by Ryuukotsu Kouji (竜骨公事)
illustrated by Grace
ET: Electronics Technician, a rating, or job, in the Navy. An ET3 outranks an ET Seaman. They repair and maintain radios, radar, navigation equipment, and other electronic gear.
Radioman: Another Navy rating. They’re the operators of the radio equipment that ETs repair and maintain.
USNS: United States Naval Ship, supply ships operated in service to the Navy by another government agency. The crews on these ships are mainly civilians.
T-AFS: An Auxiliary Fleet Support or ‘combat stores’ ship which has been turned from a USS (Navy crew) into a USNS (civilian crew). Supply ship that carries practically everything, like a floating Wal-Mart.
Mildet: Military Detachment. Onboard a USNS ship, there is a small complement of Naval personnel, usually between 22-30 on a T-AFS.
Civmar: Civilian Mariner. Part of the civilian crew that takes care of most functions of a USNS ship, usually between 100-120 people on a T-AFS.
“Every ship has a ghost.” Gil winked at Rob through the dim flickering light, leaning back on his elbows. One tan, hairy leg stretched out to prod the ribs visible along Rob’s bare side, earning a muffled grunt. “Some of ’em have a few. Some have a whole pile, and you don’t wanna go wandering around after lights-out.”
“Right.” Rob eyed him. “Watch where you’re sticking those elbows. If you set the ship on fire with your fucking candles, even the big brown puppydog eyes won’t save you.” He rolled over, accidentally kicking the bar at the end of his bunk. “Fuck.”
“Watch where you’re sticking those legs. Wanna lend me a few inches? I could use ’em.”
Rob picked up the object closest to hand and threw it at Gil. “Thought I gave you enough inches earlier.”
“Mmph.” Gil caught the lighter neatly and rolled his eyes. “Ain’t the size of the wave, baby.”
USNS SAN JOSE (T-AFS 7)
INPORT APRA HARBOR, GUAM
Two men and one woman wearing dark blue coveralls stood around a three-foot cable spool, kicking their heels in accordance with finest Naval tradition.
A tall young man with broad, wiry shoulders and a haircut that badly needed refreshing walked up the pier toward them, pulling a rolling suitcase.
The woman poked one of the men. After some whispers back and forth, he cleared his throat and called, “Hey, are you our new check-in?”
“Probably.” The guy flashed them a smile as he pulled up close. “ETs?”
“Yeah. I’m ET3 Gosven. Goss.” The shorter of the men in coveralls stuck out a dark hand to be shaken. “This is Seaman Nichols — Nicky,” Goss went on, as the taller one, rail-thin and unhealthily pale, stuck out his hand in turn, “and ET3 Pegget.” He paused. “We don’t mess with her name. Ain’t worth it.” The woman snorted, rolling bright blue eyes at Goss, and shook hands with a polite smile.
“ET3 Shannahan. Call me Rob if you want.” He smiled and shoved his hands back into the pockets of his khakis. “Nice to meet you guys.”
“Nice to meet you too.” Goss looked back at the ship, then squatted. The other two followed him. Rob remained standing, looking over the ship. “We’re gonna hook up the cable TV connection someday, if you want to wait around. Otherwise you can go on up the gangway. They won’t have time to start checking you in for a while, but you could get out of the sun.” Goss shrugged and pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his breast pocket.
Rob shook his dark brown bangs out of his eyes and took a look at the traffic on the narrow metal ramp. Men in everything from dark green engine room coveralls to pirate-like rags were hauling ropes, metal fittings, and giant hoses of all colors and materials across it to make connections between the ship and the pier. “I’ll wait. So what’s it like on here? And, uh.” He gave Goss a sheepish grin. “Can I bum one?”
Goss huffed a short laugh around his cigarette and pulled his hands back down from where they’d been wedging the pack back into his pocket. “Sure.” He tapped one out for Rob. “It’s cool. You know, they get a bug up their ass and want to play Navy sometimes, but otherwise…it’s cool. Two people to a room, your own shower, you can’t beat it.” He held up his lighter and Rob leaned down, cupping a hand against the wind.
Pegget spoke up after Rob had taken a few drags. “After you get your orders stamped and your stuff put up, if you want, you can come out with us. The shop usually goes out to Uncle Bob’s after an underway. If you’d rather sleep, don’t worry about it, but, you know,” she shrugged.
He nodded. “Just making sure I don’t feel like a leper on the first day. Yeah.”
