Summer 2002, Fayetteville
went to his club every month or two, almost always
on Friday night and returning Saturday lunchtime.
There were occasional phone calls, too, and a week
once a year that Matt never commented on, just as
he didn't comment on the club. That was Hooch's business,
and Hooch's alone.
forewarned by Mandy's observations, Matt began to
notice the knowing looks in his direction from his
clients. Less conscious of having to hide all the
time, he surprised himself when he accepted the first
frank approach from Greg, one of his personal training
clients, and then some of the others after that. Usually
after-hours in the gym, in the personal training rooms
or treatment rooms.
called them Matt's 'nibbles', and seemed to be supremely
comfortable with his occasional indulgence. 'Nibbles'
was a good way to describe them fun, temporarily satisfying,
but somehow not feeding the hunger quite enough.
realize that you've never so much as asked me in for
a coffee?" Greg asked one Friday evening, putting
on his clothes after their latest meeting. "We've
been having some fun for the past three months, what's
wrong with your bed?"
froze as he was pulling on his t-shirt, and then forced
himself to relax. "I'm not the only one in the
apartment," he kept his voice light.
what? Your buddy's a homophobe?" Greg laughed,
as if he'd just made the funniest joke in a decade.
"It's not a secret you're gay." He shrugged
on his sweater jacket and straightened back up.
snorted, covering up the first reaction of relief
that Greg was so completely off the mark about Hooch.
"No, he's not. It's not that." He pulled
down his t-shirt and then ducked under the massage
table to retrieve his shoes.
is it, then?" Greg made a grab for Matt's ass
and squeezed one firm buttock with an appreciative
grunt. "You think military guys get the heebie-jeebies
when in close contact with two gays?" he grinned.
caught Greg's wrist firmly. "Leave it, Greg."
His voice anything but joking. "He doesn't bring
anyone up to the apartment, and neither do I."
what's up with you?" Greg was taken aback and
not a little put-out. "Lost your sense of humor?
What the hell's wrong with you and your roommate?"
His eyes narrowed as he pulled his arm out of Matt's
grasp, calculating. "Or is it not just your roommate?"
is 'wrong'." Matt pulled on his shoes, keeping
calm despite the thudding of his pulse around his
ears, knowing that he had to deflect Greg's thoughts
before they went in the wrong-the right-direction.
"He's my best friend," he said at last,
"but that doesn't mean I let him know everything
tell me you're trying to keep from him that you're
gay." Greg sneered, which gave his usually handsome
face quite an ugly distortion. "I've got news
for you, buddy, that's too late That sounds like bullshit
Matt began, tying his shoelaces with a nonchalance
he didn't feel, ''Hooch is neither blind nor stupid.
I imagine he's worked out by now why I quit the Marines.''
He straightened up. ''Secondly, I don't get why you're
so pissed. This isn't anything more than a bit of
I get that, but I'm not used to being a bit of fun
that has to be hidden away." Greg frowned. "What
the fuck's wrong with drinking a coffee together?
That's part of being fuck buddies in my book."
go out for a drink sometime," at least the worst
had been headed off. "It's no secret, but neither
Hooch nor I bring anyone up. That's the deal."
easy smile was back on Greg's face within an instant.
"Okay, buddy, if that's the deal, that's alright."
He took his gym bag and threw his towel on top. "Next
week same time after cardio?"
Matt nodded, glad the tension was diffused. No-strings
fun was meant to be just that. "Have a great
too." With a wave of his hand and a last smile,
Greg sauntered out.
gym was deserted, and Matt quietly locked up and turned
the lights off before heading upstairs. It was Hooch's
Friday in his club, so he planned an early night with
a few movies. When he opened the door to the apartment,
he was taken aback.
TV was on and Hooch was sitting on the sofa, bare
feet on the couch table, a bottle of lager in his
hand. He craned his neck as Matt entered and greeted
him with a quick smile. "Hey."
blinked. "Hey," he echoed automatically.
"I thought you were going to the club this weekend?"
took a mouthful of the beer. "Got called into
a late meeting. Couldn't be bothered to go to Raleigh
after that." He hit the mute button on the remote.
just meeting up with Greg after his session."
Matt shook his head. "Just give me a minute,
I need a shower. You had dinner?" he asked on
his way to the bathroom.
a burger on my way home." Hooch called after
Matt, before turning his attention back onto the TV,
the sound back on.
ducked into the shower, washing quickly, then dashed
to the bedroom for clean clothes, before heading to
the kitchen to throw together a salad. He sat down
on the couch next to Hooch. "Whatcha watching?"
Hooch glanced at Matt with a raised eyebrow. "The
ball, the green field, the guys in shorts should have
given you a clue."
Matt repeated, as he stabbed at a mushroom. "You
going to the club next weekend then?"
I'm okay. Don't need to, yet." Hooch leaned across
a little to stare pointedly at the mushroom Matt kept
spearing repeatedly. "I reckon it's dead by now,"
he commented drily.
looked up. "Yeah, but you never can tell with
the bastards." He shoved the mangled remains
into his mouth, and swallowed without chewing.
don't act like someone who's just had some fun with
a guy." Hooch finished the last dregs of his
beer and put the bottle onto the table.
complained that we hadn't gone out for a coffee."
Out loud, it sounded ridiculous.
he fancies you. That's not a surprise, is it?"
Hooch hit the mute button once more.
" Matt finished the salad and put the empty bowl
on the table. "Just weird. It was never meant
to be anything than a bit of fun, and all of a sudden
he was getting pushy and asking to come up here."
falling for you." Hooch shrugged, but a hidden
line of tension in his shoulders betrayed the indifference
. "One day one of your 'nibbles' would. Those
guys aren't stupid."
snorted. "You'd have thought they knew better.
At least Greg seems to get that I won't bring him
up here, even if he thinks it's because 'military
guys get the heebie-jeebies around two gays'."
one." Re-crossing his ankles on the table, Hooch
projected a casual unconcern . "What should they
know better, though?"
frowned. Unusual for Hooch to be probing quite so
much. "They should know better than to think
it's more than just a bit of fun. It's not as though
they don't know about the others, after all."
right, and they all think you're actually single.
