If you have been following the Will and Jay stories I've been posting from my friend and fellow writer, Alan Barker, then you are in for a treat. Alan has written an extended story with a DADT theme. Hope you enjoy!
MISSING IN ACTION
A Will and Jay Extended Short Story by Alan Barker
Will and his partner Jay, both in their twenties, had read about the dangers faced by American soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and admired the soldiers’ bravery whenever they saw reports on t v newscasts. They did not expect the war to involve them personally.
“I come home from the studio early and what do I see,” said a very surprised Will to his partner Jay, “you on the sofa with your arms wrapped around an Army guy!”
“Ssshhh…. Don’t you remember Ben, Tim’s partner? I can’t forget how anxious Tim was at Rae’s barbecue just before he went to Afghanistan,” whispered Jay between Ben’s sobs. “…and like an idiot, what did I say to him then? Will says you’ve just come back from a tour in Germany, like the stage outfit, wild nights in Berlin, fans screaming front of stage and then you’re off again, Japan or here?”
“But it must be said Jay. Tim is a special guy and I know Ben misses him loads, but surely his tour of duty ends soon and he’ll be home.
“No Will, you don’t understand. At the barbecue he asked me to give him a special hug because as he said, ‘this really brave soldier-boy is feeling nervous as my next tour is in…Afghanistan. I might not come back.’ Now I wish I had never let go of him.”
Ben raised his head from Jay’s dampened T-shirt. “I’ve just heard from the lads over there that…”
Jay continued, “Tim volunteered to go on a mission this week and has been reported ‘Missing in Action’.”
* * * * * * * *
Tim smiled as his partner Ben pointed out the ‘Welcome Home Hero’ banner which was draped across the doorway to Will and Jay’s apartment, “And I thought we were going to have a quiet weekend together, just the two of us, for the first time in months.”
Tim imagined themselves as a new married couple and wondered who would carry who over the threshold. Ben was thinking the same and as their eyes met, he gave Tim a hug.
“We will be alone. When Will and Jay heard that Zac and Alex, from your platoon, were home on leave as well, they asked if they could stay with them to give us some space, but I’m worried,” said Ben, “I remember that time in hospital when you wanted us to split up. I still feel there’s something wrong.”
“I know, Ben. I know.” said Tim remembering Ben’s visit. There was a cloud hanging over their relationship. “I’m a trained soldier, ready to tackle any situation, but allowing Ben to see my amputation, was one situation I was never prepared for.” he thought.
“You turned your head towards the wall. I knew you were crying and then you said, “I think we should part, because…man this is difficult…because…because…I can’t…”
Ben wondered at the time what Tim couldn’t or wouldn’t do: drive a car, go swimming or mountain climbing. They were both very physical men. “Oh Tim,” he thought, “is it because you can’t make love?”
Tim did not want a recurrence of those emotions. “Just sit down Ben. I don’t want us to split up, alright. But, even after all those months in rehab I still can’t…Oh Ben man …how can I tell you?”
“Tim, I’ve been your partner for three loving years and I know we’ve had problems, not to mention getting accepted as a couple by the Army, but they are there for you and for us,” said Ben trying to speak calmly, “and your C.O. is going to recommend you for promotion.”
“Ben, I know you’d do anything for me, true…. “
He paused, took a deep breath, he went over to the fridge and grabbed a few beers.
“Alright, I want to move on,” said Tim. ”I can’t forget the past, but you’re my future. We’ve got the place to ourselves. Let’s have a drink or two or three to celebrate and then have an early night.
“Sharing barracks with lots of brave lonely guys wanting their wives, girlfriends and loved ones was frustrating, I was lonely too and a little jealous of Zac and Alex being there together. On the front line, in a ditch or behind a mud wall, waiting for some action from the insurgents, I often thought of you.
Zac and Alex were so professional and yet so discreet. The men respected them for what they were; tough, brave and part of their team. Our C.O. was really cool about it. He wants to meet you. I only wish you had not been posted to another platoon who stayed here.”
As they sat on the sofa, all their emotions came into play. That physical electricity, missing for so long returned. Hands met, eyes met, lips met. Ben turned to Tim and led him to the bedroom. They laughed as they entered, for Will and Jay had tied one banner across the headboard which read ‘Lay down your arms’ and another across the full length mirror which read, ‘Soldier, do your duty’.
