn't
a Colonel he'd had more years of experience in the
field than any of the more senior staff could ever
dream of gaining. Besides, what did he have to lose?
Not Matt, no matter what. Everything else paled in
comparison, he'd learned that lesson during captivity.
see you're moving off base, Captain," the Colonel
stated the obvious. "Quite sudden, isn't it?"
apartment hadn't been ready until now."
leaned back in his chair, legs a little open, staking
his claim of the space and of his position in the
pecking order. No superior had ever intimidated him,
and this one wasn't going to change that.
raised, the Colonel looked down at the forms. "True
enough, but you've never done so before. I see it's
above a gym. Have you considered the security risks
of such a location?"
Hooch's gaze went slowly back to the Colonel's face.
He wasn't crossing his arms just yet, but the invisible
barrier could be felt in the charged atmosphere. A
pre-emptive strike suited him better than defense.
"I know the owner. He's got security clearance
and is aware of the necessity of security measures
due to my active status."
I see, Mr. Matthew Donahue, recently Gunnery Sergeant,
USMC, honorably discharged." The Colonel looked
down, "I see that you stayed with him during
your recovery. A friendship of long standing, I take
the Gulf, Sir." Hooch wasn't giving his superior
even the fraction of an inch.
see." A completely unnecessary flipping of some
papers in Hooch's file. "Unusual." Equally
nonverbal, but a faint undercurrent of disapproval.
"You'll be sharing the apartment with him?"
The question came sideways, like a switchblade in
have my own room." Hooch's answer came just as
quickly and as precisely, without a change in his
neutral expression nor a blink of his eyes.
Colonel made a noise that on anyone else would have
been a dissatisfied grunt. "Convenient,"
a mountain of meaning in the word, "a qualified
PTI keeping an eye on your condition."
is, isn't it, Sir?" Hooch wasn't going to budge,
wasn't going to offer his superior even the tiniest
hook to latch on. The man couldn't ask, after all,
that was what DADT was all about and thus he didn't
have to tell. "I'm lucky."
narrowing of eyes, and momentary speculation. The
Colonel was an arrogant, unpleasant sod, but far from
stupid, and he was rapidly putting together a few
loose threads. "I gather so." Lips thinned,
moved, as though he was working out what to say next.
"A long-term arrangement?"
Hooch knew exactly what he meant. He hyper-focused,
just like he would during a mission. "That depends
on the circumstances."
see," another unnecessary shuffling of papers.
"I see." The Colonel paused, seemingly deep
in thought, "and what are those circumstances?"
rent, for example." Hooch deadpanned.
not-grunt, as wheels visibly turned behind those disapproving
eyes. "I see." A pause, considering, "quite
a change for you, since you've lived on base for all
of your career." No mention of just how many
years that had been. "Remember that you'll need
to be careful out there in ways you haven't needed
to be on base."
am perfectly aware of any additional security measures,
Sir." Hooch didn't acknowledge anything else.
"Is that all now, Sir?"
other man looked like he'd sucked on a lemon. "Yes,
Captain," he said curtly, "so long as that's
Sir." Hooch stood up and saluted, then turned
sharply to make his way out of the room.
outside he couldn't help the ugly grin appear on his
face, as he went back to his office. He had men to
train and a medical appointment that afternoon, he
didn't have time to dwell on a stuck-up officer who'd
probably like to see him fall.
something inside of him raised its head, an itch he'd
buried deep down for so long, but which he once more
pushed away. Not yet. It wasn't time yet.
Hooch returned home that evening, later than usual
but still with the novelty factor of actually returning
to a home, Matt was throwing something together in
the kitchenette. Hooch figured it would be some sort
of lean meat and some sort of salad. Matt's culinary
skills were marginally better than Hooch's nonexistent
ones, but his interest in nutrition was a lot more
Matt flashed a bright smile, "something wrong?"
a stuck up bastard of a superior." Hooch shrugged
and dropped his pack near the door.
made a noise of sympathy, "that sucks."