What's to stop any of them having a go at becoming
more than a bit of fun?" Hooch rolled his head
to the side, resting on the sofa's back, looking at
about me saying 'No Thanks'?" Matt met Hooch's
I need to give one?" Matt paused, "and why
would you care what I tell them?"
shrugged. "Just figured you might get annoyed
with a persistent one." Neatly avoiding the second
scratched the side of his nose. "Greg took it
well enough, and he's the only one who's pushed for
anything so far. Neil hasn't been around for a bit,
and Tom and Craig are only out for a bit of no-strings
huffed a laugh. "You're collecting a stable."
said you didn't mind," Matt said doubtfully.
course I don't mind." Nothing in Hooch's face,
voice, or demeanor gave any signs to the contrary.
"I've never in my life said anything I don't
mean. You of all people should know that." He
flashed a quick smile.
answered it, relieved that the weirdness seemed over.
"That's okay then. I'm beat, I'll wash this up
and go to bed." He picked up his bowl and headed
for the kitchen area.
didn't say anything while Matt did the washing up,
and was still silent with his eyes on the game while
Matt occupied the bathroom, but when Matt came out
to make his way to the bedroom, Hooch hit the mute
button again. "I guess you're not up for sex
stopped in the doorway and turned around. "I'd
probably fall asleep," he said frankly. "Unless
you want to do all the work?"
on you telling me what kind of work it is you want
me to do."
furrowed his brow. "You've lost me."
meant, is there anything you want me to do, or you
want to do to me, which we haven't done yet? Things
you get from the other guys but not me, or are the
other guys just variety?" Hooch looked at Matt
with open curiosity.
blinked. Hooch had never said anything of the sort
before, whether in terms of sex or other men. "No,"
he shook his head. "They're just a bit of fun,
and I thought you were going to be out this weekend
anyway." He stayed in the doorway, curious at
what Hooch would come up with next.
Hooch nodded and to all intents and purposes the case
was closed. "I let you sleep unmolested, or don't
you let them fuck you?"
who was turning to go into the bedroom, paused for
a second. "I don't think I have, no. Not even
all that much actual fucking to tell the truth."
hit the off button on the remote and stood up. "I'm
asking too much, huh?"
me, is all." Matt turned back around. "You've
never asked before, and I don't ask you about the
not you." Hooch walked towards Matt.
stood, waiting. "No." He tilted his head.
"Do you want me to stop?"
I don't." Hooch squeezed Matt's bare shoulder.
"As long as you don't fall in love with any of
a little perplexed at Hooch's sentimentality, Matt
snorted. "Course not."
because you're mine. It works both ways."
smiled. "You coming to bed?"
turned towards the bathroom. "Yeah, be with you
shook his head, wondering what had got into Hooch
before sliding under the covers. He hadn't been lying,
he was exhausted from a busy week and the enthusiastic
session with Greg, and wanted nothing so much than
a good night's sleep before the early Saturday morning
spin class he was due to lead. By the time Hooch slipped
under the covers Matt was already out like a light,
reached out to brush his palm along the smooth skin.
Matt didn't stir, the touch too light, just as he
has intended, and with the lights off, Hooch settled
in to sleep.
next morning, Hooch was back to his usual silent self,
and didn't revisit the baffling conversation of the
Spring 2003, Fayetteville
continued as they had been, the only small difference
was that Hooch seemed to take particular care to greet
the 'nibbles' by name if he saw them at the gym.
early 2003 activity at the base intensified, and Hooch
was back to working the long and intense hours as
he had in late 2001, while the preparations for the
invasion of Iraq built up.
some ways it was easier than in 2001, because this
was more like a war than an invisible enemy to be
fought on unclear territory, but in others the stress
of the insane workload was even greater. Hooch had
stay on base again, not even managing to get back
to the apartment every other weekend, and he once
more felt the frustration and pull of wanting to go
out there with his boys, be active, go on operational
duty. That part hadn't diminished at all in the last
was simultaneously exhausted-physically and mentally-and
full of tension, when he finally managed to get home
one Saturday lunchtime.
was in the kitchen, snatching a quick lunch in between
classes. "How are you holding up?" he automatically
went to the fridge to get out more food to prepare
don't." When Hooch entered the kitchen it was
clear to Matt how frayed around the edges he really
was, and how utterly exhausted. His usually tanned
skin had a grey tinge and there were dark shadows
under his eyes, which made it all too clear that despite
his exhaustion, Hooch hardly slept. Or perhaps because
of it. The last sixteen days had wreaked havoc on
Hooch, who leaned against the doorway, arms crossed
in front of his chest, still in uniform.
eyes widened as he looked at Hooch's worn-out state.
"Food," he said firmly, pushing the plate
of cold cuts in front of Hooch, "then bed."
Words curt. "Do you need to plan anything?"
he asked, remembering the last time Hooch had been
under so much strain.
Yeah, I do." Hooch let himself be manhandled
into a chair at the table, where he stared at the
food for a while, as if unable to switch off enough
to eat and not just stuff down fuel to keep going.
"But I don't have much time."
tomorrow at seventeen hundred hours." Hooch finally
picked up some of the bread and cuts, layering a sandwich.
"Not enough time to go to the club."
you call him?" No need to mention who Matt meant.
I have to try." Hooch stared at the sandwich
in his hand, as if he'd forgotten just how to eat.
"It won't be enough." He looked up at Matt,
the expression in his face ranging between demand
and pleading. "I need you, too."
looked at Hooch with surprise. "What do you need
me to do?" Need, not want.
be given orders on the phone. Usually I do things
myself, or it's in my head, but this time I need you
to carry them out." Hooch finally bit into the
swallowed, feeling his fingers clench. Thinking of
what happened last time, and how he could never, ever
let that happen again. "Yes. When?"
or I won't be able to wind down enough to sleep."
The 'again' unspoken. "If I can't get him on
the phone, will you fuck me hard, really hard?"
held back from making a flippant response, knowing
that it was the last thing needed. He settled for
a nod, not trusting himself to speak with his suddenly
you," Hooch said in a quiet voice around a bite
of his sandwich, that tasted like straw.
looked at Hooch, then at the food and said, "I'll
order in tonight." Even though he knew that Hooch
would barely taste it. "Why don't you have a
soak in the bath? My last client finishes at 1700."
