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Delta Company Beechcroft Officers Training School (Beechcroft Military Academy)

Marcus sat behind his desk and shuffled papers around. He had been in favour of this promotion for a star pupil and he was pleased that it had gone through. Now he had the honour of telling Paul, who should be on his way and none the wiser. The message had been formal and cryptic. Just the way Marcus liked things.

Paul strode across the parade ground, scowling past the brim of his cover. He hated cryptic, and he hated the C.O.’s cryptic messages most of all. He scattered cadets before him, not even noticing them. At the C.O.’s open door, he came to an abrupt stop and saluted.

Marcus looked up and then after a moment or two returned the salute. ‘Have a seat, Sergeant.’

Paul marched across the room. ‘Colonel.’ He sat.

Marcus picked up a few papers and looked at them. ‘I suppose you are wondering why you are here? I was a bit...subtle in my summons.’

‘Subtle? More ... cryptic. Sir.’

‘Yes, well that was deliberate. I have some news that I would like to share with you. It concerns you and your next appointment.’ Marcus said and looked at Paul again.

Paul returned the look. They sat staring at each other. ‘And will you be sharing at any time?’ Paul finally said.

‘I will. Let me be the first to congratulate you as our new Regimental Sergeant Major.’ Marcus smiled.

Paul blinked. ‘Thank you,’ he said. He managed a smile. ‘I was expecting less good news.’

‘Oh, there is less good.’ Marcus agreed.

‘I knew it,’ Paul said in a melancholy tone.

‘You are staying at Beechcroft. Poker on Saturday?’

‘Are you cracking open the good whiskey?’

‘Oh, yes. A party in your honor. Now stand up.’

Paul obediently stood up.

Marcus walked around the desk and when he was standing in front of Paul he reached over and took his cover.  Careful so as to not stab himself he removed the stripes there and replaced the badge with the new one.  ‘There, now it’s semi official.  The ceremony won’t be for a few weeks but I thought you might want to get acquainted with your new insignia.’ He reached over to his desk and then dropped a set of keys in Paul’s hand. ‘Office and you get your own flat.’

Paul’s smile was genuine. ‘Excellent. Is it a long way from the cadets?’ he asked, only half-joking.

Marcus raised an eyebrow. ‘Far enough to where they won’t bother you when you’re there. Close enough that you won’t calm down if you get called to duty.’

‘Thanks. I think.’ Paul grinned. ‘Ready for lunch?’

‘Starved.’ Marcus said and grabbed his hat. ‘It’s going to be a ceremony of promotions. You’re last for the wow factor though. It isn’t everyday someone gets RSM.’

Edward poked his companion. ‘You’re drooling, mate.’ The dark haired youth didn’t stir. Edward sighed and tried to push him off. ‘Buggerations.’

Ethan opened an eye and sat up. ‘Sorry.’ He said and wiped his mouth. ‘Are we there yet?’

Edward looked around. ‘It’s very green. I’m guessing not quite yet.’

Ethan looked out the window and sighed. ‘I hate waiting. I shouldn’t but I do.’

‘You can go back to sleep. If you promise not to drool,’ Edward joked.

‘Can’t now. I’m awake. I’m Ethan.’

‘I’m Edward.’

‘Pleased to meet you, Edward.  What possessed you to enlist?’

‘Pleased to meet you. There’s insanity in my family.’

Ethan grinned. ‘I wish. Oh, wait, there must be insanity in mine somewhere.’

Edward nodded sagely. ‘There usually is. Somewhere.’

‘Not my reason but it’ll do for now. I’m not sure I’m cut out for this but we shall see. I can always quit.’

‘Best not to mention that as soon as you get there.’ Edward leant back against the head rest. ‘I fancy blowing stuff up.’

Ethan blinked. ‘Okay. Remind me to not piss you off then.’

‘My dad said I probably shouldn’t tell them that as soon as I get there either,’ Edward grinned.

‘Best not. I like building things. We are on opposite sides of that fence.’

‘I’ll try not to blow up anything you build then.’

‘I wouldn’t take it personal.’ Ethan said. ‘God I would love a drink right now.’

Edward blinked. ‘I don’t there’s going to be a lot of that in the first couple of weeks. Unless you meant tea.’

Ethan looked at him. ‘Bet? I have ways. Besides they can’t watch everyone all the time.’ Then he sighed.
‘Well, the thing is I hate to drink alone. I will need to find a drinking buddy.’

‘I like a drink. Beer mainly.’

‘Beer’s good. Tequila is better.’

‘Tequila is bad. It is evil. Or is it that the liver is evil, and should be punished?’

‘I don’t do it often. Makes me stupid and sick but every so often I forget and she rears her pretty little head and lures me in.’

‘Like I said. Evil. Oh, I think we’re here.’ Edward pointed out of the window.

‘Huh, it’s still green.’ Ethan grinned at the many men running or walking and all wearing green. Bad green at
that. ‘Those clothes are horrible. No one told me that bit.’

Edward looked over Ethan’s shoulder. ‘Maybe they’ll let you alter yours. Pretty it up with a bit of lace, a few darts, a little something something.’

Ethan looked at Edward and snorted. ‘Lace? Do I look like lace to you?’

‘Leather and studs?’ Edward’s grin widened.

Ethan raised an eyebrow, ‘Whips and chains.’

‘Not sure how you’re going to incorporate that into a uniform.’

‘Carefully,’ Ethan said and stood up. ‘No one’s moving.’ He sat back down. ‘What are we waiting for? New Year?’

‘I think... we’re waiting ... for ... that man with the stick.’ Edward pointed.

Ethan looked and blinked. ‘Think he just pulled it out of his arse? He looks like he did.’

‘Well, if he did, he’s got another one up there.  Ooh, shouty.’

Ethan took his fingers out of his ears, ‘What?’

‘I said he was shouty. But you knew that.’

Paul was standing at the bottom of the bus’s steps and ordering the new cadets off the bus. They were very slow.

Ethan blinked again and watched as the bus slowly unloaded. Finally it was just him and Edward and he stood up.  As they passed by he looked at the shouting fool and snorted, ‘Small space, you don’t need to shout so loud, we’re right here, mate.’

Paul stopped the teenager’s progress so suddenly that the boy behind him almost fell over him. ‘Name,’ he snapped.

Edward ended up squished against Ethan. ‘What’s with the traffic jam?’

‘Ethan.’ Ethan said and held out his hand. ‘You are?’

Paul looked down at the proffered hand. ‘You are going to be trouble, aren’t you? I am RSM Jones, or Sir. NOW MOVE IT!’

Edward prayed that Ethan didn’t feel compelled to point out that they had been moving.

Ethan looked at RSM Jones and put his hand down. He walked or more sidled past and then stopped, ‘We were moving...Sir.’ Then he hopped off the bus. ‘Well, this is dismal.’

Paul felt his palms itching. He was going to have to keep an eye on that one.

Edward poked Ethan in the ribs. ‘Can we at least get our pretty green clothes before you get us into trouble?’

‘Pretty green clothes, yes. Where do we go for those?’ He walked over to the closest person and tapped him on the shoulder. ‘Excuse me.’

‘Hang on a minute, Dylan,’ Jack said quietly and turned round. ‘Yes?’

‘Where do we get the pretty, and I use the term loosely, green clothes? My mate here is anxious to fit in.’ Ethan looked at the man standing in front of him and his insides went to jelly. He was beautiful.  Other parts of him woke up and he blushed.  Maybe his Da was wrong after all.

Jack frowned. ‘I’m sure I heard the RSM tell you to wait over there,’ he pointed to the other new cadets were waiting in a loose group. ‘Are you two hard of hearing?’

‘He didn’t say that to us. Well, maybe, I had my ears covered.’ Ethan said, ‘Clothes? Any idea?’

Dylan was doing his best to not laugh but the smile played around his lips.

‘When it is time for you to get your clothes, you will be told. Try listening from now on. Now go and join the others.’ Jack waited, but the two newbies just stood there. ‘NOW!’ he barked.

Edward was wondering about the wisdom of hooking up with his new friend. He sighed. At least it wasn’t going to be boring. He almost yelped when the cute looking officer shouted.

‘Fine,’ Ethan said and turned around and walked away. ‘Bunch of nutters.’

Jack had turned back to Dylan to carry on his conversation, but he quirked his brow at that. ‘Trouble. I wonder if he’s yours or mine?’

‘Darling he will be ours, if he ends up with either you or me. Same company now remember...Commander.’ Dylan said.

‘I remember. But he might end up in your platoon,’ grinned Jack. ‘Speaking of, we should get onto this before Mr Shouty turns his attention to us.’

‘I want him.’ Ethan said to Edward. ‘Excuse me for a minute or two while I change places with that man over there.’ He winked.

Edward blinked in confusion. He couldn’t work out what Ethan had worked out, and he was still trying to fathom it out when Lt. Commander Flanigan strode in and started counting them off. A few minutes later,

Ethan was back next to him. ‘Go on, explain that to me.’

‘Numbers, Edward, even and odd. I wanted to be odd. Simple.’ Ethan shrugged. ‘I now have my commander and better yet I have you.’

‘Oh. OH!’ Then Edward shook his head. ‘No, still not really getting it. Your commander?’

‘I wanted to be in his barracks. Did you pass your tests or did daddy pull strings?’

Edward punched Ethan in the arm. ‘I’m not stupid. Just sleep deprived.’

‘Get used to it. Now maybe we get our clothes. Pasty isn’t going to look good in that colour though so you should take a nap.’

Dylan walked over to Jack and grinned, ‘Guess what? You get them both. I don’t know about you but I think one of them is trouble and the other is going to follow trouble.’

Jack frowned. ‘I know he switched places, I watched him do it. Presumably with the intention of ending up with his buddy. It was either that, or my winning personality.’

‘Little boy has a crush?’ Dylan looked over at the two of them, ‘He is pretty though. You could do a lot worse.’ Then he looked at the other one, ‘Cute too, but not really my type. Oh, well, he’ll come along one day.  I’m taking mine to the barracks now to get them settled, see you at teatime.’

Jack nodded. ‘Do you have a type? At all?’

‘I’ll know him when I see him, Jack. That’s all I can say. Blonde, brunette, red head but I will know him.’ Dylan said and walked away blowing his whistle. He hated to have to yell.

Jack herded his platoon into the barracks, got them suited and booted and left them to settle down for an hour before tea.

Ethan threw his stuff in the locker and then looked at the bed. ‘Basic innit?’ He said as he started to make it. ‘The blanket is wool too. I really thought we were going to be able to use some of our own things. Why tell us to bring them?’ He looked over at Edward. ‘At least you’re here and will keep me safe. No one messes with someone who likes to blow things up.’

Several other cadets looked at them.

‘I have no idea. You should ask.’ Edward lay back on his bunk, his fingers laced behind his head. ‘And I said I fancy blowing stuff up, not that I like it. I don’t know if I like it.’ He closed his eyes. ‘Yet.’

Ethan snorted and since he wasn’t tired decided to take a look around. He had changed into the not very pretty green clothes but the hat was left on his bed. He went outside and looked around the grounds and then just put one foot in front of the other to see where they took him. ‘Hello. What’s this? A pub? Or sort of pub?’ He checked his pockets and walked inside.

 Paul was walking towards the mess hall when he spotted a cadet heading for the wide blue yonder. He frowned and followed.

Ethan ordered a beer and sat down at one of the tables in a corner. As he sipped he looked around and thought about getting to grips with the whole “you’re in the army now” thing. It was not going to be easy even for him.

Paul ordered a half pint and then walked over to the cadet’s table. He put down the glass, turned the chair round and perched. ‘You’re going to be trouble, aren’t you?’

Ethan blinked, surprised to be having company. ‘Me? No.’ He shook his head. ‘I’m very mellow.’

‘Uh huh.’ Paul sipped his drink. ‘Welcome to Beechcroft. There are rules, it being the Army. Your platoon commander will undoubtedly explain them to you in due course. The most important rule for you at this moment is “do not leave the premises without permission”. There are others. Where the hell is your cover?’

‘Commander, that would be the pretty dark haired guy right?  He gave us these lovely green clothes. Or at least Edward thinks they are lovely. I’m not so sure. Could I get them in blue maybe?’ Ethan asked. ‘Would it help if I said there was no one around to ask? On my bed.’

‘Jack? I suppose he could be described as pretty. Although I don’t think he would appreciate the description. Blue? You joined the wrong service for blue.’ Paul took another sip, wondering if successive groups of cadets were progressively driving him to drink. ‘If you don’t know, don’t assume it’s okay. Ignorance is no defence at Beechcroft. Your cover should be on your head.’

Ethan looked around and then back at Paul, ‘I joined the Army. Isn’t this the army?’ He looked a little worried, ‘I do not habitually make asses of me and you, so no assuming. I’m not in the habit of asking anymore.’ Ethan raised his eyes to try and see his head and then looked back at Paul, ‘It really is a horrible hat. Are there other styles?’

‘No,’ Paul said shortly. ‘We favour the uniform look. So to speak. It’s time to go back to camp, it’s almost time to eat.’

‘Okay, nice talking to you.’ Ethan raised his glass in salute.

Paul smiled. It was not a nice smile. ‘Both of us.’

Ethan cocked his head and pushed his chair back, ‘You need to work on that one mate. I think you should stand in front of the mirror for a few hours to get it right.’

Paul stood up. ‘Move it.’

‘Bossy, aintcha?’

Paul reached over and grabbed Ethan’s collar, frogmarching him towards the door. The barman had clearly seen it all before, because he just carried on polishing glasses as though nothing was happening.

‘Hey now, gentle with the baby.’ Ethan said and wriggled. ‘Oi, let go.’

Paul gave Ethan a shake. ‘I’m always gentle with babies. You, on the other hand, are a teenager with an attitude problem. And I am skilled in the art of attitude adjustment.’

‘Don’t shake. I do not have an attitude problem. I am sweet and happy for the most part. No thanks to my parents but I have to say if you don’t let go we are going to have a problem, mate.’ Ethan dug in his heels and glared at Paul.

The barman looked up at that then wisely returned to his polishing.

‘Cadet, you are in a hole. I recommend you stop digging.’

‘Stop calling me that, my name is Ethan. What hole?’



Paul was seriously considering finding a wall to bang both their heads against. It might help. ‘Disobedience. Disrespectful. Downright annoying.’

Ethan blinked, ‘Whatever. Are we eating or what?’

‘Or what.’ Paul marched them back to the camp and straight to his office. ‘Front and centre, cadet.’

Ethan looked around and then at Paul, ‘I don’t know what that means, is it an army thing?’ His tone had changed a lot and he looked confused.

‘Stand in front of the desk. In the centre.’

‘Oh, I can do that.’ Ethan said and looked at the desk, moved, looked again and moved a little more. ‘I think this is right.’

‘Would you like a tape measure?’ Paul asked, amused in spite of himself.

‘No,’ Ethan looked around himself, ‘I’m pretty sure this is right. Unless you’re off centre but you look like you’re in the middle.’

Paul looked at Ethan. Then he looked some more. ‘Do you have a problem with authority, Cadet? What is your surname, anyway?’

‘O’Donall. My Da is Irish.  No sir, I do not, why?’

‘Because, Cadet O’Donall, you are cheeky if not plain rude. You weren’t drafted, you wanted to come here, and the vast majority of cadets are aware of the honour of being selected to attend the most prestigious officer training college in the country. You, cadet, do not appear to be aware of that honour.’

‘I’m good with tests.’ Ethan shrugged. ‘Actually I’m here to see if you can beat the gay out of me like my Da claims.  I read some stuff and decided it might actually be fun, are you someone important or something?’

Paul blinked. ‘I am ... someone. If you continue to misbehave, I will be your nemesis. I am the RSM, which
stands for Regimental Sergeant Major. For you and for every cadet that passes through these halls, that means that I will kick your arse if you step out of line. And I have a feeling that you’re going to need a lot of arse-kicking.’ He sat down with a thud. ‘But I won’t be beating the gay out of you.’

‘So do I get a pass this time or does the arse kicking begin back there? RSM, kinda has a ring to it doesn’t it?  I think, RSM, you will find that I will be an excellent officer and a credit to the army.  Time will tell. Why not? My father is counting on it. He will be unhappy.’

Paul snorted with laughter. ‘Sad to say, your daddy is out of luck. We don’t beat the gay out of anyone here.’

‘Well, personally, it’s a relief, girls are just...girls.’

‘They are that. Is that the only reason you’re here, or the only reason your father wanted you to be here?’

‘My Da. Me I’m here because I want to be. I could be back at uni, getting drunk, sleeping in, going nowhere, fending off the female population. They like me for some reason, maybe because I can dance.’ Ethan shrugged.

‘Apparently girls haven’t yet made the connection between dancing and homosexuality. As for the arse-kicking, if you’d have come back  from the pub without protest, you might have got away with a bollocking. As it is...’ Paul stood up and removed his jacket. He rolled up his sleeves and walked over to the row of filing cabinets, where he picked up a vicious looking cane. ‘Assume the position.’

Ethan looked at the cane and then at Paul, ‘What position?’

Paul sighed. ‘Put your hands on the desk in front of you.’

Ethan did, ‘Like this? What are you gonna do with that? My Granddad has one and it’s a bit thicker, I don’t think it’ll hold your weight.’

‘It’s not a walking aid. Move your hands forward 12 inches or so.’

‘Okay.’ When he did he found that his fingers curled around the farther edge of the desk, ‘Not very comfortable.’ He never had his arse kicked in quite this way before and it seemed a little strange. Maybe this RSM  couldn’t get it up any higher?

‘It’s not supposed to be comfortable.’ Paul flexed the cane and then swung.

Now a lot of people might stand up when a cane lands on their virgin tushy but Ethan was Ethan and he deflated. He brought both hands up and formed a circle with his arms and laid his head down. Tears sprung to his eyes and he shivered. All very quietly.

Paul landed a second stroke just below the first and a third just below that. Then he put the cane down. ‘You can stand up when you are ready, Cadet,’ he said in a more gentle tone.

‘No, I can’t. You broke me.’ Ethan mumbled between trying to catch his breath and sniffing. Within a few minutes though he did stand up and got a head rush, so he turned around and leant against the desk only to stand up again.  He wiped his nose and eyes and blinked the tears that still lingered away. ‘Why did you do that? Whatever possessed you to do that?’

‘It’s what I do.’ Paul said simply. ‘You misbehave, I punish you. It’s very straightforward.’

Ethan thought about that and then he nodded. It sounded reasonable. ‘Okay.’

‘Now we’ve sorted that out, I’m going to escort you back to your platoon, and inform your platoon commander that he should keep a close eye on you.’

‘Whatever you want. I surrender. That was not nice.’

‘It’s not supposed to be nice.’ Paul held his hand out to Ethan.

‘I think we’ve gone past the handshake, don’t you?’

‘It’s traditional. Unless you’d rather have a hug.’

Ethan walked over and laid his head on Paul’s shoulder. ‘I’d rather have a hug.’

Paul put his arms round the teenager. ‘You’ll get used to it.’

‘Doubtful.’ Ethan said and closed his eyes.

Paul didn’t say anything.

Jack glared at Edward. ‘Well, where is he?’

Edward blinked. ‘I dunno.’

‘SIR!’ Jack barked.

‘I dunno, SIR!’ Edward responded. ‘I was asleep. Sir.’

Jack snorted, his snort encompassing both cadets who fell asleep during the day, and cadets who absconded less than two hours after arriving.

Paul coughed. ‘I think I have your cadet, Sir.’

Jack turned round. He glared at Ethan. ‘You do.’

‘I think any further conversations should wait until after dinner, Sir. The Colonel is waiting.’

Jack’s only reaction was a slight eyebrow twitch and he gave the order for the cadets to file out to the mess hall. He glared at Ethan again, promising retribution.

Ethan ignored the glaring and went over to grin at Edward, ‘What did you do? I thought you were sleeping?’

Edward glared at him. ‘I got yelled at because you were missing, idiot, and therefore unavailable for yelling at.’

‘That’s stupid. Did you tell him you’re not my mother?’

‘No, because I hadn’t got past the shrugging and saying “I dunno” stage. Come on, I’m starving.’ Edward pointed in the direction of the stream of cadets. ‘And some of them look like they will eat all the pies.’

Ethan followed along and when it was his turn picked through a few things and disregarded the rest. He found a place to sit and sighed. ‘Not nice at all.’ He muttered.

Edward looked at Ethan in confusion. ‘It doesn’t look too bad. Well, considering.’ He poked his meal. ‘See, I can get the fork in, how bad can it be?’

‘No worse than Uni food.’ Ethan said and took a bite, ‘Oh,’ he spit the food into his napkin, ‘that’s worse.’

Edward tucked in. ‘Try the stroganoff, that’s pretty good. What did you pick, the curried eel?’

Ethan took a bite of Edward’s food and decided it was pretty good. He got up and dumped his tray and went and got the stroganoff instead. ‘Much better,’ he sighed.

Edward grinned. ‘So did the RSM yell at you?’

‘No, he caned me.’ Ethan said and took another bite. From now on he would let Edward go first as far as the food went. He was obviously much better at it.

‘He did what?’ Edward’s jaw almost hit the table.

‘Used a cane?’ Ethan stopped eating and looked at Edward. ‘Are you alright?’

‘I’m fine. Are you fine? Why did he do that?’

‘I’m fine,’ Ethan laughed. ‘He said I was naughty and annoying him.’

‘Were you?’

‘Probably,’ Ethan grinned.

‘What kept everyone? Dylan and I have been waiting for forty minutes now.’ Marcus said. He motioned for a cadet to serve and shook out his napkin and put it in his lap.

‘Jack lost a cadet. I found him.’ Paul sat down and opened up his own napkin.

‘I didn’t lose him. Little bugger just took off when my back was turned.’

‘Don’t lose my cadets, Commander. Thank you for rescuing him. I presume he understands he should not do that now or are you letting Jack handle him?’ Marcus asked.

‘I think he understands. I’m not sure, he might be a little touched.’ Paul shook his head. ‘He’s certainly going to be trouble.’

‘Are we talking about O’Donall?’ Dylan asked finally coming up for air. ‘He tested out really well except he has identity problems.’

‘Oh, you are with us,’ Paul commented. ‘Well, I’m not sure I like his current choice, hopefully he’ll pick another one for tomorrow.’

Jack grinned and tucked into his meal. ‘I’m looking forward to it.’

Dylan looked at Paul, ‘What does that mean?’

Darius plopped himself down and put his head on the table. ‘I’m dying and no one cares.’

‘Poor baby,’ Damon said as he sat down. Then he concentrated on his dinner.

Paul quirked his brow. ‘He has a problem with authority.’

‘No, Sir I do not!’ Darius raised his head and looked bleary eyed at Paul. ‘I am a kitten when it comes to authority.’

‘Does he? I thought he was rather shy and withdrawn. What did you do to him?’ Dylan asked.

Marcus looked over at the cadets and then back at Paul and Dylan. He couldn’t see it but he had little to no contact with the cadets.

Paul gave Dylan another look. ‘You’re pushing, Lieutenant. And this is not the place for this conversation.’

‘Not you, doofus,’ Damon said, elbowing Darius in the ribs.

Dylan looked at Paul and sighed, ‘Sorry, RSM. I’ll just eat, shall I?’

‘We can talk about it when we go through the files tomorrow,’ Paul relented.


‘Oh, well, that’s alright then. I can eat.’ Darius said.

‘I’m wondering if a surprise inspection is in order.’ Marcus threw out.

Jack looked at the Colonel.  ‘Could we have time to teach them to lace their boots and button up their uniforms, first, Sir?’

Marcus laughed, ‘If you must. If you make me wait too long I will bring Timmy along though.’

Edward punched his pillow and tossed and turned. ‘This is not comfortable,’ he hissed in Ethan’s direction.

Ethan had been lying on his back with his hands laced behind his head and he turned to look at Edward,
‘Come here,’ he whispered.

Edward crossed the short distance to Ethan’s bunk. ‘What?’ he hissed.

Ethan pulled him down and wrapped an arm around him, ‘Now, shut up and go to sleep. I’m fairly comfy.’

Edward closed his eyes and within moments he was snoring softly.

Ethan smiled to himself and the next thing he knew it was lights out.

Jack flicked on the lights and blew several short blasts on his whistle. ‘That never gets old,’ he grinned as confused and half asleep cadets fell out of bed.

Ethan grabbed tighter to Edward so he wouldn’t shoot out of bed. ‘Shh,’ he placed a finger to his mate’s lips. ‘If we’re quiet maybe he’ll go away.’

Edward groaned as the noise continued. ‘He’s not going,’ he mumbled past Ethan’s finger.

Jack strode over to the large lump on one of the bunks and yanked off the covers. ‘UP!’ he barked.

Dylan finally made an appearance and decided to let Jack handle the twins while he herded the rest to some sort of order.

Ethan untangled himself from Edward and stood up. ‘It’s very early.’ He pointed out.

Edward rubbed his eyes and looked blearily at Jack. ‘Why are you in my bedroom?’

Jack stared at the two of them. ‘You are in the army now. SO MOVE IT!’

Ethan looked at Edward and pulled him over into a hug and then glared at Jack, ‘You don’t have to be loud, where do you want us?’  Maybe he would rethink these things when he had a moment to himself.

Jack looked at Ethan and wondered if Paul was right. ‘Get dressed. In your uniforms. It is time for breakfast.’

Edward nodded. ‘I can do that.’ He nodded against and reached for Ethan’s boots.

‘Unif...oh, yes sir.’ Ethan said and took his boots away from Edward. He gave him a push in the right direction and then went to get his own out of the locker.

Jack folded his arms and waited. These two were going to be trouble.

Edward found his own clothes and started dressing.

Ethan put his uniform on and his boots and then sat down on his bunk. ‘Dressed now.’

Darius walked into the room and looked around. ‘You there, yes you, put your trousers on moron and then stand at the end of the bed.’ He turned around, ‘You stop crying.’

Damon was waiting. And waiting. It was cold. He snorted and started jogging towards the barracks. Apparently three officers were incapable of getting a bunch of cadets out of bed.

Dylan finally had most of them dressed, well they dressed themselves, he had shown them how to make their bunks and stow their gear and now he was shooing them out to Damon and good riddance. ‘Step lively, ladies, the cooks don’t want to be dishing our breakfast at dinner time.’

Darius pointed towards the door and sent more out. He was not going to be a happy camper if they were all this stupid. He knew that him and Day never had been this bad. They were perfect.

Jack pushed Edward and Ethan towards the door. They were the last two cadets to leave the barracks, and he hoped it wasn’t going to be a regular occurrence.

Damon gestured the stragglers towards him. ‘Form up and get a move on or there won’t be anything left apart from the porridge. And you really don’t want the porridge, cadets.’

Darius helped to get everyone lined up and then cringed when Dylan blew his whistle to get them moving. No one wanted porridge.

Ethan traded places with Edward so he could take the same food and followed along at the slow pace of fifty young men moving in a single line.  This was going to be boring even if there was food at the end of the rainbow.

Jack joined Dylan. ‘I’m thinking that one is going to be trouble.’

‘Apparently you aren’t alone in that thinking. Time will tell though. Maybe you should have a chat with him, Jack. I would but I’m supposed to be touchy feely right now and that wouldn’t do. Darius tuck your fucking shirt in. Then give me twenty.’ He turned back to Jack, ‘He needs buttons.’

‘He has buttons. Are you suggesting extra ones? Maybe round his waistband?’

Yes, Jack, that is exactly what I suggesting.’ Dylan said.

Jack thought for a moment. ‘I don’t think it’ll work. He’ll pop ‘em off every time he has to bend over.’ He grinned. ‘Maybe an all-in-one?’

Dylan thought about that, ‘It might work, think we could get it with a flap in the back?’

‘Khaki onesies? Do you think we could patent them?’

‘Don’t see why not. If we get them made up and shove our boys in them they would be in uniform. We’d
just have to make sure that it was a done deal before Paul got wind of it. He’d nix the whole thing.’

Jack nodded. ‘Hey, we could do them with numbers on the back like football players. So we could identify them when they’re running away.’

‘Now we just need to figure out how to keep the damn covers on their heads.’ Dylan said. ‘Damon beat us again. Think there’s any food left?’

‘He’s probably left us the porridge.’ Jack punched Dylan in the arm. ‘Hoods!’

Dylan blinked, ‘That would work. We could get Damon’s mum to make them, she loves a challenge. Fifty onesies, with hoods and flaps.’

‘In khaki. Don’t forget that bit. Come on, I’m starving.’

Dylan followed Jack into the mess hall, then headed to the table and sat down. ‘Is there any coffee left?’ He asked Damon as Darius came over with a tray with four mugs on it. ‘Gotta love him some of the time.’ Dylan grinned and took a mug.

‘You’re on your own for food though. Unless Jack’s getting some for you too.’ Darius said.

‘I got Damon’s leavings. Twice.’ Jack handed Dylan a plate of food. ‘We were saved from a porridge worse than death, anyway. Does anyone actually eat that?’

Damon shook his head. ‘It’s nasty.’

Darius nodded in agreement and Dylan thanked Jack before digging in.

Ethan sat down and put salt and pepper on his eggs. He had gotten the porridge just to see and tried it, spitting it into his napkin. ‘They were right about that. I think we could use it for paste though.’

Edward looked in the bowl and then poked the substance tentatively. ‘Not very sticky, maybe it would set hard enough to use as concrete?’

‘Let’s take it back with us and find out.’ Ethan said. ‘It can be our experiment. Concrete could be cheaper and made in vast quantities. If they can make it microwavable that would be even better.’

‘And if you get really, really hungry, you could nibble the walls.’ Edward snagged a piece of bacon fat off Ethan’s plate. ‘That’s the best bit.’

‘That is a heart attack waiting to happen.’ Ethan snorted, ‘So it would serve two purposes. We could get rich but first we have to find out how they make it. Shall I go or do you want to?’

Edward pursed his lips. ‘You go, I think you’re probably better at schmoozing.’

‘Possibly.’ Ethan finished off his coffee and headed to the kitchen.

Darius watched him go and went back to his food. He was not going there. Nope.

When Ethan came back and sat down he put a slip of paper in front of Edward. ‘Our secret recipe.’

Edward looked at the piece of paper. ‘That’s ... porridge.’

‘Of course it is, that’s what we were talking about. The secret is this bit, over salt and really thick.’ Ethan said.

‘Ah. And yuck.’

Ethan rolled his eyes.

Edward snorted.

The morning was spent running. And running. And running. Ethan stopped running and stood still. He had run enough. Now he was done. He looked around to pick a direction and sighed. Woods, barracks, mess, offices. Well he knew which three directions he wasn’t going in.

Jack had been keeping an eye on the cadet most likely to be a thorn in his side. He spotted said cadet heading for the hills, well, the woods, and he loped after him.

Ethan trotted along and stopped long enough to pick a few flowers. They would look nice in the bay area. He could hear water and he headed for it. This could be such a nice place if they just made paths to walk along. Even cadets needed time to rest and recoup after all.

Jack watched Ethan’s progress with a mix of confusion, annoyance and amusement. He was beginning to wonder if the boy was touched.

Ethan sat down next to the small pond and watched as the wind made ripples in the water. He looked around and picked up a few pebbles to toss in. Beechcroft wasn’t going to change him he decided. He wouldn’t miraculously like girls, he wouldn’t be hard, he would never “man up” and he didn’t much care right then.  He told himself to just take a few minutes and then go back and be the best that he could. He tossed another stone and sighed, if he could get those bloody officers to back off for a bit anyway. What was with the running thing anyway?  He was almost convinced it was to see who puked first.

Jack sat down next to Ethan. ‘Penny for your thoughts?’

