Thanks to Wepdiggy for technical consultancy, both in matters military and male.

Casey was just returning from the bush latrine – also known as the third fallen log on the left – and was passing by the tent when he heard his men inside talking in the dark.

They were, in truth, little more than boys who were starting to get a bit antsy waiting for their transportation out after the squad's first black ops mission together, and even though they should have realized their voices would carry in the sultry and still tropical air, they were riding high on the adrenaline rush of their success and throwing caution to the wind. Not that there was a wind.

"Nah, the major's not a poofter," Callahan declared in his rough Cockney accent, a little too loudly for Casey's liking.

"How do you know?" asked Sullivan. The youngest at 21, his voice sounded timid and hesitant, as though he knew this was sure to provoke some kind of insult.

"I asked your sister, of course," replied Callahan, and Casey smirked to himself as the rest of the squad joined the joker's quiet laughter.

Well, thought Casey, might as well let them blow off a little steam if they keep it down to a dull roar, and he was about to turn away and go back to his tent when the sound of Willis' voice caught his attention.

"Yeah, but how do we know? I mean, he never mixes in when we go somewhere on leave and I've never seen him so much as ogle a woman."

Casey's brows drew together over the bridge of his nose. Willis sounded oddly concerned about the issue, as if it were any of his business. Wasn't the official forces policy "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"? Deciding to continue eavesdropping to see where this was leading, Casey walked silently to a nearby tree and leaned up against it, disappearing completely into the shadow cast by the leafy fronds in the half moon's light.

"So what if he is? Doesn't make any difference to me," said Rodrigo diffidently.

"You wouldn't be able to tell anyway, Roddy, the amount of cologne you use when we go out. I'm surprised the women you get action with aren't men," guffawed Marchant, finally throwing his hat into the ring.

Casey heard the sound of a light slap and a sharp "Ow!" from Marchant followed by more soft laughter.

"All I'm saying is as long as he leaves me alone, doesn't matter to me how he gets off. That's all I'm saying," Rodrigo clarified.

There was a moment of silence after this declaration while the men presumably thought it through.

A sly smile apparent in his voice, Willis' next comment seemed purposely calculated to provoke, and what he had to say caused Casey to snap his neck back a bit and scowl again.

"I bet he does it with a rifle. Or one of those big motherfuckers only the secret services seem to be able to get their hands on."

And this was the comment that opened the floodgates, apparently. With all the hushed jollity and half-stifled laughter and whispered remarks falling rapidly one on top of the other, Casey was having a hard time distinguishing who was saying what.

"A pistol and two grenades, you know, so it's lifelike!"

"Oh, baby, you're so long and hard! I can't wait until we shoot together!"

"I always thought he carried that repeater a little low."

Casey couldn't help the beginnings of a smile at the inventiveness of his men's obscenities, even if they were directed against him, and he reached up to smooth the corners of his mouth as he listened to them chortling and slapping each other's backs and generally falling about themselves as much as they could without making too much noise.

But then they went quiet for a couple of minutes, and just as Casey figured they had lost interest in him as a topic of speculation and was about to go back to his tent, Sullivan's gentle voice wafted to his ears again.

"Yeah, but don't you think he seems lonely sometimes? Like a little lost? Like he's lost someone he loves?"

Next was Callahan again. "Been reading the Lonely Hearts column, Sullivan? Who gives a flying fuck? He's a crack soldier, a straight-up guy – in every other way, at least –"

Interrupting laughter.

"– and the best bloody squad leader in the division, and everybody knows it. And he plays a mean game of poker."

"And he can drink us all under the table, too," added Marchant, a tone of awe in his voice.

"That doesn't prove anything," argued Rodrigo in an insistent stage whisper to help his point along. "Just means a limp dick, right, Willis?"

"Maybe a limp wrist too, huh?"

Casey, still standing under the tree, had stopped listening by this point. Sullivan's observation had gotten through the carefully constructed wall that Casey had built up over the past several years, and it stung more than he liked to admit.