He laid out plates and glasses on the dining table.
especially as he kept going on about my change of
address." Hooch went to the fridge and took out
a large bottle of carbonated water. He looked at it,
put it back into the fridge, then pulled out a beer
visibly tensed. "Do you think he's guessed?"
It was a strange feeling: he didn't have to be wary
for himself anymore, but he had to be for Hooch, which
was a lot more nerve-wracking.
damned sure. The guy's as subtle as a tank."
Hooch cracked open the beer bottle and finished half
of it in one long draft, before sitting down at the
table. "Of course, he couldn't ask."
visibly relaxed, taking Hooch's words at face value,
as he dished out the food and added a bottle of water
for himself. "I never thought to ask but do you
think anyone on base is going to be a shithead about
from that dickhead? No." Hooch poured Matt a
glass of water. "None of the guys I worked with
ever gave a shit about where I want to stick my dick."
He watched Matt help himself to the salad, then got
a smaller portion for himself. "That's precisely
what's pissed off the Colonel."
made a non-committal sound, "and your guys would
just see what they expect to see anyway, even if they
did give a shit." He took a piece of meat. "How's
it going on the other side?" Leaving it open
for Hooch to interpret whether he meant as a trainer,
or an officer.
fingertips involuntarily fluttered against the beer
bottle, before he took control and stilled them. "It's
not the same." His gaze slid away from Matt,
concentrating on his chicken with a little too much
focus to be convincing.
had to remind himself not to hover too obviously,
because that would piss Hooch off. He settled for
eating in silence for a few minutes. "No, it
wouldn't be," that sounded neutral enough, leaving
Hooch room. It was a funny thing, this living together,
no more passing by and being 'Central Station', but
a true, honest to goodness couple.
finished the chicken and most of the salad, fork and
knife still in his hands, unmoving. Eventually he
took in an audible breath and looked at Matt. "Part
of me hates it. Really fucking hates it. Other part
knows I'm too old even without the injury. Still having
trouble with the first part. Makes me itch."
was generally inappropriate around Hooch, and platitudes
an even worse idea. All the more so now, when there
really was nothing anyone could do. "Ah,"
Matt settled for the monosyllable, and for giving
got a lightning-fast grin from Hooch. There and gone
again, but the after effects lingered around the corners
of his eyes. "Yeah, 'ah'." He put the cutlery
down. "As for good news, phys exam today came
back clear. X-rays show the fracture's completely
healed and the MD thinks I'm fit for all the duties
of my new role."
answered the grin with one of his own, longer lasting.
"That's great," it was mixed with relief.
"Pity this is as close to anything with bubbles
we've got." He looked at the carbonated water.
"Or else we should have a toast to new beginnings."
feel like celebrating. It's a new beginning alright,
but except for being here in this place can't find
that much to celebrate." Hooch twisted the almost
empty beer bottle in his hand. "Give me time,
Okay? Need to get my bearings in the new job."
looked like he was going to say something else, but
settled for nodding instead. "'kay," he
echoed, giving Hooch a long look. Caring, but not
intrusive, letting the other man sit with his thoughts.
Hooch smiled before falling silent as well, until
Matt finished his own meal. "Have we got any
was a look on Matt's face, slightly chagrined, that
Hooch didn't quite understand, until Matt went back
into the kitchen area and came out with a plate with
red velvet cupcakes, frosted with cream cheese and
decorated with little red sugar hearts. "How
did you know? Mandy brought them in today." He
paused, as though considering whether to confess something,
"they're very good." The words were reluctant.
showed his teeth in a sudden smirk. "Did the
saintly Matt break down?" Still grinning, he
reached for one of the cupcakes, greedily biting into
it. "What's the occasion?"
housewarming, she said," Matt watched Hooch with
amusement. "She was certain that you'd like them
because you're a Southerner, too, and she was horrified
when I told her that I've never had them before."