Ethan looked at Jack and smiled. ‘I had a few, you want to hear them all?’

Jack nodded. ‘I’ve got time.’

‘Okay. I don’t want to change. I like me. I’m never going to like girls, I can’t man up and be what I’m not.  I want to be good at this though, the best that I can and what’s with the running? Didn’t the others have to go through that damn fitness test before they were even let in the doors? On a much more personal note, I think you are beautiful.’

Jack was confused. ‘I’m confused. Why would you even have to change?’

‘The last argument, if you want to call it that, with my Da was about my sexuality. His parting words were to join the army, it would make a man of me. A proper man.’

Jack leant over and kissed Ethan hard on the lips.

Ethan’s eyes widened and then he kissed Jack back and moved closer. The few pebbles left in his hand fell to the ground and he reached up and wound both arms around Jack’s neck. The only thought going through his head was “he even tastes good.”

Jack wrapped his arms round Ethan’s waist and pulled him closer. When they finally came up for air, he laughed. ‘You’re pretty good for a straight boy.’ His gaze narrowed. ‘I know you switched to be in my platoon. So you better be the best damn officer you can be.’

‘I’m not straight.’ Ethan stated the obvious.  His green eyes twinkled and he grinned, ‘I will do my best and I’m sure you’ll be right there telling me I can do better.’

‘Oh, yes. Think of my boot permanently up your arse.’ Jack grinned and went in for another kiss. ‘And hopefully it won’t be the only thing up there,’ he said softly.

Ethan let him kiss him again and then he pulled away and looked at Jack, ‘Maybe in a bed though? I mean, this is pretty and all and romantic but for a first time I think clean, comfortable and warm might work better.’

‘You could be right about that. But we’re missing lunch, and it’s steak pie. I love steak pie.’

‘Me too.’ Ethan was up and running away almost before the words were out of his mouth. He found Edward and slid into a chair next to him. ‘Nice run, cadet?’

‘Not bad. What happened to you? You look all ... sparkly? Glowy? Pink?’

‘I went to find a pond and had an epiphany. Oh, and I got my very first real boy on boy kiss.’ Ethan grinned.

‘Go you.’ Edward grinned back. ‘With your pretty occifer?’

‘Yes. My pretty occifer.’ Ethan put his fork down. ‘Have you had sex?’

‘Not this morning, no.’ Edward gave Ethan a look. ‘No, not exactly.’

‘Drat. I was hoping for some pointers. I guess I’ll just have to let him lead then.’ Ethan said.

‘Hopefully he knows what to do. It’s not the sort of thing you can ask ... “Hey, are you sure you know what you’re doing back there?” Or maybe you could ask for a CV? So it got that far? I mean that you know it wasn’t just a kiss, I mean?’

‘You think he’ll want to do it that way, not face to face? Can we do it face to face? I’d like to look at him anyway.  I don’t have a CV, do you?  Well mine would have two kisses on it now. God, Eddie, I’m eighteen and no nothing, that is so wrong.’ Ethan shook his head, ‘Not just a kiss, he said he wanted to, I believe him.’

Edward shrugged. ‘What do I know? A bit of kissing and feeling up does not an expert make. No, I don’t have a CV, idiot, I was joking.’ His eyes widened. ‘Seriously, he just said he wanted to sleep with you? He’s not messing about.’

Ethan cocked his head, ‘Well, if he is he is going to be very sorry.’

‘I didn’t mean it like that, I meant he’s not wasting any time.’

‘Oh, sorry. Maybe he’s horny? I should have a talk first, shouldn’t I? I mean, just let some guy jump me that quick? He should have to chase me a little bit.’ Ethan said. ‘I don’t want him to think I’m that easy.’

‘No, maybe just a little bit easy?’ Edward grinned.

Ethan slugged him. ‘Well, he might of just been blowing smoke, he didn’t ask me out or over or anything.’

‘Give him time, Ethan. Finish your lunch or we’ll be the only ones in here.’

Ethan ate and then finished his milk. ‘Okay, Mum, all done. Should we go and see what the mean men in uniform have for us this afternoon?’

Dylan was all alone at the officers table, the others having eaten and left to get set up for the next exercise.
‘Hey, Jack, you look ... smug. What did you do?’

‘I am smug. I have addressed my cadet problem.’ He picked up a knife and fork and dug into his pie. ‘I’ve been looking forward to this all week. In fact, since I had it last time.’

‘They do make it well. I had salad with mine. I had the cooks put a second one aside for you just in case.’ Dylan said. ‘Okay, I’ll bite, what did you do?’

‘I kissed him. Worked like a charm.’

‘You...Do you even like him?’ Dylan asked.

‘I like him a great deal. He’s got ... the most amazing eyes. What, you think I’m just adopting a new disciplinary technique?’

Dylan snorted, ‘You’ll beat him silly if he steps out of line, so that would be a no. It might work and it might help him to realise who he is too. Him and Cadet Blunt seem to have hit it off really well too. I hear they were in bed together.’

Jack quirked his brow. ‘Sometimes cadets find it hard their first night away from home,’ he said.

Dylan looked at Jack for a few minutes, ‘They do. In this case I think it was an uncomfortable bed. I changed the mattress on Edward’s bed.  Remember our last year that guy that got really big? It was his. I thought we threw it out but apparently not.
And before you get all bent, or more bent, their body language says “mate” all over it.’

Jack relaxed slightly. ‘I knew that. Where’s that second pie you mentioned?’

‘I’ll just fetch it for you to make up for being a naughty boy.’ Dylan said and got up. He came back and set it down in front of Jack, ‘I do love to watch you eat. If you weren’t a Top or I wasn’t I would take you to bed myself just because.’ He winked.

Jack snorted. ‘If you like watching men eat, I’m surprised you can keep your hands off Damon.’

‘Not men; you.’ Dylan said. ‘Just like I love to watch Paul walk the grounds or Darius climb rope or Damon backing up a hummer.’

‘That is hot, isn’t it?’ Jack said with a grin.

Ethan couldn’t sleep. His mind refused to shut down and he blamed it all on the Commander. ‘Drat.’ He threw back his woollen blanket and sat up. There was nothing to do for it but to get up and go for a run.
He bit his bottom lip and grabbed his toe, the one he stubbed on the leg of his bunk and hopped around in a little circle. Once the pain subsided he dressed in Beechcroft sweats and sat down to put his trainers on.

Edward lifted his head off the pillow. ‘Where you going?’

‘For a run. I need to clear my head so I can sleep.’ Ethan said quietly.

‘Hang on then.’ Edward sat up and reached for his track pants. ‘Just in case you stand in a rabbit hole and break your ankle.’

‘Not gonna happen but you are welcome to come along.’ Ethan grinned and waited for him to finish dressing.

Edward finished tying his laces. ‘I’m set. Lead on, MacDuff.’

‘Gotta be quiet though going past the offices.’ Ethan put a finger to his lips. When they got to the door he went down on all fours and crawled across then turned around and motioned for Edward to come ahead.

Edward dropped to the floor and crawled after Ethan. He managed to find a drawing pin half way across the danger zone and he almost turned purple trying not to yelp. He crawled the rest of the way with his teeth gritted.

Ethan had clamped both hands over his mouth when he saw that and tried very hard to mentally cheer
Edward on. He grabbed him up when he got across and hurried them outside. ‘Okay, now you can scream.’

Edward gasped for air. ‘I think it’s all gone. What kind of a moron leaves drawing pins on a floor where a person might kneel on it?’

‘Beechcroft Commanders and their assistants I would think. Evil, sadistic, brutal beings that they are.’ Ethan said. ‘Pub’s open, want a beer first?’

‘Good idea. I didn’t bring any money though.’ Edward reached down and rubbed his knee. ‘I wonder if my tetanus is up to date.’

‘Pour some alcohol on it then.’ Ethan pulled a couple of twenty pound notes out of his back pocket. ‘Always come prepared, mate.’

‘Vodka for my knee, a pint of Old Peculiar for me.’

Ethan got him settled and then went and ordered for them, brining the drinks back and a shot of vodka.


‘Cheers,’ Edward saluted Ethan with his pint. He rolled up his pant leg and doused the hole with the vodka.

‘Meep. Jesus, do they use industrial size drawing pins at Beechcroft?’

‘You’d know, you knelt on it. Maybe I should go for sniper, I have a good eye for things. There’s just one problem with that though.’ He took a large swallow.

‘Which is?’ Edward downed a third of his pint in one go. ‘I needed that.’

‘Apparently you did.’ Ethan grinned. ‘I is afeered of guns.’

Edward snorted into his beer. ‘Idiot.’

Ethan shrugged. ‘Maybe.’

‘You’re in the Army. There are guns. Maybe you should have joined the RAF.’

‘There are no guns, cadets, only weapons,’ Darius said as he sat down. ‘What are you two babies doing out of bed?’

Edward looked at Darius innocently. ‘We’re sleepwalking?’

‘You know, I’ve tried just about all the things in my time here. So what are you doing out of bed? I don’t care so don’t worry about me. Just don’t get caught and make sure you’re back in bed to get woken up.’ He stood up and pushed his chair back in and saluted them both with a grin and went back to his table.

‘They haven’t got a clue,’ he said to Damon.

Damon sighed into his beer. ‘You know, there’s an outside chance this might become our fault.’

Darius looked at him, ‘How could it? Maybe we should go find a quiet spot where we can be alone?’ He dug in a pocket to see how much money he had left. ‘I got enough for a few more drinks. We could get a bottle.’

Damon checked his pockets. ‘And crisps.’

‘What do you suppose he really meant by that?’ Ethan asked.

Edward looked across the pub. ‘Don’t get caught? Is that code for something?’

‘Probably for don’t get caught. Now I know it’s Dylan’s night on and he is nose deep in paper work. I know this because I hid all the paperwork this week and he just “discovered it”. Jack is wherever Jack crawls off to when he isn’t on and we know where the Bobsey Twins are.’ He looked over and frowned, ‘well, where they were. So we should be fine.’

Edward nodded. ‘So, just don’t get caught. Easy enough. Everyone’s busy, and no-one’s looking our way. Time for another one? As you’re paying?’

‘Why not.’ Ethan went and ordered and brought back crisps too. ‘How’s the knee?’
‘It looks fine to me. I think I’ll make a full recovery, after a lengthy recuperation and much bed rest. Or a plaster. Ooh, crisps.’

‘I can swing a plaster. I think the powers that whistle might not understand bed rest.’ Ethan picked up his beer and took a sip.

‘I thought as much,’ Edward said dolefully. ‘Salt and vinegar or cheese and onion?’ he asked, holding a packet in each hand.

‘Half and half? Best of both worlds.’

Edward tipped the contents of both bags onto the table. ‘Your word is my command.’ He grabbed a handful and crunched happily.

‘I don’t think I could handle the responsibility.’ Ethan chomped a crisp.

‘You do know Beechcroft isn’t a posh finishing school, don’t you?’

‘That is where you are wrong but I’ll let you figure that one out, laddie. Come on, drink up then and lets get out there and see the sights. I found a pretty little pond before, I can’t wait to see what we discover.’ Ethan draind his glass and set it down with a bit of a bang. ‘Sorry, sorry.’ He said to the man behind the bar. The guy was in a uniform so not a proper barkeeper.

Edward drained his second pint, finished it off with the dregs of the vodka and hoovered up the crisps. He burped. ‘I’m set.’

Outside Ethan looked both ways and made a decision before he started off at a trot. ‘Go slow, don’t want you to hurt that more.’

‘I’m fine,’ Edward hiccupped. ‘Scuse me. Watch out for fox holes. Sorry, rabbit holes. Or any kind of holes.’

‘Not a problem Eddie my boy,’ Ethan said and ran full out for a mile or so. He slowed down some and let Edward catch up and then kept pace with him. ‘Still fine?

‘Yes.’ Edward stopped and threw up. ‘Much.’ He wiped his mouth and grinned. ‘Where’s this pond then? Reckon you can find it in the dark?’

‘Haven’t I ever told you I can find anything at anytime?’ Ethan stopped and walked along with Edward then.

‘Feel better now?’

‘Told you. Much better. Better out than in, my mum always says. I reckon it was the smoked haddock I had for tea. My infallible system failed.’

‘Ah, maybe I will have to take a closer look when we are eating. Although, I feel fine.’ Ethan said as he stepped to one side so he didn’t step into the pond. ‘See, here we are.’

Edward sat down on a convenient rock. ‘It’s very pretty. Romantic, even. Is this where your occifer kissed you?’

‘It is.’ Ethan said as he skipped a stone across the pond. ‘Funny about that though, he’s pretty much been ignoring me now. I think you might of been right before. Good thing I didn’t pop into bed with him, innit?’

‘Maybe he’s waiting for the right moment. It’s only been two days.’ Edward skimmed his own stone. ‘It’s not like I’m an expert.’

‘Maybe, you not being an expert and all. Anyways I’ve pretty much decided to go ahead and let him even if it is just a fuck.’ Ethan skipped another.

‘Then you’ll be completely fucked,’ Edward said with a grin.

Ethan looked at Edward and then broke out laughing. ‘Very probably.’

Edward lay back on the grass and looked up at the stars. ‘I’ve never seen the stars look so clear. Too many lights where I lived.’

Ethan went and laid down next to him and looked up. ‘I grew up in a small village in Ireland. Lots of stars.  I’m an only child. My parents are professional people that didn’t really want children so I was an oops.  I think I blocked the who was to blame arguments out of my head though, I don’t remember them anymore.’

Edward turned his head towards Ethan. ‘You know, from the little you’ve told me, I think you’re better off out of there. My parents are teachers. I think they’re a bit shocked by my career choice, but they’d be proud of me whatever I did, I think.’

‘Oh, it has nothing to do with what I do for a living. When I left I was in my first year of Uni, studying architecture, and I plan to go back to it. I like to build remember?  They object to me. My Da thinks the army will somehow make me straight and here’s me deciding to let some guy bed me. Honestly though? I kinda like him. Okay, you pulled it out, I like him a lot.’

‘I’m a master interrogator.’ Edward closed his eyes. ‘He’s cute, but he’s not my type. Which is handy, because otherwise I would have to fight you for him.’

‘What’s your type then? How can you have a type if you haven’t ever tried anyone? He is not cute, he is bootiful. He’s got the most amazing eyes.’

‘I want Indiana Jones. Not the adventurer side, the mild mannered University professor side. With elbow patches. On his jackets, not his actual elbows.’

‘Isn’t Harrison Ford straight?’ Ethan looked at Edward.

‘Does that matter? I don’t want Harrison Ford himself.’

‘Oh! You want someone like who he played only not the ... oh, duh, sorry, I am sleep deprived. Well, this isn’t so far from a few universities. We should take a day or two and go have a look.’

Edward nodded and yawned at the same time. ‘Ow. I think I dislocated my jaw.’ He yawned again. ‘Must be the fresh air.’

‘Must be. When I was little I used to run for miles at night.  I’d collapse somewhere and when I’d get home my mum would ask if I wanted boiled or scrambled. They never missed me.  It feels strange to have complete strangers monitor my movements now. I feel like they are watching every move I make sometimes.’

‘They are. It’s like that Police song. “Every step you take, every move you make, I’ll be watching you...” but hopefully not in a creepy stalker way.’

‘I love that song but I know what you mean.  The first time I saw that video I freaked out. I learned to play the bass because of it though.’ Ethan said and wiggled around until he had an arm under Edward’s head and he pulled him closer. ‘So far the best thing about this place, besides you, is the obstacle course. I really love that.’

Edward rested his head against Ethan’s shoulder. ‘It is great, isn’t it? I’m still looking forward to blowing stuff up.’

‘I can’t wait to see you do that too. Maybe they’ll let me build it first. Make a wish,’ Ethan pointed at a falling star.

Edward closed his eyes. ‘Made one,’ he said. ‘How about you?’

‘Yeah.’ Ethan said.

Paul stood by the teenagers’ heads and looked down. ‘Well, this is delightful. Hopefully you’ll never be in a position where an enemy is sneaking up on you, because based on your performance tonight, you are both dead.’

Ethan slowly closed his eyes. Then opened them. ‘Oh look, we are in hell and brought the RSM with us.’

‘That was not what I wished for,’ Edward said in a petulant tone.

Paul reached down and grabbed. ‘Up you come, children.’

‘Nope me either. Maybe he grabbed our wishes and stomped on them. You are a ... ouch! Damn that hurts.’ Ethan stood up.

Edward yelped and followed his ear. He didn’t have much choice. ‘Ow, ow, ow.’

‘You two are quite the nuisances. Back to camp, we have an appointment in my office.’

‘I don’t think I have ever been called that before.’ Ethan said and then blinked. ‘Oh, no. I didn’t like that last visit. I will pass. Thank you.’

‘Hey, I heard about that. I don’t want to go, either. How about we all just go back to bed?’

Paul ignored them both and marched them on towards their doom.

‘Bed sounds like a good idea. I might even sleep now. You should be in bed too. I hear the elderly need more rest, or is that less? I never get that one right.’ Ethan said.

Edward wondered if there was a history of mental illness in Ethan’s family.

‘Be quiet,’ Paul barked.

Ethan turned his head, holding onto Paul’s hand and asked, ‘Why?’

‘Because you are babbling, and it is the middle of the night. I don’t do babbling, especially before I’ve had coffee.’

‘We can get you coffee. If that would help.’ Edward was trying to be helpful.

Ethan nodded. ‘We can, actually I could make us coffee. I make very nice coffee.’

‘Office.’ Paul was not in the mood to be placated with coffee.

Ethan rolled his eyes. ‘What I would like to know is why are we letting you do this? I mean we are grown by world standards, we can work, drink, join the army, so why?’ He looked over at Edward. ‘Do you have an explanation for this submissiveness we are exhibiting?’

‘That’s a question for yourselves, not me. As cadets, we expect obedience and the following of rules. You are singularly bad at following rules.’

‘He’s holding our ears?’

‘So because you expect us to obey your every whim and wish we are being dragged along like errant school boys? I wouldn’t run away you should know.  I don’t know about him.’ Ethan hooked a thumb at Edward, ‘but I would bet my life he wouldn’t run either. Want to give us a try and see?’

Paul quirked his brow, but released the ears in question.

Edward rubbed his ear. ‘That’s very painful, you know.’

Ethan nodded in agreement. ‘The Head at my school used to use it too. Bastard.’  He shoved his hands in his pockets and followed after Paul. The man walked fast so Ethan kept him in sight but didn’t push himself to keep up.

Edward trotted faithfully along next to Ethan. He had a feeling that this was not going to end well.

At the camp gates, Paul saluted the guards on duty and ushered his charges through. From there it was only a few hundred yards to his office.

‘So if you find this professor type guy before your time is up are you going to get off base housing or make him live on base? I can’t see a professor living with a bunch of army people but if he’s the Indy type he might get off on that. You’ll find him jumping out of planes.’ Ethan said as they jogged.

‘I don’t know, really. Off base, I suppose. Like you said, I can’t see a professor shacking up with a bunch of cadets.’

Paul stopped outside his office and waited for the cadets to catch up.

Ethan thought about that and nodded. ‘I suppose it would depend on how social he was. I don’t remember Indy being overly so. I think that they are hermit like at birth.’ He stopped and grabbed Edward’s arm. ‘Do you think they come out with an air that says he’s here but you can’t see him?’ He wasn’t paying enough attention and bumped into Paul. ‘Oh, sorry.’ He took a step back. ‘Are we there yet?’

Paul sighed and pushed the door open. ‘Yes. Inside.’

Edward  peeked into the office. It looked vaguely threatening. ‘Do you mind if we don’t?’

‘I will protect you from the big bad boy scout.’ Ethan said and took Edward’s hand.  He stepped through the door and had a sudden jolt of de ja vu and shook it off.

Paul closed the door. ‘There are rules about when you can or can’t leave the campus.’

Edward nodded.

Ethan pulled Edward closer and echoed his nod. ‘Yes, Sir. It follows the not leaving without permission theme, I think.’

‘And you know what happens when you break the rules.’

Edward nodded even more energetically.

Ethan looked at Edward and snorted, ‘Oh? Do tell us then. I am all agog.’

‘Eh? I was just agreeing,’ Edward said. He grinned. ‘It seemed wise.’

Paul wondered if it would hurt a lot if he tried banging his head against a brick wall.

‘Well stop it. You don’t know what you are agreeing to.’ Ethan said. He looked at Paul and raised an eyebrow, ‘You don’t look so good RSM? You feeling alright?’

‘I’m just tired. It’s with being so elderly.’ Paul picked up the cane. ‘Cadet O’Donall. You know the drill by now, we’ll start with you.’

Edward gulped.

‘Ethan, please, I think we are on a first name basis by now. Although RSM is a funny first name.’ He walked over to the desk and reached for the far side. ‘Be gentle.’

‘I like it. It’s catchy.’ Paul flexed the cane then brought it down on the waiting buttocks.

‘Fuck me.’ Ethan breathed out. He was sure the RSM had practiced in between these times.

‘Shh,’ Edward said. He wasn’t sure Ethan should be propositioning the RSM.

Ethan laid his head down and tried to think happier thoughts. Although he nearly laughed when Edward shushed him.  He’d have to ask him why later if he remembered.

Paul landed a second and third stroke, and then added a fourth for good luck.

Edward winced. This was not good. Not good at all.

Now he was sure that there had been practice going on and Ethan was not a happy boy. The second stung but the third did him in and he felt the tears well up and spill over.  ‘Oh... my... God.’ He said to himself softly. He wanted this over and done, he wanted Edward over and done. He wanted to go back to his bed and whimper...a lot.

‘You can stand up now, cadet.’

Edward was not happy to hear that. That meant it was almost his turn.

Ethan stood up and walked over to Paul, ‘May I go please? Or do you want me to wait for Eddie?’

‘You can go.’ Paul squeezed Ethan’s arm.

Edward gave Ethan his best sad puppy look.

Ethan wanted to go and lie down but he couldn’t after looking at Edward, ‘Sir, I’ll wait. Eddie...needs me to.’

Paul nodded. ‘Cadet, you can assume the position.’

Edward walked over to the desk and gripped the other edge as he had seen Ethan do.  He closed his eyes and tried not to tense.

Paul brought the cane down on Edward’s buttocks.

Edward squeaked.

Paul followed up with two more strokes and then told Edward he could stand up.

Edward turned to face the RSM, tears in the corners of his eyes. ‘Ow,’ he said quietly.

Ethan had stood leaning against the wall and when he heard Edward’s voice he looked up at him. ‘Come on, Poppet.’ He held his arms out to his mate.

Edward fell into Ethan’s arms and buried his face in his friend’s shoulder. ‘Ow,’ he muttered again.

Paul put the cane back. That one was definitely a brat, but he was not totally sure about Ethan.

‘I know.  It’s okay now though, it’d done.’ Ethan said softly to Edward. He looked at Paul over Edward’s head and smiled. ‘Sorry, give him a minute, okay?’

Paul nodded. ‘Not a problem.’ He turned the kettle on.

Ethan would have sat down but that would mean trying to carry someone he looked in the eye so not an option. Instead he swayed back and forth and held Edward tightly.

Edward wiped his face on Ethan’s shirt and straightened up. ‘Thank you, Mr. Jones,’ he said quietly.

‘You are welcome, Cadet Blunt. Cadet O’Donall, take him back to bed.’

Ethan raised an eyebrow at that but he really didn’t have the energy for it now. ‘Yes, Sir.’ He said and opened the door. When they were out in the hall he looked at Edward, ‘You got snot on my shirt.’

Edward gave Ethan a watery smile. ‘I did. Sorry about that.’

‘You get to do the laundry this weekend. Come on, let’s get some sleep.’

Back in the bay he sat down and stood back up a little faster. He knew it wouldn’t last for very long from the last time but right now, it stung. He stripped down to his boxers and tee shirt and crawled into bed. ‘Hustle, cadet, the bed’s getting warmed for you.’ Ethan held the blanket up a ways in invitation.

Edward grinned and stripped down to his skivvies. He jumped into bed and cuddled up. ‘Shh, baby’s sleeping.’

Ethan tucked him in and closed his eyes. Life was good. Mostly.

Dylan wandered over to the RSM’s office and stood outside the door with a pouty lip. He knocked on the frame and batted his eyes.

Paul looked up. ‘Seriously? You’ll be blowing me kisses next.’

Dylan blew him a kiss and then grinned. ‘I need a favour.’

‘Come in then. The kettle’s just boiled.’

‘Oh, lovely.’ Dylan sat down and sighed. ‘Some bright cadet hid my paperwork for the week and I am not totally happy about it. So my favour is this. I need the next two days alone in my office to get this done by the weekend for the Colonel. Is that possible or do you absolutely need me out there?’

Paul looked at the timetable for several moments. ‘That’s doable. But don’t forget to eat.’ He steepled his fingers and looked over them at Dylan. ‘And do you know which cadet?’

‘I have a pretty good idea. He’s going to be a handful I think. Hopefully Jack will get off his arse and do more than just kiss him next time.’ Dylan said. ‘Tea would be nice.’

Paul sighed. ‘Bloody officers.’ He got up and poured water into the pot. ‘Biscuit?’

‘Yes, please. How’s the war going between you and the terrible twins? Although, to be fair, Edward is more a follower. Maybe he should follow someone else.’

‘I think Edward’s destined to be a follower. He might be a brat, but he’s not naturally inclined to get himself in trouble. He needs a catalyst, and Ethan’s it.’ Paul handed Dylan a mug of tea and a plate of cookies. ‘I think the battle has barely begun.’

‘Think you’re up for it? And before you get your panties in a knot, I only mean because you aren’t that long back and you just got this promotion. I thought Edward might be a brat.  You’re sure about that? I have my special book for them you know.’

‘Oh, I’m definitely up for it. Edward definitely. Ethan I don’t know.’

‘I’ll stick him...whatdaya mean you don’t know? You? Not know?’ Dylan set his mug down and looked at Paul with something close to disbelief.

‘I don’t know. He’s ... an enigma. I know he would be a brat with Jack, because Jack’s a Top, and Ethan’s in love. But I also think if he met the right person, he could be a Top. He’s ... complex.’

‘You...hmm.’ Dylan sat back and thought. ‘Well, he’s here right now. If he takes on the brat role with Jack then he will with you and me, let’s just work with that and at least Edward has someone to give him the attention he needs.’

‘Makes sense.’ Paul took a cookie. ‘I can work with that. We just need to make sure Jack steps up to the plate.’

‘It won’t take much. Jack thinks he has amazing eyes. Just put them together and see what happens.’ Dylan grabbed a cookie off the plate.

‘I’m actually quite surprised Jack is holding back.’

‘You know so am I. Maybe I should go and see what wrong with him. Or it could be that he is in love too.’

‘Poor boy must be confused,’ Paul said with a wry grin.

‘He’s running scared. I’d talk to him but he’s a lot like you in the don’t get into my personal business. Best to let him move at his own pace and it could have to do with the fact that Ethan is a virgin.’

‘Maybe. That assumes Jack’s thought about that part of it. I think you’re right about him being scared. But I didn’t say that.’

‘True, he could be setting his place up as we speak. I just think this will be more than a one night stand for them. That’s after talking to them both. Or I could be all wet.’ Dylan shrugged.

Paul looked at Dylan for several moments. ‘You could be what?’

‘Never mind. I’m not usually that wrong on things.’ Dylan grinned.

‘Fair enough. Now, go and get on with that work. I’ll make sure the mess hall send you food at regular intervals.’

‘Thanks, on both counts.’ Dylan stood up and stretched and then with a grin saluted Paul and went back to work.

Ethan woke up bright and early and he untangled himself from Edward’s stranglehold that he had on him and padded off to use the loo. No one else was awake yet and the bay area seemed eerily quiet except for the snoring that was coming at him from all directions. The hallway was semi lit and the floor and walls gleamed in the muted lighting.

He stopped and peeked in Dylan’s door and grinned then went on his way to the bathrooms. He showered, shaved and used the toilet before going back to the bay and getting dressed. It wouldn’t hurt to have a jump start on the day and he sat down and went through his foot locker, arranging things according to how they had been shown.  He had to redo the socks because he had forgotten how they were supposed to be rolled. Once that was figured out though the rest was easy.

When he finished that he opened his locker and rehung his uniforms the way they were supposed to be and lined his other pair of boots and dress shoes up. He made sure that he had the three small drawers in order and then shut the whole thing back up.

Edward was making smacking noises and Ethan smiled. It must be getting close to breakfast which meant the whistles and lights show should be starting shortly.  He went to the end of his bunk and sat down on the foot locker to wait.

Jack walked into the bay and was about to flick on the lights when he spotted a still form. He gestured with a finger.

Ethan looked up at the sound of footsteps and then wondered what he had done now. He got up and walked over. ‘Good morning, Sir.’

‘I hear you had an adventure last night,’ Jack said.

‘Yes, Sir. Although I never got my run in.  Mr. Jones decided to play another game.’ Ethan said.

‘I heard that too. Did you get the message, or is it going to require further application?’

Ethan looked at Jack for a few long minutes and then smiled. ‘I don’t have an answer for that. I would hate to say yes and then find out I was wrong and I would especially hate to say no and find out I was wrong.  That cane smarts.’

‘It does,’ Jack agreed. ‘But it reflects badly on me if the RSM catches you misbehaving, and I’m sure you don’t want that.’ He paused and kissed Ethan hard on the lips. ‘Later,’ he said with a grin and then the bells and whistles started.

Ethan thought about that and went back to his bunk. Now that the noise had started he could make it. He smiled to himself and decided that he’d have to make sure that Jack caught him from now on, wouldn’t want things reflecting badly on the pretty man. ‘Up and at’em Edddie my love. It’s morning.’

Edward sat up with a groan. ‘Oh, God, already? Shoot me.’ He looked blearily at Ethan. ‘Are you dressed already?’

Jack overheard that and stifled a grin.

‘You don’t really want me to shoot you. There are guns here you know. It would be easy enough.’ Ethan looked down, ‘Yes, I am.’

Darius walked over to Ethan and stopped in front of him. ‘This,’ he grabbed his crotch, ‘is your gun. That black beauty is your weapon. Do not make that mistake again. Now drop and give me ten.’

Ethan had watched Darius and blinked, ‘Pardon?’

Darius snorted. ‘It really loses something if I have to repeat or explain.’ He turned around and walked away muttering to himself.

Edward snickered. ‘Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see your pretty officer?’

‘Apparently it’s a gun. Who would of thought?’ Ethan said and then dumped Edward on the floor. ‘Get dressed, cadet, for I am hungry.’

Edward got dressed, muttering all the way.

Jack looked over at the two of them. ‘Stop mumbling and form up.’

‘Oh, alright,’ Ethan dragged his feet and then turned around and went back for his cover, which he put on backwards and trotted out to get in line. ‘I hate these early mornings, they are cold and foggy and cold.’

Damon walked past and smacked Ethan. ‘Cover,’ he snapped.

‘Someone’s cranky,’ Edward said in a confiding tone.

‘Isn’t he just.’ Ethan agreed.

‘I am, so move it,’ Damon said, smacking them both.

Ethan grabbed him and danced him around singing King Julian’s “Move It”.

Darius stood there and watched, thought about Damon and not getting his coffee on time and sighed. He was not about to get in there and do anything though. Damon might get him by mistake.

Damon scowled and grabbed Ethan’s collar. ‘Without the musical accompaniment.’ He gave the cadet a little shake.

‘I thought you wanted move it, now you want shake it baby?’ Ethan said and shook it. He stopped and looked at Damon, ‘Works better if I am free. Let go, darling.’

Paul walked up behind the two of them. ‘Drop him please, Lieutenant.’ When Damon released his hold, Paul glared at Ethan. ‘My office.’