“Come on.” Rob grabbed one of Gil’s feet and started to tickle him. Gil winced, twitching all over and laughing helplessly, and Rob grinned. “Quit bullshitting and tell the story.”
“Okay.” Gil heaved a dramatic sigh and flopped his legs away from Rob, tucking them under himself neatly. “So, no shit, right, this really happened.” Rob snorted and Gil’s lips curved into a smug little smile. “No, really. I got this straight from a guy on my old ship.”
“Sure, and he got it straight from a guy on his old ship, who–“
Gil interrupted him. “So, check it out. They were coming home from deployment, anchored off Phuket, and he had the topside midwatch. Carrying around a rifle, the whole nine yards. Pirate watch.”
“Uh-huh.” Rob sat up a little.
“He’s making his rounds like normal, everything’s cool, right. Everything’s quiet. Right after midnight, he’s about to go down and check in with the quarterdeck watch. He gets to the top of the ladder…and he hears something weird.”
“It’s coming from the back of the ship. Just a little noise, so he thinks he’s making it up at first, you know? He’s like, nah, it’s gotta be the ropes creaking or the floats or…something.”
“But he knows what that sounds like, right.” Rob rolled over on his side and started messing with the cuff of Gil’s dungaree bellbottoms. “You know, it’s really a shame they’re making us quit wearing these.”
“Yeah,” Gil sighed. “They make anyone’s ass look good.”
“Pretty damn close though.”
“Especially yours, is what I was thinking.”
“Of course. So anyway,” Gil stared him down, “he hears this noise and decides, you know, I might as well go check on the aft watch. It was the same kind of ship as this one, so the aft watch is on the fantail, under the flight deck. In the dark.”
“Gee, I think I know where this is going.” Rob, wearing his best attempt at a leer, slid a hand around Gil’s ankle and tugged.
Gil gave him an odd smile. “Do you?”
“It’s easy, don’t worry,” Pegget told Rob. They were standing in a small room that held a rack of cable television equipment, a pair of cabinets filled with 8mm video cassettes, and a bean bag chair. “Nicky makes the schedule and takes care of requests. He puts in the movies during the day, and we rotate who does them in the evenings. The only thing to worry about is making sure you get the movies started on time. The civmars bitch if they’re a minute late.” She shrugged her slender shoulders at Rob’s incredulous look. “Hey, they’re doing all the dirty work on this ship, so they think that’s the least we can do. If the last movie runs over its time slot, then you wait and switch them as soon as it’s done. Sometimes Nichols fucks up.”
“Okay.” Rob watched as she showed him how to switch cassette decks and connect the two channels to each of the players.
“Easy,” she said again, and he nodded. Pegget pushed the door open for them to leave. Then she looked back at him and shut it again. Keeping her voice low, she said, “The only other rule is, if you bring someone up here to fuck, make sure you slide the bolt,” it jingled as she flicked it, “clean up after yourself, for god’s sake don’t get anything on the chair, and at least get the movies in on time if you take too long.”
Rob thought vaguely that his jaw was probably embedded in the gently heaving metal deck under their feet right now.
“And don’t let anyone else in, no matter how much they give you,” she added with a thoughtful nod. “We can’t risk having any of the tapes stolen, the ship would be fined.” She pushed out the door and held it for him as he collected himself and followed.
After dinner, he walked outside to have a smoke and watch the sun set. The ship had stayed in port for two weeks after he’d checked onboard; this was his first underway. The motion hadn’t bothered him so far. He wasn’t so sure about how it would work out when he was lying on his back and trying to sleep while rocking around.
The shallow rolls of deep blue water sparkled in the fading light. He leaned over the ship’s rail and watched the bow carve through the rolls, the spray that had been like a fountain of rainbow prisms earlier in the day now a pure white.
“You missed the dolphins,” he heard, and turned to see an ancient-looking Filipino civmar leaning on the rail a few feet away. The end of the dirty lavender fabric wrapped around the guy’s head fluttered in the crosswind.
“When are they usually around?” Rob tossed his cigarette butt over the side, linked his hands on the rail and rested his chin on them, relaxing to stare into the rippling water.
“After we get out of the harbor and leave the tugs, they’ll come around…eh, an hour or two after that. They just left about, I dunno, fifteen minutes ago.”
“Huh. Wish I’d eaten faster,” he sighed. The horizon was dark pink now, painting the waves and sky in dim pastels.