Hooch nodded and kept eating, taking meticulous bites,
in a robotic fashion. He suddenly looked up. "Matt?"
Matt had to turn back to Hooch from where he'd been
putting away some clean plates in the cupboard.
want you to know I'm not a sissy. I'm not just stressed
like a pansy-assed loser. I want to go out there and
it drives me insane that I can't. It's fucking unbearable."
wanted to reach across the bench to touch Hooch, but
that was the wrong move now. So he settled for words.
''No, you're the furthest thing from one. '' He looked
at the clock. ''I gotta go. See you in a bit.''
watched him leave, his face stony.
Matt returned to the apartment after his last client
of the day, still sweaty and in gym kit, he found
Hooch sitting on the couch, dressed in a pair of gym
shorts, staring into nothing. His cell firmly gripped
in one hand.
Matt called quietly, alarmed that Hooch hadn't seemed
to register his entrance.
looked up, the sudden hyper-focus of his dark gaze
on Matt. "He'll call back. They're out."
Matt nodded. "I'll go shower first then."
Hooch's reply came as sharp and fast as a bullet.
"Don't. I want you
" he was cut off
by the cell phone ringing, and without checking who
it was, he answered the call without saying a word.
an eyebrow, Matt moved to the kitchen counter, keeping
his eyes on Hooch who was concentrating on the call.
One word, sharp and cutting, then silence on Hooch's
end once more, listening intently. Finally another
"yeah," followed by, "understood."
With that he put the cell down and turned his head
towards Matt. "Can you keep me tied up for twelve
Matt trailed off, looked at the clock, then at Hooch.
Swallowed. "Alright. With what?"
you can find." Hooch shrugged, "as long
as it's sturdy and I can't get out of it. Leather
belts?" He stood up, his body so tense, every
muscle appeared sculpted. "Gag me, and don't
let me come, no matter what. Fuck me, with your cock,
with a dildo, with anything you can find." Hooch's
voice had become hard as shards of metal, and as cutting.
"Just fuck me."
swallowed, hard. "The bedroom, then," he
moved immediately, and without being told, he got
onto the bed, face down, spreading his arms and legs.
stood frozen for a moment, before going to the wardrobe
and rummaging for something, anything that would do
the task asked of him. Eventually, he found a handful
of leather belts, and a large cotton scarf from goodness
knows where. Opening the bottom drawer of Hooch's
bedside table, he found Hooch's collar, and the toy
collection he'd long known about, but never seen.
hands were clenched into fists, and his long legs
trembled with a tension he'd been holding in for too
long. He didn't move, but sensing Matt's hesitation,
he spoke quietly. "Anything, Matt. Anything and
everything, no matter how much." He paused, and
the emphasis on the last word was compelling: "Please."
Matt moved, rummaged in the drawer, then shut it.
A sound behind Hooch, then movement as Matt slipped
a sleeping mask from an airline amenity kit over Hooch's
eyes, the nearest thing he could find to a blindfold.
breathing audibly relaxed once he was in darkness,
for a reason Matt couldn't understand, and wasn't
going to explore right now. He had been set a task,
and he was going to help Hooch, keep him from being
unable to function or-worst of all-from breaking his
promise and go off again and perhaps get himself killed
picked up the belts next, turning them in his hands,
contemplating what to do, before tying Hooch's wrists
and ankles to the four posts of the bed. He was careful,
never having done this before, but Hooch urged him
Hooch's voice was low, partly muffled by the bed sheets.
"Make me hurt."
gulped, but obeyed, stretching Hooch out as far as
he could go. Picking up the cotton scarf, he brought
it around Hooch's mouth, pulling tight and gagging
body, spread and tense, was all rock hard muscles
and sinews, fists clenched in anticipation and need
for something Matt had promised to give without knowing
what it would take.
back, Matt paused to admire the movement of muscles
under smooth skin, the play of shadow amidst the fading
light. "Should I put the lamp on?" he asked,
before he remembered that he'd gagged Hooch. "No,"
he answered his own question. "No."
moved closer, getting on the bed, and kneeling between
Hooch's spread legs.
said nothing, did nothing, just waited. Remaining
tense and wound up like a far too tight coil, ready
to snap any moment.
half hard, Matt flipped open the lid of the lube and
stroked himself, moving closer to Hooch, hand on the
tense back. He could see how Hooch was doing the exact
opposite to what he should: he didn't relax his muscles,
clenched his ass instead, to get more pain.
took a deep breath, moved forwards, hands spreading
Hooch as far apart as he could, fighting against him,
ready to force himself in. He could feel, rather than
see, Hooch trembling under his fingertips.
wasn't about wanting, not even about sex; this was
all about giving Hooch what he needed, and Matt dug
deep into his self to find all the anger he'd ever
felt at Hooch's antics and how helpless it had made
him over the years. He fucked Hooch, who didn't need
him right now, but anyone who would do this to him,
no matter who. He fucked him and tried to hurt him,
which went against everything Matt ever was. He kept
him tied up, re-tightened the leather that held Hooch's
body spread, fed him energy drinks throughout the
twelve hours, rammed the dildo into his ass until
Hooch screamed and panted, and never let him come,
not until it was dawn, and Hooch collapsed into an
exhausted, sated, heap.
was trembling too, as he untied Hooch's limbs and
crawled into bed beside him, pulling up the covers
before sleep claimed him.
was after noon when Hooch woke up. His body aching,
the skin around his wrists and ankles almost raw,
and his ass stinging, still feeling the shadow of
soreness deep in his guts. It was good; it was enough.
The last twelve hours had given him a valve to let
off the tension, allowing him to return to the core
and find equilibrium, without tearing his own self
opened his eyes and turned his head towards the sound
of steady breathing. Matt. Matt, who 'didn't have
it in him' and yet he had done for Hooch what he'd
asked for, and Hooch knew what that meant. He reached
out to touch the short, tousled hair, stroking gently.
woke, leaning into the touch. "Mmmmm?"
you." Hooch said quietly, far more in those two
words than a whole speech could convey.
blinked, calm. "You're welcome."
was silent for a long while, stroking Matt's hair.