Ethan looked at Paul and then at Damon. ‘Wait, wait, wait, give me a pass on this one. It’s early, I’m sure I’ll fuck up again.  He started it, you know.’

‘I don’t give passes, Cadet.’

Ethan loved the obstacle course. He really did and he was on his fourth time through it. Maybe it was the mud, or the ice cold water or the chattering of his teeth so hard he worried they would break as he climbed a fifteen foot high wall and then repelled down the other side. He wasn’t sure.

Jack was waiting at the end of the course, being buffeted by driving rain and gale force winds. Everyone else was inside where it was warm and dry.
He was cold and wet, but nowhere near as cold and wet as the cadet making his way towards him. He shook his head and folded his arms.

‘Hello. You should be inside with the others.’ Ethan said and took his cap off and wrung it out.

‘I’m waiting for you. So it will be your fault if I die of pneumonia.’ Jack said and then sneezed.

‘Oh, poor baby. Let’s get you some hot chocolate, warm pjs, a fire and a blankie.’ Ethan grinned. ‘Bless you.’

Jack snorted. ‘Thanks very much. I assume that means you’re done trying to beat the camp record?’

‘There’s a record? What is it?’ Ethan’s eyes sparkled.

‘Don’t even think about it.’ Jack sneezed again. ‘Come on, the rain’s getting worse, and I didn’t think that was possible.’

‘You are no fun at all. Maybe if you ran the course a few times you’d get more immunities built up. Or stopped beating around the bush and take me home with you. Hey, you think Damon might be interested?’

‘I don’t think you’re his type. I was planning on taking you home, so move it.’

‘I’m pretty. What’s not to like? Besides it would just be sex anyway. I don’t do grumpy so well. He’s always grumpy.’ Ethan stopped babbling and blinked, ‘You are?’

‘He is, and I are. I would have done it earlier, but you were busy paddling in the mud.’

Ethan looked back at the course. ‘I really like that. Maybe because I could never play in the mud when I was little. So let’s go. I’m ready for cherry popping.’

Jack grinned and led the way back to his quarters. ‘Shower,’ he said, pointing Ethan in the direction of the bathroom.

‘Don’t want to get down and dirty, Commander?’ Ethan grinned and went where he was pointed.

‘Not that dirty,’ Jack laughed as he stripped off his wet uniform. ‘Hot chocolate or brandy?’

‘No alcohol for me, I want to know what you’re doing.’ Ethan turned the shower on and hopped in.

Jack made the drinks and gave the marshmallows a baleful glace. ‘Not in this lifetime,’ he told the pink and white confectionery.

Ethan hummed as he washed and shampooed and then finally he felt clean and shiny again. When he got out he dried off and looked in the mirror.  Well, it would have to do. Unfortunately he had no clothes to change into and so he padded out to see what Jack was doing in his birthday suit.

Jack was clad in boxers and nothing else. ‘I turned the heating up.’ He handed Ethan a steaming mug. ‘Very nice,’ he said with a grin. He wasn’t talking about the drink.

Ethan looked down and then at Jack. ‘A bit underdressed but it’ll do for now.’ Ethan took a sip and sighed. ‘This is good.  So you aren’t the “I want to unwrap you” type?’

‘Apparently not,’ Jack said. ‘What about you?’

Ethan sat down on a kitchen chair and thought while he drank. ‘I don’t know. You’re my first. I’ll let you know with the second.’

Jack quirked his brow. ‘Well, that better hadn’t be any time soon.’

‘Oh, is this where you piss on me and say mine?’ Ethan grinned. ‘No, not any time soon. Maybe not any time ever.’

‘No water sports, thank you.’ Jack wrinkled his nose. ‘Come to bed.’

Ethan thought about that and decided he would ask another time. Right now he got up and followed Jack to the bedroom. Now he was nervous. There was a whole bunch of butterflies fluttering their wings in his stomach. He wished now he’d taken some time to read about this.

Jack threw back the blankets and patted the bed.

He could do this. It wasn’t that far. He really did like this man. Apparently enough to want him. Yeah, he felt a few twinges below. At least someone was not that nervous. Ethan walked over to the bed and sat down.

Jack took Ethan’s mug and set it on the bedside table, then leant across and kissed the younger man. He pulled back slightly and looked into his eyes. ‘You are beautiful.’

Ethan didn’t really know how to respond to that. He had issues. He’d known since he was little that he was gay. He also knew how his parish priest felt and his parents but right now, right here, he didn’t much care.
He wanted Jack to do this.  Ethan reached up with both hands and drew Jack’s face to his, ‘So are you,’ he said softly and kissed Jack lightly.

Jack pushed Ethan down onto the bed, his questing mouth finding each pert nipple in turn, twirling his tongue around the responsive nubs.

Ethan felt like putty, absolutely no bones in his body at all. He looked down and felt himself grow hard watching Jack, feeling his tongue on him, slowly he closed his eyes and he brought his hands up to run them through Jack’s hair.

‘You like this?’ Jack said softly. His exploration had reached the soft downy hair on Ethan’s stomach and he followed the trail ever downwards until he reached his prize.

Ethan was going to answer him and then decided he really didn’t want an answer and oh, hello. Now that, that he liked. Ethan planted both hands on the back of Jack’s head and couldn’t help himself, he pushed, all he could think of was Jack not stopping.  At least not yet.

Jack quirked a brow even as he worked his tongue around Ethan’s cock and balls. He stopped at the point of orgasm and pulled back slightly. He eased Ethan’s legs apart and positioned himself between them.

Ethan looked at Jack and then let his breath out. Without thinking about it he sat up and put one hand behind Jack’s head and kissed him, thrusting his tongue into the other man’s mouth and finally letting go when his impulse was satisfied.  He lowered his head and sucked at one nipple as his fingers played with the other and then switched, ending with one more long kiss before he laid back down.

Jack slicked his penis with pre-cum and moistened the crinkled opening with his spit, then pushed.

Ethan hadn’t known what to expect but he hadn’t expected it to hurt this much. He blinked in rapid succession and convinced himself he would not throw up on Jack. He broke out in a sweat and forced himself to try deep breathing.  All he could get his brain to say was first, last, only. He was sure Jack split him wide open and he would need surgery after this.

Jack thrust himself deep inside and then pumped, trying to hold back from his climax.

Ethan bit his lip and moved slightly but it didn’t help, he closed his eyes and whispered over and over, ‘please, please, please.’

Jack pushed against Ethan’s prostate gland as he came in a shuddering climax.

‘Oh thank God,’ Ethan breathed.

Jack collapsed onto the bed. ‘Oh, God,’ he said breathlessly.

Ethan heard him but it didn’t register as he was too busy trying to assess any damage to his person. He felt extremely tender “down there” but he figured he would, given the facts of the matter. There also seemed to be leakage which he could understand, given what they had just done. ‘Was it good for you, darling?’ he asked.

Jack opened one eye. ‘It was great, how about you?’ He took the question at face value.
Ethan had a choice here. He could tell Jack that it would be a cold day in hell before he let the man get near him with that weapon, gun his arse, again or he could lie. ‘Lovely. A very  memorable first time experience.’

Jack sighed happily and pulled Ethan into a hug. ‘I’m glad.’

Ethan rolled his eyes and hugged him back.  He was going to have to do some research because he had a sneaky suspicion that Jack was going to expect more of this activity.

Jack pulled the covers over them and closed his eyes again.

‘I can’t sleep here, Jack.’ Ethan whispered and kissed him lightly on the lips.

‘Just an hour, then I’ll take you back.’

‘That I can do.’ Ethan snuggled down and closed his eyes. As he drifted off he realised he had fairly strong feelings for Jack but was it love or something else? Time would tell he was sure.

Jack snored.

An hour later, Jack opened his eyes again. Ethan was snoring softly, cuddled tightly against Jack’s chest. He poked the cadet. ‘Wakey, wakey,’ he said quietly.

Ethan smiled in his pre-awake fully state and then opened his eyes. ‘Hi. Has it been an hour already?’

‘It has. We better get you back to your bunk.’ Jack sat up and stroked Ethan’s hair.

Ethan looked at Jack and sighed. ‘Yeah, there will be hell to pay if I am not tucked up and sleeping when the CO does bed check otherwise.’

Jack grinned. ‘I could give you a note.’ He leant over and kissed Ethan. ‘Come on, before I change my mind.’

Ethan hopped out of bed and grabbed...nothing. ‘Um, Jack? I don’t have anything to wear.’

‘Oh yes. Bottom drawer over there.’ Jack leant back against the headboard and watched as Ethan bent down. ‘Lovely view.’

Ethan looked between his legs and grinned. He couldn’t help it, Jack just made him tingly inside. He grabbed sweats and stood up to put them on, ‘Shoes?’

‘Wardrobe.’ Jack stood up and pulled on his own clothes. ‘I’ll walk you home. Just in case.’

‘Good, I am afraid of the dark. Eddie thinks I let him sleep in my bunk for him but really he’s my subby teddy.’ Ethan tied the boots and lifted a foot. ‘Too big, I’ll need to lie and say I lost a pair so I can keep one set here.’

‘Best not to lie. I’ll sort you out a pair.’ Jack pulled on his cover and handed a spare to Ethan. ‘I do not have big feet,’ he belatedly protested.

‘I didn’t say that, I said too big. They are too big for me. Not much but too big just the same. Besides, I love your feet.’

Jack looked down and wiggled his toes. ‘Really?’

Ethan grinned and knelt down to kiss one, ‘Yes, I do.’ He said as he looked up at Jack. ‘I love everything about you.’ Except one thing but he didn’t say that.
They walked slowly back to the cadets’ barracks. It was a lovely evening, cool and crisp and starlit. The camp was quiet, the majority of the cadets already bunked down for the night.
‘We need a beach to walk along and we could be an advert for something.’ Ethan said. ‘It’s different out here at night. The last time was noisy, Mr. Jones insisted on talking, although he might think of it as educating.’

‘He can’t help himself. He’s in permanent lecture mode when we get a new batch of cadets. He’ll settle back down in a few weeks. Not that he doesn’t still enjoy a good lecture.’

‘Or that bloody cane. I think he sleeps with the damn thing. I also think I hate canes.’ Ethan groused.

‘It’s his weapon of choice. I favour a little more variety in my implements,’ Jack said.

Ethan stopped. ‘Whatyoutalkinbout?’ He asked giving his best Gary Coleman imitation.

‘I prefer to use a paddle.’

‘A paddle.’ Ethan blinked and sighed. ‘A paddle. You use a paddle. You USE a paddle!’

Jack quirked his brow. ‘Are you having difficulty with that sentence?’

‘I think I am. It’s not just something Jones does then? This is like Beechcroft wide? Is it a command thing?

You take a test?’

‘No, it’s a Top thing. Not every officer uses corporal punishment.’

They had reached the barracks steps and Ethan sat down. ‘A top thing? Like the toy?’

‘No. It’s a ...’ Jack sat down. ‘I’m not really good at explaining this. We need Dylan.’


‘He’s better at explaining this stuff than me.’

‘Well, he’s not the one I’m involved with. We are involved, aren’t we? So his idea of what the toy is is not the one I am interested in.’ Ethan said.

‘It’s not a toy, Ethan. In our kind of relationship, there’s a Top, who’s in charge and metes out discipline. And there’s a brat, who’s not in charge, and gets disciplined.’

‘Oh. Huh. There’s a lot about being gay I need to learn.’ He kissed Jack and then stopped short, ‘Our whadayamean our?’

‘Me Top, you brat.’

‘You are joking.’ Ethan folded his arms and snorted.

‘I are not.’

‘So, you get to control everything and I’m supposed to agree to that and to the whole paddle thing? Not happenin’ Lucy.’

Jack quirked his brow. ‘Yes it is.’

Ethan snorted again. ‘Hah!’

‘Hah? Seriously? Very melodramatic, darling.’

‘Best I can do with my brain frozen.  I have to get some sleep though so go home Jack.’ Ethan kissed him and stood up. ‘I mean it, straight home and to bed.’

Jack grinned. ‘You’ll get used to the idea, Ethan.’ He returned the kiss and sent Ethan on his way with a swat to his rear.

Ethan was worried he might. He walked quietly down the hall and into the bay. At his locker he opened it and started to undress. He was a boxer and tee shirt sleeper or he wouldn’t have bothered. He thought about a shower but decided in the morning would be good enough and might even wake him up.

Edward sleepily raised his head. ‘Where you been?’

‘Jack’s, now shh and move over.’ Ethan crawled into the bunk and gathered Edward close. ‘You smell good, did you use my shampoo?’

‘Yes, I’ve lost mine. How does a person lose shampoo?’ Edward yawned and closed his eyes. ‘Did you do it?’

‘It’s okay, go ahead, we can get more if you like it. I got this mate who will smuggle it in to the joint.’ Ethan said. ‘Yes, we did.’

Edward sat up. ‘You did? What was it like?’

Ethan moaned and then he sat up too, ‘The best advice I can give you right now is don’t do it. That really isn’t fair though. The kissing was great. The nipple thing was great. The blow job was better than great but he didn’t finish. The spitting and shoving it in, not great.’

‘He did what? Didn’t he use lube?’

‘No and I’m not sure I want him using car oil down there either,’ Ethan looked at Edward, ‘that’s disgusting.’

Edward blinked. ‘Who said anything about car oil?’

‘You said lube.’ Ethan pointed out helpfully.

‘Oh. Yes, I did. Not that kind of lube, because that would be disgusting. It’s special stuff just for sex. It, er, lubricates. Plus he’s supposed to open you up first. You know, like with a finger, then two...’ Edward
looked concerned. ‘Maybe he didn’t know what he was doing?’
Ethan took it all in and nodded absently. Apparently we both have things to learn and I swear before that man touches me below the belt again with anything that isn’t his mouth, I will know exactly what to do and so
will he.’

‘Good plan. Now it’s bedtime, so shhh.’ Edward laid back down and closed his eyes, then opened them again. ‘Stop fretting and come here.’

Ethan looked at Edward and laid down. ‘I’ll stop. Is there a computer anywhere that isn’t an officer’s office?’

‘You were stopping, remember? We can find one tomorrow.’

‘You’re right.’ Ethan held Edward closer and shut his eyes with visions of “things” dancing through his head. He did eventually fall asleep though.

Darius had bed check that night and he walked on rubber soles quietly through the bay area looking into each cadet’s face as he passed by their bunk. It was a little harder with the ones that were doubled but he’d been doing this for a while now and it was all second nature to him. As he passed Edward’s bunk he sighed. He knew where he would find him though, that was one cadet he wasn’t worried about leaving on his own for parts unknown. Early on it had become apparent that he would follow Ethan into the fire but he wouldn’t light it himself.
He made one last pass just in case he’d missed something the first time and then went back to the quarters he was sharing with Damon until next rotation. ‘All the babies are present, accounted for and either sleeping or pretending to sleep.  Our dynamic duo are tucked in tightly together. They remind of little kittens all snuggled up like that. How come you never snuggle me?’ Darius gave Damon a sad look.

Damon quirked his brow. ‘I take up all my bunk.’ Then he grinned. ‘Does oo need a teddy bear?’

‘I don’t want a teddy bear. We could push them together.’ Darius said. ‘Are you sure you’re a gay man?’

‘I’m sure. I’m just still looking. What about you?’ Damon looked at the beds. ‘We could do that.’

‘I know I’m gay. I love you, Damon Fellows, I just don’t want you on top of me. Well, not with all our clothes off and certain parts playing harmonies. Good.’ Darius went over to his bed and started pushing.

Damon watched for a minute or so. ‘Maybe it would work better if we moved the bedside tables.’

Darius stood up and looked at him, ‘So do it?’

‘Oh. Sorry, I thought this was a spectator sport.’ Damon walked over and picked up the tables. ‘It was very entertaining.’

‘Keep it up and I will have to man up and make you scream like a little girl.’ Darius snorted.

Damon saw his snort and raised it. ‘You and who’s army?’

Darius grinned, ‘Sorry Day Day. I know who the Top is in this relationship.’

‘And don’t you forget it.’ He put the tables down. ‘Want cocoa?’

‘Please.’ Darius said and went to find his pyjamas. When he’d changed he sat on the sofa and turned the telly on. ‘What do you fancy?’ He called.

‘That new show,’ Damon called back. ‘What’s it called – CSI?’ He walked out of the tiny kitchen area with two mugs and a bag of biscuits clenched between his teeth.

Darius found the channel and moved back on the sofa. ‘Payback? You are just gonna wait for me to scream
like a little girl aren’t you?’ He reached up and took the bag of biscuits.

‘I won’t have to wait long,’ Damon said with a satisfied smirk.

Darius snorted but the show wasn’t five minutes in and he yelped and moved over closer to Damon. ‘Euw!’

‘Told you,’ Damon said, putting his arm round Darius’s shoulders.

Dylan walked into the bay and blew his whistle, flicking the lights on and off. He had a smug smile on his face and blew again.  Jack shouldn’t have all the fun.

Edward sat up, not remembering he was perched on the edge of Ethan’s bed. He scrabbled with the blankets in an effort to stay on the bed and failed miserably. He ended up on the cold lino with Ethan on top of him. ‘Morning,’ he said to his friend.

Ethan managed a smile, ‘Morning. Now we’re all wrapped up like sausage rolls, what would you like to do today?’

‘Oh, I thought we could take it easy. Maybe a pot of coffee, croissants and the newspapers?’

Dylan walked over and stood over the two of them with his hands on his hips and let the whistle drop from his lips. ‘Cadets! Push ups. Now, and don’t stop until you are given permission.’ He turned and walked away.

Ethan looked at Edward and sighed, ‘Now look what you’ve done. Another fine mess, Ollie.’

Edward sighed. ‘Sorry, Stanley.’  He got up and started doing push ups.

Ethan rolled over and joined him.

Dylan went up and down rows checking the rest of the cadets and then he sent them out to line up for breakfast. As the last one left he walked back over to Edward and Ethan and stopped in front of them. ‘Stand up, cadets.’

Edward jumped up and stood in front of Dylan. ‘Sir.’

Ethan collapsed dramatically on the floor. Dylan hauled him up by an ear.

‘Get dressed, get breakfast and then ten times around the barracks.  Ollie and Stan have left the building and have been replaced by Beechcroft cadets training to become officers. Prove it or there will be tears before bed.’

Edward grabbed his clothes and started dressing. ‘Or I suppose we could go for a relaxing run in the country.’

‘Let’s do that then shall we? It’s my goal to puke my guts out running after eating.’ Ethan said as he dressed. ‘I needed a shower but since Dylan has been so kind with our morning, it can wait.’

‘You two still here? MOVE IT CADETS!’ Dylan blew his whistle loudly.

‘Ow. That hurts.’ Edward wiggled his finger in his ear. ‘Would you like to join me for breakfast, darling?’

‘Yes, I believe I would,’ Ethan said and joined in with the wiggling. ‘He keeps that up he’s going to eat that thing.’

‘I was thinking of sticking it somewhere else entirely.’

‘Edward! You are a naughty boy, go and wash your mind out.’ Ethan laughed and trotted out to the mess.

‘After I eat. I’m bloody starving.’

Dylan went and sat down at the officers table and sighed as he pulled his mug of coffee close. ‘You owe me.’ He told Jack.

Darius was shovelling food in his mouth and he didn’t even bother looking up.

Damon reached over and took a slice of bacon of Darius’s plate.

‘I owe you for what?’ Jack buttered his toast.

‘Letting you sleep in this morning instead of rousting the babies out of bed.  Those two,’ He pointed with a fork at Edward and Ethan, ‘are going to be more trouble than the last ones in our unit. Tight reins, maybe handcuffs.’

‘What did they do this time?’

‘Just silly stuff.  On the floor, wrapped in a blanket, making wise remarks. I had them do push ups and told them to take a run but who knows if they will or not.’

‘They usually do what they are told. The problem is we don’t tell them what to do for every minute of every day. And they are really good at finding the gaps.’

‘Yeah, well so much for you having it under control. I doubt anyone could keep those two under control.’ Dylan looked up and sighed, ‘Speaking of control,’ he nodded towards Paul. ‘Maybe we should put a bug in his ear and let him deal. At least until the bloom is off the rose.’

Jack looked over at Paul, who was watching the new cadets. ‘It wouldn’t take much of a bug, frankly. He’s already had a few run-ins with the terrible twosome.’

Dylan got up and walked over to Paul’s table and sat down. ‘Mind if I join you, Mr. Jones?’

Paul stopped cadet-watching and turned to Dylan. ‘Not at all. Coffee?’ He pointed to the pot.

‘Please. We need a favour and you are just the RSM to do it. I think you should make our latest brat...and ...we don’t have a name for O’Donall do we?  Well, for simplicity sake let’s just say brats. Good.  Our latest brats your personal project until we get to grips with the others. Those two are bright and willing to work hard we just can’t give them the loving care and touch they so desperately seem to need and do right by the others these first few months. It really isn’t fair to the others to not let them muddle through, Sir. I’ll even say please....please?’

‘Hmm. Maybe if you say pretty please. They are a handful, aren’t they?’

‘Pretty please? Yes they are.’ Dylan agreed.

Paul nodded. ‘I can do that. I need the exercise.’

‘Thank you sir.  Ethan might be a little easier now though, Jack done the deed but you didn’t hear that.’

‘He did? That explains something I was wondering about. I think Jack broke him.’

‘I could tell by that smug satisfied look on his face.’ Dylan grinned. ‘Wondering about what and he doesn’t look broke.’ Dylan looked over at Ethan. ‘He looks the same to me.’ Dylan grimaced as he watched Ethan toss a forkful of scrambled eggs at another cadet.

‘He’s not sitting very comfortably. And no, it’s not because of something I did.’ Paul’s gaze narrowed. ‘But there’s time for that yet today.’

‘Ah, you have a much better eye for tiny things like that.’ Dylan said. ‘Now now, what’s a little egg between cadets ... Sir.’

‘Oh, but it’s very early, and he’s just going to get worse.’

‘Maybe he’ll fool us and get better.’ Dylan stood up, ‘Thanks for the coffee.’  Dylan went back to his own table and looked at Damon and Darius, ‘Are you two copping off now too?’

‘Copping off? What are you, 12?’ Damon scowled. ‘No, the pretty boy is not my type.’

Jack looked up from his breakfast. ‘Damon’s saving himself.’

‘For what?’ Dylan asked. ‘Christmas?’

‘The right person,’ Damon said primly.

‘Did you hand over our problem?’ Jack asked.

Darius rolled his eyes.

‘I did. He seemed eager. I feel bad now.’ Dylan said.

‘They can take it.’

‘Who can take it?’ Damon chipped in, his breakfast (and Darius’s) finally demolished.

‘O’Donall and Blunt. I handed them off to Paul so we can sort out the other idiots sent to us.’

Ethan was on his fourth time around the barracks and now he was sure that Dylan had forgotten them. He veered off to the left and this road would take him to the gates of Beechcroft. He didn’t know what was beyond those gates but the scenery was boring and he was not a stable pony who happily went around in circles.

Edward was a hundred yards further on when he realised he was running alone. He backtracked and spotted Ethan’s back receding into the trees. ‘Buggerations.’ He trotted after his buddy.

Ethan stopped at the gate and looked both ways. It looked safe enough out there. So far no cars but he knew how to cross roads. He looked again and ran across the road and into the field beyond. Off in the distance he could see other buildings and he patted his left bum cheek to check for his wallet. Belatedly he thought about Edward and turned around, running backwards. There he was. Ethan slowed down so his mate could catch up.

‘Where are we going today, Stan?’ Edward stopped to catch his breath. ‘You could warn a person when you’re taking a detour, you know.’

‘Sorry, it was spur of the moment. I was bored running around like a hamster on its wheel. We are going there, see those buildings? There is a whole town out there.’
‘An actual town? With real people and everything?’ Edward sounded awed. ‘Can we buy sweeties?’
‘An actual town, real people and everything and yes we can. All the sweeties you can eat without throwing up.’ Ethan said.
‘Aw, I really fancied throwing up as well. That’s just so mean.’
Ethan cuffed him and grinned. ‘Come on keep up there, cadet. We only got till bedtime.’
‘Well, what are we waiting for?’ Edward laughed and put on a burst of speed.

Paul checked over the group of cadets. ‘Well, you sent them off, where are they?’ he asked Dylan.

‘Sir...I don’t know...Sir.’ Dylan said and looked down.

‘What were they doing?’

‘Running around the barracks, Sir.’

Paul took a breath. ‘Don’t lose any more, Lieutenant, I have a quota.’  He strode back to the main building and commandeered a jeep. They had quite a head start, and he’d already been on his run.

Dylan was glad to get out of that without a visit to Paul’s office and it occurred to him that maybe they would keep the RSM so focused on them that he would not have time for anything else. He grinned to himself and went to help Damon at the obstacle course. He loved the mud - on other people.

Paul took the main road out of the camp and then took a sharp left about a mile outside, following a rutted bridle path that ran round the campus grounds.

Ethan quite happily jogged along but the whole time he was watching for any military cars, trucks, whatever they called those things. It paid off and he yanked Edward down hitting the ground a little hard, mainly because Edward landed on top of him. ‘We got to quit meeting this way.’

‘We have. What are we doing down here exactly?’ Edward brushed leaves off Ethan’s head. ‘You make a very soft landing.’

‘Thanks. We’re being hunted so if you really want those sweeties we need to be careful.’

‘Hunted? Who was it?’

Ethan rolled his eyes. ‘Gee, let me see. I don’t know. Car was too far away, sorry.’

‘Sorry, I’m just a little jumpy. It was probably the RSM,’ Edward said in a doleful tone. ‘We’re dead. Again.’

‘That’s a leap.  Pay attention now and keep low.’ Ethan said and rolled Edward off him and got up. ‘It could be Jack, it could be Dylan.  Hell, it could be their lackeys. Take your pick.’

‘It’s not a leap. He’s dedicated. But I suppose it could be one of the others.’ Edward stood up and brushed himself down. ‘I suppose we might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, eh?’

‘Yes, that’s exactly right. Did I tell you Jack called me a brat? Said he was a Top and he likes a paddle not a cane.  I will find out what that’s all about too. The man talks but hardly says anything.’ Ethan said making conversation as he kept an eye out for suspicious vehicles.

‘A top? Like a spinning top? Why would he be one of those? Or are you talking sex? That was obvious.’ Edward looked at Ethan. ‘You can be a bit bratty.’

‘He said not the toy. Something about lifestyles and he is in control of everything. Our relationship he called it. What do you mean obvious? I could top.’ Ethan snorted. ‘Comes from being an only unwanted child.’

‘Sensitive much? I meant it’s obvious Jack’s a top.’ Edward pulled Ethan close and gave him a kiss. ‘I love you.’

‘I love you too. Yeah, for some reason I think he’d turn a lot of pretty shades of colours if I said I wanted to try it. Now, about those sweeties.’ He pointed in front of them and they were one fence away from the town.

‘Excellent.’ Edward hopped up on top of the fence.

Paul turned the jeep at the end of the track and headed towards the town.
In the town Ethan held Edward’s hand as they walked down the high street, not seeing any of the looks they got from the people. He was more intent on finding a sweet shop. ‘There’s one.’ He pointed.

‘Great. I want chocolate, and liquorice, and nougat, and chocolate... did I say that?’

‘You did.’ Ethan handed him £20 and opened the door for him. ‘I’m going into the shop next door for water. Don’t run off.’

‘Yes, Daddy,’ Edward said with a grin. He opened the door and was in heaven.

Paul was losing patience, and as his fuse burnt down, the fate of the two cadets grew exponentially more painful. In his mind, anyway. He spotted Ethan and brought the jeep to a screeching halt. ‘Where’s your buddy?’

Ethan turned around and didn’t know what to do or say he only knew wetting himself was not an option.  ‘Don’t know.’

‘Then get in, we can wait. I’m sure he’s not far away.’

‘I don’t particularly want to get in. This was supposed to be bonding time for me and Edward, threesomes are for losers.’ Ethan grinned. He wasn’t really being cheeky with the RSM and he had every intention of compiling but he couldn’t resist the opportunity to watch him work.

‘In the jeep, cadet!’ Paul barked. He was missing his tea and biscuits, and apparently the lack of sugar was making him grumpy.

Ethan rolled his eyes, ‘Your wish, my command oh grumpy one.’ Ethan hopped in the jeep, reached over and blasted the horn.

Edward was paying for his purchases when he heard the horn blasting. He wasn’t expecting it to be for him:
Ethan had been on foot when he left him, but he looked up anyway. He saw the jeep and paled. ‘Uh oh,’ he said to no-one in particular. He grabbed the bag of sweets and walked very slowly towards the sweet shop door.

Paul sighed. ‘Bloody cadets,’ he muttered.

Ethan stuck two fingers in his mouth and whistled. ‘Hurry up, Eddie, time’s ticking by here, mate.’

Edward walked up to the jeep and held out a tube of sweets to Paul. ‘Love Hearts?’

‘Get in the jeep, cadet,’ Paul said with a sigh.

‘No love hearts?’ Edward adopted a sad face.

‘I’ll take one, or two. I love love hearts. Is that redundant? Loving love hearts?’ Ethan sat back down then moved over to the driver’s side. Toss us the keys then.’ He snapped his fingers and made a “gimme” gesture.

‘You are not insured to drive Her Majesty’s military vehicles until you have passed the requisite driving courses. And you do not get on those courses unless I sign off on it. You will probably be walking for your entire time at Beechcroft.’ Paul made shooing motions. ‘Out of my seat.’

Edward handed Ethan the sweets. ‘Maybe he’d like sour apples instead?’ he whispered.

Ethan grinned, ‘Maybe. Sorry I didn’t have time to warn you. He snuck up on me. I think the jeep tiptoed.’ Ethan moved over and sighed. ‘I want to go on driving courses. You should let me.’

‘I will think about it. If you manage to keep out of trouble for more than a week.’ Paul held out his hand for the sour apples.

Edward handed over the sweets and explored the contents of his bag. He pulled out a Curly Wurly and
started chomping.

When they got back to Beechcroft Ethan hopped out of the jeep and saluted Paul. ‘Ta for the lift. I think we can find our way from here.’

‘I think not. My office, cadet. And you,’ Paul said, as Edward tried to disappear into the herbaceous border.

‘Bugger,’ Edward sighed.

Darius came trotting over and when he got within striking distance he took his cover off and whopped both Ethan and Edward several times with it. ‘I lost you two and guess who had to do push ups for it? Huh, guess you two are going to become a pet project yet.’ He whopped them both a few more times and put his cover back on. ‘Sir.’ He saluted Paul and stomped off to change.

‘Touchy aint he?’ Ethan said and grabbed another heart from Edward’s goody bag.

‘I have been abused,’ Edward complained.

Paul growled and pointed towards his office. ‘Move it.’

Ethan looked at Edward and grinned, ‘You got to...’

‘Move it, move it,’ Edward danced forward a few steps.

It was going to be a very long four years, Paul thought.

‘No, Jack, but I will do a blow job.’ Ethan said as he was being pushed towards the bedroom.

‘What do you mean, no?’ Jack stopped dead. ‘Are you on your period?’

‘No. Not exactly but we need to talk about this.’ Ethan stopped moving.

‘What’s to talk about?’ Jack was confused.

‘Your... approach.’
‘My... approach? What are you, an airport?’

‘The hanger and I have to say this airport is closed for maintenance until the pilot learns a few lessons.’

Jack folded his arms and quirked his brow. ‘Excuse me?’

‘Really, Jack I’m sure there is an excuse but this...’ Ethan made circle motions around his person, ‘is out of bounds until we get this right. So, blow job?’

‘Oddly enough, I’m not in the mood any more.’ Jack changed direction and headed for the fridge. ‘Beer?’