It also brought vivid pictures to the front of his mind that he preferred to keep locked away. Pictures of Kathleen. The two of them making love on a Sunday afternoon when they thought they had all the time in the world. The look in her eyes that said he was the only man for her. And the feeling that was right now welling up in his heart that told him he might have made a mistake in letting her go.

Casey settled a little more firmly into the curve of the tree's trunk and let his mind wander back to the first time he had seen Kathleen. It had been at that funky little dive just outside the base on a hot evening a lot like this one. The rest of the guys were horny (as usual) and thirsty, not necessarily in that order, and for some reason, Casey – or Alex Coburn, as he was then – had let himself be talked into joining them on their overnight leave. Alex had mostly spent his free time on the base either reading or watching television, and on the few occasions he had gone in search of some female comfort, it had been alone, discreetly, and without the noise and vulgarity that was ringing all around him now as he stood in a huddle of olive drab near the bar sipping on a chilled beer.

Might as well stay for a couple, then I'll go back to the base, he thought, not caught up in his fellow soldiers' juvenile boisterousness.

Then the door swung open and a group of girls walked in. At first, they looked to Alex like something from a sex show, wearing short, tight clothes and too much makeup. Then he realized they weren't hookers and had only dressed that way because that's how they thought they should dress to come into a place like this. Frankly, Alex figured most of the hookers he had come across in his short life had more subtlety.

The rest of the guys called out rude remarks and the girls answered them back in kind until, as though it were a type of hormone-fueled game of Red Rover, one of the boys broke ranks and strode across the room, two fresh beers clutched between his fingers, to claim his prize, a shapely blonde apparently named Elise, who seemed to be the ringleader.

It was then that Alex noticed the girl beside her. She was of medium height with long curling auburn hair that shone a bit in the bar's garish neon lights. Even from a distance, Alex could see that while she appeared to be enjoying the attention and catcalls, she was also sizing up the entire situation, including everyone in the bar, and adding the data to some kind of mental list she was drawing up. And when she spotted Alex, tucked away behind two of his bunkmates, her smile widened and it felt as though she shot some kind of sex laser towards him from her eyes, causing him to look at the floor and blush. Luckily, he figured nobody could see the flush that raced up his neck and turned his face scarlet, and it was over in a very short time, which was good, because the next thing Alex knew, the girl was crossing the floor and making a beeline for him, much to the general amusement of his fellows.

"Hey, Coburn, looky, looky!"

"It's your lucky night, Coburn! Did you pick up some rubbers from the PX?"

"I guess you finally get to take your dick out for a test drive, Coburn. You sure you know where you left it last?"

"I told you we shouldn't have let him tag along. Now that's one less for the rest of us."

This last comment was made by the man in the unit that nobody really liked anyway, so they all ignored him in favor of yelling out some helpful and graphic pointers to the girl as she got a couple of beers at the bar and grabbed Alex's arm to steer him over to a table near the dance floor.

When they were seated, Alex kept his gaze locked on the tabletop, one hand gripping the bottle of beer the girl had given him and the other draped limply over his thigh. He could see the movement out of the corner of his eye when she took an expert swig from her bottle, and he finally turned in her direction to discover her looking at his face and smiling, patiently waiting for him to react.

"Um, my name's Alex. Alex Coburn," he supplied, hoping that she hadn't been expecting some suave come-on line or a witty observation.

"Hello, Alex Coburn. My name's Kathleen McHugh."

With a bright smile and an intelligent twinkle in her eye, the girl extended her free hand over the tabletop for a shake and Alex complied. When she tried to let go, however, he felt compelled to keep hold of her hand, and the look of delighted surprise that now lit up her face made the blushing start all over again.

"So you're a polite boy, are you, Alex Coburn?" she asked, sliding her chair closer to his by moving her body sinuously from side to side. Alex suspected he was supposed to have a peek down her shirt front during this maneuver, and he carefully flicked his eyes up to her face before instinct could take over.