“Who is going to shower first? Me, you or together like we used to? Race you! Remember the first time we did in that little hotel just after we met. We got in the cubicle and couldn’t move. You couldn’t even adjust the controls. You were pressed so tightly against the tiles, that when I thought I’d reached them you said, ‘Hey man, you’re turning me on not the controls!’ That night was awesome.”
Ben moved towards Tim and as they stood staring at each other, as if it was their first time, Ben slowly took off his T-shirt. Tim looked at Ben and removed his. On their right arms, both had eagle tattoos below which were each other‘s names and their platoon colours spreading across their chest. These were part of being a soldier.
Tim found his mind buzzing with doubts. It would only take minutes to undress and reveal his wounded leg. During these minutes their relationship could end. Tim tried to look relaxed, but inside his heart was full of anxieties.
“Come on my little cub, let’s go to the bathroom and finish undressing there,” said Tim as he placed his arm around a rather surprised Ben before guiding him to the shower.
“Alright, if that’s what you want Daddy Bear!” replied Ben, grinning from ear to ear.
They reached the shower room and Ben undressed. Tim stared at him. Naked and innocent, how could he possibly tell Ben what he was really feeling?”
“Hold me Ben, just hold me.”
Together at last, in Ben’s arms he felt as if the past had never happened. The clock had turned back to when they were both complete men.
They kissed and breathed as one. Neither had shaved that day, so the friction caused by their stubble as their faces met, gave Ben a strange tingling feeling, a feeling he had missed for many months.
“Hold me tighter Ben, tighter. As I lay there wounded in that painful half-light, I thought I would never see you again.”
Tim relaxed his grip, kissed Ben’s forehead and stood there open-armed. ” Now is the time,” thought Tim, “I must do this. Oh Ben, trust me.”
Ben moved forward and undid Tim’s belt, kissing his chest and the scar from a wound he received a year earlier when he volunteered to lead his team into a supposed abandoned village.
“You go in and sort out the controls,” Tim laughed, “you can adjust mine later.”
Ben felt so happy. Life was good. Whenever they showered, water from the shower head was directed at the last one to enter the cubical. Turning to face Tim, Ben’s well directed aim fell on the empty tiles. He stood there alone.
“Come out from where you’re hiding soldier boy,” chuckled Ben, “you are back to your old self. Now let’s see, where did you used to hide? I know behind the sofa or under the table.”
This game was something that became more and more sophisticated using all sorts of locations around their own apartment. Two muscular soldiers running around naked and hiding from each other was something even Will and Jay got used to when the pair stayed with them. It was escapism at its best. The burst of passion, which always followed, was reward enough for the effort.
Ben returned to the bedroom. The door was locked.
“I know you’re in there Tim. Let me in.”
“Tim, if this is part of the game, please let me in. I’m getting cold.”
Ben found one of Will’s bathrobes and returned to the bedroom door wondering what he had done wrong. The feelings Tim had in that hospital ward returned.
“I’m sorry, Ben. I’m not the same guy you fell in love with three years ago,” came the sorrowful reply.
“But, Tim…?” Ben knew that in his heart Tim was the same guy, but deep down was concerned by the changes in his behaviour. He feared the explosion and the amputation had taken too much of a toll?
“I can’t explain, Ben. Just leave me alone. It won’t work. I want it to. I want it to, but it won’t.”
Ben sank to the floor upset and confused, but in control enough to know what he had to do. Tim was his life, the Army was their life and he decided to call on friends who might be wise to the situation. The Army had taught him not to give up in a fight and this was one, using whatever strategies possible, he vowed to win.
* * * * * * * *
Will and Jay, Zac and Ben, were enjoying a DVD when Zac’s cell-phone trembled.
“It’s Ben,” said Zac. “He wants us over to your place a.s.a.p. Tim has shut himself in the bedroom and turned the light off.”
“Tell Zac, the four of us are coming over right now,” whispered Will.
“I should have guessed,” said Zac,”being an Army medic, I’ve seen this situation occur so often in the rehab units. I’ll explain it all to you when we meet Ben. It’s something he has to learn and obviously Tim can’t face telling him.”
* * * * * * * *
“Thanks for coming over so quickly. I didn’t know who to turn to. Being away myself, I was only able to visit Tim in rehab once, so I was never involved with the process.”
“Let’s sit down. Will, Jay, make us all a coffee before we get Ben sorted out. Get him some clothes as well. He’s about your size Jay, I think. Tim is still in the bedroom?”
“Yes. He won’t speak. He wants me to go away.”
“Well,” said Alex, “that’s a no go area.”