‘Sure but are you going to pout all weekend or can we talk about this without you getting angry?’ Ethan followed him.

‘We can talk. I’ll let you know if I’m going to get angry.’ Jack popped the tops of two bottles and handed one to Ethan.

‘Okay. It seems that there are certain things that you need to do to get me, um receptive, I suppose is the best word.  Spit and shove is not it by the way. I want to have sex with you. I love your kisses and the petting and you give great head so we’re more than halfway there.’

‘Oh.’ Jack took a mouthful of beer.

‘Oh? This is only going to work if you help out here. What am I supposed to say to “Oh”?’

‘I’m thinking, okay. I suppose I just didn’t think about it.’

‘Didn’t think about it? You mean to tell me that no one has ever said anything before? This is virgin territory for you?’ Ethan sat down.

‘Virgin may not be the best choice of words here.’ Jack swigged his beer and sat down. ‘My first lover, boyfriend, whatever you want to call him ... liked it.’

‘Ah, well that helps. I don’t really like it. It hurts and by the time I can get past it all you’re done and I’m thanking whatever god you believe in. Now, I want us to both be happy with this. It’s a big deal. You do think it’s a big deal, don’t you? Okay, basics, do you like me?’

‘Okay. It is a big deal, yes. And yes, I like you a lot.’ Jack looked at his empty bottle. ‘I’m going to need a bigger bottle.’

Ethan smiled and sipped. ‘I looked on the internet and there is a whole site dedicated to anal sex. Gay anal sex. Who would have thought it? So I spent some time there and learned a lot really. Of course Edward helped out too. You need lubricant. Just about anything will work as long as it’s not motor oil. The real stuff is sold in sex shops too.
We don’t need to get it over and done within 30 minutes or less either, we can actually take as much or as little time as we want, as long as you take the time to open me up.  Three fingers is about it.  I’d settle for two right now.’ Ethan grinned.

Jack held up two fingers and looked at them for several moments. ‘That isn’t going to work for me. Unless I go on a very selective diet. Would that work?’

‘What?’ Ethan was confused.

‘I’m confused. How is two fingers going to work? I’m not that well endowed, but a two finger opening isn’t going to cut it.’

‘Oh! Well it just has to be enough to for me to feel comfortable with you,’ Ethan looked at Jack’s crotch. ‘I do believe that you see you from a whole different angle too. Maybe we could practice?’

Jack looked down at his crotch. ‘Eh? Maybe I’ve had too much beer.’

Ethan snorted and pulled Jack up. ‘Maybe.’ He took a hand and led them into the bedroom. ‘Now, first, the kiss.’ Ethan kissed him gently and then let the passion grow.  He pulled away and looked at Jack.  ‘Keep those hands to yourself, Commander.’

Jack was reaching for Ethan. He stopped and quirked his brow, but just for once was content to let Ethan take the lead.

The first article to go was Jack’s shirt and Ethan bent and took a turn with each nipple before kissing him a little harder and reaching over to rub Jack’s crotch.  The he pulled back and slapped a hand. ‘Uh uh.’

Jack’s eyebrow went higher at that, but he obediently moved his hands away.

Getting down on his knees Ethan undid Jack’s trousers and lowered them slowly, his eyes never leaving Jack’s until the last possible moment and then he peeked at his object of desire. Slowly he took Jack into his mouth, little by little until he could wrap his arms around both legs and he slowly moved his head back and forth as his tongue worked itself up and down the shaft.  Then he pulled away.

As he kissed Jack this time he backed him up to the bed and laid him down lowering himself on top and kissing Jack the whole time. His hands roamed along Jack’s body and he rocked himself so that they got harder with each of the short movements. Then he stopped and pulled away.

Jack looked up at Ethan with a quizzical expression. ‘What are you waiting for?’

‘Oh, I just wanted to look at you.’ He kissed one eyelid and smiled. ‘Such beautiful eyes.’ He said and kissed the other then he tilted his head and kissed Jack’s neck. ‘Lovely and smooth,’ he murmured. He moved himself down and bit each nipple lightly and kept moving down. Ethan looked up at Jack and licked his penis from the base to the tip and then planted a kiss on the tip. ‘Yummy.’

He moved himself between Jack’s legs and lifted them both and spread them apart, ‘Relax, Commander, you’re going to love this.’ His eyes twinkled and he lowered himself down until his tongue found what he was searching for.  He let Jacks legs rest on his back and laid himself down so he could reach it better.

Jack’s eyes widened slightly. ‘Are you sure about that?’ he muttered. He tried to relax, but it was very difficult with Ethan doing strange things.

Ethan stopped and popped up, ‘You don’t like it?’ He sat back on his legs.

‘I’m taking it under advisement,’ Jack said with a wry grin. ‘Keep going, sugar.’

Ethan rolled his eyes but laid back down. He didn’t know what this was doing for Jack, he’d been assured
he would enjoy this and he knew it was making him horny as hell. Then he stopped and sat back up again. He knew it was good and moist now and he took a finger and rubbed it over the puckered opening, teasing the tiny opening as he did. The whole time he looked at Jack to see how he was doing with this.

Jack was not used to anything intruding back there, and he was sure it was against some Top rule or other. He was definitely starting to feel ... aroused though, and that made him curious. And a little bit concerned. But curiosity was winning at the moment. He sighed.

Ethan stopped what he was doing and leant over the bed to grab his jeans. He fished around in a pocket and came out with a small bottle, opened it and poured liquid over his fingers. He smiled at Jack and then started to insert one into the opening.

Jack’s eyes widened. ‘Seriously? The things I do for scientific research. What is that stuff?’

Ethan moved the finger all the way in and found the little nub, he ran his finger over it a few times and then stopped. ‘It’s called ID lubricant. Water based and really slick. It makes penetration much easier. Want another one?’

‘Purely in the interests of science,’ Jack gasped.

Ethan obliged and inserted another finger. With his other hand he began to pump Jack slowly.

Now Jack was very confused. There was no doubt that his body was reacting to what Ethan was doing to him, but he wasn’t totally happy with the penetration, even if it was only two fingers.

‘It’s okay. You can’t help the physical reactions.’ Ethan murmured. ‘Now though, I think it’s your turn. Get me ready and I promise you the ride of your life.’ He pulled the fingers out and stopped pumping.

Jack breathed a sigh of relief. ‘I am very glad to hear that.’ He wriggled slightly. ‘Some things are just not right,’ he said with a smile. ‘Okay then, hand me that lube stuff.’

‘Some things just aren’t.’ Ethan smiled and handed over the lube. ‘Take it slow, like it’s the best present you’ve ever gotten and you want the suspense to last. I want to enjoy you this time...Sir.’

Marcus got up and stretched, his back cracking as he reached up.  ‘Oh, that felt good.’ He said. He was on his way to the kitchen to grab another beer for himself and Paul. They had spent the evening going over the newest class and were at very last few. He was duly impressed with Paul’s evaluations so far and would make recommendations based on them.
He had known that Paul would make a great Regimental Sergeant Major and the man had not disappointed him. A few of his other officers had been skeptical about giving this promotion to one so young but he had proven himself as a warrant officer 1 in combat.

The strongest argument had been he would be on his own as only one RSM is appointed and is fully responsible for the regiment or battalion.  Marcus had argued that Paul had proven that he could handle the office and as RSM would show that he could be primarily responsible for maintaining standards and discipline and acts as a father figure to his subordinates.  Marcus smiled to himself, knowing that the “first amongst equals” applied with all that it meant in Paul Jones’ case.

He grabbed the beers and went back to the den. ‘Here we are.’ He said as he set the bottles down and took his seat again. ‘Last few, does not break my heart.’

Paul took the bottle and swallowed. ‘I needed that.’ He looked at Marcus. ‘Wasn’t there supposed to be food? What happened to the caterer?’ He tapped the top of the short pile that remained. ‘The next two are definitely the most interesting of the bunch.’

‘You are joking right? The kids made us sandwiches. They are in the fridge. Help yourself. I think Isobel even cut the crusts off.’ Marcus said. ‘Interesting how so?’

‘They have the potential to be brilliant officers. If I don’t kill them first. I’ll get the sandwiches, shall I?’ Paul stood up. ‘You could have brought them with the beers.’

Marcus looked at his hands and then at Paul. ‘You need to get up and move too. Why would you kill them first? We need brilliant.’ He waited for Paul to come back.

‘Because they are also vile brats. They are more trouble than the rest of the class put together. They are undisciplined, disobedient and disruptive.’

Marcus raised an eyebrow. ‘And you can’t curb the enthusiasm for disobedience and disruptiveness? They have conquered you, RSM?’ He took a sandwich and bit into it. ‘Good Lord, what did those kids put in these?’

‘Put that eyebrow down. I’m curbing, believe me, I’m curbing.’ Paul opened his sandwich and peered inside. ‘Peanut butter and chocolate spread. I hope.’

‘Vile boy.’ Marcus said and took a different sandwich. He peered inside and put it back together. ‘Tuna and cucumber I can handle.’ He chewed for a few minutes thinking about what Paul had said. ‘They have lots of energy I take it. Who’s the commander, Jack or Dylan?’

‘They’re Jack’s. From what I hear, they should have fallen one into each, but one of the cadets did a double shuffle to put them together. Edward’s more a follower, but I swear he would follow Ethan into the bowels of Hell.’ Paul investigated another sandwich. ‘Cream cheese and crisps. I’ve eaten worse.’ He put the two sides back together and took a bite.

‘That’s dedication. What makes that do you think? Is the one a Svengali sort?’ Marcus might have been joking but probably not. ‘Which one did the double shuffle?

‘I wouldn’t describe him as such. He’s the one that did the double shuffle. The follower is a brat. The leader, I’m not so sure.’ Paul put down his sandwich. ‘How about a curry?’ He took another drink of beer. ‘Okay. Edward wants to blow stuff up. He’s technically brilliant, he’s an engineer at heart.’

‘I’ll just get the phone shall I?’ Marcus said as Paul talked. He ordered the curries and sat back down. ‘Would he be good at it? We’ve had cadets who wanted to blow things up before and very nearly blew up the barracks.
Although, being a brat might make it easier. He’ll listen more closely than those pesky vanilla types.’

‘Oh, he will be one of the best,’ Paul assured him. ‘Now Ethan’s got a different skill set.’

‘That’s good to know.  Make sure he goes for a psych eval before you start with him though. I’d like Dylan’s take on this too. Explosives scare the shite out of me.’ Marcus said.

The doorbell rang and Marcus went to get it but was beaten by his son. ‘Move it kid, this is for the grownups. Speaking of, you and me later.’

Gideon turned around and ran back up the stairs, ‘Walk, monkey.’ Marcus called up. He brought the bags to the table and sat them down. ‘Kids. Gotta love ‘em, or so Grace says.  Once he had food in front of him, he looked at Paul. ‘Okay I’m ready for the Svengali. Why are you hedging on him being a brat? He sounds like one.’

Paul ripped a piece of naan and dipped it into the sauce. ‘To all intents and purposes, he is a brat. But I’m not convinced he will always be one. Does that make any sense? He’s an odd one.’

‘He’s mates with this Edward though? What’s the dynamic between them like or haven’t you seen that bit? Should I talk to Jack?’

‘They are bosom buddies. They sleep together. Jack... Jack is an added complication.’

‘The cadets are sleeping together? Since when has that been allowed? How is Jack a complication? He’s always been a very calm and determined young man with leadership abilities that you yourself said were exemplary.’

‘They share a bunk, they’re not in a relationship. They start off in their own bunks, they just ... gravitate. They’ll settle down, I’m sure. Jack is all those things, and he’s involved with Ethan.’

Marcus stopped with his fork half way to his mouth, ‘He’s involved how? How did that happen on your watch?’

‘Don’t ask, don’t tell, remember?’ Paul snorted.

‘That’s America.  Is it a mutual thing or is it something that Jack wanted and went for?’

‘I’m selective. I think Ethan wanted, Jack went for.’

‘Okay, I will look the other way. What about the other boy? Is he involved too?’

‘Kinky. No, he’s not. I think he’s got someone particular in mind, and that someone doesn’t wear khaki.’

Marcus laughed, ‘You seem to know a lot about their love lives without knowing anything. You got a little birdy telling you things? So what do you think this other boy, name? Will be good at?’
The door slammed open and Marcus looked around, ‘What time do you call this then, Claire?’

A very pretty blonde girl came into the room and smiled at Paul, ‘Hi, Paulie.’ She looked at her watch, ‘It is 23.42 hours, Colonel. I am early.’

‘That’s alright then. Tell your sister and brother to get into bed. I’ll be up in ten minutes and anyone not in pyjamas, clean teeth, pottied and under the covers will be spanked.’

‘Oh, Daddy, you’re such a sweet talker.’ Claire hugged her father and went upstairs.

Marcus looked at Paul, ‘She’s seeing this guy. She’s been seeing this guy a while. I may have to kill him.’

Paul snorted. ‘Of course you will. Or pay for a very extravagant wedding. The other boy is Ethan. He’s got a good eye, he’s got the potential to be a sniper. He’s also got some serious schmoozing skills.’

Marcus’s eyes glazed, not only a demolition expert in training but a sniper too? It was a Colonel’s wet dream come to life.  He didn’t know where the schmoozing came in. ‘You are going to make me cry.  When do they start their training? I may want to make a few visits. You said they were interesting though, when do I get to hear that bit?’
He wiped his hands down his face and sighed. ‘The girls are hard but and this is in confidence, my son and I had a heart to heart the other day. He surprised me.’

‘That wasn’t interesting? What did your son surprise you with?’

‘Yes, it was to a degree. I now know that given the right training and circumstance I could finally have that elite team that Timmy has been ragging on about for five years.  He told me he’s gay.’ Marcus said.  He thought for a few minutes and then sighed, ‘Paul, I want you to make this happen. Jack, Damon and those two new boys. See how they work together, act with one another.  Give them two weeks and then we can talk again. More curry?’

‘I can do that.’ Paul nodded and pointed to one of the containers. ‘What’s in that one?’

Marcus looked, ‘Korma?’ He put some on a spoon and tasted, ‘Yep, Korma.’

It was usually against protocol but things weren’t always run strictly by the book at Beechcroft. Exceptions were always made and in this case the exception was Tim. He had heard only good things about this little band of cadets, who along with their commander were training for something even more elite than black ops. He had been surprised to find a U.S. Navy Seal working with these boys and now he wanted to see what they could do.
There were no meetings today, he wasn’t due anywhere important and Marcus was busy. It was a good time to investigate.
He called for his car and soon was strolling across the parade grounds in search of Alpha.

‘Brass alert,’ Damon said, poking Jack in the ribs.

Jack turned to look and sighed. ‘Who did what, do you suppose?’

Edward was busy, so didn’t look. He heard the whispers though.

Ethan was sitting under a tree, absently cleaning his weapon. He had learned to eat, breath and very nearly make love with the damn thing attached to him in one form or another. He looked where Damon had and then went back to cleaning Mabel.

Tim stopped a few yards from where Jack was talking with, he blinked, he knew the cadet’s name. Marcus had brought him up several times. Damon. His name was Damon. Scottish fellow. He smiled to himself and watched the two of them.

Jack saluted. ‘Sir. Can I help you, Sir?’

Damon did his best to fade into the background.

Tim returned the salute and then rocked on the balls of his feet and back to his heels. ‘I wanted to see what you four are doing. How things are going with you. So you can help me by showing me.’

Jack nodded. ‘Cadet O’Donall!’ he barked out.

Ethan spit and looked at Jack. ‘Gimme a minute.’ Now to be fair about this Ethan would never have said something so blasé if he had known who that was but he didn’t.  Mainly because he missed protocol class.

Jack’s eyebrow shot up. ‘CADET!’

Damon sighed.

Ethan rolled his eyes and stood up. He slung Mabel over his shoulder and trotted over, ‘Yes, Commander?’

‘Demonstrate your skills to the General.’ Jack gave Ethan a look that promised dire retribution.

Ethan looked at, holy shit, the General and then back at Jack. He was a bit pale. ‘Yes, Sir.’ He said and flipped his cover around so it was backwards and brought his weapon around in a smooth motion. He looked out ahead and then raised his scope. Satisfied he walked over to the General, ‘Sir,’ he handed Mabel over with a little apprehension, almost taking her back. ‘Raise the rifle, Sir and straight out there is a rock. On the rock is a can. I’m going to kill the can.’

Tim paid attention and raised the weapon. He could barely see what the cadet was talking about but as the sun glinted he caught sight of a can sitting on a rock. He handed the weapon back to Ethan and looked at Jack. ‘Twenty says he won’t make that shot.’

Ethan rolled his eyes.

Jack grinned. ‘It would be wrong to rob a superior officer, Sir.’

‘I’ll take your bet, Sir,’ Damon said. He was Scottish, after all.

Edward scooted back from his mini bridge. ‘I’m all set.’

‘Not just yet, Eddie.’ Jack didn’t think they were far enough away.

Ethan laid down and set the rifle up making slight adjustments. He slowly squeezed the trigger and the sound reverberated through the air, the short burst of smoke from the muzzle dissipating as Ethan stood up and turned his cap back around. He handed the weapon to Tim again. ‘Sir.’

Tim looked at Jack and then lifted the rifle. ‘Well...I’ll be.’ He grinned and handed the weapon back to Ethan who looked a little nervous with someone else handling his baby.

‘Nice shot, cadet.’

‘Thank you, Sir.’ Ethan saluted and slung the rifle to his back again. ‘Eddie really wants to blow that up, he’s dancing.’ He nodded to Jack.

Damon held his hand out to Tim.

Edward stopped hopping about. ‘I’m not dancing.’

Jack looked at the bridge. ‘Do we need to move back?’

Edward looked thoughtful. ‘About five foot.’

Damon quirked his eyebrow at that. ‘Is that all?’

‘It’s only a little bridge.’ Edward said simply. He turned to the officer. ‘The bridge has three supports, one each end and one in the centre. Which one would you like me to blow up, Sir?’

Tim looked at the bridge and then blinked. ‘The left end.’

Damon grinned. ‘Double or nothing, Sir?’

Edward looked at the bridge for several moments and then pressed a button. There was a tiny explosion, and the left end of the bridge disintegrated, leaving the rest of the bridge quivering, but still standing.

Tim looked at Damon and nodded. He had a suspicion that he was being hoodwinked but he was a good
natured soul by nature. When the bridge “blew” he clapped and then remembered he was the man in charge and raised one hand as he “cleared his throat”. It just wouldn’t do having new cadets thinking he was silly.

‘Very nice. If this were a full sized bridge would you be able to drive on it?’

Ethan went back to his tree and sat down. He gave Edward a thumbs up from his seat and then tipped his cap down over his eyes.  No way was he getting conned into riding with Damon.

Edward looked at the General. ‘You could. Up until the point you ran out of bridge. Then you’d fall down go boom.’

Damon grinned and pocketed his winnings.

Tim looked at Edward for a few minutes and then turned his attention to Jack. ‘Shall we move onto the driving course? Although, no, let’s do this without the course.  These two didn’t have any advantages so I don’t think that Cadet Fellows should either.’

Jack looked at the General. ‘What about the woods?’

Edward sloped off to join Ethan. No way he was getting conned into riding with Damon.

Damon just grinned.

‘The woods would be fine with me. Let’s go.’ Tim said. ‘Why are those two pretending to be asleep?’ He asked when he spotted the young cadets under the tree.

‘They get car sick,’ Damon said helpfully.

Jack quirked his brow.

‘How do they get anywhere then?’ Tim asked the air. ‘Commander, shall we get started?’

‘Yes, Sir.’ Damon pointed to the smallest truck. ‘That one’s best for the terrain.’ He climbed into the cab and waited.

‘I’ll go first, Sir. You really don’t want to ride in the middle.’

Tim nodded and waited while Jack climbed in and followed along behind him. Once in the truck he slammed the door shut and sat back to enjoy the ride.

Damon started the engine and took off. Almost literally.

Jack gritted his teeth. He would have held on, but there was nothing to hold on to.

Tim held his hat on in place and his face broke out into a wide grin, ‘Come on, cadet, you can go faster than this!’ He yelled over the sound of the engine.

Jack just sighed at that.

Damon put his foot down. The trees whipped past in a blur of green.

Ethan looked at Edward and grinned, ‘You did excellent. Show off.’

Edward returned the grin. ‘You too.’ He looked at the bridge and sighed. ‘I’d have gone for the centre one. That looks way cooler. Do you think the General will be green when they get back?’

‘It does but I think he might of wanted to know if you could blow it and keep it functional. He’s a bit of a birdbrain but he does know his shit.’ Ethan said. ‘I dunno. He looks like he might enjoy the way Day drives, the maniac.’

‘You can’t call the General a maniac, Ethan. You can get into trouble for that.’

‘Damon, not the General. Well, maybe the General, I don’t know him well enough to make that call. I think I’ll make it a little interesting though.’ Ethan winked at Edward.

‘Go on then.’ Edward waited, not very patiently, for Ethan to reveal his cunning plan.

Ethan snorted and got up. He changed a few things on Mabel, adding the “belt” and the stabilizer. Then he laid down and sighted the truck. ‘You might want to cover your ears,’ he said as he put earplugs in his own ears to block the noise.

Edward hit the deck, well, the grass. ‘You are completely insane,’ he yelled.

Ethan followed the truck along its path and then squeezed the trigger letting a burst of bullets fly from the rifle.
‘And probably dead,’ Edward added in a doom-laden tone.

‘What the fuck?’ Jack’s eyes widened.

Damon grinned and drove even faster.

Tim bounced in his seat, a big grin on his face, ‘Yeah! That’s the ticket!’

Ethan kept adjusting and firing, always just in front of the truck.

Jack was thinking very bad thoughts.

Damon was pushing the truck to its limits as it bounced and careered through the woods.

Edward peered through his fingers, waiting for disaster to strike.

‘What are you doing there, son?’ Marcus asked quietly.

Ethan tried to stop his finger but couldn’t in time and he nearly lost enough concentration to hit the truck. He swung around and looked up. ‘Nothing?’

Edward banged his head on the turf.

Tim had climbed out the window and was sitting on the side of the door frame watching the little tufts of ground fly through the air as the bullets hit them and waving his cap around, ‘Come on Cadet! Don’t let the Commies getcha!’ He yelled.

Jack wondered if insanity ran in the General’s family.

Damon was in little green truck heaven. He was just disappointed that nitro tanks didn’t come as standard.

‘Report to your Commander, Cadet.’ Marcus said.

‘Sir, he’s in the truck.’ Ethan said.

Marcus looked over at the curled lump on the ground. ‘What are you doing, Cadet?’

Edward jumped up and saluted. ‘Sir. Contemplating my place in the Universe, Sir.’

Marcus had to work to not smile, he looked from one to the other, ‘You two are the “terrible twosome” aren’t you?’ He didn’t really expect an answer and was mildly surprised when one of them opened his mouth to speak. He held up a hand. ‘There’s a wall over there. Go and sit against it.’
He turned to watch the truck willing it to come back. He had a few things to say to the people inside it.  His whole school was falling apart and someone was going to pay for this. Paul came to mind.

‘Aim for the Colonel, Day.’ Jack said quietly. ‘Not literally,’ he added as an afterthought.

Damon nodded and changed direction.

Ethan sighed and took his rifle off the stand. ‘Spoilsport,’ he muttered as he slung Mabel over his shoulder.

‘Coming?’ He asked Edward.

Edward followed Ethan and sat down against the wall. ‘That’s another fine mess...’

‘Oh, hush.’ Ethan said and pulled Edward close as he shut his eyes. ‘Rest now, safe your energy.’

Damon brought the truck to a halt a yard in front of the Colonel.

Tim hopped out of the truck and ran over to Marcus. ‘Did you see that?’ He asked his eyes dancing.

Marcus was torn. Part of him was livid, but this was the General after all and he seemed happy. ‘Yes...Sir, I did.’

‘Fantastic driving and the gunfire made it more authentic don’t you think?’ Tim said.

‘Yes, Cadet Fellows is an excellent driver.’ Marcus agreed. He was looking at Jack and he really wasn’t happy with him.

Jack maintained his best poker face. ‘The General asked for a demonstration of my team’s ... abilities, Sir.’

‘They are phenomenal, Colonel. I am well pleased with all of them. Excellent, Commander. I look forward to more in the future from you and them.’ Tim said. ‘Now, though...’

Marcus saluted, Tim returned it. Marcus watched his brother wander off towards the barracks. Then he turned his attention back to Jack. ‘What in the bloody hell was that about?’ He demanded.

‘Sir?’ Jack said. He wasn’t sure what Marcus wanted from him. He knew his brother, after all.

‘What if that boy had hit the truck? What if T...the General had fallen out? Demonstrations are one thing but to take the ranking military person out was lunacy. Are you telling me that you have that much confidence in these three men that you had no qualms at all about this little manoeuvre?’

‘Sir, I have the utmost confidence in my team,’ Jack said, his face stoic. “And your brother is a lunatic,” he added mentally.

Marcus looked at Jack for a long few moments and then sighed. ‘Jack, I’ve watched you as you have come
through the ranks. You’re a very responsible young man and I like that in my officers. I also think that you have good judgement when it comes to people and their character so don’t take this wrong but Tim is a lunatic and a speed demon.  He has no concept of his own need for safety and I would hate to lose a brother because some cadet put a bullet or twenty in him. It would make our mother very unhappy. Talk to that boy.’

‘Your brother, Sir?’

Marcus sighed again, ‘No, Jack, your lover.’ He raised an eyebrow.

Jack blinked. ‘I’ll talk to him, Sir. Although I would say your brother wasn’t in any danger, Sir.’

‘I believe you.’ Marcus said. ‘I just don’t think the other cadets can shoot as well. Word does go through the bays and would you really want Phillips shooting at the General?’

‘No, Sir. Absolutely not, Sir.’ Jack shuddered. ‘He couldn’t hit the side of barn, Sir.’

‘He couldn’t but he would probably hit my brother. Again making our mother very unhappy.  I don’t really know why, she had two other sons just in case.’ Marcus shrugged. ‘Must have something to do with him being the first boy though. She’s fond of him.’

‘There’s no accounting for mothers, Sir,’ Jack said, just about keeping his grin at bay.

‘I should get back now. Oh, do you know where the RSM is by chance?’

‘He’s working with the cadets, in one of the classrooms.’ Jack saluted. ‘Sir.’

Marcus returned the salute and strode off to find out what his idiot brother was up to. He would not interrupt a classroom so Paul would have to wait until later.

Jack walked over to his team of reprobates. Damon had joined the other two, smacked Ethan, kicked

Edward and slumped against the wall.

Ethan ducked, just not soon enough.

‘What did I do?’ Edward complained.

‘You didn’t stop this idiot,’ Damon said, smacking Ethan again.

‘Hey!’ Ethan yelped. ‘Bastard.’

Jack looked down at the three of them. ‘Three circuits.’

‘The field?’ Damon said.

‘The camp,’ Jack said.

‘Run, run, fast as you can.’ Ethan said and hopped up.

Edward sighed and stood up.

Damon stayed where he was.

‘You too,’ Jack said.

Damon stood up and smacked the other two cadets.

Ethan had had enough and smacked him back then took off running. ‘Come on Day, shake that ass!’

Damon growled and ran after Ethan.

Edward sighed heavily and followed them.

Jack slumped against the wall. He peered up at his hair, trying to work out if he had gained any grey hairs since the morning.

When Ethan got near enough to the classroom he looked back, decided he had enough time and yanked his trousers down, mooned the class and ran off again, pulling his pants back up as he went. ‘Come on you two, move it!’

Paul walked into his office to find Marcus in there. ‘Colonel?’ he wondered if he’d forgotten a meeting, but he was pretty sure he’d been booked for classes all day.

‘I poured my own.’ Marcus said as he held up a glass. ‘Did you hear about this morning?’

Paul checked the kettle and switched it on. ‘I’ve not heard a thing about anything all day. Did I miss something exciting?’

‘Timmy decided to check out Jack’s new team. Ethan tried to shoot them. Edward, bless, blew up a baby bridge. I got there in time to see my brother hanging out the window and Damon driving like the hounds of hell were shooting at them. Maybe they were.’

‘And would you like me to spank your brother, Sir?’ Paul said, making himself a cup of tea. ‘Do you want one, or are you sticking to the hard stuff?’

‘I can handle Tim. The cadets – it’s up to you what you do with them.’ Marcus looked at his glass and sat it down. ‘Tea would be fine.’

‘I can keep a closer watch on them, but I’ll be honest, it’s going to be difficult to do much more than that without making your brother look like the brat that he is.’ Paul made another mug of tea and gave it to Marcus.

‘I’m going to hog tie him and toss him in a closet.’ Marcus said. ‘Whose idea was it to give that man stars anyway? They should be shot and I know just the cadet to do it too.’  He was grumpy now.

‘Biscuit?’ Paul said, stifling a grin and holding out the tin.

Dylan and Darius had been away for the antics and so had to get caught up once they got back to Beechcroft. Darius was sorry he’d missed it and demanded that Ethan do it again so he could see Damon drive like a maniac.  Dylan cuffed him and he settled down.

Dylan went to find Jack and he even brought whisky. ‘I heard about your little adventure with the General.’ He said by way of greeting and sat down after pouring and handing a glass to Jack.

‘Oh, God, that man is completely insane. Damon’s driving like, well, like Damon through the trees, I’m seeing my life pass before my eyes, the General is literally screaming for him to go faster, and Ethan, bless his khaki socks, is shooting at us.’ Jack looked at the glass and then gulped down the contents.

Dylan managed but only just to keep from laughing and poured him another. ‘Sounds like quite a morning.  I thought it was bad enough going to the meeting with Darius driving. So what did you do?’

‘Nothing yet. Well, I sent them to run round the camp.’ Jack had a momentary vision of the General running round the camp and he smiled. ‘I’m waiting until after dinner, that way there won’t be any interruptions. I can’t really blame Damon though, he was just doing what the General told him to.’ Jack sipped his second drink. ‘Darius still driving like a loon, then?’

‘Oh, yes. I saw my life, your life, Paul’s life and half the barrack’s lives flash before my eyes. He wanted to beat his time. He did.’ Dylan said and shuddered as he remembered.

‘And what do you do, just hold on and grit your teeth?’ Jack asked with a laugh.

‘It’s all anyone can do. He gets behind the wheel and his eyes glaze. He rubs the wheel and the gear shift and then turns the key and you better be hanging on because you’ll end up falling out the back end otherwise. I take it you have never ridden with him.’ Dylan said, raising an eyebrow.

‘I’ve never had that pleasure. I have Damon, but at least he’s been trained to drive like a ruddy maniac. What’s Darius’s excuse?’

‘He was born that way. I pity the man who ends up with him.’ Dylan said. ‘Who knows, maybe the guy can train him to not drive like a maniac.’

Jack quirked his brow. ‘You are his CO, have you tried?’

‘Jack, I have beaten him until I’m sweating and blue. Nothing works. I have given him a baby’s toothbrush and had him clean the latrines. I have sent him to peel buckets of potatoes. I have taken the keys away from him. Unfortunately he seems to be the only one with a brain who can remember where we park the PX.’

‘What’s the RSM’s view on it?’

‘He hasn’t had the privilege yet to ride with speedo.’ Dylan said. ‘I don’t think he knows.’

‘Maybe you should introduce Mr Jones to Darius’s unique driving style.’

‘Are you nuts? Paul would have his ...OH! Maybe I should.’ Dylan grinned.

Jack grinned. ‘For a clever bloke, you can be dim at times.’

‘I blame Darius for my lapse in intelligence.’ Dylan snorted. ‘Are you going to be alright now? I want to get
to Paul before he eats.’