Kathleen noticed and laughed. "You really are a polite boy," she repeated, and moved in even closer, making sure to brush a breast against Alex's arm when she did the wiggly thing again.

She was about to start up with inconsequential chatter just to see if she could get Alex to open up a bit when he suddenly blurted out, "You're beautiful," and fixed her dark brown eyes with his clear blue ones, causing Kathleen to stop suddenly. All of her over-the-top sexy moves disappeared, and the bright smile was replaced by a look of fascination as the two continued to gaze directly into each other's eyes, oblivious now to the noise, the music, the colored lights around them.

After what was just several seconds but seemed to the pair to be much longer, Kathleen found her voice again and replied with unmistakable sincerity, "So are you."

And that was it. They were in love. It was that simple.

They sat and talked some more and drank their beers, and Alex was glad to see Kathleen's act seemed to be over. She was sexy enough just the way she was without all that posturing, and even though Alex didn't tell her so in words, the way he looked at her and paid attention to what she was saying while casually rubbing his thumb against the back of her hand served to bring out her natural allure even more. And by the time they had had a couple more beers and Alex had allowed himself to be talked into a slow dance, he was becoming intoxicated by her vivacity, intelligence and beauty and hoping that the evening could go on forever.

Well, it did go on, but not in the bar. While they were dancing, Kathleen couldn't help but notice her soldier was experiencing the beginnings of an erection, and she pressed up against him to tease him a little bit, pulling his head down to hers so she could speak into his ear and be heard over the music.

"Have you ever been with a woman before, Alex?" she asked, partly to fuel him up and partly out of curiosity.

"Yes," Alex answered, and tightened his grip around Kathleen's lower back, cinching her to his abdomen and feeling the heat coming off of her belly as his erection filled out a bit more.

"Oh," Kathleen said, and from the puzzled tone of her voice, Alex figured she had expected a different answer entirely.

Deciding that now would be a good time to make a move, Alex whispered back in a throaty bass, "But now I only want to be with you, Kathleen," and he pressed his lips to the pulse point just below her ear, giving a little nip with his teeth before straightening up again.

Luckily, Kathleen had been clinging to his arms because her knees seemed to give out on her a bit at this point, and Alex prevented her from falling to the floor by wrapping a strong arm around her back underneath her shoulder blades. He guided her over to their table so she could pick up her purse, and they walked out of the bar together, trying to ignore the new round of catcalls that erupted when both the soldiers and the rest of the girls noticed they were leaving early.

They found a cab in a group waiting in the parking lot and rode in silence the short way to a motel along the highway. It was the kind of place where they didn't ask questions and didn't care whether their guests had luggage – as long as they had cash up front, that is – and after Alex had paid and gotten a key, they walked hand-in-hand to a room around the back and went inside. It certainly wasn't much to look at, but it was essentially clean, and the dim light served to camouflage the few stains on the floor and holes in the wallpaper that were big enough to see right away.

Not that Alex and Kathleen were doing an inventory.

As soon as the door was closed and locked behind him, Alex reached out with both hands and circled them around Kathleen's back. Bending down, he found her mouth with his as she reached her arms up and around his neck, and when he straightened his spine, pulling her feet into the air as he went, her legs came up and wrapped around his waist, which placed her crotch against his partial erection and caused him to swell rapidly, straining the fabric of his fatigues in a rather large bulge.

Still kissing with mouths closed, Alex reached down with both hands and pulled Kathleen's tiny skirt up to her waist and out of the way so he could plunge first his fingers, then his hands under the back waistband of her panties and over her buttocks, his fingertips moving forwards between her thighs where he placed them on the outside of her labia and rested them there. He groaned deep in his throat when she bucked a bit on him and moaned, rubbing even harder against his super-sensitized penis, and when he withdrew his hands from between her legs, she dropped her feet to the floor and released his neck, breaking the contact of their kiss so they could help each other undress.