Over coffee Zac recounted how Tim received the injury.
“Tim had volunteered to drive a special patrol vehicle into Taliban territory under cover of darkness. Radio contact was lost just before dawn, so our C.O. asked if there was anyone willing to go on a search and recover mission to find them. Tim was so popular, everyone wanted to go, even though there was the threat of snipers and i.e.d.’s, but Ben and I were chosen with three others.
“After about an hour, we found the vehicle on its side, the other guys dead and Tim in a ditch, in need of urgent medical attention. Even then we knew he would lose his foot and possibly his leg below the knee. He has made a remarkable recovery, but he needs you now more than ever.”
“But he tells me to go away. What can I do?”
“Love him, like you always have.” said Alex. “Now is not the time to turn away. Tim is angry with himself, with his helplessness and will suffer depressions. He needs stability. You must try to give him that.”
“He has lost a limb,” added Zac. “He does not feel like a whole man, the man you fell in love with, the guy so respected by his platoon mates. He will need a lot of care and support, and you must be involved.”
“Can I ask one serious question Ben?” asked Jay, “Have you …?”
“…made love you mean? I think he wanted to, but just pulled away.”
“No, Ben. That might also be a problem at the moment, but have you seen his wound?”
“No, I only saw him in rehab once and there was a cage over his leg. When I met him today, he tried to walk normally. I was very impressed, but seeing his wound does not worry me.”
“Does he know that?” asked Zac.
“I haven’t had the chance. I think he tried, but when we went to shower, I’m sure he felt ashamed. We acted as if nothing had happened, but deep down, we both knew it had.”
“Why was I so insensitive?” Ben thought, “Stood naked in front of Tim must have been agonising for him. Stripped to the waist, muscular through training, we were equal, but to see me standing on two legs ready to chase him to the shower. What was I thinking?”
“Which door is it Jay? This cannot go on.” said Zac firmly.
“Tim, those guys in our platoon risked their lives to save you and they are so worried about your relationship with Ben. In the hospital ward were other soldiers who had lost their sight, limbs and quality of life. They had no-one close to support them. You have Ben. “
“Alright, I know when you first tried to walk you fell back on the bed. So what, man? You’ve succeeded. After our leave ends do Alex and I go back and tell the guys you shut yourself in a bedroom and rejected Ben? He has not rejected you. All the guys are rooting for you man. They’ve missed your energy, leadership and honesty especially when you explained to them about Alex and me. That helped one or two others to come out. There’s no DADT in our platoon now.
The door opened and Tim appeared. “Ben, when you visited me in hospital, I hadn’t been fitted with my prosthetic foot yet. I kept my wound hidden under that frame. I was angry with you because you were a whole man. I was jealous, and ashamed. I tried to pretend it had never happened. Come into the bedroom, please just you.”
Ben was so relieved. All his doubts were swept away as he entered the bedroom. Tim lay on the bed covered by one of Will’s extravagant silk sheets. “Sit beside me Ben and hold my hand. I’m so sorry I said those things,” whispered Tim, “but you are free to go if you must.”
“I said, ‘Never mate! I’ll prove it.”
“Tim, stand by for a surprise”, thought Ben, “although ‘stand-by’ was not quite the right word to use.”
He pulled back the sheet to reveal Tim’s lower leg. He felt Tim tighten his grip on his hand. Ben did not feel fear or disgust, only love. He slid in beside Tim, placed one finger over his lips and asked Tim to close his eyes. As he did so, Tim released his hand which allowed Ben to kneel beside the bed.
With a gentle, circular motion Ben’s finger tips began to move down every inch of Tim’s body. There was a pause at Tim’s scar which he kissed and then his fingers wandered on through the jungle of soft black hair towards the pit of Tim’s stomach. “You’re still my Daddy-bear,” thought Ben. Just below the knee, he placed both thumbs and forefingers on to the shaved pale skin, bent forward and kissed what remained of the lower limb. He felt Tim’s body relax and looking up he saw him smiling. “Thank you Ben, thank you,” said Tim, “I’m trying so hard not to cry mate.”
“There’s one more part of you I want to see, a certain prosthetic limb,” said Ben, “but that can wait until morning. You’ve so much to teach me, Tim, but we’ll get there. The lads in the platoon will be so proud of you.”
“Thank Will and Jay for the use of their apartment,” said Tim, “and give Alex and Zac a big hug from me. They saved me from hell in that awful ditch and now they’ve saved us from an even worse fate, a life without each other.”