‘I’m fine. Leave me to plot Ethan’s imminent demise.’ Jack waved Dylan away. ‘Shoo, shoo.’

‘Be nice to the baby. He doesn’t know he’s been a naughty boy.’ Dylan said and trotted off to find the RSM.

Jack quirked his brow at that. He was pretty sure Ethan knew exactly what he’d done.

Dylan grabbed Darius and told him to bring the jeep around to the front. He had an errand he wanted run and Mr. Jones would be accompanying him.

Darius was more than happy to do as he was told. He loved that jeep. Almost as much as he loved his rifle.

Dylan went to Paul’s office and walked in after tapping on the door. ‘Got a few minutes? I need a favour.’

Paul nodded. ‘Take a seat.’

‘I have to get the cadets ready for a surprise inspection. Tim seems to think it’s just the thing to do in the late afternoon on a Tuesday after they’ve gone through the obstacle course. I need a few things from the PX. I had Darius bring the jeep around and I would appreciate it if you’d go along with him?’ Dylan explained.

‘I can do that. I’m a little suspicious, but I can do that. Presumably it will all become clear.’

‘It will. Thanks.’ Dylan got up and turned around at the door. ‘Darius is waiting outside.’

Paul grabbed his cover and strode out to the jeep. ‘Cadet.’

‘Sir.’ Darius said a little confused. ‘Where’s Commander Croft? We were going to the PX.’ He didn’t understand why as they had just gotten back from there but any chance to drive was never scoffed at.

‘He’s otherwise occupied. You can take me instead.’

‘Not a problem, Sir.’ Darius turned the motor on and adjusted the mirrors again. He ran his hands lovingly over the wheel, moved one up and down the gear shift once and then hit the pedal.

Paul was not ready for that. He thudded back against the seat and silently cursed Dylan.

Darius took the corner without downshifting and nearly on two wheels. The jeep righted itself as they hit the straightaway and he gave her more petrol.

‘Are we in a hurry?’ Paul finally managed to ask.

Darius heard “we are in a hurry” and he sped up even more.

Paul gritted his teeth. It was a short journey. They would probably survive.

As the PX came into view Darius put his foot on the brake and the jeep locked up and slid to a halt in front of the door. ‘Here we are, Sir.’ He said rather unnecessarily.

‘I can see that.’ Paul reached for Dylan’s list and unfolded it. ‘I am going to kill him,’ he muttered. ‘Go and get these,’ he said and handed the list to Darius.

Darius looked at the one word written there and grinned. He hopped out and was soon back. ‘He uses these for bribes.’

‘Ah.’ Paul held out his hand. ‘Keys please.’

‘Sir?’ Darius was not happy. He looked at the outstretched hand and then at his jeep. ‘Mine.’ He said plaintively.

‘No,’ Paul said. ‘You are a dangerous driver, and we will address that when I have driven us back to the camp.’

‘Dangerous!’ Darius was affronted. ‘I am not dangerous.’ He pouted but handed over the keys.

Paul got in the jeep and started the engine. ‘Are you walking back to camp, Cadet?’

‘Yes.’ Darius said.

‘Get in.’ Paul’s tone did not invite discussion.

Darius thought about it and then got in. He sat as far away as he could and refused to give any attention or thought to the man who had conscripted his jeep.

Back at the camp, Paul pocketed the keys. ‘My office, Cadet.’

Darius watched his keys disappear and he sighed. He stomped once and then went to the RSM’s office and waited for the door to be opened. He had not been in here yet and he had to admit he was a tad curious on what it looked like.

Once they were both inside the RSM’s office, Paul looked at Darius. ‘Did you just stomp?’

‘No, I stomped out there.’ Darius said and pointed to the outdoors.

Paul managed not to growl. ‘You, Cadet, are a brat.’

‘Yes, Sir. Commander Croft told me that a while ago. Although he has not elaborated on it much.’ Darius agreed.

Paul reached for his cane. ‘It means, apart from anything else, that corporal punishment is the best option for you. You are a menace in that Jeep, and I may not be able to cure you, but I will try my damnedest.’

Darius watched as Paul moved to the cupboard and he paled as he caught sight of the cane. ‘You mean to use that on me, Sir? I would really rather you didn’t.’

‘I do and I will, and whether you want me to is rather academic.’

‘Yes, Sir.  I have only been caned once in my life and that was at school so you’ll have to talk me through it with you.’ Darius said. He hadn’t noticed that he had been backing up until he hit the wall and he turned around, ‘Excuse me. Sorry.’ He told it.

Paul bit his lip. ‘It doesn’t mind. Over to the desk, please.’

Darius walked over and looked at the desk. It was standard army issue. He was vaguely disappointed in that.

‘I’ve got a new one on order,’ Paul said. ‘Palms onto the desk. Further forward.’

Darius did as he was told. ‘Good, I think you should have something a bit nicer.’

‘Thank you. I thought so.’ Paul flexed the cane and landed a stroke on Darius’s waiting buttocks.

‘Fuck me sideways.’ Darius murmured. He didn’t remember it hurting that much. Maybe Heads didn’t hit as hard as RSM’s?

Paul chose to ignore Darius’s involuntary remark. He brought the cane down a second time, landing just below the first stroke.

Darius laid his head down and covered it with his hands. He had no clue as to what was about to happen because of this. All he was thinking about was why his eyes were tearing up.  Both stripes felt like individual points and he was surprised at how distinct each was and felt.

Paul’s next stroke was slightly higher, then slightly lower. If he could have seen his strokes (which he didn’t need to) he would have seen a neat set of double tramlines. A fifth stroke landed on the crease, then a final one just on the top of Darius’s thighs.

Darius finally felt the error of bending like that but there was no way he would be able to stand up on his own just yet. It pulled the skin tighter and that was very evident in the level of pain, it went up.  ‘Oh, God,’ he whispered. ‘Please stop this.’ It hadn’t occurred to him yet that Paul was done.  The sting just seemed to grow and then it peaked and he broke apart.

Paul put the cane down and waited for Darius to catch his breath.

Darius could not reconcile the two things. This just because of his driving? No talking? Although he realised that Dylan had tried that. There was just something about being behind a wheel that took hold of him. He was a good driver; he knew he was. His breathing slowed and he felt a little more in control finally and he stood up and turned around. ‘Hug me?’

Paul held out his arms and waited for Darius to fall into them. ‘It’s all over, Darius.’

‘Thank you, Sir.’ Darius said and wrapped his arms around Paul’s neck. Warm, moist breath hit Paul’s neck and then the warmth of tears.  He wasn’t sure really if he was crying because he was still in pain or because he felt vulnerable and upset.

‘You are a very special person, Darius, and you need to keep yourself alive until you meet your own special person.’

‘Yes, Sir. I will, Sir. Sorry.’ Darius could finally string more words together and he sniffled. It didn’t really do away with the problem and he just instinctively wiped his nose on Paul’s shirt.

Paul sighed. He was going to have to order more shirts. He thought that every time this happened. ‘If you drive dangerously, I will cane you. And I will keep doing it until you learn.’

Darius lowered his eyes and nodded. ‘Yes, Sir.’ He meant it, he really did and he did every time it happened.

Jack stood at the door to the bay. ‘Cadet O’Donall,’ he barked.

Ethan looked up and smiled. ‘Yes, Commander?’

‘My office. Now.’ Jack didn’t return the smile.

Ethan blinked and got up. He was always happy to see Jack and it bothered him when Jack wasn’t happy to see him too.  “Stop that.” He berated himself, “he has to be a meanie when he’s playing army.” The thought didn’t make him feel better though.

Jack escorted Ethan to his office and then shut the door. ‘You are in so much trouble, cadet.’

‘Why?’ Ethan asked. He searched Jack’s face and there was nothing of the man he made love with there.  He looked at the floor and then back at Jack.  ‘Please don’t do it this way.’

‘Do what which way?’

‘Don’t treat me like you don’t love me. I’ll do whatever you want but I need to feel the love too. I’m sorry.’ Ethan blinked.

‘I do love you. But you screwed up as a cadet, and I’m punishing you as a cadet, not my lover.’ Jack held out his arms. ‘Doofus.’

Ethan nearly knocked them both to the floor. ‘Okay. I can do that then.’

Jack snorted. ‘You are manhandling your superior officer, cadet.’

Ethan nodded and then tried to smooth the shirt out. ‘You are wrinkled. You should iron that.’

‘You can do it later. I doubt you are done wrinkling.’

‘Okay, so how do you do this as my superior? And what do you mean punish me as your lover? That will never happen.’ Ethan sat on Jack’s chest and crossed his arms.

‘I think you are wrong there.’ Jack quirked his brow. ‘It’s very difficult to breathe when you are doing that.’

Ethan moved further back and wiggled. He grinned, ‘Better?’ He wiggled a little more.

‘Stop that. You are not going to distract me.’

‘Oh, you can spank me I won’t stop you. You just need to decide which comes first, you or whatever you plan to use.’ Ethan said and wiggled again.

‘I’m going to spank you. You are not going to distract me with your wiles.’

‘Okay.’ Ethan moved back further and bent to kiss the length that was making Jack’s trousers a little more snug than usual and then stood up.

‘Do you know why I’m spanking you?’

‘No but I trust you. If you are going to there must be a good reason. That or you have a fetish.’ Ethan said.

Jack sighed. ‘It’s important that you know why. Think back to this morning’s activities.’

Ethan sat back down on Jack’s nether regions and wiggled again but this time to get comfortable. ‘We were outside doing our thing. The General came along and wanted a demo. We gave him one.’ He looked down at Jack. ‘Maybe you should be spanking the General.’

‘That’s outside of my remit, but I am going to spank you. Live rounds at a jeep containing a General? Seriously? I know, I know, you wouldn’t miss, but that is not the point. And you know it.’

‘I was making it more real. Damon knows how to drive after all. No one was in danger. I’m sorry, you’re right, it was wrong of me to do without your permission and blanks. I might have misjudged, not likely but it could happen under certain conditions.’ Ethan stood up again, ‘Need a hand?’ He held one out.

‘Cheeky.’ Jack jumped up. ‘I know your cockiness is justified, but the Colonel isn’t quite as convinced, so we need to keep him sweet.’

‘Jack, darling, you don’t have to make excuses for this. I totally understand and am more than happy to follow you into the bowels of hell as long as we both come out the other end intact. I forgive you sweetheart.’

‘More cheekiness.’ Jack walked over to the cupboard and pulled out a cane. ‘I’ve been practising,’ he said in response to Ethan’s quizzical look.

‘Oh, good on you. Where do you want me, Commander?’

‘Desk. No, not like that,’ Jack snapped as Ethan plonked his behind on the polished wood. ‘Are you taking the piss?’

‘I could be, yes.’ Ethan said and stood up. ‘Are you absolutely sure you know what you’re doing with that?’ He turned around and placed his hands down.

‘I’ve been taught by the best, I’ll have you know.’ Jack flexed the cane. ‘Apparently it’s important to warm the fibres, but I think it’s just for effect.’

‘Must be more for you, I can’t see a thing from here.’ Ethan said.

‘Perhaps. There’s something therapeutic about it.’ Jack lined himself up behind Ethan and gave a few rehearsal swishes before landing a stroke on Ethan’s buttocks.

Ethan stood up and turned around. ‘Both sides, Jack,’ he said sternly.

‘Hang on.’ Jack moved slightly and swung again. ‘Paul’s sofa didn’t complain.’

‘That was better. I’m sure the sofa didn’t. It just wanted you to stop.’ Ethan snorted.

Jack quirked his brow. ‘It certainly wasn’t as cheeky.’

Ethan stood back up, ‘Look, if you are going to use that thing on me then you need to know what you’re doing. You can’t see what’s happening but I can feel it so I’m being helpful. Now; try again.’ He put his hands back down.

‘Drop ‘em.’ Jack said. ‘That will help.’

Ethan turned around and looked at Jack, ‘I’m not holding anything! See?’ He held his hands out in front of him.

‘Your trousers, smart arse,’ Jack said. The pun was unintentional.

‘Oh!’ Ethan nodded and then shook his head, ‘I don’t think so.’

‘You just said I couldn’t see what was happening.’

‘I did and I also said I can feel it. I’m helping.’

‘Well, we can try it again, I suppose. Turn round.’

Ethan resumed the position and sighed. This was turning out to be a lot more work than he intended. He thought about just suggesting that Paul do it but he didn’t want to hurt Jack’s feelings and make him feel inadequate.

Jack repositioned himself again and tried again. ‘Better?’

‘That was...’Ethan bent down and whimpered. Words fled away as the stroke registered with his brain.

Apparently he was getting the hang of it. Jack landed another two strokes.

Tears fell in rapid succession and Ethan had a hard time keeping up from that point on. He reached out in front of him and grabbed the edge of the desk just to keep himself still.

Jack finished the spanking with another three strokes which landed over the first three. He was rather proud of his efforts. “Not bad for a rookie,” he thought to himself. ‘Ethan, you can stand up when you’re ready,’ he said quietly.

“In my own time,” Ethan thought. Which would be oh, say, never. He pushed away from the desk and walked over to Jack and laid his head on the Commander’s shoulder. ‘You don’t need to practice anymore. I will personally pass you on any exam.’

‘Thank you, darling,’ Jack said with a smile and ruffled Ethan’s hair. ‘I still have to do the theory.’

‘You’ll do fine. I need to lie down. I’m pretty sure I have a headache.’

‘A headache? I didn’t touch your head.’ Jack was confused.

‘You try holding all that in and then have it come crashing down. Hurts. No sex for you tonight. I am sulking.’ Ethan tempered that with a grin.  His bum may hurt, later it might ache so he felt he should make the most of it.

‘Oh, you are, are you?’ Jack patted Ethan’s bum. ‘You are a very cheeky boy.’

‘I am. I suppose we could try doggie.’ Ethan moved away from Jack’s hand. ‘Don’t touch the baby.’

‘It’s my baby, I’ll touch it if I want to.’

Ethan rolled his eyes. ‘Forever? And ever?’

‘Absolutely. Now, about trying it doggie...’

Darius stood off to one side and checked his weapon...again. He was getting paranoid, he just knew it but you couldn’t be too safe with these things. He looked over at Ethan and Edward. The rest of the platoon was sitting, standing, loafing in various ways while they all waited to be told what to do.

Ethan had Mabel over one shoulder and he was resting his arm over the stock. He blew a bubble and then popped it as he waited. ‘Bored now.’

Edward was pulling petals off a daisy. When he was done, he picked another one and started again.

It was a long day when the whole regiment had to do something and even those who had qualified had to come out and re-qualify if they were in the sniper grouping.  This was why Darius was here and not Damon.
As the sun got lower and lower the temperature dropped and more and more trips were made into the tent with the heaters. Unfortunately they were kerosene and made it hard to breathe. Ethan spent very little time in there. He hunched under a tree with Edward once his mate lost interest in the daisies.

Dale stood off to one side and frowned. It was a normal part of his features when he was working, it came with the territory. This was his first time at Beechcroft though. He had little to do with officers in his own regiment. Most of them were afraid of him. With good reason.
He watched as the next group of five went into the cement “fox holes” and began to fire off their rounds.

Fifty yard targets were no problem for any of them. A few missed or came up short on the hundred yard targets, very few could hit the five hundred yard targets. Those were the ones he was looking for. The special ones. He rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet missing nothing. The darker it got the worse his mood became though, it was cold, he needed coffee. Several more and then he could find a nice warm place and put his dogs up to rest.

The last three were nearly ready and he would be surprised if they could hit the side of a barn by now.  He listened as the others in the retreating line went up to one of the sergeants and said, ‘No brass, no ammo, Sir.’
His attention went back to the three young men descending into the middle three foxholes. The one in the middle seemed out of place so maybe he was here for other reasons. The two, one on each side had turned their caps around, like true snipers and looked ready to shoot.
‘Impress me, gentlemen.’ He said quietly to himself.

Paul had visited the field off and on during the day, keeping well back so that he didn’t distract the cadets. The evening was well advanced when he made his final trip and he watched as Darius and the terrible twosome descended into the foxholes. He walked over to the external examiner and paused several feet away. “Bugger,” he thought. That was a very familiar profile.

Dale smiled for the first time that day as the two on the ends fired.  The middle one wasn’t bad on the close targets but he was not sniper material. Still, he hit more than he missed on the fifties.  He signalled for the new targets to be put up and clasped both hands behind his back.

Paul walked up to the examiner. ‘RSM,’ he said as he looked out onto the field.

Dale turned his head and nodded. ‘RSM,’ he said and looked back out in time to watch a live round head over the hill. ‘What the fuck?’ He muttered and squinted. His eyes darted between the three men and then they narrowed even further.

Paul sighed. He should definitely have beaten them before the testing.

Ethan was sure he could hit the top of the arches and he aimed and squeezed the trigger.

Darius blinked a few times and then he caught on and grinned.  He could take Ethan on and beat him.

Edward wasn’t sure he could make the shot. Okay, he was sure he couldn’t make the shot. But that wasn’t going to stop him trying.

‘Is this how they behave, RSM Jones?’ Dale turned to look at his companion. ‘Is this how they train?’

‘No, it is not, RSM Gibbons.’

Dale raised an eyebrow, ‘I see.’

Darius finished off one more round and then went back to the targets. After all they were being graded on them not the Scottish fast food joint.

Ethan decided to take out the enemy and fired off several rounds in rapid succession then ducked down to reload. It was a perk of being in sniper class, you got more ammo.

Edward tried to shoot his initials onto the nearest target.

Paul’s gaze narrowed. ‘I’m going to kill them,’ he muttered under his breath.

‘Before or after we talk?’ Dale asked.

Darius was bored with the whole thing and latched his safety on and sat down in the bottom of his cement hole.

Ethan stopped shooting and watched Edward, leaning his arms on the side of his fox hole.

Paul looked at Dale. ‘Talk?’

‘In a manner of speaking.’ Dale looked at Paul and then back at the boys. ‘Get them out of there, clean them up and meet me in your office.’ He turned on his heel and strode off.

‘I’m definitely going to kill them.’ Paul yelled orders, dismissing the cadets. He walked over to the foxholes. ‘Out. Now,’ he barked.

Darius looked up and sighed. He had thought it would not end well but where the hell did the RSM come from? And what happened to the other one? He scrambled out and went to check his weapon in.

Ethan hopped out when he was sure that Edward was done. He wasn’t quite as foolhardy as Darius. Of course he knew Eddie better. Give him c-4 and watch out; put a rifle in his hands and pray. He followed Darius.

Edward admired his handiwork. He was getting better. He only missed a third of them this time. He climbed out and blinked at Paul. ‘RSM?’ He was confused.

‘Get cleaned up and go and eat. I will see you all in my office at 20:00 hours.’

Dale admired the decor and especially the desk. Every RSM made their office their own. It would be for a very long time unless they died in combat or retired with an early out.  He walked around and spotted the kettle so he went over and turned it on. Then he sat down to wait for Paul.

Paul walked into his office. ‘Tea? Or something stronger?’

‘Tea would be fine.’ Dale said. ‘There were a few that seemed pretty good. I especially liked the last bunch, although I can’t say there is much call for writing letters with bullets.’

Paul put tea bags in the mugs. ‘Edward doesn’t often have free rein with a weapon. His area of expertise lies ... elsewhere. The other two are excellent.’

‘Yes, they are. Although I can’t say that shooting McDonalds, no matter how bad the food is, is an admirable calling.  Edward, the middle one? He should stick to his area of expertise. It’s best that way.  I’m disappointed though and we know I hate to be disappointed.’

‘You’re disappointed? I’m bloody furious.’ Paul ignored the veiled threat.

Dale raised an eyebrow and looked at Paul. He waited patiently for the penny to drop.

Paul returned his former RSM’s look with the same intensity. ‘It’s not happening... Sir.’

‘Would you like to tell me why not? It wouldn’t be your first time, so it can’t be shyness.’

‘I am not shy. But whilst I thank you for your tutelage, I am not about to let anyone beat me again. Ever.’

Dale looked at Paul for a very long time and then he smiled. ‘You have come a long way. In a very short time. I’m proud of you, Paul. In many ways. Now, do I get that cuppa or are you going to kick me out and tell me to never darken your door again?’

Paul grinned. ‘Cuppa and I think I can even find a biscuit or two.’

 ‘Oh good, I didn’t get lunch...or dinner. Your boys kept me out there all day long. You’ll have my report on your desk in the next couple of days.’

Paul checked the clock on his wall. ‘Dinner I can offer you. Our mess hall serves pretty decent food at the moment. We got rid of the last manager, the man could ruin porridge.’

‘That would be nice. It’s a long time since breakfast.’

Dylan was walking past the RSM’s office and he popped his head in and blinked. Paul had cloned himself only older, he blinked again. ‘Sorry.’ He said as it became clearer, ‘Any reason why we are missing our three stars? I only mention it because it seemed odd to me that Darius is hanging out with the terrible twosome.’

Dale looked over at the young man at the door and then at Paul. ‘Who? Can we at least eat first?’

‘We can eat first. Our artistes on the firing range. Darius is easily led, apparently.’ The last remark was addressed to Dylan.

‘Oh, I don’t think so. I got Damon doing covert ops on them with a mobile and orders to keep me posted on their whereabouts.  You can just stop that right now. I’m still not speakin’ ta you over our last meeting.’
Dylan grinned and went on down to his own office and his last appointment.

Paul nodded to Dale. ‘Shall we eat?’

‘You run a loose ship or a tight one. I haven’t quite decided yet which it is.’ Dale said and followed Paul to the mess.

‘Oh, it’s very tight. It just has a few loose screws,’ Paul grinned.

Darius wasn’t sure this was a good idea. He really needed to clean his weapon and put it to bed and he had
a test tomorrow. ‘Where are we going?’

‘We are going on an expedition,’ whispered Edward as he gestured to Ethan. ‘Stop worrying about your damn weapon, Cadet.’ He grinned.

‘It’s my life. Cadet.’ Darius said. He stopped when Ethan did and snorted. ‘The pub? We came to the pub?’

Ethan turned around and grinned. ‘We did good, you know it, I know it and Eddie almost got both initials this time. We need to celebrate.’

‘We do,’ Edward said happily. ‘Plus this is much more fun than reporting to RSM Jones’s office at 20:00 hours.’

Darius and Ethan both stopped and looked at Edward, ‘Whacootalkinbout?’ Ethan asked, his eyes narrowing. Darius snorted...again.

‘Oh. Did I not say? We’re supposed to report to the RSM. At 20:00 hours.’

Ethan blew out air and Darius looked around. He could feel the eyes. He motioned to Ethan and walked over close to Edward, ‘Try not to blow this mate.’

Ethan went into the pub while Darius pulled Edward along with him towards the side of the building. ‘You didn’t say, we didn’t know, someone’s watching us.’ He grabbed Edward’s face and did the only thing he could think of and that was kiss him. As he pulled back he said, ‘Do not look around.’

Edward blinked. ‘That is really, really difficult. Why did you say that? You know that makes me want to look.’

‘If you look I will make you squeal like a little pig in Deliverance.’ Darius said and put an arm around

Edward’s shoulder as they went into the pub.

Ethan had gone out the back door and up the side ladder to the roof. He was on his belly and looking around. ‘Ah-ha.’ He said to himself and wiggled his way backwards and down again.

‘Damon at seven o’clock. Any suggestions?’

Darius had gotten them all drinks and crisps. He sipped and crunched as he thought.

‘We could climb out of the bathroom window and go to a different pub,’ said Edward as he opened a bag of ready salted crisps.

‘I don’t think we need to be quite so energetic. We can go out the back door, grab a jeep and go to another pub.  Of course one of us will have to go out front to show him we’re still in here first.’

Darius looked at Edward. ‘Guess who?’ He chomped another crisp.

‘And what is my motivation for going outside?’

Darius handed him his mobile. ‘You can’t get a signal in here, too much noise or whatever.’

Ethan got up and went to find the jeep they would be using. Darius took a healthy swig of his beer and sat back. He was not delusional, even if the first years were.

Edward walked out of the pub door and made a call to the speaking clock.

Damon watched and sighed. Edward was a really bad actor.

Ethan found his jeep and it even had cute little flags on it. He drove it as close to the pub as he figured was safe and then waited.

Darius finished his beer, grabbed the crisps and went out the back. ‘Where’s Edward?’

Ethan looked at him, ‘With you?’

Darius snorted and hopped back out. He went out the front door and over to Edward, ‘What are you doing, cadet?’

‘I am letting Damon see me. Remember?’

‘Good, and then you come back in and make it look real. Come on babycakes, let’s go for a ride.’ He smiled at Edward and then grabbing his arm dragged him along.

Damon watched the two teenagers go back into the pub and jogged round to the back. He found a jeep waiting patiently and sighed. ‘Idiots.’ He waited out of sight.

Darius tossed Edward into the back of the jeep and hopped in. ‘Move out.’ He said and then wished he could take it back. Ethan drove like a maniac.

Damon hopped into the back of the jeep and grinned at Edward. ‘Where are we going?’

Darius grinned, ‘I thought you’d miss us. God knows I tried.’

Ethan looked in the mirror and smiled, ‘Somewhere far away from Beechcroft. I hear Oxford is nice this time of year.’

‘There is nowhere to run,’ Damon said in a doom-laden tone.

Edward sighed. ‘You’re really depressing.’

Darius laughed, ‘Isn’t he just? It’s because he’s Scottish.’

Ethan braked and turned around in his seat. ‘What are you doing here anyway?’

‘I’m keeping an eye on you. I was tired of doing it standing in the cold.’

Edward grinned. ‘Are you hungry?’ He handed Damon a bag of crisps. ‘I bet you missed your dinner.’

‘We’ll just have to feed you then.’ Ethan said and started the jeep again.

‘Oh, bribery will go a long way with Damon. He’s fond of food.’ Darius chipped in.

‘Fond does not really describe it.’ Edward said.

‘You are very cheeky boys.’ Damon tucked into his crisps. ‘Just one bag?’

Darius tossed a couple more over to him. ‘Now hush so I can concentrate on what this idiot is doing with this jeep.’

Ethan looked at Darius, ‘Who you callin’ idiot? I will have you know...’

Darius grabbed the wheel and the gear shift at the same time and turning one shoved hard throwing the other into first gear. They all went forward as the jeep conveyed its displeasure at the treatment.

‘What the fuck!’ Ethan yelped and glared at Darius.

Daman snorted. ‘For god’s sake. You two may be hot shot snipers, but you are godawful jeep drivers.

Ethan, move over and let me drive.’

Edward grinned.

Ethan climbed over the seat and sat next to Edward, ‘Hello, sugar.’ He said and put an arm around his mate.

Edward put his head on Ethan’s shoulder.

Darius glared at Damon and then settled down. ‘Thank goodness.’

‘I don’t know who taught that boy to drive, but they deserve to be shot.’ Damon put the jeep into gear and drove smoothly away from the pub.

‘On to Oxford.’ Darius said and opened another bag of crisps.

‘Feed me,’ Damon said.

‘When we get to Oxford.’ Darius said as he popped a crisp in Damon’s mouth.

Damon parked the jeep outside a nice looking pub. ‘Feed me now.’

Edward sat up and wiped his mouth. ‘Where are we?’

Ethan looked at Edward, ‘A pub? Apparently Day wants to eat. From the looks of it he might take a lot.’ He hopped out.

Darius got out and looked around, ‘He’s been known to let his hair down on occasion.’

Damon smacked Darius’s head. ‘There’s no need for that.’ His phone rang and he fished it out of his pocket. ‘Commander?’

Darius rubbed his head and sighed.

Dylan pushed back in his chair, thankful that appointment was over with. Poor kid just needed a teddy bear. ‘Lieutenant, how are things going? Are they still within sight?’

‘Good, Sir. I’m keeping them real close. They’re in Oxford.’

Dylan blinked, ‘Oxford? Why are they... you in Oxford?’

‘It’s a long way from Beechcroft, Sir.’

‘That it is. Carry on.’

‘Yes, Sir.’ Damon put his phone back in his pocket. ‘Where’s the food?’

Dylan sat back farther in his chair and very nearly ended up ass over applecart. He snorted and got up. Best to take the bull by the horns. He went to the mess and seeing his target walked over. ‘Oh, good choice. Jack loves those pies.’ He said as he sat down. ‘I have bad news.’

‘You do? Tell all.’ Paul put down his knife and fork. ‘Succinctly. This is an excellent pie.’

‘They are in Oxford.’ Dylan could get right to the point. It was a terrible rumour that psychologists never did.

‘Do we know why?’

‘It’s a long way from Beechcroft, apparently.’

Dale had followed along and he laughed. ‘And so it begins.’

Dylan looked at him and smiled. ‘Yes, Sir, it certainly will. Just a bit later than 20.00 hours.’

Paul nodded. ‘No doubt. Damon keeping a close eye on them?’

‘So he says.’ Dylan nodded.

‘He is colluding with the enemy?’ Dale asked.

‘If they bribed him, yes sir.’ Dylan said.

‘With food, no doubt. I daresay you made the mistake of sending him out without his dinner. But at least he won’t lose them.’

‘I didn’t know he hadn’t eaten. Which means the others probably haven’t either. Well, Oxford has some nice places to get food. Want me to let you know when they get back or are you having an RSM night?’

‘I’ll deal with them in the morning.’ Paul picked up his cutlery. ‘Now step away from the pies.’

‘Of course Sir.’ Dylan said and went to find Jack to whinge to.

Damon looked at his watch. ‘Time for bed, boys.’

Edward blinked. ‘I thought I was in bed.’

‘You can’t be, I can still breathe.’ Ethan said, ‘and move more than a toe.’

Darius blinked and sat up. ‘I’m ready. Maybe we should just get a room instead of driving back tonight?’

‘No chance of that, Lieutenant. Back to the jeep and your doom.’ Damon was well fed and completely sober, so was definitely ready for his own bed.

Darius raised a hand and walked off to the jeep. Ethan followed along dragging Edward by the hand. ‘Hop in sugar, Daddy Day will get us home and tucked in.’

Edward yawned and followed obediently.

Damon sighed as he climbed into the jeep. ‘Keep your extremities inside the vehicle at all times.’

Paul was waiting at the guard house when the jeep got back to camp. He nodded to the guard to let them in.

Damon sighed again.

Paul shook his head and waved them through.

Damon drove the jeep to the barracks and looked round at the cadets. ‘Bedtime, babies.’

Darius woke up immediately and hopped out. He glanced back at the other two and then at Damon. ‘They may take a little more rousting. Aren’t they precious?’ He trotted on into the bay.

Damon snorted and leant over to poke Ethan. ‘Wakey, wakey.’

Edward snuffled and cuddled up closer.

‘Not yet. Five more minutes.’ Ethan said and batted at the finger.

Damon poked harder. ‘Wake up, it’s time for bed.’

Ethan sat up, ‘I was sleeping,’ he pointed out. ‘Eddie, wake up. It’s time for bed.’ Ethan poked Edward.

Edward batted at Ethan’s finger. ‘Not now, I’m sleeping.’

Ethan rolled his eyes and got out of the jeep. He reached in and grabbed Edward by the front of his jacket and hefted him up and over so he landed on Ethan’s shoulder. ‘Thanks, see ya.’ He waved to Damon as he headed indoors.

Damon stared at the night sky for several moments then followed the others into the barracks.

Dylan watched the parade and then closed the door to his office. ‘Night night, babies.’ He said quietly. Morning would come far too soon he was sure.

Paul strolled through the camp to his own apartment, where he would undoubtedly sleep like a baby.