When he finally spoke again his voice was still as
soft. "You hated it."
my thing," Matt said at last. "But yours."
there anything you liked?"
Matt smiled. "Mine. All mine to do with as I
wish." Leaning into the caress. "The tying
up I didn't mind," he added, serious, "but
something other than the belts, next time."
time?" Hooch's eyebrows rose. "You would
do it again?"
you wanted me to."
don't want you to do anything you hate, because if
you continued to do that, you'd hate me one day."
was silent for a while. "Maybe," he reached
out a hand, touching Hooch, "but you're more
important than that. We could give it another go,
when it's just fun. And maybe you could do it to me."
would be a first." Hooch chuckled softly, his
face visibly relaxing. "But I'll do it, for fun
I can do anything."
smiled. "For now, what I need is a couple more
see you when you wake up." Hooch leaned forward
to place a ridiculously chaste kiss onto Matt's lips.
laughed, and then closed his eyes and burrowed into
Late Spring - Early Fall 2004, Fayetteville
that week, Jeff had returned from a several-weeks
posting in Montana. With Hooch being a lot less of
an ogre than he had at first appeared to be, Jeff
asked him to meet for lunch at the canteen, to check
in with what's been going on at base.
never got to talking about anything that had happened
at Fort Bragg, because Jeff had started to enthusiastically
describe the charity he'd seen at work close to the
Montana base: Horses for Heroes. Even if Hooch had
wanted to stop him, he wouldn't have succeeded without
serious intervention, so impressed Jeff had been by
the charity's work with the first waves of injured
veterans returning from the Gulf. Working with the
horses, getting the men and women into the saddle,
had a remarkable effect on the veterans with issues
ranging from amputations, over a diverse range of
physical disabilities, to mental issues, such as the
ever growing numbers of PTSD sufferers.
listened to Jeff's words with interest, and an idea
began to form in his mind.
evening, when he returned home, he was deep in thought
and even less vocal than usual.
up?" Matt asked, when Hooch didn't move nor greet
him when he came through the door.
hummed, his only acknowledgment as he kept clicking
away on his laptop, set up on the dining table. A
long pause, a couple of clicks, and then he swiveled
the laptop with a flourish, presenting the screen
to Matt. It showed the website for Horses for Heroes.
do you think?"
looked at it, and at Hooch. "You want to go to
told me about the charity." Completely ignoring
Matt's question. "Would be good to have that
Matt realized that this was one of Hooch's weird-ass
trains of thought where he expected Matt to be able
to read his mind.
that obvious? Horses." Hooch looked up, dark
eyes alive, "horses, Matt."
about horses? Can you, um, start from the beginning?"
Hooch stared at him, dumbfounded. "You didn't
know I..." he trailed off when realization hit
him. "Damn. No, you didn't." He ran a hand
through his hair then kicked back in his chair. "I
spent my life on horseback, before I joined up. Pretty
much all eighteen years of it, minus the baby stage."
eyebrows went up, but then it made sense. The passing
reference to the ranch and the cattle money, back
when Hooch had dropped the bombshell that he was loaded.
"Ah," Matt nodded, "you want to start
didn't hesitate. "Yeah. I got the investment
money for horses, equipment, stable, paddock. I'd
need volunteers and at least one member of permanent
staff. I know jack shit about the psychological stuff,
but I know how to ride a horse."
you going to talk to base about it?" Matt sat
down at the dining table. "Got to be at least
a few guys there who'd know something?"
idea, but how the fuck do I go about finding the rest?"
thought for a second. "I've got to have a ton
or more of shrinks at the gym, and Mandy can scare
up any number of volunteers for anything."
need some proficient horsemen," Hooch added after
a moment, "or horsewomen." He crossed his
arms before his chest and looked at Matt. "This
can work. I bet you anything that being on a horse
is good for anyone. Was for me, I hardly ever got
scratched the side of his nose, still slightly perplexed
at Hooch's new train of thought. "Shouldn't be
difficult, not here. I'll have Mandy put the word
out." He paused. "Do you want me to do anything?"
I'm alright. I better get on with it right away."
to his word, Hooch threw himself into the idea with
the same energy, dedication and excellent planning
and executing skills, as he had always done for his
hardly ever saw Hooch off the phone or the laptop
screen during the next weeks- when he was home at
all. The reports he was getting were positive, and
Hooch's tenacity and focus began to pay off quickly.
Having the funds helped.
was out and about one Saturday, checking up on a few
potential paddocks and sites for stables, when the
landline rang in their apartment.
Matt answered warily. Not a lot of people had the
number, and fewer would call on a weekend.
the voice at the other end was female, Texan. "Hubert?
no, it's his
roommate. I'm Matt." Matt frowned
in concentration, and came to the conclusion this
had to be someone from Hooch's family, but no one
had ever called the landline. "Can I help you?"
hello Matt," she paused, "sorry, I should
have said. I'm Sofia, Hubert's sister, I was wondering
if he was around? He's asked me to send him some of
his old things and I was just making sure I had everything
no, Hooch is out, probably all day." The 'Hubert'
sounded so very wrong in Matt's ears. "Is his
cell off? I could note down a message."
thanks. I tried before but yes, his cell's off. Could
you ask whether it's just his boots and belt and gloves
and hat that he wants, or does he want the old ribbons
and things as well? I'm so glad he's getting back
into horses again. Ask him to call me if he wants
anything else, otherwise I'll send all this off on
eyes had widened at the list, and he had to bite his
lip not to ask any further questions. A roommate wouldn't
be that curious. "Okay, I'll do that. I tell
him to call you back before Monday." He added,
"nice talking to you."
A pause, "nice to put a voice to a name, too.
Bye." The phone call ended with a soft 'click.'