Ben rose from the bed and gave everyone that big hug. As Will and Jay were about to leave Ben said, “I’m sure things will work out now we’ve got your support. Thank you. See you tomorrow at Rae’s.”
When Ben returned to the bedroom, Tim smiled and said, as he watched Ben undress, “The banner s says…’Soldier do your duty!’ “…and Ben did!
* * * * * * * *
Dawn broke violently. Ben felt he was being choked. As he opened his eyes, Tim’s eyes met his. They were wild, staring and empty. Army training had made them both strong, but this was an intense strength, an uncontrolled strength brought about by trauma.
“Ssshhhh, Tim. It’s Ben. It’s me.”
Ben felt that if Tim gripped his shoulder blades any harder his nails would draw blood.
“Ssshhhh … Daddy-bear Tim, chill man, chill.”
Zac had told him to use familiar terms and Tim was already in familiar surroundings. When they first met, Tim being bigger built, called Ben his ‘Cub’. In well-padded combats Ben would often snuggle up to him and say, “Hi Daddy-bear.”
Tim lay on his back staring at the ceiling. “You can still go if you want to.”
“Hey man, we’re a couple.”
“I lay there in the ditch in terrible pain, and as dawn broke I could see the bodies of the guys scattered around. I felt so weak I could hardly move. I thought of you, of us. In that bleary haze I heard voices in the distance. I was still armed. Was I to use a bullet on me or the Taliban? No, not me! You know I’m a total professional. I began to recognise the voices and then, Alex and Zac slid into the ditch. I tried so hard to cry, but I just couldn’t.
Two things you will have to get used to; the effects of trauma and the fitting of my prosthetic limb. The pain is gradually easing mate, but it’s not easy after being so active.”
“I can’t imagine.”
“No, you can’t. I want you to hop to the door.”
“Are you serious, man?”
“Just try it.”
Ben stood on one leg, hopped as far as the end of the bed, felt he was falling and put the other foot down.”
“See what I mean, I haven’t got another foot to steady me. Same as in the shower, Will and Jay have bought a special stool for me to sit on and had a bar fitted to the wall. Come on little cub, if we’re ever going to get to Rae’s barbecue, we’d better have that shower. Bet you I get there first.”…and Tim did.
* * * * * * *
Jay and Will answered the door when they arrived at Rae’s.
“Ben told me we had to wear combats, but I haven’t a clue why,” said Tim,”but why are you two in combats as well?”
“You’ll see when we go through to the garden,” chuckled Will, secretly squeezing Ben’s hand. “Thanks for the loan of your spares, we wanted to look right. Rae’s going to help us join the Reserves.”
There was a cheer as Tim stepped onto the patio. There, stood a semi-circle of the guys from his old platoon. Rae, proudly wearing his Reserves uniform, stepped forward.
“Tim, so many of these guys wanted to see you again, especially your C.O., so they asked Zac and Alex to help me organise this little reunion. How could I refuse, me being in the Reserve as well? All of you are brave soldiers. You’ve put your lives on the line every day and will be going back soon, just to make our lives safer.”
“Pleased to see you again Tim,” said his C.O., giving him a surprising hug,” you’ve always had my support in more ways than one. In my mind ‘DADT’ should stand for something else…’Do Ask…Do Tell.’ A few more of the lads in the platoon have come out since you were wounded and we have been pioneering our new slogan. We had a little trouble from some of the lads, mainly through ignorance, but all are now happy and we have become a flagship platoon, despite derisory comments from others.”
After Tim had had a time to meet and greet all his mates, a British Army captain approached him.
“I’m Paul. I was badly wounded below one knee in Afghanistan. Your C.O., Daniel, has been my strength and support for five years. He is someone special in my life. Although we don’t see each other often, I can’t imagine my life without him. You see, we married last year.“
Tim’s surprise was interrupted by Daniel’s command.
“Platoon. Attention. What is our own slogan, ladies and gents? “
“DO ASK…DO TELL…WE ARE PROUD…AND PROFESSIONAL.”
“Didn’t hear that, Platoon. Louder please!”
“DO ASK…DO TELL…WE ARE PROUD…AND PROESSIONAL.”
Will and Jay, who had never ever thought of being in the military, stood straight backed, eyes front and saluted the soldiers who stood in front of them, two very proud Americans.
Based on a series of Will and Jay short stories that my friend, Alan Chin, encouraged me to develop.