The first crack of light and Ethan was up and out of bed. He had put on sweats and trainers and was running around the barracks to clear the cobwebs. It felt good, the air was crisp and had just a hint of fresh rain in it. He listened to his heart as it beat steadily and the slap, slap of his shoes as they hit the tarmac rhythmically.  He made two passes and then slowed down to an easier pace.

Jack caught up with him and ran alongside. ‘Want to tell me what last night was all about?’

‘What do you mean?’ Ethan asked. ‘Which part?’

‘The trip to Oxford?’

‘Oh, Damon was hungry. It didn’t start out to be that. We were just going for a beer and then bed. Ed said something about the RSM and the next thing I knew Darius was saying Damon was following us. We fed him, had a few beers, came home and slept. How was your night? Did you miss me?’

‘I did. You going to see the RSM before breakfast? I’m not saying you’ll get any brownie points, mind you.’

‘Sorry, I’ll make it up to you later.’ Ethan said and slowed to a walk. ‘Actually I was. I just wanted to get the snarky out of me first. Wanna go shower?’ He waggled his eyebrows.

‘Don’t even think it. You’ll be late, I’ll miss my breakfast and that will make me cranky.’

‘It was more for you than me. I don’t mind either way.’ Ethan veered off and went up the steps to the barracks and into the showers.

Jack snorted and headed to the mess hall for breakfast.
Life was good and yes he was going to be punished for whatever sin he had committed. He was sure the RSM made it all up as he went but Ethan was good natured enough to not mind too much or to sweat it for long. Some cadet had left his hairbrush in the shower room so he used it and then padded back to the bay and found a uniform to put on. He really needed to press these again.  When he was all pretty again he poked Edward and waited.

Edward groaned and tried to swat at the intruding finger. ‘Go ‘way,’ he mumbled.

‘Eddie, get up and get cleaned up. I’ll see you at the RSM’s office in ten minutes or so.’ Ethan said.

Darius knocked on the office door and sighed. He really wished he hadn’t played with that idiot boy now, he knew better. Much much better. He had spent the morning berating himself and polishing boots and watching Ethan run with Jack. They were a cute couple. Now though, it was time to pay the piper.

‘Come,’ Paul called out, looking up from his paperwork.

Darius had been hoping he wouldn’t be in, ‘Drat.’ He mumbled and walked through the doorway, shutting the door behind him. ‘Sir.’ Darius took his cap off and tucked it in the waistband of his trousers before going to parade rest.

Paul looked at Darius for several moments. ‘What exactly were you thinking?’ he finally said.

‘At which point, Sir.’ Darius asked.

‘At any point. Apparently there wasn’t much thinking at any point.’

‘No, Sir, apparently not, Sir.’ Darius agreed.

‘I was actually talking about the exercise. After that, it was all downhill.’

‘Sir, I really don’t know what happened. I don’t have any excuse or any explanation, it just happened.  I’m sorry. Sir.’ Darius floundered not really sure why he had done what he did.  He hated getting anyone into trouble at his expense but he knew left to himself he would never have done any of it.

‘Darius, you are an officer. You can’t allow yourself to be led astray by anyone. Even the terrible twosome.’

Darius hung his head, ‘I know, Sir. It was and is madness. I can’t even begin to understand what came over me.  I take this school and the training seriously. One day I want to be MI6 and acting like...a brat, is no way to get there. Sir.’

Paul sighed. ‘Darius, you are a responsible and sensible adult. But you are also a brat, and occasionally you are going to get into trouble.’ He pointed to the chairs opposite his desk. ‘Take a seat.’

‘Yes, Sir.’ Darius went and sat down after pulling his cap back out and holding it in his hands.

Ethan was torn, finally what Jack said made sense and he poked Edward one more time before going to the RSM’s office. He tapped lightly on the door and waited.

Paul looked up in surprise. ‘Come.’

Ethan stepped inside and shut the door. ‘Sir.’ He said as he went to parade rest. Belatedly he whisked his cover off and tucked it in the waistband of his trousers.

‘Very commendable, Cadet. As you can see, I am occupied, so I suggest you roust your partner in crime and have an early breakfast.’

Ethan looked at the desk and then at Paul. He didn’t look busy. ‘If you say so, Sir.’ He said and turned around. Then he spotted Darius and grinned. ‘Jerk.’

Darius grinned back.

Paul waited for Ethan to leave and turned back to Darius. ‘Do you have any comment?’

‘On Ethan? I think he was pretty brave to come here. I sure wouldn’t my first year.’ Darius said.  ‘Oh and he can be such a jerk. ‘

Paul snorted out a laugh. ‘I was referring to our conversation before the interruption.’

‘Oh, sorry.  I suppose it’s something I’ll have to keep in check. It’s just sometimes I feel I need to let it all go and just play too.’

‘I understand that need, and you will probably never get over it. Hopefully you will find your perfect Top, and he will help you deal with the ups and the downs of being a brat.’

‘I’d prefer to find my perfect partner and he just happens to be a Top if you don’t mind too much. I have a specific type in mind.’ Darius said and laughed. ‘Now if you were gay I might be willing.’

Paul quirked his brow. ‘I wasn’t recommending myself, Darius. I do look forward to meeting your partner, who might just happen to be a Top, in due course.’

Darius sighed, ‘Well okay then. I’ll keep a look out and make sure I bring him around for approval. Sir.’

‘Thank you. Now we will deal with your behaviour yesterday.’

‘Yes, Sir. If we have to.’ Darius stood up. ‘I do believe that this was a really naughty thing to have done Sir. Especially with your RSM here to evaluate us.’

Paul’s eyebrow shot up higher. ‘Who told you that?’

‘MI6, Sir, remember?’ Darius said with a grin.

‘Don’t be cheeky.’ Paul stood up and walked over to the cabinet. ‘Assume the position.’

‘Sir, I really think you need to be a bit more...forceful this time? Just don’t make me say it because this is not an easy thing.’

Paul nodded. ‘I think I can manage that.’ He flexed the cane. ‘What are you waiting for?’

Darius was uncomfortable now but he swallowed it down and placed both hands on the desk.

Paul flexed the cane again and then brought it down on Darius’s waiting buttocks with some force.

‘Fuckin’ hell,’ Darius whispered and put his head down. Maybe he didn’t need to worry about the trousers after all.

What most people didn’t realise was that Paul had more than one cane. This one was vicious, thicker than the others and able to inflict a great deal of discomfort. He brought the instrument of torture down for a second and third time.

Tears fell unbidden and unnoticed as Darius tried without success to come to grips with this new thing. He had expected a cane, Paul did love his cane but his brain was not understanding why it was so much worse. By the third stroke his legs were shaking from adrenaline and he had to hold on tighter to the far side of the desk just to stay upright.  He was not a happy young man and he decidedly knew he wouldn’t be for a while after this.

Paul landed another three strokes and then put the cane down. He was pretty sure that his efforts would meet Darius’s requirements.

As the abuse continued Darius laid his head down and tried to find a happy place. There was none. It took him a few minutes to realise that Paul had stopped but he refused to move for a few more minutes. Then, with effort, he stood up and walked into the RSM’s arms. There was something about a warm body, even one that had caused so much trauma that made him feel secure and safe again but mostly he felt forgiven. ‘Thank you, Sir,’ he choked out and then closed his eyes to try and get to grips with it all.

Paul nodded as he held Darius close. ‘You are welcome, Darius. I forgive you.’

Dylan wandered into the bay and frowned. He walked over to the bunk and dumped the occupant onto the floor. ‘Get up, cadet.’

Edward looked up from the floor. ‘That was mean.’

‘Get dressed, get fed and get where you are supposed to be, bed is not it.’ Dylan said. ‘I’ll see you at 16.00 hours in my office. Now move out.’

‘Buggerations,’ Edward muttered as he headed for the showers.

Dylan smiled to himself and went to find his next victim.

Ethan joined Jack with his breakfast and sighed. ‘Darius beat me. I’m so grumpy now and Eddie refused to get up.’  He bit into his toast.

‘Darius beat you?’ Jack looked momentarily startled. ‘Oh, he got to the RSM first?’

‘Yeah, so I got told to come and eat. If I puke will he hit me harder?’

‘Quite possibly. Don’t eat too much.’ Jack ruffled Ethan’s hair. ‘Go and get Edward first though.’

‘No, I will not.  I tried with him already and he refuses to vacate my bed. Now, mind you if the RSM goes looking for him and canes him in my bunk it’ll piss me off if Edward wees in it.’ Ethan finished the slice of toast he was eating and then sighed. ‘Can’t do it. My tummy’s all knotted up.’

‘Then do as you are told and go and find Edward,’ Jack said, his tone indicating it was more an order than a polite request.

Ethan looked at Jack and snorted. ‘Don’t you tell me something.’

‘I just did. You want to go there, Cadet?’

Ethan deflated and sighed, ‘Not really, no.  You’d think he would get hungry wouldn’t you?’

‘Eventually. Go. Now.’ Jack was not amused.

‘I will get you back for this, meanie.’ Ethan got up and then leant over and whispered in Jack’s ear.
He trotted off with a smile on his face and was pleased to see that Edward had surfaced. ‘Are you ready yet?’

Edward looked up from his boots. ‘Just about. Dylan threw me out of my, your, bunk.’

‘Good for him,’ Ethan grinned. ‘Jack made me come and get you.’

‘Why? Is he grumpy?’

‘Did he get laid last night?’ Ethan asked.

‘Ah. Well, that ‘splains it.’ Edward stood up. ‘Okay, I’m ready. What am I ready for, exactly?’

‘RSM Jones?’ Ethan said and snorted. He was not looking forward to this, Eddie seemed clueless. To be so young and so innocent.

‘Oh. I forgot about that. Do we get a last meal?’

‘You just had it.’ Ethan said and pushed Edward along towards the RSM’s office.

‘I did not. That is a blatant lie.’

Ethan laughed, ‘Okay, you didn’t, I’ll make sure you eat after but I need to get this over with. So not fair isn’t it? I’d be happy to let you stay and eat but Commander Flanigan would have my balls. So come along, sunshine.’

Edward snorted and allowed himself to be pushed along. ‘So, on a scale of 1 to 10, how pissed do you think the RSM is?’

‘One hundred and eleventy six.’ Ethan said.

‘That many?’ Oh, dear.’ Edward stopped dead. ‘Think the Foreign Legion are still recruiting?’

‘Maybe but I think he might hunt us down and then really hurt us.’ Ethan stopped in front of the door and knocked...again. He had a feeling of de ja vu but shook it off.

Edward sighed melodramatically.

‘Come,’ Paul said. He nodded to Darius. ‘I’ll see you this afternoon to go through those reports.’

‘Yes, Sir.’ Darius said and opened the door. ‘Good luck.’ He said to both of them and went down the hall towards Dylan’s office.

Ethan pushed Edward in first and then thought about it and grabbed him back out, slamming the door. ‘I changed my mind. I can’t do it.’ He said in a panic.

Edward blinked in confusion. ‘What are you doing? We can’t do this.’

Paul strode over to the door and pulled it open. ‘Inside ... now.’

‘I can’t. It’s the wrong time of the month.’ Ethan said. He sat down on the floor and tried to breathe.

‘Don’t be ridiculous.’ Paul folded his arms. ‘Get up off the carpet, cadet.’

Edward backed up against the wall. Definitely one hundred and eleventy six.

Ethan crawled over to Paul and grabbed him around the knees. ‘Please don’t hurt me. I’m really a good guy most of the time. Something just gets up my arse and makes me go a little crazy.’

‘ carpet.’

Ethan sighed and stood up. ‘Alright then; have it your way. You are a heartless bastard aren’t you?’  He stopped and stepped back. ‘Oh, dear, I said that out loud, didn’t I?  I’m sure you have a heart and that your parents were married long before your birth.’ He stepped back again.

‘I do, and they were. I recommend keeping your mouth closed until you engage your brain.’

Edward closed his mouth tightly. He was not sure his brain was capable of engaging.

Ethan nodded and decided the best thing to do was just agree with anything the man said. If he couldn’t shut up or say anything intelligent he really shouldn’t just let words fall out. This was definitely not Kansas. Although he had never been.

‘Your behaviour was reprehensible. Your persistent refusal to take anything seriously makes me wonder if you will ever make officers. You also seem to think that you can do absolutely anything and skate through the consequences with smart alec remarks. Do you even realise that I have the power to have you sent home?’

Ethan let that sink in and then he walked into Paul’s office and sat down hard on one of the chairs. ‘We need to talk.’ He said quietly. ‘Let Eddie go for a bit, please.’ Ethan didn’t look at anyone or anything but the backs of his hands resting on his legs. He had gone two shades paler.

Paul looked over at Edward. ‘Cadet, go and wait in your bay.’

Edward nodded and took off at a run.

Paul closed the door and walked over to his chair. He sat down and looked at Ethan. ‘So talk.’

‘I don’t want to go home. I know that you have every right to think badly of me but this place has given me a lot more than it has taken. Look at my test scores, my qualifying papers, I’m good at this and I will be a great officer. I may never go very high up the pecking order, it isn’t important to me. If you send me home it’ll just give my father more reason to ridicule me. Please don’t. Just a chance, that’s all I’ll ask for, just one.’ Ethan looked at Paul and blinked.

‘You don’t think you’ve already had more chances than you deserve?’

‘I won’t say no. I’ll just go and pack then shall I?’ Ethan stood up, ‘I really did enjoy this though. Explain to Mabel for me, she’s sensitive.’

‘I didn’t tell you to leave. Sit back down.’

Ethan sat down. ‘Sorry.’

‘You do know that Edward would follow you into the bowels of Hell, don’t you?’

‘Yes, Sir.’

‘So perhaps you should consider leading him there a little less often.’


‘Mischief making during your free time, whilst more than a little annoying for me, is not something I expect to stamp out. But from now on, I expect you and Edward to be exemplary students. Is that clear?’

‘Sir, you’re not sending me away?’ Ethan asked. Then he finally understood the second part of that and grinned. ‘Yes, Sir, very clear, Sir.’

‘Good. Now are you ready?’

‘Yes, Sir.’

Paul stood up and walked over to the cabinet. ‘You can stand up now.’

‘Oh,’ Ethan stood up and walked over to the desk. ‘When’s your new one getting here?’ He asked as he grabbed the far side and laid down. He figured he may as well cut out the middle part and get comfy right away.

‘Next week. Maybe I’ll let you christen it.’ Paul flexed the cane and brought it smartly down.

‘I’d like that.’ Ethan said. Then he shut up for a minute while his brain processed the stroke. ‘I seriously need to find out what a paddle feels like. It can’t be this bad.’ He banged his head once gently.

‘I’m sure Jack will be able to oblige you. I’m surprised he hasn’t yet.’ Paul wasn’t used to carrying out a conversation during a punishment, but Ethan seemed to be in a chatty mood.

‘Only another bloody cane.’ Ethan breathed out.

Paul landed a couple more strokes. ‘Save your breath.’

‘No problem, Sir.’ Ethan managed one more stroke and then broke.

Paul finished off the caning with a final two strokes, bringing it to a nice neat six. ‘You can stand up when you’re ready.’

‘No, no, no.’ Ethan told the desk. His hands were even sweaty this time. He used the sleeve of his shirt to wipe at his face and then took a ragged breath. ‘I need a hug, can I go now?’

‘Come here,’ Paul said, holding his arms out. ‘You will make a fine officer, Ethan.’

Ethan didn’t think, he just went over and let the man who had just hurt him hold him. ‘I’m sorry. We were just stupid.’

‘That you were,’ Paul agreed wholeheartedly.

Ethan spent the rest of the day out at the firing range. Not because he had to but because he chose too. He had Edward putting up targets in between building mini bridges and blowing them up.  By the time it was mess they had finished building a great bridge, putting in tiny trees made from twigs and Ethan rounded up some pine cones to use as jeeps.  ‘Okay, set your charges.’ He said as he went to sit down under one of the trees off to the right. His ammo was gone and he knew he’d have to round up the spent cartridges at some point. ‘Let’s see if you can make a symphony of tiny booms.’

Edward nodded distractedly. ‘Shh, I’m concentrating.’ He hit a series of switches and there was a cacophony of tiny booms. ‘As requested.’

Ethan grinned and gave him a thumbs up. ‘Wonderful. Very impressive. You deserve chocolate cake for that display.’

‘Thank you, thank you, we’re here all week.’ Edward bowed to an imaginary audience. ‘Ow, forgot about that,’ he winced.

Ethan got up and stretched. ‘Clean up your mess, cadet and I will clean up mine and then we go get cake.’

Edward nodded and scrambled round cleaning up, squeaking as he did so. ‘Did the RSM get a new cane?’ he asked Ethan.

‘Bigger one. It was Darius.’ He stopped and looked at Edward, ‘That isn’t what I meant. Darius thought we needed more incentive to behave. It was his request and apparently the RSM thought he should share with us too.’

Edward snorted. ‘Darius is an idiot,’ he said.

‘Very possibly.’ Ethan found his spent cartridges and stuffed them in his pockets as he went along. ‘No cake for him then. Besides, he belongs to Damon and we can’t keep affording to feed him.’

‘That’s true. That man is going to starve if and when he leaves the army. Damon, I mean.’

‘He will. Although he might find some poor bloke to feed him. Gotcha,’ he picked another cartridge up and stuffed it in his pocket.

‘Who could possibly feed Damon? Are we there yet?’ Edward said as he watched Ethan ferreting around in the grass.

‘Yup,’ Ethan said and held up the last one as he sat down. ‘Fuck me.’

‘You’re not my type, darling. But thank you for your kind offer.’ Edward grinned. ‘Feed me chocolate.’

‘Come on then.’ Ethan stood up and slung Mabel over his shoulder, holding out his other arm to Edward.

Edward looped his arm in Ethan’s. ‘Lead on, Macduff. Who was that examiner, anyway? I got the feeling the RSM knew him.’

‘That, my pet, was his RSM.’

Edward shook his head. ‘That is not even possible. I thought RSMs were born that way.’

‘Did you have a good day?’ Dylan asked as he walked into Paul’s office. He held up a bottle of single malt and two glasses. ‘Want one?’

‘At least one. I think I had a good day. I have come to an understanding with the terrible twosome.’ Paul held his hand out for the glass.

Dylan poured and handed one over. ‘How did you manage to do that in one day? Should I pass it along to Jack?’

‘I had to threaten death and vengeance. Well, explusion, anyway. I think it is one of those threats you only get to use once or twice.’

‘You threatened to expel Darius? He does so well, except for the whole Indy 500 thing.’ Dylan was a little concerned about that.

‘No, not Darius. The terrible twosome.’

‘Oh my. How did Edward take that one? He’s a follower you know. Of course you do.’ Dylan took a sip of his drink. He wasn’t sure he wanted to touch on Ethan at all.

‘I only threatened to expel Ethan. And yes, I do. Edward will behave if Ethan does.’

Dylan sat his glass down and steepled his fingers, ‘I didn’t want to talk about him. I’m sure Ethan will behave in a most exemplary manner from now on. He wouldn’t dare do anything else. Another?’

Paul nodded. ‘So who do you want to talk about?’

‘No one really. How’s the love life coming along? I’d like to think someone besides Jack is getting laid.’

‘I have no love life. What about you?’

‘Zip. I’m not even sure I would know what to do anymore. I keep hoping that some day my prince will come along.’

‘Oh, I’m sure he will. Darius did tell me he might be willing. If I was gay.’ Paul looked into his empty glass.
‘Another one?’

‘He’d be a good choice if he’s your type. No one would ever know.  He does know how to keep his mouth shut.’

‘He’s not my type. And I don’t really think I’m his type. He needs someone wound a little less tight.’

‘I don’t think I have a “type” really. I don’t care if he turns out blonde, ginger or brown I just want him to have a great personality and not so many hang ups or issues.’

‘Well, it shouldn’t be difficult to find someone with fewer issues than us,’ Paul said with a grin and toasted Dylan.

Dylan raised his glass and smiled. ‘Okay, Edward is a bright young man. He comes from a good family, had above average grades all through school and he shows a great insight into where to put the explosives to do the least amount of damage. He will be a great asset to whatever team he ends up on.  I would feel better if he were deployed with others who can use a rifle if only to keep him safe. He really is a bad shot and barely made qualification. Physically he is more than capable of holding his own in any situation and he would do a thorough job with recon. He will need a Top as his CO even after he graduates because Edward is first and foremost a brat.’

Paul nodded. ‘I would agree with your assessment. With the exception of Darius, he’s probably the most grown-up brat I’ve ever encountered.’

‘He is which in retrospect is why it does surprise me that he is so willing to follow his mate no matter what. But he does and gives it no thought at all. I’m wondering if separating them for a while might be in order. Not as punishment, just send one off for a few days with a group and the other with another group, just to see how they get on without each other to fall back on.’

Paul thought for several moments. ‘There’s a sniper training exercise next week. It’s not usually for first years, but I think we can pull strings for Ethan. Would that fit the bill?’

‘It might. I’m keeping Darius and Damon here too. Who’s training?’

‘That would be me.’

Dylan snorted.

Ethan paced back and forth and this was not an easy task in a small flat. He had given up counting the steps, he knew how many by heart now.  Every so often he would shudder as though someone had stepped on his grave.

Jack pushed open the door and watched Ethan for several moments. ‘I’ll lose my security deposit if you wear a groove in the carpet,’ he joked.

‘I’ll pay for it.’ Ethan said and turned around for another trip. ‘Why is he doing this? There has to be some reason. I’ve asked, first year cadets don’t go to this class. He’s trying to get me killed isn’t he?’ Ethan stopped and looked at Jack. ‘You need to write a note telling him I can’t go for you are the daddy.’ He folded his arms and tapped a foot.

‘I am not writing you a note. And apparently someone should be vetting your TV viewing, this is not a conspiracy and he is not trying to get you killed.’ Jack sighed. ‘This is a good thing, Ethan.’

‘You’re joking! He’s dragging me away from Edward and it’s a good thing! Are you daft?’ Even to Ethan that made no sense. He turned around and stomped to the bedroom, slamming the door, more angry with himself than anything.

Jack followed Ethan into the bedroom. ‘Don’t slam doors. And it’s not going to kill you and Edward to be apart for a week.’

‘Yes it will. I will die without him in bed with me at night. I depend on him kicking and trying to strangle me.’

‘You might get a decent night’s sleep for a change, you know.’ Jack sat on the end of the bed. ‘I’ll miss you, but it’s only a week.’

Ethan looked at Jack. ‘Oh, sweetie, I’m sorry. I was so busy whinging about me I forgot there is you too. I’ll miss you bunches.’ Ethan kissed Jack.  ‘I sleep just fine with or without him, you know. Best place is right here, wrapped up with you.’

Jack grinned. ‘Well, you’re not going anywhere just yet.’ He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

Ethan looked at Jack with a straight face and then down at his crotch, ‘One of you is insatiable. I’m going to prescribe one wank a day while I am gone, just so I can get in the door before you have me on my knees.’ He looked across the room and then back at Jack. ‘Well, come on then, work me like a violin.’

‘Well, if you insist...’

Darius was sitting in the middle of the bed. He had made Damon go out and buy a bigger one as his mate insisted on hogging the middle. He was pouting.

Damon was juggling a pile of folders, a mug of coffee and a large cinnamon bun. Try as he might, he couldn’t open the door so he kicked it, not very gently. ‘Darius, open the door,’ he shouted. ‘Please?’

Getting up with a huge long suffering sigh, Darius got up and went to open the door. His eyes lit up at the pastry and he grabbed it and went to sit back in the middle of the bed. ‘So kind of you to think of me in my time of sorrow.’ He said and took a bite.

Damon growled. ‘That was mine. What time of sorrow?’

‘Paul’s doing a sniper training class and I don’t get to go. I have to stay here and babysit the ... babies.’ He took another small bite and took pity, handing it back to Damon.

‘Didn’t you do that course six months ago?’ Damon said, reclaiming his sugary snack. ‘You want the coffee?’

‘No, thanks. Yes, I did but it wouldn’t hurt to have a refresher. You can never get in enough practice you know.  First he takes my jeep and grounds me, now this. He hates me.’ Darius threw himself backwards on the bed and sighed. Then he sat up and grinned, ‘But if he’s gone he won’t know if I drive.’

Damon snorted. ‘He doesn’t hate you.’ He sipped the drink. ‘Why did he take your jeep?’

‘I took him to the PX.’ Darius grinned.  ‘I also have news.’

‘That’ll do it. What news?’

‘Dylan's working Edward around to bunking with us.’ Darius said.

Damon looked at the bed. ‘It’ll be a squeeze.’

‘We’ll stuff him in the middle. Now aren’t you glad I insisted on a bigger bed?’ Darius got up and went to start cooking.

Dylan sat in his chair looking over at Edward and wondering how he was taking the news. So far the young man had said nothing but Dylan was nothing if not a patient man.  He sipped his now tepid tea and wondered if he had time to get up and make them a fresh one.

Edward sighed deeply. ‘I don’t know why I can’t go with Ethan,’ he said, his tone serious. Then he managed a grin. ‘Unless being able to hit the side of a barn is important.’

‘Well, son, it is in this class. That’s why it’s called sniper training. You can’t hit anything that you aim for so you are staying here to learn more about explosives. You’ll be so busy you won’t even know he’s gone.’ Dylan said.

‘I suppose not. It’ll be cold at night though.’

‘It might or you could find another teddy bear to hang on to for the little while he’s away,’ Dylan said. ‘Maybe we should go down the list of cadets in your bay?’

Edward wrinkled his nose. ‘No, I’m picky. Have you seen that lot?’

‘Oh, yes, I certainly have. I was thinking maybe you could bunk down with Damon and Darius. They are both clean and I know for a fact their quarters are tidy.’ Dylan offered.

‘Think they’d mind?’

‘Not a bit. Darius especially is looking forward to having you. He’s taken quite a liking. Damon’s a little harder to get to know but you’ll do fine. Just bring him sweets or pastries and he’ll fall all over you with kindness.’ Dylan said.

‘He likes crisps too,’ Edward grinned.

‘Damon likes food. See, you’ll be fine. The week will go fast, I promise.’ Dylan said. ‘You should get packed up though.  Ethan’s at Jack’s for the night, my treat, so I’ll walk you over to the double D as soon as you’re ready.’

Edward nodded. ‘I’m ready.’

Okay, I didn’t know you were packed already. Where were you going?’ Dylan asked, curious.

‘Oh. I thought you meant just me.’ Edward deflated. ‘I’ll go pack then, shall I?

‘You do that. I’ll be at the RSM’s office, come find me when you’ve got everything.’ Dylan got up along with Edward and followed him out the door.

‘You have caused quite a riot.’ He told Paul as he sat down in “his” chair. ‘Making tea by chance?’

‘There’s a fresh brew in the pot.’ Paul looked at Dylan over his paperwork. ‘What kind of a riot, exactly?’

‘Well, I’ve had Ethan in my office stalking back and forth so I sent him to Jack’s so he can vent with someone he feels safe with. Darius almost shook my teeth out before he settled down and went to pout somewhere, probably at Day and Edward didn’t understand why he couldn’t go even if he can’t hit a barn. I’m packing him off to live with Damon and Darius for the week.’

Paul snorted. ‘You have a very selective memory, lieutenant. This was your idea, after all.’

‘I do, don’t I? And it doesn’t matter if it was. If you didn’t think it was a good one you’d have said so and come up with something else, at least I would hope you would have.’ Dylan snorted back.

‘I thought you wanted tea,’ Paul reminded Dylan.

‘I do,’ Dylan made him one and a fresh one for Paul. ‘Are you leaving tomorrow then? I’m just killing time until Edward is packed. I imagine Darius has told Damon by now.’

‘First thing in the morning. I’m just glad I don’t have to ride in the back anymore,’ Paul grinned. ‘There’s biscuits.’

Dylan looked at Paul, ‘It’s really hard for me to picture that one.’ He looked around and grabbed the tin before he sat back down.

‘Which part? The early morning, or the riding in the back?’

Dylan snorted tea all over, ‘Sorry, riding in the back. I know you’re new at the post and all but it seems like you’ve been here forever. It fits you well. I never told you that and I should have.’ He was wiping up the mess as he spoke. ‘Marcus was right but I think your profile cinched it so you should say thank you, Dylan.’ He grinned.

‘Thank you Dylan.’ Paul said with a completely straight face.

Edward tapped on the door to Paul’s office.

Dylan threw the napkins away and then stood up, ‘I’ll just get that shall I? Seeing as I’m already up.’

‘Seeing as you’re up.’ Paul bit into his biscuit.

Dylan went and opened the door. ‘Ah, my charge. I’ll see you when you get back, RSM. Have a good training session.’ He placed a hand in the small of Edward’s back and herded him along. ‘I bet you’re looking forward to when you have enough time in so you get your own quarters too, aren’t you?’

Edward nodded. ‘Some of those cadets snore really loud. And fart. And burp. And did I mention the snoring?’

‘You did. We’ll beat that out of them.’ Dylan said with a straight face. ‘Up the stairs. Second years are there. We do put two in a room if they request it.’

Edward bounded up the stairs. ‘Hey, they get carpet.’

‘They do. Even first years aren’t guaranteed to make it this far. We tend to weed you all out as we go.’ Dylan said. ‘Darius and Damon are at the end of this hall. Make sure you wipe your feet, Damon gets grumpy.’

Edward jogged down the corridor and tapped lightly on the door. He turned round and looked at Dylan. ‘Thank you,’ he called.

‘You’re welcome. Have fun with them. Oh they have a video game thing too if you are interested.’ Dylan waved and trotted on back down the stairs.

‘Day! Get off your arse and get that! I’m cooking!’ Darius called. ‘I’m his mate, his partner, his personal slave, not his frikken...huh.’ He stirred the sauce and muttered some more.

Damon yawned and pushed his chair away from the desk. ‘It’s open!’ he yelled.

Edward pushed the door open. ‘So it is,’ he said with a cheeky grin.

‘Come in, sit down, be quiet, I’ve got work to do, or go and talk to Darius in the kitchen,’ Damon said grumpily. Then he smiled. ‘I’ll be done in half an hour.’

Darius walked out and plonked a mug of tea down beside Damon, ‘Here ya go, Master. We’ll be eating in eleven minutes I have on good authority. Hey Edward, do you cook?’

‘Okay, I’ll be done in eleven minutes,’ Damon amended.

Edward looked thoughtful. ‘I can make bacon butties. And a beef casserole thing that takes all day to cook. And toast. And fried eggs.’

The other two waited.

‘That’s everything.’

‘Well, I guess we’ll have bacon butties with egg tomorrow. There’s tomato in the fridge too so you can add that.’ Darius went back to the kitchen, ‘Well go get unpacked then. We cleared you out a drawer and there’s room in the wardrobe.’ he called to Edward.

‘A whole drawer? I should go back and get more stuff,’ Edward called back.

‘That one is going to be trouble,’ Damon said fatalistically as he sipped his tea.

Darius dished the food up and brought both bowls to the table along with a bottle of wine. He went into the bedroom and looked at Edward, ‘You will note it is a four drawer dresser, we each have one, you have one, Damon has...had paperwork in one and the other has our bed linen. His paperwork now resides in a foot locker which serves him right. He lets it pile up. So you did me a favour. Now come and eat. Do you drink wine? If he’s left any.’

‘I drink red wine sometimes. White wine makes me sick.’ He looked at the contents of the bowls. ‘I can smell something garlicky and bready. Did you forget something?’

Damon grinned. ‘A man after my own heart.’

‘Kitchen’s over there. Someone has to guard the food and you’re a newbie. Damon would have you for a snack. The wine is always red here.’ Darius grinned. ‘You turn to wash up, Day. I have a paper to do and I’m sure Edward needs to get to bed early. He’s just a baby you know.’

Edward trotted off to the kitchen. ‘Ow, ow, ow,’ he said as he retrieved the garlic bread.