Amid a flurry of dark green and brightly colored fabrics, they panted with deep, open-mouthed gasps and were soon both naked, Alex's stiff cock in the air between them making Kathleen's eyes go wide with anticipation and delight. He reached down and picked up his pants, pulling a condom out of one of the leg pockets and putting it on as she continued to watch. Then he embraced her again, moving his hands rapidly over her body, caressing her back, her neck, her breasts with practiced fingers as he flicked his tongue out to touch her lips and open them for their first deep kiss.

But it was as though Kathleen were in a trance. She was obviously feeling every single thing he was doing to her, both individually and as a whole experience, relaxing into the sensations he was creating as she gave herself up to him right away, and Alex too was instantly mesmerized.

So-called "nice girls" often didn't really like sex so much as the idea of having a man, and Alex more or less expected to have to work at getting them comfortable and relaxed and wet, then distracting them long enough from any other concerns they might have so he could get off. Whores, on the other hand, were usually too adept, and he often got the feeling that they were working from a memorized checklist instead of just being able to enjoy what was happening. Considering it was the sex trade, this approach wasn't unreasonable, just not as satisfying for Alex as being with a woman who was living in the moment, reacting to him in a genuine way, and heightening his reactions as he watched hers unfold.

He decided on an experiment and reached down again, between their bodies this time, tickling the tops of Kathleen's thighs so that he was also just lightly brushing her pubic hair with his fingertips. He then wormed his fingers between her labia, stiffening the joints and thrusting them quickly inside her, making sure to locate her clitoris with his thumb to rest it firmly on top. He then waited to see what she would do.

She was marvelous. She gasped, opening her mouth so he could extend his tongue inside and push her head back in an impassioned kiss. She began to move her hips around wildly so his fingers and thumb would stimulate her, both internally and externally, and he slipped his fingers in and out in a wide circular motion that extended the sides of her vagina, rotating his thumb at the same time as she just got wetter and wetter.

Finally removing his mouth from hers so he could gasp a couple of breaths, Alex was at first a bit surprised then overwhelmingly happy when Kathleen started to plead with him breathlessly, and he looped an arm under her buttocks, lifting her into the air again and taking her over to the bed where he gently laid her on her back as she whimpered over and over, "Alex, Alex, please, I want you. Please, I want you in me now, oh, please, Alex, please."

He knelt between her knees and she scooted her bottom downwards so her thighs came wide apart. As they looked into each other's eyes again, Kathleen placed the head of Alex's penis at her opening and he began to push in slowly, groaning as the tight muscles of her vagina squeezed around the vertical bands of throbbing flesh, and when she had taken his full length, they kissed tenderly before his hips took control.

Kathleen was magnificent. She was there with him every moment, and he could feel her moving beneath him as though they had already done this a thousand times. Her skin was flushed and beads of sweat had formed on her upper lip. Her eyes focused and unfocused as she turned her attention to first Alex's face, then the feeling of his hard cock pushing and sliding inside her, then back to his face again.

Alex increased the speed and power of his thrusts as Kathleen's excitement added to his, and he knew it wouldn't be much longer when her hips started to twitch in a convulsive way that put extra pressure on the base of his cock at the moments he was all the way inside her. And when she instinctively tilted her pelvis so that it allowed his scrotum to hit against the soft flesh of her buttocks at the same time, well, it was game over, so to speak, and he cried out in a stifled groan as he stopped pushing to concentrate on the pulses of his ejaculation.

And when it was over and he had removed the condom and cleaned himself up a bit in the bathroom, they sat on the bed together, Alex with his back against the headboard and his legs apart with Kathleen sitting nestled between them, her shoulder resting on his chest and half-turned so they could see each other's faces and kiss occasionally as they spoke quietly about nothing, his arms holding her close, his eyes saying to her what his words could not.