Matt's brows shot up as he stared at the phone. He
hadn't expected Hooch to ever mention him to anyone
in his family. Still bewildered, he replaced the phone
on its charger, then went to fix himself some lunch.
returned a few hours later, short hair tousled, boots
and black denims splattered with mud, but a satisfied
look on his face.
look pleased." Matt observed redundantly.
the perfect location. Stables need renovating, but
foundations are intact, and paddock is large enough,
complete with training yard." Hooch shrugged
out of his jacket, before bending down to unlace his
boots at the door. "Price is higher than I'd
initially budgeted for, but have organized a call
with my financial adviser in Texas, to see what can
of people in Texas," Matt began, "your sister
called. She wants to know if there's anything else
you want apart from," he paused and looked at
his neat notes, "your boots and belt and gloves
and hat, like your old ribbons and things. And she's
glad you're getting back into horses."
looked up, one muddied boot in hand. "She did?"
He stood still for a moment, thinking, before placing
the boot down and working on the second. "I can't
believe they kept the trophies. Stupid sentimentality."
Matt was going to say first, he bit back. He settled
what about them?" Hooch hopped on one sock-clad
foot, while pulling the boot off the other.
did you use to play?" Matt asked, genuinely curious.
"You've seen all mine."
Hooch huffed a laugh and walked over to the couch.
"I'm Texan, guess what I did with them."
He grinned, unusually cheerful.
blinked. "I'm not sure I want to."
response was a short, but full-out laughter. "Nothing
more exciting than rodeos. I did bareback bronc riding."
shook his head ruefully. "Figures, and now?"
I'm too old and fucking worn out to fall off bucking
horses and get back up without an ambulance."
Hooch was about to sit down on the white leather sofa,
but a pointed look from Matt at his muddy denims made
him stop in his tracks.
"Off and into the laundry basket," Matt
inclined his head towards the bathroom where said
basket was located, "and call your sister."
He called after Hooch's retreating back as Hooch stalked
Hooch's voice came from the bathroom, but-as expected-he
did exactly as he was told.
had quickly showered and changed into a fresh pair
of black jeans, his staple civilian wardrobe, and
a t-shirt. Sitting in his study, bare feet on the
desk, he dialed Sofia's number on his cell.
Bozic Callahan," the voice crisp and professional.
don't have my cell on caller ID?" Hooch's way
of greeting, the good humor still lingering.
the voice was surprised. "Perhaps it's because
you don't call me more than once or twice a year.
What on earth are you up to?"
I don't call you more often because you insist on
calling me 'Hubert'." Hooch re-crossed his ankles
up on the desk. "I started a branch of a charity
she seemed momentarily taken aback, "you did?"
Ignoring the comment about his name.
you heard of Horses for Heroes? Deals with injured
veterans. Figured that was a good idea."
no I haven't
" she trailed off. "It
sounds interesting and something that would suit you.
Would you like me to send anything else apart from
your old things? Is there anything I can do?"
I got everything I need here and I don't want any
of my old stuff. Throw it all away. My horse gear
will do." Hooch thought for a moment. "Did
they keep my saddle and tack?"
Hey voice was regretful. "They sold it when they
sold your horses."
on Hooch's end for an uncomfortable length of time.
Finally just one word: "Okay." If his voice
was hard as steel and sharply cutting, it remained
unmentioned. "Nothing else I want, then. Tell
them to throw the other shit out."
will." Simple words. "Your roommate sounds
nice. Another soldier?"
was. Runs the gym now." Hooch was starting to
become cagey. All too quickly the good humored man
Sofia paused. "Have you known him for long?"
curious is all," Sofia had a touch of nervousness
to her voice, "you've never spoken about any
of your friends, and I'd never thought that you'd
share an apartment off-base with anyone."
sat up straight, feet off the desk, and his back rigid.
"You said yourself we talk twice a year on the
phone. I forget your birthday and I forget everyone's
Christmas. I only visit Texas when I absolutely have
to. You wouldn't call us close, would you?"
a pause. "I'll box up your things." Another
pause, "and Hubert?"
frowned, hating that name, hating it more than he'd
ever be able to explain to her without destroying
some of her last illusions about her family. "Yeah."
Matt the Marine who visited you when you were in hospital
after your last mission?"
smallest sound escaped Hooch as he pulled in a shocked
breath, followed by a tell-tale hesitation he couldn't
control. "You saw him." A statement, since
a question would have been redundant.
yes," Sofia sounded confused, "I did, and
he was the only visitor listed for you in the book.
I've been wondering ever since you mentioned you were
about what?" The sharpness and alertness remained
at the front of Hooch's voice.
if he was the same Matt you mentioned you were sharing
the apartment with."
pause, too long for Hooch's usual quick wit. "Yes.
He is." No other explanation, and there wasn't
going to be anything else Sofia would be able to pry
out of him.
another pause. "I'll send your things on Monday."
She knew that she had already got more out of him
than expected. "Let me know if there's anything
I can do for your new organization."
"You mean the offer? If yes, any help with the
books is appreciated."
time. I'll look into charity tax exemptions for you,
I'll send you the paperwork. And Sofia," Hooch
added, "you'll find I'm using my inheritance
for this. So you know."
unladylike snort, but then a smile. "Thanks for
the warning. I'll remember not to be in the same room
when father finds out."
"Fuck him." Hooch shot out, before his brain
shocked silence. "I'll not mention it to him,
whatever." The damage was done. "It's my
money, not his. I don't care if you tell him or not."
He wasn't going to retract what had slipped out, couldn't
undo what he'd done. "It's not your problem,
Sofia, don't worry about it."
long pause. "I have to pick up Martin from soccer,"
it sounded genuine, not an excuse. "But before
Hooch groaned. "Yeah?"
hesitation this time was different, as Hooch slowly
pulled in an audible breath and released it equally
slowly. "That's no problem anymore."
The phone call ended with a soft click.
Hooch put his cell down, gently placing it onto the
desk. He remained in his chair for a while.
weeks later, Hooch was at an equine rescue facility
where he had arranged to inspect a couple of horses
that had previously belonged to a bankrupt trail riding
business. They were on the elderly side, which was
why the company's liquidators had not managed to sell
them with the rest of the horses, but gentle and quiet
and calm, and perfect for what he had in mind.
discussions with the manager, and making arrangements
for the horses to be delivered to the property that
he'd bought, Hooch was distracted by the sound of
a shrill piercing neigh from the barn, together with
the sound of frantic kicking against solid boards.
else have you got in the stables?" Hooch called
the manager back. "What's up with that horse?"
followed his gaze and shook her head. "It's Lucifer.