He took one off the plate. "You can have the
rest, if you like," he added rather unnecessarily
at Hooch's covetous look.
more like a Valentine's offering to the attractive
boss to me." Hooch swallowed the last bite of
the first cake and reached for another. "What
with all the hearts."
opened his mouth to counter Hooch's remark with a
reminder that it was November, not February, and most
importantly that he was a good ten years older than
Mandy, until he realized it was exactly the same gap
between him and Hooch. Mandy really wasn't all that
much younger than he had been the first time in that
safe house in Saudi Arabia. "I hope not,"
he said after a moment, "that would be the last
thing that I need, but I doubt it. She's bound to
have plenty of boys her own age after her she's not
going to look at her old boss that way. And despite
the ditziness, I think she's too sensible to risk
nearly sprayed cake crumbs across the table with his
sudden laugh. "Old boss? How old is she? Eighteen,
nineteen?" Hooch leaned back and grinned. "Last
time I checked, you knew damn well how good you look,
and while it would be annoying for different reasons,"
he gestured between Matt and himself, "I think
Mandy fancies you. Cupcakes with hearts? Dead give-away."
was frowning. "No, seriously, I don't think so.
Not that either of us can claim to be an expert on
women. If you're right, though, at least it'll be
good cover, and I'll have an excuse to say 'no' to
her if you are right."
would that excuse be?" Hooch clearly didn't believe
gave him a look. "I don't screw staff. Figuratively,
literally or in any other sense."
you screw roommates?" Hooch flashed a predatory
returned it, glad at least that this part of Hooch
remained unchanged despite the earlier low mood. "Only
those who help with the dishes first."
Hooch countered good naturedly, but got up and grabbed
their plates. "I'll buy a dishwasher."
snorted under his breath, and said something inaudible
about people who couldn't fill up a sink, but got
out a tea-towel to dry and put away the dishes, the
shared domestic chore somehow soothing in its normality.
the last dish had been dried, Hooch pushed Matt forward
and against the sink. "And now?" He moved
his hips against Matt's deliciously perfect ass.
pushed back, "and now we go into the bedroom,
like proper, civilized people." He threw a grin
over his shoulder as he slipped out and sauntered
off towards the bedroom.
As if." Hooch followed Matt in record time and
kicked the door shut behind them.
the early days were difficult, particularly since
they were starting in the winter, Matt's gym quickly
began to take off. Word-of-mouth spreading and he
soon had a core, loyal clientele that was split between
the active and ex-military and the gay professionals
that seemed to grow by the week. Much to Matt's amazement,
the gym broke even months ahead of schedule, and he
watched with satisfaction as the mortgage was steadily
proved to be an organizational wizard, had the gym
running like clockwork, while somehow fitting in her
college classes around the operating hours. Save asking
for a few days off for exams twice a semester, Matt
scarcely noticed a break in the bubbly, ruthless efficiency
and the smiles and cheerfulness that permeated the
red velvet cupcakes had started a tradition, and Mandy
often brought in cakes and cookies and pie for Matt
and Hooch. 'Love offerings' Hooch continued to tease,
but Mandy never gave any indication that she saw them
as anything other than her boss and his roommate,
two military men who couldn't bake but needed some
treats. She had an irregular series of no-hoper boyfriends,
none, in Matt's mind, good enough for her, and certainly
not deserving of the momentary gloom that each caused
at the inevitable breakup.
settled into his new job best he could, never quite
making his peace with not being out in the midst of
danger anymore, but very much getting into training
'his boys' and relishing the responsibility of preparing
them to the very best of their ability and beyond
to face the worst possible situations. He rapidly
became the most feared, and the most loved and respected
training officer in Fort Bragg. Anyone who was good
enough to be selected for Delta training was equally
looking forward to and being apprehensive of being
drilled by him, because Hooch demanded everything
and more, while respecting them as they respected
him in return.
life settled into a comfortable routine, as comfortable
as living with Hooch could be. His most redeeming
trait, that of always and everywhere being up for
sex and never waning in his appetite for Matt in whichever
and whatever way they wanted, balanced out all the
annoying traits of being mostly silent, occasionally
obnoxious, and sometimes oddly sociopathic.
in all, things were settling in nicely in Fayetteville,
and life was as good as it could be.