Casey's attention snapped back to the present, instinctively triggered by the subject of conversation continuing in the tent nearby. The men were still speculating, but at least, considering this new topic, they seemed to have swung things around to Casey's probably being not gay. But the big man wasn't sure what they were discussing now was necessarily an improvement.

"So what do you think, boys, the major and the general?" Callahan's voice would likely have had a hearty ring to it if they weren't still trying to keep somewhat quiet.

"Oh, boy, could you imagine? Talk about mama issues!"

"Be a good little boy, Johnny, and make your general proud."

"And make her satisfied while you're at it."

"And don't forget to stand up straight. No, the little major!"

"Drop and give me twenty, and make them hard, soldier!"

Well, this certainly wouldn't do. Trash talking Casey was one thing; doing the same to his superior officer, especially when she wasn't around to defend herself, was another thing entirely. Casey stepped resolutely out of the shadows and marched to the tent's opening. He lifted the flap with one hand and barked out, quietly, "Fall in, double time!"

All conversation ceased immediately and the five men filed out, ducking their heads to get through the tent's opening and keeping their eyes averted from what they knew, even in the dark, was their commanding officer's hawklike and piercing gaze. When they had lined up standing at attention, they continued to swivel their eyeballs here and there – anywhere but towards the large and imposing shadow that towered over them menacingly, scaring them all much more than the dangerous operation they just completed had.

"Men," began Casey, thinking quickly about how to handle the situation most effectively. "You've all just been through your first black ops mission and, may I say, did surprisingly well –"

Five spines straightening a little more with pride.

"– for a bunch of sniveling, shit-pants pussies who can't even find their dicks, let alone know what to do with them."

Five spines sagging a just a tiny bit.

"Now, I know you're good soldiers, every last one of you. Even you, Callahan. And I know that nerves and celebrations can get the better of even the best of us, but there are lines that should not be stepped over. Under any circumstances. Ever."

Casey paused for a moment to build dramatic tension and to help highlight what he was about to say.

"This unit is discipline, not built on discipline, but is discipline. And that means not only obeying orders but not leaving any chinks open – like lack of respect for the superior officer of your superior officer – so that the thought of not obeying an order can get in. And that's not just for show; it can save your lives, as it has mine on many more occasions than I care to name."

Now to let them know they were going to be let off the hook. This time.

"Now, I may have only imagined I overheard something I never thought possible from well-disciplined and smart soldiers like yourselves. Am I right? Was it my imagination?"

Casey only had to wait a fraction of a second before he got the response he was expecting, which was delivered in unison, as though the men had rehearsed it.

"Yes, Major, it was your imagination!"

"Good. I'm relieved," Casey said, allowing a hint of a smile to alter the strict tone of his voice just a bit.

"At ease, men. Now, we should be out of here within the next ten hours and winging our way back to civilization. And where there's civilization, there's steak and beer."

Murmurs of approval.

"And where there's civilization, there's also women."

Heads turning and slight swaying, more murmurs of approval.

"And where there's women, there's lots of sweet, hot fornication."

Much to Casey's surprise, it was Sullivan who broke protocol by answering, "Amen, Major," and setting off a new round of quiet laughter.

"That's all, men, dismissed," Casey said, chuckling along with his squad.

As Casey spun to return to his tent to wait out the final few hours, Callahan – wouldn't you know it would be Callahan? – took the opportunity while his commanding officer seemed to be in a good mood to ask, "And will you be joining us, sir, on this next mission? The cunt hunt, I mean?"

The area was immediately plunged into silence as the four other men sucked in and held their breaths, waiting to see what kind of horrible punishment would be meted out first to Callahan and then to themselves by association for such an audacious question.

Casey, however, kept his calm. He turned around very slowly and appeared to ponder what had been said before answering, "No, Callahan. I already have a date. In Manila. With a gorgeous vintage Garand M1 30-aught-6."

And when he turned to leave the area, Casey was pretty sure he could hear the sound of five jaws simultaneously hitting the ground.