He came in six months ago, starved and horribly mistreated,
he'd been locked up in a filthy tiny stall almost
since he was a foal. We've tried all we can, but we
simply can't place him or adopt him anywhere with
good conscience. No matter what we try, he can't be
handled by anyone, and he's too dangerous-we've already
had any number of near misses." She gave a sad
shrug. "We've just managed to get him into the
barn to wait for the vet tomorrow." No need for
her to say why.
Hooch's brows rose. "Who named him that?"
He listened to another barrage of high pitched neighs
and frantic kicks. "Can I see him?"
was 'Luke' when he came, but the longer name became
quite appropriate soon after," Cyn's voice was
dry. "You're welcome to, but mind any appendages.
He's a big boy, and a fast one."
don't worry. I used to ride broncos." Hooch turned
back to the stables, following the noise to a single
box, where a dark, wild horse was rearing up, hammering
against the box door in front and kicking the stable
wall in the back.
Hooch approached slowly, letting the frantic horse
see him coming. Pausing when the horse screamed and
reared, but not retreating. Stopping at the door,
while the horse backed into the corner, trembling,
he leaned against, but not over, the door. "Hey,"
he said softly to the horse.
horse's fear was palpable in the air. Fear fuelling
aggression, the hardest kind, but Hooch just stood
still. Close. Non-threatening. "Hey, Lucifer."
Hooch kept talking with the same gentle voice. "Stupid
horse shifted restlessly, but didn't rear or kick.
A large horse, as Cyn had said, rippling with muscle
under the glossy dark coat, which was drenched with
swear. Ears pricked, listening to Hooch.
kill me if I tried to come close, wouldn't you?"
Hooch said softly, with a chuckle in his voice. "So
I won't, not now, but I make you a promise: I will
get close, and I will ride you one day." He stood
and watched the horse, taking in everything. "I
never break a promise." With that he walked out
slowly, without any sudden movement or noise, and
looked for Cyn.
was outside, waiting for him. "You're in one
piece," she observed. "Crying shame about
Lucifer. He's such a stunning colt, but we don't really
have any choice, not when he's so dangerous."
take him." Hooch stated, and before she managed
to get a word in, he raised his hand. "I know
what I'm doing. I'll give Lucifer a home, he doesn't
have to die. I know how to deal with wild and frightened
horses. I'll take him."
looked at him steadily, measuringly, before nodding.
"The paperwork's in the office."
Hooch was about to turn towards the office, when he
stopped. "You're welcome to check up on the horses
may regret that. I'll probably be around your place
all the time. Your idea sounds fascinating."
my idea, I copied it from Horses for Heroes."
Hooch smiled. "We need volunteers who know what
Cyn smiled and scratched the side of her nose. "I'm
sure I can find more than a few people to come by
and lend a hand." They had reached the small
building that served as an office. "It would
not be a good idea to transport Lucifer with Daisy
and Minnie, but we might as well organize it all now."
"I'll get some guys to help with Lucifer's transport
later." Hooch agreed, as they went inside to
deal with the paperwork, which took some time.
that day, after the first two horses had been safely
taken to the new charity stables, and with Lucifer
staying for another couple of days before Hooch could
organize help with the transport, he finally made
his way back home. Somewhat tired, definitely hungry,
and surprisingly content.
was in the apartment, working on an assignment for
his nutrition course when Hooch arrived home, and
raised his head at Hooch's entrance. "What are
you so cheerful about?"
"I got myself a horse today. His name's Lucifer."
Hooch grinned, unlacing his boots.
Matt looked at Hooch steadily, "figures."
He closed the textbook that he was reading from, then
saved his work and closed the lid of his laptop, knowing
that no more work would be done. "How did that
happen? I thought you were going out to look at some
retired old-timers to plod around in circles."
"I was," Hooch shrugged, "but there
was this horse, dark colt, real good stock, but mistreated
and frightened. They called him Lucifer, because he's
out for everyone's blood." He left jacket and
boots at the door, and walked over to where Matt was
sitting. "The horse is aggressive because it's
frightened. It was about to be put down. No one could
handle him." He shrugged again, "so I got
stayed still for a moment, before standing up. "You
might act like the tough-ass Delta, but you're just
a softie inside, aren't you?" Just a hint of
a smile from him.
not!" Hooch was adamant, and he crossed his arms
in front of his chest for good measure. "It simply
made sense. I have experience in riding wild horses,
have tamed a few, too, and that horse is going to
be an excellent one when it's realized it has nothing
Matt nodded sagely. "Whatever you say."
Clearly disbelieving. "Are you planning on taming
and riding him?"
course. Pretty pointless to own a horse otherwise."
used to be thrown off wild horses, yes?"
Hooch huffed a laugh, "that's the point of rodeos."
was before you fractured your pelvis
grin immediately fell. "Ah, shit."
hated the way Hooch deflated, and quickly offered,
"I could research supportive braces for you.
Just to make sure."
chuckled at the 'buddy'. "When do I get to meet
transport him to the stables in a couple of days,
once I've organized some guys to help. Want to come
he was being challenged, Matt rose to the bait. "Sure."
sorted, then." Hooch's grin was back, "you'll
transport turned out to be as much of struggle and
hard work as his name suggested. They needed four
men and all of Hooch's and Cyn's expertise to eventually
get the frightened and aggressive horse into the trailer
and after a short journey, into his new box in the
of them were exhausted, but Hooch had taken the brunt
of the work, staying the closest to Lucifer as was
possible at this stage, without getting killed.
leaned against the stable wall, pulled off a glove,
and wiped his sweaty face with a satisfied grunt.
others seemed ready to drop, and looked from Hooch
to the still nervous horse, as though Hooch was insane.
"Time for a drink, then?" one of them asked.
I could do with one." Hooch focused on Matt who'd
been staring at him in a strange way. "What about
Matt was uncharacteristically inarticulate, "yeah,
that sounds good."
studied Matt for a moment longer, then pulled his
other glove off. "Okay, guys, meet you at the
bar in twenty. I'll finish off here." Everyone
except Matt started to move. "Matt, I could use
Matt was still sounding a little dazed.
the others left to drive to the bar, Hooch opened
the door to the washroom and beckoned Matt inside.