Damon looked at Darius and shook his head. ‘Babysitting for a whole week.’

‘It’ll put you in training for later on.’ Darius said and filled his plate.

‘Training for what?’ Edward asked innocently.

Damon’s eyes narrowed and he glared at Darius.

‘I...he’s...there’s something you need to know about Damon. He doesn’t lose it often but he keeps this really big and nasty paddle in his bedside cabinet. It’s oak, I think, a very solid wood.  He’s not training for that though but if I tell you he will take that paddle out and do me bodily harm.’ Darius said.

‘Oh.’ Edward was mystified. ‘Why does Damon have a paddle?’

‘I am right here,’ Damon pointed out.

‘He’s a Top.’ Darius said and looked at Damon, ‘Oh, so you are. Fancy that. Bread, darling?’

‘Yes, dear.’

‘A Top. What’s a Top?’

Darius passed the bread to Damon and then looked at Edward, ‘He is? Okay, a Top is a person, be it boy or girl who breaks out in hives and a nervous sweat if they aren’t in control of absolutely everything. Most of them are slobs but a few, or so I hear are right tidy buggers.  If you do manage to annoy one of them they will most likely spank you until you are sure your bottom is going to fall off, run away and never speak to you again. Pass the cheese?’

Edward passed him the cheese. ‘Why would they run away?’

‘Huh? Oh sweetie, you’ve only had to put up with Paulie and his cane, you really need a proper spanking to know.  Mine almost ran off the last time.’

Edward blinked. ‘Huh?’ Then the cogs turned in his brain. ‘Oh. OH. Sorry, I put the comma in the wrong place,’ he blushed. ‘Paulie, um, the RSM and his cane were pretty bad last time.’

‘You go on thinking that, lovey. No, I’m being naughty now. He does do a lovely job of it.  Mind you, I won’t be going there for a while, a very long while too. Damon, take a breath, darling. Let your mouth taste the food. Gives your tummy time to catch up.’

Damon put down his cutlery down. ‘What’s the point of that? Someone might get all the meatballs when I’m breathing.’

‘You’re always breathing,’ Edward pointed out.

Darius looked at Edward. ‘No one will take your meatballs. They are yours I saw you mark them. We can play video games when I finish my paper if it’s not too late. I don’t have to be anywhere tomorrow but I bet you do.’

Edward yawned. ‘Always. I thought I had to go to bed early.’

‘Oh, that’s right. You do. Go shower. I’ll just spend some time with Damon then. He can’t play games though.  We had to replace the machine the last time he did.’

Damon glared at Darius. ‘It wouldn’t hurt all of us to have an early night.’

‘I’m not tired.’ Darius said and got up to help clear the dishes. ‘I’ll even help with the washing up.’

‘Don’t try and butter me up. Early night.’

Edward headed for the bathroom, leaving the other two to their domestic squabble.

‘Okay fine.’ Darius huffed. ‘What if I make cherry tarts?’

Damon thought about it and then looked at the clock. ‘Not going to work. But you can make cherry tarts tomorrow.’

Darius poked out his lower lip and then sighed. ‘Okay. I lied anyway. I’m bushed. Beat. Exhausted.’

‘Join the queue for the shower,’ Damon said.

Edward padded past the kitchen with a towel wrapped round his waist. ‘No queue.’

‘Going.’ Darius said and trotted off. He got done quickly and went into the bedroom naked. ‘Oh, jammies. Do I own jammies? Noooooo, boxers will have to do.’ He grabbed a pair and put them on and climbed into bed. ‘Come on Sport,’ he patted the bed.

Edward looked a little nervous. ‘Am I going to get squished?’

Damon walked into the bedroom. ‘Quite possibly. Darius is a terrible bed hog.’

‘I won’t squish you, come have a cuddle, puppy.’

Edward bounced on the bed. ‘This isn’t an army bed, is it?’

‘No, for I flatten army mattresses,’ Damon said, sitting down on his side. ‘Now everyone lie down and be quiet. I need my beauty sleep.’

Edward snorted with laughter in spite of himself.

Darius put a finger on Edward’s lips as he pulled him close. ‘Shh, the baby is sleeping.’

Damon turned off the light.

‘Night Day,’ Darius said and grinned.

 ‘Night Damon, Night Darius,’ Edward said.

‘Oh, good grief,’ Damon said.

‘The proper response is good night brats.’ Darius encouraged.

‘Good night, brats,’ Damon sighed heavily.

Ethan got up a little earlier the following morning and went to eat. He wanted time to check Mabel before they left for the training centre. He had no idea what to expect and he hated that more than anything. Dylan had told him this was an honour, first years did not get this training. Not even Darius had gone and he was a dead on shot. Maybe this training was why.  The weapons room was dark and quiet and he turned on the light and went to collect his weapon and go to his station. He had cleaned the rifle once already but his opinion was if his life and others were going to depend on it being clean and ready then it couldn’t ever be too clean.

Ethan sat down at the table and began to take Mabel apart and lay the pieces out one by one and side by side in order. He ran a hand over each one and then picked up his rag and a blue black rifle piece and began to clean and oil it lovingly. It was as much an exercise in meditation for him as it was practical application.

Paul strode from the mess hall to the weapons room. He had a list of things to do, check and check again, and he was going to start in the weapons room before anyone else arrived. He was surprised to find the lights on. He smiled when he realised it was Ethan. ‘Good morning, Cadet.’

Ethan looked up, his eyes a little glazed and he blinked, ‘Oh, good morning, Sir. Did you want me for something? Hopefully with no canes involved.’

‘No, I’ve just got things to do before we leave. Are you done with Mabel, or shall I leave you two alone?’

Ethan ran a hand over the rifle and then looked at Paul, ‘She’s ready.’ Ethan stood up and held the rifle out to Paul for inspection.

Paul gave the rifle a once-over. ‘You do good work. You can help me getting the kit together for this course.’

‘Not a problem, RSM,’ Ethan took the rifle back and slung it over his shoulder. ‘What do you want done?’

Paul handed him a list. ‘Start collecting this stuff and we’ll get it packed up.’ He looked at Ethan. ‘You can put Mabel down for the moment.’

‘Darius said that I should get used to always having her close. He said I will eat, sleep and do the other with her attached.’ Ethan said as he took the list. He looked at it and then around the room. ‘I think the scopes might need cleaning. Or at least a few of them but I won’t tell you whose. Should I do that first or last?’

‘Get everything out on the tables, then you can get started on the cleaning.’ Paul looked at his list. This was going to take a while.

Ethan went to collect the things on his list and laid them out one by one down the centre of the middle table. He grabbed the bag with the chips in them and set one by each scope and then went to get the cleaning kits. ‘This is going to be a while. Unless you want to help? Or find someone who knows what they are doing?’

‘I can help once I’m done with the rest of this list. Who would you recommend?’

‘I only know one sniper, Sir.’ Ethan said as he used a piece of cotton on the scope in his hands. He dipped it into the oil, just a tiny bit and rubbed.

‘Don’t be cryptic.’

‘I wasn’t. It’s that chubby bloke in Echo. I don’t know his name but he’s always telling us about how great he is. I suppose he could be lying about it though, I’ve never seen him with a rifle. Maybe you should get Darius then. I know he knows.’ Ethan grinned. ‘I was joking about the chubby bloke.’

‘I’ll just run off and fetch Darius, shall I?’ Paul said caustically. ‘Off you go, cadet.’ Then he relented. ‘He should just be finishing his breakfast.’

Ethan was in oily heaven and just nodded. He really hadn’t heard much of what Paul had said. ‘This one’s no good. Look. It has a chip here.’

Paul snorted and walked over to the phone. He rang the mess hall kitchen and left a message. Then he walked back to Ethan. ‘You’re right. Make a pile of any scrap.’

‘Uh huh.’ Ethan had already moved on to the next scope. He was not happy that pieces of equipment were used and abused like that.

Darius ate and trotted over to the weapons room. He sighed when he saw the scopes out and plodded over, his arms hanging down and his bottom lip pushed out. ‘I was not naughty.’ He said to Ethan as he sat down.

Ethan looked up and grinned. ‘Nope, think of this as you being helpful. Discard pile,’ he pointed.

Darius picked up one of the scopes and looked it over, ‘What the hell were they using these for?’

‘Baton practice, it looks like.’

‘Someone should line them up and shoot them.’

‘Don’t tempt me,’ Ethan said as another joined the growing pile.

Paul walked out of the store room with a pile of cammo netting. ‘You made it. Don’t worry, I’ll be shooting them later.’

‘You have all the fun,’ Darius said as another one landed in the pile. ‘I think we have a problem. How many are you taking with you this time?’ He asked Paul.

‘Just three this time. Not many candidates. What’s the problem?’

‘If they aren’t chipped the lenses are cracked. Some not very big but when you need to be spot on it’s huge.’ Darius said.

‘It’s like the guys cleaned them; and not very well either and then just tossed them into the cubbies.’ Ethan said as he looked at another one. ‘How did it get bent?’ He handed the scope to Darius.

Darius looked at it and then sat back with his arms crossed. ‘Sir, I do believe someone came in here and did some damage. This is not just from getting put away. Hey!’ He jumped up and went to look in the cubby that the scopes were kept in. ‘Well, fuck me.’

Ethan had to see and he went on tip toes to look over Darius’s shoulder. ‘Oh, they are so gonna pay.’ He snorted.

Paul quirked his brow. ‘Do either of you ever finish a train of thought?’

They both turned around and looked at him. ‘It was Charlie Company. The note says, “hope you enjoyed our little gift.” Toads.’ Darius said.

‘Payback.’ Ethan nodded.

‘Not as much as they are going to enjoy it,’ Paul said, his face a mask. ‘Can I leave you two to work through the lists?’

‘Sure.’ Darius said. ‘I’ll find our scopes and get this mess tidied.’

‘I can finish up the rest hopefully. Go get ‘em Tiger.’ Ethan said and then his eyes widened and he blinked. ‘Sorry, Sir, caught up in the moment. You should take Edward and a weapon and tell Charlie he is going to use them for target practice. He’d never hit one of them but I bet it would scare the crap outta ‘em.’

‘Much as I applaud your keenness, I have my own way of scaring the crap out of them. I’ll be back.’ Paul strode out of the weapon room and off to reward Charlie Company’s inappropriate humour.

Darius and Ethan busied themselves with the work they had to do and soon things were packed, piled, cleaned and stacked. Darius stood back with his hands on his hips and smiled. ‘That’s a job jobbed innit?’

‘It is. I think we deserve to reward ourselves.’ Ethan said.

‘I believe you may be right.’ Darius said and they went to the nearest pub. It was the officers pub but then who really checked that sort of thing. After two beers they were much more relaxed and Darius was telling Ethan stories about his time with the training. Ethan was turning more and more pale as Darius prattled on.

Damon walked into the pub in search of steak pie, chips and maybe another steak pie. ‘Oh, there you are. The RSM’s looking for you.’

Darius and Ethan looked up. ‘Which one?’ they asked in unison.

‘The baby,’ Damon said. He grinned at Darius. ‘You hungry?’

Ethan stuck his thumb in his mouth and got up,’ I medar go den.’ He said around it.

‘Bloody starving. How’s our baby? Where’s our baby?’ Darius asked.

‘Don’t be cheeky,’ Damon said to Ethan. ‘Our baby is in the flat, studying something. He’s an odd boy. I offered him food, and he didn’t want any.’

‘Lots of people don’t eat continuously.’ Darius said. ‘I’m thinking steak pie and chips.’

‘Good idea. Exactly what I was thinking. Maybe with more pie.’

Ethan trotted on down the path and wondered if he sent out thoughts if the RSM would hear them as he didn’t know exactly where he was going.  He headed towards the weapon room as that was the last known place they had been together in.

Paul looked up from the packed kit bags. ‘Good, there you are. Are you ready to leave, or do you need to eat first?’

Ethan burped and then blushed. ‘I’m fine. Food isn’t a major thing for me. I can wait unless you want to eat.’

‘I was just going to get lunch and round up the other two. You can tag along, food might not be a major thing, but this is going to be the last meal you don’t need to cook yourself for a week.’

‘I’m going to need to cook? I can’t cook. No one said anything about cooking. I’m not going.’

‘You are, and it doesn’t take much skill to heat rations.’

‘Can you cook?’

‘I can, and if you and your course mates manage to shoot anything, we’ll be eating that. Unless it’s something disgusting.’

‘Good, then you can cook for me and I will keep your part of the house tidy. I will do the laundry and I will promise you that I will top anyone there and make you smile. But you have to cook.’

Paul grinned. ‘All right. Although it’s still not going to be very exciting. But it will be well cooked.’

‘I don’t need exciting, Sir.  Now do you like rabbit, pheasant, I doubt there will be deer.’ Ethan said.

‘Rabbit or hare. It’s not deer season. If you see any bear, you can shoot ‘em.’

Ethan nodded. ‘Fish? I don’t think I should try shooting fish though. Boar?’

‘Oh, yes,’ Paul grinned. ‘If we’re hoping for large game, we better hope there’s been a breakout from the nearest zoo.’

‘Well, Sir, as long as we don’t get arrested. Want some help getting this lot on the truck?’

Paul nodded. They packed the gear neatly and then called in to the mess hall for a late lunch. By the time they got back to the truck, the other two cadets were waiting. ‘Ethan, this is David and Neville. Ethan gets to ride shotgun because he helped with packing all the kit. So no complaining, boys, in you get.’

Ethan saluted the other two and hopped in the truck. He pushed his hat down over his eyes, adjusted Mabel and settled in.

‘Great, a prima donna.’ David said to Neville and climbed in the back. ‘What’s with the rifle? Do you think he sleeps with it too?’

Neville looked at David through half closed eyelids. ‘He probably does. Only action any of us get round here.’ He grinned and punched the other cadet in the arm. ‘Chill, Dave, it’s going to be a long week.’

‘A very long week. Us and him. Do you think there will be any other regiments there with us?’ David asked as he laid his head back for the trip.

‘It won’t be much of a wilderness experience if there’s half a platoon, now will it?’ Nevelle snorted and pulled his cover down. ‘Now hush, I had a rough night.’

‘I was there.’ David said and closed his eyes.

Ethan didn’t sleep usually he was tense riding with someone he didn’t know well but Paul seemed to know what he was doing so he relaxed and only gave a little advice here and there.
As they pulled into the compound he sat up straight to look around and then he looked at the RSM, ‘Bit grim innit?’

‘Were you expecting log cabins and bluebells?’ Paul said. ‘We’ll start out first thing in the morning, so at least we get a bunk tonight.’

‘That sounds like fun. Little green army houses. I hate little green army houses.’ Ethan jumped down and went over to try the door. It opened and he looked inside. ‘It’s even worse in here. Hey! Who likes the gingham?’

Neville rubbed his eyes and yawned. ‘Gingham? What is this, a re-run of “Calamity Jane”?’

Paul sighed. ‘Comedians.’

‘Probably some of those girl cadets. They are always trying to “pretty” things up.’ David said and went to look. ‘At least it’s green.’ He went inside followed by Ethan and they looked around.  ‘Go look.’ David said.

‘You go.’ Ethan said.

‘I’m not going.’ David said.

‘Hey, lets get Neville, he’ll do it.’ Ethan said and they both laughed at the impromptu “Mikey”.

Neville walked in. ‘What’s with all the hilarity?’

‘We need someone brave to look behind those doors.’ David said.

‘Afraid of the spiders?’ Neville snorted and opened the bathroom door. He screamed and ran back out, slamming the door behind him. ‘It’s worse than we thought.’

‘What?’ Ethan asked and backed up some.

David hid behind him and looked at Neville, afraid to ask.

‘It’s ... it’s ... pink!’ Neville squeaked.

‘Oh! I love pink.’ Ethan said and visibly relaxed.

David snorted and went to see what the bunks were like. He chose his and hopped on it. ‘Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.’ He said and laid back.

Neville grinned and bagged a bunk. ‘Oh, that’s nice. Why don’t we have these mattresses?’

‘Because they would make you soft,’ Paul said as he dumped his pack on the floor. ‘As there’s only four of us, they’ve only opened up the one cabin.’

‘You’re staying here too?’ David asked.

‘Oh, he’s a baby tiger.’ Ethan said and went to the last bunk. ‘Oh, yes, this is nice. I demand to stay here. No little green army houses. The plumbing in those sucks.’

‘We’ll be a long way out by tomorrow night.’ Paul said, unpacking food in the tiny kitchen. ‘Anyone hungry?’

‘Me!’ David said and got up. He went to look and helped put things away. ‘Sadly I cannot cook.’ He made a pouty face.

Neville sighed. ‘Me neither. Well, I can make Pot Noodle.’

‘That is not cooking. I think I’m going to have to review the curriculum, you boys are useless. I will cook.
You can get the rest of the gear out of the truck, the weapons need to be stowed.’

Twenty minutes later the three cadets were ready to eat and they scampered to wash their hands and sit down at the table. ‘You seriously eat Pot Noodle?’ Ethan asked Neville. ‘I could never get my head around the whole thing. I used to eat ‘oops.’

‘They’re not that bad. Mind you, I got a bit sick of ‘em when I was 15. I broke my leg and had them for lunch every day for eight weeks.’

‘I liked pasties.’ David said. ‘Pop ‘em in the microwave and there ya go.’

Paul served up spaghetti Bolognese and garlic bread. ‘You are very sad, the lot of you.’

Nevilled grinned. ‘Okay, this does look better than Pot Noodle.’

‘I agree but dog food looks better than Pot Noodle.’ David said. ‘Bless the RSM.’

‘In nomine patre, et filio, et spirito santé.’ Ethan said as he made the sign of the cross.

Paul quirked his brow. ‘I would prefer a more conventional grace if you’re going to say grace.’ He took a piece of garlic bread. ‘Dig in.’

‘Absolutely.’ Neville twirled his fork in the sauce and pasta. ‘Yummy.’

Ethan slurped up a spaghetti string and grinned, ‘Next time.’ He said as he crunched into a piece of garlic bread.

David preferred to cut his spaghetti up and eat it with a spoon. For him it was spaghetti then bread as he mopped at the sauce on his plate. ‘This is really good. Maybe you should change your MOS to cook.’

‘Maybe not.’ Paul said in a dampening tone. The rest of the meal was punctuated by the sounds of scraping and slurping. The cadets were left to clean up while Paul made use of the very pink bathroom.

Ethan left Neville and David to clean up and he went into the bedroom and put their things away that they wouldn’t need right away. Then he went round and turned the beds down and opened the window a little bit. Before he left the room he put a chocolate on each pillow and then went to sweep and get the table ready for tomorrow morning.

David deserted Neville and the dishes to take out the rubbish and Ethan went to dry the rest of the crockery.

‘How long have you been here then?’ He asked Neville.

‘Three years, almost. You?’ Neville polished the sink to a high shine as they talked.

‘Nine months.’ Ethan put the last of the pots away and threw the tea towel on the cooker.

‘Oh, you must be about due then,’ Neville grinned. ‘All done.’ He draped the dishcloth over the taps.

‘Due for what?’ Ethan asked.

‘The baby? Sheesh, you first years are a bit thick, aren’t you?’

Ethan raised an eyebrow, ‘Or maybe I was just playing along so you could say that.’ He winked.

Neville snorted. ‘Bedtime, brat.’

‘Shower first. I may not get one for a long time after tonight.’ He went over and banged on the bathroom door and then walked in. ‘Get out...Sir.’

Paul turned away from the mirror. ‘I’m done. You are cheeky.’

‘Yes, Sir I am. But you love me anyway.’ Ethan said as he stripped down and hopped in under the spray.

Paul sighed and headed to his bunk. He reckoned he had an hour of reading time before lights out. He almost snorted at that thought.

Paul took great pleasure in waking his three cadets the next morning. It was 4am and daylight was at least two hours away. He stoically kept his smiles to himself as he watched the three cadets moan, groan and call down any and all horrendous things upon his personage. He could take it.

After a breakfast of bacon, sausage, mushrooms, baked beans, eggs and toast he handed out manuals to each of them. At their blank looks he nodded to the thin books and they all opened them to the first page.  Sniper Training an introduction was the title and David looked up and then back at the thin book.
‘First chapter by the time I finish the washing up, cadets. Own it.’ Paul said and turned to the sink and the dirty dishes.

There was no noise at the table as each of the cadets poured over the book and then back tracked to re read parts again. Paul was patient and washed each plate, cup, spoon, fork, knife and mug three times so they had plenty of time.

‘Neville, when did Britain first begin training snipers?’

‘Sir, World War 2, Sir.’ Neville rattled off as the other two closed their books and listened.

‘Are you sure, cadet?’ Paul asked.

‘Sir, yes, Sir.’ Neville said.

‘You are correct, cadet, you may leave the table and go for a short run, five times around the building.
Neville rolled his eyes thinking that it wasn’t much of a reward.

‘David, should you prove yourself here how long will the cadre last and why?’

‘Sir, six weeks, our instructor will have been taught and will teach us all we need to know to become class A snipers, Sir.’

‘Are you sure, cadet?’

‘Sir, yes, Sir.’

‘You are correct also, cadet, go join your class mate and do five more laps.’ Paul looked at Ethan and smiled, it was not pretty. ‘I saved you for last.’

Ethan looked at Paul steadily. He was ready for whatever was thrown at him. ‘Sir, yes, Sir.’ He said just because he knew it was expected.

‘Where did the word sniper come from, cadet? In detail.’ Paul said as he reached for a plate to dry.

‘Sir, the word sniper was coined as far back as 1773 when British soldiers in India hunted the snipe. The snipe is a small and quick bird that is hard to hunt. If you were able to shoot one you were called a sniper, Sir.’

‘Are you sure, cadet?’

‘Sir, positive, Sir.’

‘Go for a run, cadet and tell the others five more laps.’

Neville was not happy about this. He had already done ten. Sighing he jogged along behind the other two and came up to stand by them when he had finished.

‘What was that about?’ he asked no one in particular.

‘Sadistic bastard isn’t he?’ David said as he caught his breath.

‘You don’t know the half of it if you think this was abuse.’ Ethan said.

‘Oh?’ David said.

‘He carries a cane, mate.’ Ethan said.

‘Yeah, sure.’ Neville said and snorted.

‘Cadets! Pack up and lets move out!’ Paul called from the doorway. He was already packed and had his things in the truck. ‘Three minutes until we move.’ He said and went for a pee.

All three of the cadets ran to get packed. Three minutes would go by so very fast.

Paul was enjoying himself immensely. He started the engine and revved it slightly after two and a half minutes. After three minutes, he revved it harder.

Ethan had grabbed everyone’s stuff from the bathroom after he had thrown his clothes and hairbrush in the duffle. ‘Come on guys!’ He yelled and tossed the duffle in the back and climbed into the cab. ‘You are a very mean man...Sir.’

David really wanted to make one more trip around the bunk room but he was being dragged out and there was no going back. ‘Wait! Did I leave the iron on?’

‘There is no iron,’ Neville said. ‘Look. See these creases? Do they look ironed at all to you?’

Paul took the hand brake off and the truck started to move off.

‘Shit,’ Neville yelped and jumped into the back, landing in a tangle with his gear.

David overhanded his duffle in and followed it head first. ‘Arsehole.’ He muttered as he skidded over the floor.

‘I am, aren’t ?’ Paul said with a smile.

Ethan sighed, ‘I’d be nice if I was you. We will be armed you know.’ He rolled his window down and flipped his cap over his eyes.

‘Oh, so will I, Cadet. So will I.’

Ethan raised his cap with one hand and looked at the RSM, ‘You? What for? Does our instructor let you have a rifle too? One with training wheels maybe?’

Paul quirked his brow. ‘I can shoot.’

‘Uh huh, I bet you can.  Who is the head honcho anyway?’

‘That would be me.’

Ethan sat up and blinked, ‘Shut up!’

‘Okay.’ Paul stifled a grin.

Ethan blinked again. ‘No, seriously you are being serious? You? Fuck me twice and call me happy then. This should be fun.’

‘It should be,’ Paul agreed. ‘I don’t get to play much since I got promoted. I like to play.’

‘Guess we’ll see what you got, Boss.’ Ethan grinned, flipped his cap back down and sighed happily.  Wait till he told Eddie.

David picked himself up and sat down. ‘Ouch.’

Neville looked up from the floor. ‘I’ll just stay down here. It’s comfy.’

David looked at Neville and grinned. ‘He did that on purpose. We should pay him back tonight.’

Neville sighed. ‘I’ve heard this guy has a reputation.’

‘Yeah? What’s that? I know he’s a new promote but not a lot else. We are kept out of the loop in Delta Two. It’s hard enough just keeping up with our own instructors let alone some first year’s  sergeant.’ David frowned, ‘And how do you think some first year cadet, not even a whole year either, got into this?’

‘Apparently he’s really good.’ Neville attempted a shrug, which wasn’t easy from a prone position.

‘We’ll find out won’t we?’ David grabbed at the rope near him for balance.

Neville nodded and closed his eyes. ‘Wake me when we get there.’

‘Yes, darlink.’ David said and rolled his eyes.

‘Shh, sleeping.’ Neville put his finger to his lips.

‘You’re gonna sleep your life away, cadet.’ David said and sat back to enjoy the bumps.

Paul brought the truck to a halt, jolting the dozing cadets rudely awake. ‘We’re here.’ Here was ... a lot of trees. Hundreds and hundreds of trees. The densely wooded forest was cool and almost completely silent.

Ethan opened his door and swung it open. He stood on the well and had one hand on the top of the door and looked around. ‘Isn’t this special?’ He asked and jumped down.

David was jolted awake and he wiped the spittle from his cheek as he blinked awake. He got up groggily and went to have a look. ‘Oh, take me back.’ He moaned.

Neville crawled over to David and peered over his shoulder. ‘It’s very ... green.’

Paul jumped down. ‘Grab your gear and get ready to move out. We’ve got a lot of miles to cover before bedtime.’

David whined and moaned but he grabbed his stuff and climbed out. After folding the duffle in two he stuffed it in a rucksack and put it on his back. ‘Oh, bloody hell, that’s heavy.’

Ethan hopped into the back, grabbed his pack and hopped back out.  He wasn’t sure if he was just better prepared for all of this or not. Jack probably had a lot to do with it, his “private training sessions” and all. He adjusted Mabel and tossed Paul his pack.

Paul shouldered his pack and watched the other two struggle. ‘Exactly what kind of training do you do in Delta?’ he snorted.

Neville sighed as he adjusted and readjusted the pack. ‘If I fall over backwards, I’ll never get up again.’

‘You won’t. I’d help but if I fell on you we’d both be screwed.’ David said. ‘We train!’ He said indignantly.

Ethan gave a slight smile and thought that they really had no idea what training was; at least not yet.

Paul raised his eyebrow and tossed David a map and a compass. ‘Camp’s marked. Get us there.’

‘Me?’ David squeaked.

‘You said you train. So, yes, you.’

‘Bloody hell,’ David muttered and looked at the map and the compass. ‘We are not in Kansas anymore, Toto.’

Ethan waited for Neville to fall in line and he looked at the RSM and shrugged. ‘We are so gonna be lost.’

Paul sighed. ‘We’re supposed to be going North. Give him five minutes and then give him a hint,’ he said softly.

Neville looked over David’s shoulder. ‘It’s upside down.’

David turned the map over and frowned at it. Things were much easier when all he had to do was point and shoot. He hadn’t realised that reading maps would be part of it all.

Ethan looked at Paul and nodded. He hoped that the older cadet got it together soon he didn’t want to spend the first night anywhere but where they were supposed to be.

Paul sighed as he adjusted his pack. He was definitely going to have to concentrate some of his time on Delta when he got back. There were some serious gaps in their knowledge.

Neville looked at the map again. ‘Turn it 90 degrees. No, the other way. Now it’s upside down again.’ He took the map off David, turned it the right way round and handed it back.

‘Hey, if you know how to read this then you do it,’ David handed the map to Neville.

Ethan rolled his eyes and hummed God Save The Queen.

Paul managed not to point out that he’d asked David.

Neville sighed. ‘Did you sleep through this?’ He looked at the map and the compass. ‘This way.’ He headed off towards the camp.

David tromped after Neville, happy that someone knew how to read a map.

Ethan felt bad for David. He foresaw a lot of tracking in that cadet’s future. Or maybe just until he got good and lost and they never heard from him again.

Paul was pleased to discover that at least one cadet in Delta could read a map. He just hoped Neville could read it well enough to get them to the campsite before midnight.

Along the way Ethan picked a few berries and shared with Paul and at one point had to be pulled back as he was determined to get that “wily wabbit”.

Neville looked at the map. ‘We’re here.’

Paul sighed. ‘We’re not, you know.’

Neville looked at the map again then checked the compass. ‘Okay. We’re nearly there.’

‘I’m tired of walking. How much longer? This pack is heavy too.’ David complained.

‘I need a pee.’ Ethan said and headed off into the trees. ‘I’ll catch up, how hard could it be to walk three steps?’

‘Don’t be cheeky. And don’t fall down a rabbit hole.’ Paul said, thinking it was going to be a very, very long week.  For all of them.

‘It’s going to be a very, very long week,’ Neville complained as he scowled at David. ‘We’re nearly there, stop complaining.’

‘You’ve been saying that for the last fifty miles. How nearly is nearly?’ David asked.

Ethan peed and trotted back. ‘He’s right, this pack is getting really heavy. Maybe we should just break here and work our way slooooowly to camp.’

‘We are making our way ... slowly. It’s just a quarter of a mile.’

Neville sighed. ‘Just.’

‘You are so good to us, Sir.’ Ethan said a little cranky now.

‘Don’t be cranky or I won’t cook for you.’

David tried to look over Neville’s shoulder as they walked to see how far a quarter mile was.

‘It’s this far.’ Neville held up his finger and thumb, half an inch apart. ‘See?’

‘You have to, that’s the deal.’ Ethan said. ‘Or are you not a man of your word?’

That kid is going to get himself into trouble yet.’ David said. Then he brightened, ‘Good thing there aren’t any latrines to clean.’

‘I am, but there’s cooking and there’s cooking,’ Paul said cryptically.

‘Hey, I can see the camp site,’ Neville said cheerfully. ‘Go me.’

David clapped. ‘There is light at the end of the tunnel.’

Neville looked confused. ‘There’s no tunnel on the map.’

David rolled his eyes. ‘It’s just an expression, doofus.’

‘Who you calling doofus? At least I can read a map.’

‘For which I am eternally grateful.’ David said. ‘Hey! That was a quickie mile.’ He smiled and then blinked.

‘You are joking. Where’s the’

‘Because it was a quarter of a mile. You’re carrying it.’

‘Tents?’ David sighed.

‘RSM I cannot believe that you would stoop that low.  You realise that there is shooting and then there is shooting too, right?’ Ethan said.

‘There is also spanking and spanking, so how about you just behave yourself?’

‘Low, Paul, really low.’ Ethan muttered.

‘I know. I’ve been walking for a long time, so I’m a little grumpy.’

Ethan grinned, ‘Is um tired? Make coffee and I’ll put your tent up. But only if you are a good boy.’

‘Still cheeky, cadet.’

‘Sorry, Sir.’ Ethan said and pointed, ‘We have apparently arrived at our new homestead. Bare isn’t it?’

‘None of the comforts of home. Perfect.’ Paul grinned. ‘I’ll start the fire, you boys can put up the tents.’

‘Tents,’ Neville agreed. ‘Bloody heavy ones.’

Ethan tossed his pack down and looked over at the other two. ‘You guys gonna be okay with this bit?’

‘I’m going to shoot that boy,’ David mumbled, ‘fine, cadet, just worry about yours.’