"So," Hooch started as he closed and then
locked the door, "why are you staring at me as
if I'd grown horns?"
" Matt swallowed hard. "That was
amused grin began to spread across Hooch's features.
"Does that mean you're into cowboys? I never
knew that about you, Matt Donahue."
blinked and came back into himself at the teasing.
"Makes me wonder why I didn't know either."
Stepping closer, until he and Hooch were nose to nose.
that means skin tight denims, boots, broad belt and
shirt do it for you, huh?" Hooch rumbled.
hands went to Hooch's chest, lying them flat against
the sweat-soaked cloth. "I think they do."
Matt's mouth so close that Hooch felt his breath,
more than he heard the words.
want to do me, huh?" Hooch murmured, their lips
touching as he spoke. "Right here and now. With
my denims down enough for you to fuck me, huh?"
Pushing forward, until he ground his crotch into Matt's,
hard cock against hard cock.
yes." Matt pushed back, "against the basin,
so I can see your face in the mirror."
like it's going to be a dry run." Hooch didn't
appear perturbed by the lack of lube, just turned
round and moved the few steps to the large basin,
then gripped the stoneware firmly, and bent forward.
Low enough for Matt to fuck him, and high enough for
his face to show in the mirror. Dark eyes fixed on
Matt through his reflection, urging him on silently.
fumbled with both their belt buckles, tugging on Hooch's
jeans, pulling them down with difficulty, before moving
to his own. He pushed Hooch hard against the basin,
who didn't say anything, but his breathing had become
harsh and fast, bracing himself.
no lube," Matt swore, panted, then spat into
his hand. Not enough, but better than nothing, and
Hooch relished the burn of a dry fuck.
matter." Hooch willed his muscles to relax, to
ease the breach. "Come on!" Urging Matt,
who obeyed, forcing his way in as Hooch shoved back
against him, panting and plastering himself against
Hooch's sweat-soaked back.
Matt groaned, going deeper, fingers clawing at Hooch's
hips, pushing harder against the basin.
shit," Hooch gasped out, recklessly pushing back
against Matt, while his own cock chafed against the
stoneware basin with every thrust. "Fuck me!"
and fast against the basin, reaching around to roughly
take Hooch in hand, it seemed barely seconds before
they came, and Matt crashed even more heavily into
Hooch, crushing him against stone, forehead against
the mirror, arms and hands shaking where they gripped
chuckled breathlessly, a rumble against Matt's chest.
"If I'd known you react like that to my old riding
kit, I'd gotten a horse earlier." Blindly reaching
behind himself, he patted Matt's hip.
panted, still catching his breath. "If I'd known,
I'd have got you a horse myself." He slowly withdrew,
pulling up both their jeans, but not cleaning either
turned round and fastened his belt buckle himself.
"I'm going to leak," he smirked, "sweat,
cum, leather and beer." Hooch reached behind
himself and pulled a Stetson off a peg. Battered,
faded and worn, he tipped the hat down low over his
face and grinned. "Doesn't get better than that."
January 2005, Fayetteville
after Christmas and New Year, Hooch had been spending
every free minute at the stables, working hard on
getting the charity into full swing. He was rarely
home, and when he returned at night, he was so physically
exhausted, he fell asleep almost immediately.
didn't notice that Matt spent more time downstairs
with Greg, his time eaten up by the charity, and most
of all by Lucifer, who he was training every day,
didn't notice anything until he came home one night
to find the apartment dark and deserted, no Matt there.
A noise from the parking lot caught his attention-Matt,
being dropped off by Greg after a night out.
himself, Hooch looked out of the window, watching
the two men in the deserted parking lot, illuminated
by yellow street lights. They were laughing, and Greg
pulled Matt back inside for what was obviously a kiss.
froze. The coke can in his hand crushed by suddenly
got out of the car, still laughing, and walked to
the gym door, a spring in his step. Greg was waiting
until Matt was inside, before driving off in his stylish
steps were still light as he made his way up the stairs
to the apartment and opened the door. "Hey,"
he sounded surprised, "you're home early."
was still standing at the window. "Hey."
He turned round to face Matt. "You were out with
Greg." A statement.
Matt dropped his keys in the habitual place, and Hooch
saw that he was carrying a camera case, top quality,
that he'd never seen before. "Photography masterclass."
you in love with him?" The question came out
as if shot from the hip: straight to the point.
blinked, recoiled as though slapped. "No,"
he said too quickly, "just friends. You've never
never before seen you together with any of your guys."
thought for a moment. "You haven't? Ah, no, it's
lunch usually, so you wouldn't."
hadn't left his position at the window, crushed can
still in his hand. "Matt, I'm not objecting to
you fucking other guys." He chose his words carefully,
but each of them was as straightforward as the next.
"Never have, never will, but what I saw didn't
look like a fuck buddy. He's the same guy who a few
years ago complained he'd never been up here, isn't
"Greg? Yes, he was." A pause as though Matt
was thinking. "Yes, he was." he repeated.
Hooch nodded. "Photography masterclass?"
latching onto the other unknown.
"Well, yes," Matt was too used to the way
Hooch's mind worked to be surprised at the quick shift,
"been getting into it more lately, time I learnt
how to use a camera properly."
fingers relaxed their grip on the crushed can fractionally.
"I asked you back then and I ask you now: is
there anything you want me to do, or you want to do
to me, which we haven't done yet? Which you think
you can't get from me and need to get from others?
Or are they things I can never give you, like being
that what this is all about?" Matt sat down heavily
on the couch. "Course it sucks, having to stay
in the closet, but
Hooch finally moved from his frozen stance. He put
the crushed can onto the table and sat down side-on
to Matt on the L-shaped couch. "It's about me
seeing you out there laughing with a guy with whom
you've been out to a new hobby I didn't know anything
about, who took you home, and with whom you've been
having sex with for years. This is simply about me
being..." Hooch hesitated, then used the most
fitting word, no matter how that made him look, "worried
you've fallen in love with someone else."