Neville tipped out the contents of his pack and then scowled up at David. ‘So you can do this, can you?’ He held up two random poles. ‘Care to tell me?’

‘I can put up a tent. I used to camp with my dad and brothers.’ David said, affronted. He sorted through the parts and got to work.

Paul concentrated on building a fire and making a drink. Theoretically the cadets were supposed to do all this as well, but he had no particular desire to starve.

Ethan put his tent up and then walked over to get started on the RSM’s. For some unknown reason he figured that would be expected. He glanced over at the other two and was pleasantly surprised to see they were coming along just fine too.  ‘Are we just using the woods or do you want a latrine dug out? Assuming we are staying here.’

‘I sure hope we do. I don’t want to keep moving, I hate moving.’ David said.

‘That much is obvious,’ Paul said acerbically. ‘We’ll be here for the next two nights, and a latrine is a good idea.’

‘Sooner rather than later,’ Neville muttered.

‘Could I have a cup of coffee?’ Ethan asked. He had meant it when he told the RSM he would do his best and he would but he didn’t want the other two guys to hate him either. Although, leaving a latrine for them to dig might not get him in their good graces either. He did wonder what they taught over in Delta though.

‘You can use a tree if you have to go that bad right now. Or a bush.’ David said as he put the finishing touches on the tent. ‘Done.’

‘I’m not that desperate. Nearly, but not quite.’

Paul banged a spoon against the cooking pot. ‘Coffee and dinner is ready,’ he called.

Ethan sat down and waited for the others to get over. ‘We need logs to sit on. Much more civilised that way.’ He grinned.

David looked at Neville, ‘You will be after we eat.’

Neville looked thoughtful. ‘I’ll go now.’ He trotted off into the woods.

Paul looked around. ‘Did you bring an axe? The hot dogs will be cold dogs though.’

‘Ooh, hot dogs. Any mustard?’

Ethan thought for a second, ‘Not that I remember, but Jack helped so maybe.’ He took a hot dog and put it in a bun and looked at it. ‘And now you disappear, until sometime tomorrow anyway.’ He took a bite.

David looked at Ethan and then at the RSM, ‘Did you have to bring him?’ He bit into his dog.

Paul looked at David for several moments. ‘Yes,’ he finally said.

‘These are good.’ Neville said, taking a bite as he sat down again. He was just glad to be stationary and eating.

‘Simple minds, simple taste.’ Ethan said and missed Edward even more.

David decided the best thing to do was just eat and not talk to that man. He didn’t say much but spoke volumes. ‘Can I have another one?’ Did that classify as talking or did questions not count.

Paul nodded. ‘Help yourself.’

Neville scowled at Ethan. ‘They are good. Or I’m starving, one or the other.’

‘Probably both.’ Ethan said. ‘I’m sorry, that wasn’t very nice.’

‘It’s been a long day,’ Neville admitted as he yawned.

‘It has. Go get ready for bed and I’ll go dig a latrine out for us. It’s the least I can do.’ Ethan put his plate into the washing up bowl and then shook his head. Someone would have to get water he bet.

David’s mouth fell open and he blinked. Was the kid being nice? That helped. ‘I can help. Neville looks tired.’

‘I’m not tired,’ Neville yawned again.

‘Well, you sound tired,’ Paul pointed out. ‘Water’s that way, it’s only a hundred yards or so.’

Ethan and David looked at him, sighed and trotted off, came back and grabbed buckets. ‘At least someone is thoughtful,’ David said.

Ethan laughed. ‘Your mate will sleep good tonight I bet.’

‘Me too, as soon as I can, anyway.’

Ethan worried about that. He’d either been in bed with Edward or Jack. He wasn’t sure he could sleep alone anymore. It would be interesting.

They took the water back and set the buckets down.  Then headed off to dig a latrine.

Paul sent Neville off to bed then he finished cleaning up, dowsed the fire and headed into his tent.

Neville was asleep almost as soon as he crawled into his sleeping bag.

‘Should we put up walls?’ David asked.

‘For two days? Not likely, just a lean to.’ Ethan said. ‘Anyone needs privacy they just have to put a blanket up.’

‘Where did you learn this?’

‘My CO. He takes me out every so often and makes me scream like a little girl.’ Ethan said as he brushed his hands off.

‘Our CO just keeps his distance. He’s not the get in there and do things with the cadets kind of guy.’

‘Is he a fourth year?’ Ethan asked as they walked back to the tents.

‘No, he’s a graduate but stationed here for two years.’

‘Maybe that’s why, he didn’t want to be, you think?’ Ethan asked.

‘Possible. I just stay out of his way as much as I can. Night.’

‘Yup, night. Sleep deep and fast.’ Ethan said. He went to his tent and got ready for bed which only meant taking his trousers and shirt off and crawled into his sleeping bag. He listened to the noises and was just dropping off when he twilight dreamt that someone with an axe was chasing him. His eyes flew open and he padded over to the RSM’s tent and went in. ‘I wanna sleep with you.’

Paul sighed sleepily. He wasn’t really surprised. ‘Did you bring your sleeping bag?’ he asked.

Ethan shook his head.

Paul unzipped his sleeping bag. ‘Good job you’re not hefty.’

Ethan nodded and crawled in. He snuggled up and sighed happily and went straight to sleep. The RSM would keep the boogey man away, he was sure of that.

Paul was deciding they had probably brought too many tents when he fell asleep.

Ethan was up early the next morning and he went and took care of business before he gathered wood and brought up another bucket of water. By the time the others were stirring he was already dressed, hair combed and teeth brushed...and gone.

David scratched and stretched and nearly ended up tearing his tent down when he rolled over. ‘Dammit.’ He muttered. He had forgotten where he was and it all came crashing back loud and clear. He wriggled his way out of his bag and dressed. It was cold. Then there was a few minutes of frantic searching for his boots but eventually he was dressed and ready to maybe face the day.

Paul woke up with a crick in his neck that refused to shift. He rubbed it with Absorbine Jnr then got dressed.

Neville woke up and stared at the roof of his tent for several moments as he tried to work out where he was. Then he remembered. Sighing, he dressed and scrambled out of the tent. ‘Morning,’ he said sleepily.

‘Morning,’ Paul said, pointing to the fire. ‘There’s coffee.’ He did briefly wonder where Ethan had taken himself off to.

David raised a cup and grinned, ‘Not bad coffee either. Morning, Nev.’

Ethan came back almost at the end of the morning break and was dragging a makeshift stretcher type thing behind him. ‘Look what I got.’ He grinned.

‘Oh, God, he’s killed one of the natives,’ Neville said, pouring coffee.

Paul looked over. ‘What range?’

‘Six hundred and twenty two yards. The farmer let me pick one from the guys out in the back field.’ He stopped and shook the kinks out of his shoulders. ‘He showed me how to field dress it.’

Paul nodded. ‘Good. Roast lamb for dinner then.’

‘Thanks. Now, can I please have a cup of coffee?’

‘Help yourself.’ Paul was inspecting Ethan’s handiwork. ‘Nice clean kill.’

‘Farmer said the less trauma the better.’

‘How did you even know there was a farm?’ David asked.

Ethan laughed, ‘I know the outdoors doesn’t smell that pretty but farm shit is pretty distinctive. I just followed the smell. I’m not that good. Not yet.’

Neville finished his coffee. ‘I’m guessing we’re not having that for breakfast.’

‘No, I brought muesli,’ Paul said with a straight face.

‘Guess we’ll just have to shoot him too.’ Ethan said just as straight faced.

Neville looked from one to the other. ‘You are joking, right?’

‘He’s joking. It’s an automatic fail if you shoot your instructor,’ Paul said and threw bacon into a frying pan.

‘I’m joking. He’d just come back, beat me into oblivion, resurrect me and do it again.’ Ethan said.

‘That too.’ Paul snorted.

They ate in silence each one lost in their own thoughts as the sun climbed higher in the sky. After the meal Paul took a cup of coffee and went to his tent and the boys were left to do the cleaning up and getting the things they would need for the day.  The rest of the morning was spent studying their manuals and comparing notes. It was tedious work and none of them wanted to fail this bit of training. It was important to be able to sight and shoot they all agreed but the more practical sides were just as if not moreso.
Paul toyed with the idea of lamb chops for lunch, but opted for finishing off the remainder of the fresh food they had brought. Then they were down to field rations and Ethan’s lamb. He looked over at the makeshift stretcher and snorted. Damn thing must weigh over a hundred pounds, not exactly the gambolling baby people pictured.

Neville poked David. ‘Do you get this bit?’ He pointed to a passage in his manual.

David looked and moved over closer, ‘Yeah, here’s how it goes.’

This sparked a heated discussion on the best ways to get in and out of a no win situation that lasted the morning.

Paul fed the cadets then sent them to get ready for the first training exercise.

David was sure that he could now pass the maps and air photography tests but he was a little sketchy on concealment. He was worried about the 10 second time to take the shot.

‘Hey, don’t worry it to death,’ Ethan said to him. ‘David, you have to be really good or you wouldn’t be here right?’ He looked to Neville for confirmation.

Neville nodded. ‘He is, he’s just nervous. He’s not much good with tests. It’s his Dad’s fault.’

‘They can be such bitches.’ Ethan said and snorted.  He was as ready as he could be for this and he wasn’t really sure what “this” was going to be.

Tony and Patrick shook hands with Paul. ‘Patrick’s going to be our walker unless you want to give these guys a chance to shoot at you,’ Tony said to Paul with a grin.

‘I’d rather not. I did tell them that shooting the instructor was an automatic fail, but I’m not sure they believed me.’

Patrick smiled. ‘I’m used to it. I get shot at a lot.’

‘Good thing then that they are blanks. They are blanks this time aren’t they?’ Tony was remembering the mixup from a few sessions ago.

Paul quirked his brow. ‘They are definitely blanks,’ his tone implied that he did not make those sort of mistakes.
‘Fortunately that bunch failed, they were such bad shots, I don’t know how they got on the course. But they killed two trees.’ Patrick grinned. ‘Where are the lucky cadets?’

Paul called the cadets to attention.

Tony looked the three of them over and even though they were out in the woods all three were more than presentable. He walked around them and then stopped dead centre in back of them.

‘This is concealment training.  ‘My name is DS Morgan. I will be the one who talks you through this course.  Concealment is just what it implies. You will conceal yourselves for 20 minutes, holding that position as you spend the next 20 minutes observing your surroundings.  Make excellent use of this time, ladies, your life may depend on it.  Patrick over here is our walker. Take a bow Patrick so they know what you look like. He will move to a distance of 10 metres and you will be expected to follow his progress.  He will point to you and you will have 10 seconds to sight and fire. Good luck gentlemen.’
He walked around the three cadets once more and then over to Paul. ‘Give ‘em ‘ell, Paulie.’

Paul proceeded to put the fear of God into his three protégés, checked their weapons were unloaded, handed out the blank ammunition and finally directed them to the pile of cammo gear he had selected for the exercise. ‘This isn’t dress up, ladies, don’t take all day,’ he admonished them.

There really wasn’t time to process all that they had been told, learned and yelled at over, it all came down to doing.

Much to Tony’s amazement all three passed without a hitch and at the end of the day he was quite impressed with the cadets that RSM Jones was turning out.  He knew this was a new appointment for the young man, young in terms of his rank and young in relation to Tony himself.

After the three cadets had been sent to bed he opened a flask and held it out to Paul. ‘That was an impressive display. If they do as well with the rest I will be happy to have them come and learn with the big boys when they graduate.’

Paul nodded. ‘The first year is destined for something special, but I’ll be happy to recommend the other two,’ thinking as he said it that he was going to have to give David some extra tuition. He might fluff through the map reading test, but he needed more training than could be obtained by half a morning’s reading the manual.

‘Shame. I would love to get him.’ Tony said. ‘I’ll settle for the other two though, they are very good at this. Steady hands.’

‘What special?’ Patrick asked as he came back from using the latrine. ‘The one boy needs some map work though, Paul. He’s a little shaky on it. I only mention because he was going off the wrong way from the latrine.’ He grinned.

‘I think he must have slept through the whole course,’ Paul agreed. ‘No, he’s already down in my little book for some extra training. I’ve been concentrating on the first years, but apparently there are some glaring gaps in some of the older cadets’ knowledge.’ He looked at the other two instructors. ‘He’s one of a four man special ops team.’

‘Oooo,’ Tony said. ‘Picking them young now are you. It’s probably best that way though, train when they are new and no preconceived notions.’

Patrick took a swallow out of the flask and then yawned. ‘Time to head home Tony. I need my beauty sleep.’

The rest of the week went along with its own ups and downs and by the end of it Neville, David and Ethan were mightily sick of RSM Jones. They didn’t much care how he felt about them.
The ride back to Beechcroft was probably quicker as the ponies wanted their stable and Ethan rode in the back with the other two and they played poker the whole way.
When they reached Beechcroft, Paul banged on the side of the truck. ‘Home, sweet home, cadets,’ he shouted.

David came to and grabbed his pack and jumped out. ‘Oh, thank goodness.’ He breathed. ‘Come on, Neville, let’s head home. It’s been an experience.’ He said to the RSM.

I’ll see you in my office at 9am tomorrow, cadet,’ Paul said to David. ‘Cadet,’ he nodded to Neville.

David looked at the RSM, ‘Yes, Sir.’ To Neville he whispered, ‘What do you suppose he wants?’

Neville shrugged. ‘Dunno. Want to ask him?’

David shook his head vehemently and they headed back to their barracks.

Paul watched as the two jogged off then looked in the truck. ‘Are you in there, Cadet O’Donall?’

Ethan blinked and sat up. ‘Oh, we stopped.’ He said and moved over to look out the back. ‘Home? Home!’ He turned around, grabbed his pack and jumped down. ‘See ya.’ He said.

‘Yes, you will. 6am in the armoury.’

Ethan turned around and looked at Paul, ‘Whyyy?’

‘Because I said so. You can bring Edward, though.’

‘At least that’s something.’ Ethan pouted and then brightened. He grinned and ran off, leaving the pack on the ground. He could see Edward. He could see Jack. It was a toss up. Edward, Jack. Jack, Edward.
It was things like this that immobilized Ethan and he sat down on the ground to sort it out.

Damon was headed for the mess hall when he encountered a green lump on the path. ‘You’re back then? What are you doing down there?’

Ethan looked up. ‘Yep, back. I can’t decide who to see first.’

‘Well, I’m meeting Jack in the mess hall, and Edward’s somewhere in the middle of a ten mile run with Darius. Which would you prefer?’

‘No more running, stalking, shooting, being kept in one position for hours, days, months or years. I pick Jack.’ Ethan grinned and got up. ‘How was the babysitting? Was he a good baby?’

‘He was a very good baby, although a little clingy at night.’ Damon laughed. ‘I felt a bit like a ship surrounded by barnacles. A Darius barnacle, and an Edward barnacle.’

Ethan laughed, ‘So you were a Top sandwich. I would of thought you wouldn’t get in the middle but I suppose with two brats you didn’t get much choice in the matter. I really missed him though and we need to go out and do something stupid. The poor RSM didn’t get a chance to spank anyone. I think those boys from Delta were not brats though. And they weren’t Tops either. The best the poor guy could do was make them dig holes and fill them in. I on the other hand, was a perfect angel.’

‘I was. And I hate being in the middle, so I am very glad to return your bedmate to you.’ Damon grinned.

‘So you didn’t shoot any fluffy creatures? I was really expecting you to.’

‘Only one and with a blessing. I should probably admit to also shooting Neville but I really did think he was a bear.’ Ethan said.

‘Big guy, is he? You do know there are no bears in the woods in this country, don’t you?’

Ethan shook his head, ‘He really isn’t that big but he was making a trip to the latrine and he took his sleeping bag with him. He looked huge.’

Damon laughed as he pushed open the mess hall door. ‘Come on, your Commander is waiting to hear all about it.’

Ethan stepped inside and spotted Jack. He grinned and ran over throwing himself into Jack’s arms and wrapping his legs around the CO’s hips. ‘Miss me?’

Jack grinned widely. ‘I did. No need to ask if you missed me.’ He waved at Damon, who was heading over to the serving hatch. ‘You should probably get something to eat. You’re going to need your strength.’

‘Oh, hell, I’m not hungry at all. Take me home and ravish me at will, Sir.’ Ethan grinned.

There were hoots and snickers throughout the mess from the other cadets. Dylan was sitting in the back and he raised a mug to Jack and winked.

Jack ignored the noise from the cheap seats and stood up with Ethan wrapped round his waist. ‘And as it’s Saturday tomorrow, we can stay in bed all morning and eat Cheerios.’

‘Sounds like heaven but there is Edward. He’ll be upset if I don’t spend a few hours with him.’ Ethan hung on like a baby monkey, ‘Maybe we can invite him over.’

There were more hoots.

Jack quirked his eyebrow. ‘I don’t work well with an audience. Maybe you can see him later and then leave him with Damon for another night?’

‘I can do that. He might whine a little though. Too bad he’s so picky or maybe we could dress you up like Indiana Jones for a night. How do you feel about role playing?’

‘How come the gay guys get all the action?’ One cadet asked another.

‘Look around mate. It’s a sea of maleness this year and the higher ups won’t give us the time of day.’

‘You got that right, cadet.’ One of the women said and laughed. ‘Get him out of here Jackie boy. He’s drooling.’

‘Well, who wouldn’t drool over me?’ Jack said with a smug grin as he carried his cadet out of the mess hall.

‘Sadly he’s right about that.’ She said. ‘All the great ones are either gay or married as they say.’

Jack put Ethan down outside the mess hall. ‘So, did you pass with flying colours?’

‘Sadly no.’ Ethan said and kicked a stone.

Jack quirked his brow. ‘How could you possibly not? Did you shoot Paul?’

‘Worse. I shot the guy from the sniper training centre.’

Jack stopped dead. ‘You are shitting me.’

‘Nope, right between the eyes. He was dead long before his brain figured it out.’

Jack smacked Ethan. ‘Brat.’

Ethan grinned, ‘Yeah, I passed. You’d not be very happy if I didn’t.  It was not a lot of fun though, I had to make friends.’

‘No shit.’ Jack put his arm round Ethan. ‘Oh no, did you? With the boys from Delta? That’s just terrible.’

‘I did and it was not easy. I think one of them is in for a little one on one with the RSM though. He couldn’t read a map so we had to give him a super crash course in it so he would pass the maps and air photography part.’

‘I bet that pleased the RSM no end. How did that even happen? They are third years, aren’t they?’

‘They are. I think anyone can fall through the cracks in a place this big. Apparently David fell through the map reading one.  Or he slept through it.’

‘Definitely some serious one-on-one time with our esteemed RSM. Now, did you actually kill anything?’

‘A sheep. Mr. Jones said we had to kill to eat. Oh and there would of been this fish. Do you have any idea what happens to a fish when you shoot it?’

‘No, I’ve never tried it. What does happen to a fish when you shoot it?’

‘They become lots of little tiny bits that end up all over everything and everyone anywhere near it. It took me three washes to get the yuck outta Jonesy’s clothes. He was standing in the wrong spot.
And did you know that he doesn’t spank or anything with other people? He actually made me clean the dishes one night with a toothbrush! I was just glad he brought one along instead of making me use mine.  He made us run around in circles to and do push ups with our weapons. Very strange. I think I prefer the cane thing, over and done.’ Ethan shook his head.

‘Sounds like you had a great time,’ Jack grinned. ‘And here we are. Get inside, get naked and get in the shower. You are more than a little fishy yourself.’

Ethan wasn’t sure he could walk but that wasn’t going to stop him from finding Edward and having a bit of fun. It had been a long week, a stressful week and he deserved time out with the man of his ...huh, could a person have two men of their dreams? Course they could.

Darius was studying and he periodically shh-ed Edward. He only had two days to get this stuff down and then take the test. ‘One more and I ball gag you and handcuff you to the bed.’

Edward rolled onto his stomach and put his chin in his hands. ‘Ooh, exciting.’ He batted his eyelids at Darius. At that moment there was a knock at the door. ‘I’ll get it,’ he said and bounced off the bed. He pulled open the door and looked. ‘What happened to you? Did you lose your horse?’

‘Jack. Take me out and show me a good time, cadet.’ Ethan said and pulled Edward into a tight hug.

‘Get a room and do it quietly,’ Darius grumbled.

‘What’s with Prince Charming?’ Ethan asked.

‘Oh, he’s studying. Although he was about to make time for some kinky sex,’ Edward grinned and grabbed his jacket. ‘Bye, bye, darling. Hold those handcuffs for me.’

‘Don’t worry, I’ll warm them up for you, sugar.’ Darius said and breathed a sigh when the two of them left.

‘You and Darius? How’s that work out with Damon there?’ Ethan asked.

‘Messy. Damon hogs the middle spot, so we have to work over him. Generally if we feed him first, he doesn’t mind so much.’

Ethan looked at Edward and blinked. ‘You are yanking my chain.  He doesn’t look like a professor type at all or have you given up?’

‘I am, in fact, yanking your chain. Did you miss me?’

 ‘Oh you have no idea. Sleeping with the RSM is dangerous work.’

Edward stopped walking. ‘You didn’t. Seriously?’

‘I got used to having someone there.  Not that kind of sleeping together though. I don’t think he does sex. I can tell you that once he grabs onto you, you don’t go anywhere for hours though.’

‘Bless. So, get me drunk and show me a good time, soldier boy.’

‘I’m sure I said that to you a minute ago.’ Ethan said and as they passed by a jeep he looked and sure enough, keys. ‘Shall we do this proper and go to a real pub?’

‘That must be where I heard it.’ Edward looked at the jeep. ‘Let’s.’

They hopped in and Ethan drove them out of the compound after schmoozing the guards. He was getting pretty good at that.  They drove into town and pulled up near what passed for the gay section of Cambridge.

‘Your fans await you.’ He said to Edward as he bowed with a flourish.

‘Ooh, goody. Feed me? Damon had gone out for pizza, so I was waiting.’ Edward sighed. ‘Now he’ll have to eat it all himself. Darius eats like a sparrow when he’s studying.’

‘I can do that, find us a table and stay away from the leather boys. They will only hurt you.’ He made his way to the bar and ordered food and drinks wrinkling his nose at the ale but anything for Eddie. ‘Here we go.’ He plunked the glasses on the table.

‘Excellent.’ Edward took a generous mouthful of the real ale. ‘Ahh, that’s good. What are we eating, or is it a surprise?’

‘You said pizza so I ordered one and chips and burgers. I don’t know about you but I’m starving. Rations were scarce out there.’

‘I bet you are. Did you have to cook, or was it just field rations?’

‘We had a lot of lamb and Paul did the cooking. I offered to keep his things tidy and clean if he would. It was not easy. He’s a pretty good cook and Neville was great at fishing.’

‘Lamb? That’s a bit weird. Neville? Was he one of the Delta guys? What were they like?’

‘I shot it and we ate it. RSM said anything we shot we could eat. Well I think he meant if it was eatable.  Neville and David were both Delta. They are strange. I don’t think that they get punished the same way as we do though. There were a few hints but I don’t think they know what a Top is and I was not about to bring it up.  At first they were clicky but I think that was more me than them. I was all alone out there with no one to have my back.  We worked it out though.  I won’t keep in touch, it was just too strange for me.’

Edward laughed. ‘Well they must be vanilla types. Of course, from what I hear, Delta haven’t been subject to RSM Jones’ special attention ... yet.’‘Maybe not.  It can’t be easy keeping tabs on everyone. Although he does have a date with David in the morning. Poor guy couldn’t read maps and I think that upset our beloved leader.’ The food came and Ethan tucked in.

Edward shuddered. ‘How is that possible? Delta are third years, aren’t they?’ He picked up a slice of pizza and took a bite. ‘Mmm.’

‘These two were. It can happen.’ There was more eating, more drinking and by midnight both Ethan and Edward were three sheets to the wind.  ‘We should go.’ Ethan said but he wasn’t sure where or how. He certainly was not fit to drive and Edward looked like he was about ready to pass out in his last pizza slice.

‘We should ring home. Dad’ll pick us up,’ Edward said sleepily.

Ethan thought about that. He really didn’t want to ring Paul so he opted for Jack instead. ‘Hi, honey.’ He said brightly if not a little drunkenly.

‘Where are you?’ Jack’s tone was a little grumpy.

‘Cambridge, gay bar. Come get us.’

‘How did you get out there?’

‘Jeep. I borrowed one.’

Jack sighed. ‘Don’t go anywhere.’ Five minutes later he was knocking on Damon and Darius’s door. ‘I need a pick up on aisle 9.’

Damon blinked sleepily. ‘Give me five minutes to get some pants on.’

Darius poked his head out from under the duvet, yes they bought a duvet, perks of second year and blinked at Jack. ‘When did we move to Kmart? When did we move to the states?’

‘Be quiet and go back to sleep, Darius. You’re dreaming.’ Damon shrugged into his jacket and pulled the door shut. ‘Where are we going?’

‘Cambridge. The terrible twosome took a jeep, I need you to bring it back.’

Damon nodded and shook his key ring. ‘I’ll drive us up there.’

Darius sank back into the marshmallow and sighed. ‘Hurry back darling.’

Ethan stood Edward up and took him by the hand to the bathroom. ‘Use it before he gets here, I doubt you’ll get another chance until we get home.’ He took his own advice and went to a urinal. He had to steady himself with one hand on the wall and it took a lot of concentration to hit the target. ‘Maybe they should see how well we shoot drunk.’ He muttered to himself.

Edward finished peeing and after several attempts, managed to zip up. Then he zigged and zagged to the sinks and almost brained himself on the mirror as he bent over to wash his hands.

Damon spotted one of the camp’s jeeps, and parked next to it. ‘Go get your boys, Commander. Unless you need a hand.’

Jack snorted and strode into the bar.

‘Come on Pumpkin, we should at least get outside to watch for him.’ Ethan said and walked over to Edward. He had given up trying to wash his hands as the water kept moving on him.

Edward wiped his hands on Ethan’s shirt and nodded vigorously. ‘Let’s go.’ Neither of them moved. ‘Are we there yet?’

‘Not quite. I have to find my feet first.’ Ethan said and chanced a look down. Yes, there they were, now to get them moving again. This took immense concentration but he finally got the command right and he took one of Edward’s hands. He didn’t want to have to stop and try to do this all over again. It was best to follow the momentum.

Edward followed along happily. He would follow Ethan anywhere.

Jack was leaning against the bar. He had guessed the cadets must have made a pit stop when he couldn’t see them anywhere.

‘Hey! You made it!’ Ethan smiled. ‘Take us home now? Please.’

Jack quirked his brow and held his hand out for the jeep keys. ‘I’m going to.’

‘Thank you.’ Ethan dug in a pocket and came out with two sticks of gum, a lost button, three pennies, a rubber band and finally the keys. ‘Ah ha, here you are darling.’

Edward watched in fascination as Ethan pulled things out of his pockets. ‘Wow. That’s my button. Cool.’

Jack took the keys. ‘Move out.’

‘Is it? I found it. Here,’ Ethan handed the button over. ‘Don’t lose it again.’

Edward nodded vigorously. ‘I won’t.’ He dropped the button.

‘Jeep, now.’

Ethan rolled his eyes and went out the door after picking the button up again. ‘Oh, ‘allo Day. Why are you here?’

‘I’m driving a stolen jeep back to the camp.’ Damon said with a straight face. Jack tossed him the keys, and he tossed the other set back to Jack.

Edward grinned at Damon and waved. ‘Did you eat all the pizza, Day Day?’

Damon sighed and climbed into the two seater jeep. ‘See you at home.’

Jack pointed to the jeep. ‘In.’

‘Do you have trouble with sentences? Did I know that before we got involved?’ Ethan asked as he tucked
Edward in the back and climbed in beside him. ‘Well, come on then.’

Jack growled and started the engine, not trusting himself to answer Ethan. The drive back to Beechcroft was very quiet, mainly because the cadets were fast asleep in the back. Once the jeep was back where it was supposed to be, he poked Ethan. ‘Wakey, wakey.’

‘I’m awake.’ Ethan looked around. ‘Oh, home. Come on Eddie, bedtime.’

Jack put out an arm to stop him. ‘My place. Both of you, we don’t want to wake Darius up again.’

‘Kinky.’ Ethan said and pulled Edward along. ‘You been to Jack’s? He has fairly good taste. We can make pancakes in the morning and not have to eat at the mess.’ He babbled.

Edward was barely awake, so he no idea what Ethan was babbling about. He did catch the thing about pancakes. ‘Are we hungry?’

Jack didn’t say anything until he pushed open the door and ushered the cadets in. ‘Right then.’

‘Can’t, there’s a wall there.’ Ethan pointed out helpfully.

Jack sighed. ‘Not quite what I meant. Living room.’

Ethan found the sofa and sat down. Then he got up and went back for Edward. ‘Comfy?’

Edward had been quite comfy leaning against the wall, so he was even comfier sitting on the sofa. ‘Nice.’

Jack walked back into the living room with a paddle. ‘So, who’s first?’

Ethan blinked...Edward blinked...they pointed to each other and said ‘He is.’

Jack woke up at eight and disentangled himself from the tangle of brats. He was in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil when the phone rang. ‘Hello?’

‘Commander. Do you have my cadets?’

A slightly facetious thought ran through Jack’s mind, but he kept it there. ‘Yes. Is there a problem?’

‘You could say that. They were supposed to be in the armoury at six.’

‘Ah. Where do want them?’

‘My office. Half an hour long enough to wake them up?’

Jack nodded. ‘I’m nodding.’

He walked into the bedroom and pulled off the covers. ‘Wakey, wakey, rise and shine.’

Ethan sat up and ran a hand through his hair making it stand up. ‘What time is it?’

‘It’s just after eight. Apparently you two had a hot date at six.’

Edward sat up. ‘I did not.’

‘Eight! Oh, God, I’m dead. We did. With the RSM.’ Ethan moaned and pulled the covers over his head.

Edward pulled the covers off his friend and punched him in the arm. ‘You didn’t tell me, doofus.’

‘You need to be in the RSM’s office at 8:30, so you better hustle.’ Jack returned to his coffee.

‘I forgot.’ Ethan said to Edward as he hopped out of bed and went rummaging around for his clothes. ‘Oh, bleah, can I borrow clothes, can Edward too?’

‘Yes and yes. Coffee’s ready if you want a mouthful before you go.’

Edward sat on the edge of the bed. ‘Why am I in trouble, exactly?’

‘We were supposed to be at the armoury at 0600 this morning. So in trouble.  I doubt ignorance is bliss.’

Ethan said as he threw clothes on and went to brush his teeth.

‘It never is,’ Edward sighed as he got dressed. He grabbed a mouthful of Jack’s coffee and waited at the

‘That wasn’t quite what I meant,’ Jack complained.

Ethan grabbed Jack’s mug and took a swallow, ‘Okay lets go and face the beast.’

Jack picked up his book and headed to the sofa. ‘Have fun.’

Edward snorted. ‘Yeah, right.’

When they got to the office Ethan stopped, took a breath and then knocked on the door. He wasn’t sure what to say.

‘Come in.’ Paul called.

Edward pushed open the door.
‘Come in,’ repeated Paul, losing patience as the cadets just stood in the corridor and looked at him.

Ethan finally got it together and walked into the office, brining Edward with him. He knew the next thing out of the RSM’s mouth would be to close the door so he did.

Paul looked at the two cadets for several moments. Then we walked over to the cabinet, picked up a cane and flexed it. ‘So, who’s first?’

Ethan sighed and went to bend over the desk. This was getting to be a habit and one he was thinking really needed giving up.

Edward pouted.

Paul flexed the cane again, a slight smile on his face.

It was great to be home, and it was great that things were back to normal.
Life was good.

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