"Shit," Matt said, after a breath. "He's
a good guy, sure, and we have fun, and he's a friend....but...no."
"Are you sure he knows that?"
"Course he does," the reply was a bit too
what about the others?"
others?" Matt leaned back. "What's got into
you?" he thought for a second, "but for
what it's worth, there isn't anyone else at the moment,
not since Tom took that new job in Turkey and Craig
and Paul got together and moved to San Fran."
Hooch nodded slowly and thoughtfully. "I guess
Greg knows that he's the only one."
shrugged. "I suppose so."
"And he knows I've been hardly ever home lately."
"Not that he has any idea we're not roommates."
Matt, as always, conscious of Hooch's safety, but
now it was entirely the wrong thing to say.
Hooch froze, sitting straight as if he'd swallowed
a rod. "Yeah, shit." Anything else he wanted
to say got caught in his suddenly too-tight throat.
He sat in silence until he swallowed hard, forcing
the words through. "This isn't going to work."
"I could reassure you that I don't mind. That
it's okay, no problem, I don't care who you fuck.
They are your nibbles, nothing else. But it's not
true, because I saw you together and it fucking..."
Hooch stopped, taking a forced breath. "Anyway.
I have no right to be jealous." The admittance
that he was jealous, as unexpected as his return to
Matt's apartment, so many years ago.
go to your club." Somehow Matt made it sound
reasonable, rather than petulant.
"Yes, I do. That's why I have no right to
Hooch could have pointed out that he had no idea who
the men were who did things to him and his body, that
he'd never seen anyone, didn't speak to anyone, didn't
care about anyone, but he couldn't bring himself to
"Do you want me to stop? The fucking or the friendship?"
shook his head. "I don't know. On their own they
are fine, but together they are more."
Matt sighed, and got up to go to the kitchen for a
glass of water. Silently offering the same to Hooch,
who shook his head again. "Then what? It clearly
pisses you off, no matter how much you try to hide
it, and these last few months
been away too much." Hooch finished the sentence
for Matt. "Is that it?"
please," Matt came back to the sitting area,
"don't make me sound like I'm pining. The charity's
important, and you're doing a great job with it. Just
that I would have liked to know you still lived here,
instead of being this shape in the bed that appears
when I'm asleep and is gone by the time I get up."
He turned the glass in his hand, staring at it, before
looking up at Hooch.
"Then what do you want me to do?" Hooch
was floundering. After all this time he still found
it difficult to get to grips with everything a relationship
entailed. "Give me some help, here."
Matt slumped back. "What I want is to be able
to go out with you in this town without having to
watch every move we make; to not have to be careful
about every word I say when I'm talking about you
so it doesn't look suspicious. But we can't do that,
I know. This," he made a vague movement vaguely
taking in the whole apartment, "is the only place
we can be together. And let's face it, I rather miss
the sex lately."
Hooch's voice was low. "Is it just sex we have
when we spend time together?"
smile was small. "It's never been just sex for
us, has it, at least not since you turned up on my
doorstep after we left the Gulf." A statement,
"No, it's not. If it were I wouldn't feel
searching for words again, Hooch had never felt like
this before, and he didn't know how to describe that
hurt at seeing Matt with Greg. "Anyway, it's
not." He ran a hand through his hair. "But
with your job here, mine on base, the charity I'm
trying to set up, and your new hobby, how are we going
to do that relationship stuff?"
Matt bit back a laugh. "Probably the same way
that we've always done the 'relationship stuff'. For
two people who live together we do less than we did
when we weren't. And," he shrugged, "if
you need a hand, I can come out to the stables. And
you curious as to what I take photos of?"
"I guess if you come out to the stables to help,
we could combine that with the sex thing." At
long last Hooch relaxed. "So what are you taking
photos of? Greg?"
almost smiled himself, remembering the time in the
washroom at the stables. "Not just," Matt
answered the question, and reached for his camera.
"Others, too." He turned it on, set it to
view the photos and passed it to Hooch, who started
to flick through the images.
didn't say anything for a while, took his time, looking
at each and every of the shots: all of them of nude
male bodies, and all of them amazing images, capturing
the beauty of skin and muscles perfectly. He handed
the camera back when he was finished. "Wow."
That was all, and it came out stunned and clearly
Matt ducked his head. "Don't suppose you'd want
you like me to?"
single word. "Yes."
I will. Guess we could combine the photography with
the sex stuff."
Matt laughed, "that's part of the fun."
to get started now?" Without waiting for an answer,
Hooch swiftly pulled his shirt up and over his head.
Matt fumbled with the camera, fingers suddenly clumsy.
bent over to pull off his socks, then opened belt
buckle and buttons, and pulled the whole lot down
by lifting his ass off the seat. His briefs followed
the next moment, before he poured himself onto the
couch. Leaning back, legs splayed open, a hand touching
his cock that slowly began to show interest at the
new scenario. "I guess you're not planning on
showing my face."
"No," Matt shook his head, "nobody's.
Just to be safe."
do you want me hard? Want me to spread
my ass? Want to fuck me and take shots of your cock
inside me?" Hooch's slow grin spread, and suddenly
Matt realized something about Hooch he'd never been
fully aware of: the man was an exhibitionist at heart.
had to stop his hands from shaking, or else he'd drop
the very expensive camera. He swallowed, then tried
to answer the grin. "All of the above."
let's get started." Hooch pulled up one knee,
opening wide, and began to stroke his cock to full
hardness. If this was going to be how they spent relationship-time
together, indulging Matt's new hobby, then he was
damned if he didn't throw himself into it with all
following week, when he was due to meet Greg for lunch,
Matt was ready for a difficult conversation. One where
he had to be careful what he said, enough truth, and
enough left unsaid, that Matt could not give Greg
what he wanted, no matter Greg's protestations to
listened, his usual smile fading, angry at first,
but reluctantly accepting in the end. Friends, still,
but the sex was over. When Greg accused Matt of having
a hopeless crush on his roommate, Matt did not deny
it, and left Greg to his conclusion, knowing that
it was the safest assumption for Greg to make.
would keep Hooch protected, and their relationship
as secret as it could be.