“You’ll see them.” The guy cracked a smile. “If you go on a Gulf cruise with us, you’ll see flying fish, too. Now that’s something.”
…Right, Rob thought, and nodded politely as he lit another cigarette.
He got all the movies in on time and didn’t find the bolt thrown once, to his relief. Well, they’d only been out for one day…
After the midnight movies were safely away, instead of going down the ladder well to his little room and surprisingly roomy bunk, he veered off to step outside again.
All the lights that could show outside when the doors were opened were secured after sunset. He fumbled in the darkness of the small airlock to find the door lever. The rush of air when he got it cracked nearly pulled it out of his hands and he stumbled over the high doorstep into pure blackness.
As his eyes adjusted, he began to make out the flecks of white here and there in the rolls, and the rail in front of him, a line rocking in parallel with his body against the night. He took small, shuffling steps toward it and wrapped his hands around it when he reached it, then turned to lean against it and look up at the ship.
Three small lights were lit against the overcast sky, one at each end of the crossbar near the top of the mast, and one at the very top. Otherwise there was nothing to outline the hulking shape of the superstructure but the few stars that shone between the high clouds.
He walked along the rail toward the front of the ship, stopped and looked out.
Where it neared the ship, he could tell the ocean from the sky. Fifty yards from the ship, there may as well have been a solid wall of darkness.
He stared it down. Felt the rush of water against the hull beneath him, the rise and fall of the bow, the hollow rumble of the ship, the damp wind that whipped his skin, and lost himself.
Pressed against each other in his bunk, they kissed and grappled for a while before Rob pulled back and panted, “You were gonna tell me what happened.”
“You’re still interested in the story?” Gil gave him a sour look beneath a cocked brow.
“We’ve got all night. I wouldn’t have to work tomorrow even if I weren’t leaving.” Rob shrugged and stuck a hand in the back of Gil’s dungarees to give a squeeze. “Bet you wish you were an ET, huh? You have one fucked up schedule.”
“Happens when you don’t officially exist.” Gil’s lips quirked and he slid his hands down Rob’s back, beneath the waistband of his boxers and squeezed back. “Okay.” He settled in close, dark hair tickling Rob’s nose. “So, the guy walks out on the fantail. It’s dark as fuck out there, just the light at the end of the flight deck reflecting off the water, which helps for the pirates but it don’t help when you’re trying to walk around the piles of rope on the fantail. So he’s stumbling around and cursing.
“Next thing you know, he trips and falls right into something that he knows isn’t supposed to be there. It’s heavy, and it’s not falling over with him. He grabs it to keep from falling and it grunts.”
Rob cleared his throat and shifted.
Gil peered up, an evil gleam in his eyes. “Don’t worry, I’m here to keep the boogeyman away, little girl.”
“Shut up,” Rob mumbled.
Gil chuckled at him and went on. “He’s about to call the quarterdeck and flip on the lights when the thing speaks. It’s real harsh and quiet, but he can just make it out. ‘Don’t call anyone,’ it says. He, it was a guy. ‘I couldn’t take it anymore. Go back on watch and don’t tell anyone. They’ll find me when it’s daylight.’
“He’s totally freaked out now. Doesn’t know what to do. ‘Why?’ he asks the guy, ‘Why? We’re on the way home.’
“Turns out the guy’s girlfriend just dropped dead a few weeks before, and her parents sent him a letter saying it was his fault. He didn’t have any family, didn’t really have any friends. She was it. So he traded watches with the guy who had the fantail midwatch and hung himself.”
“Wasn’t that… Wasn’t that, um.” Rob cleared his throat again. “Pretty irresponsible of him, I mean, the guy was on watch.”
He felt Gil pull back and looked down. “You really are insane,” Gil said flatly.
Rob turned red. “Okay, okay. What happened.”
“He left. Didn’t say anything, went and checked in with the quarterdeck. When the aft watch hadn’t checked in for an hour past when he should’ve, the quarterdeck sent someone back to look for him, and found him dead. Ship went on alert, everyone’s liberty was cancelled, all that. And my friend…well, he kinda figured he was cursed after that.”
“He should’ve done something, even if it was what the guy wanted. The karma or whatever, it fucked with his life after that.
“He got involved with someone when he was back home on leave the next time, and a few months later, that person got in a car accident.” Gil shifted in his arms, and Rob slid a hand up to run through his hair. “They broke it off after a while…the distance was just too much. Then he fell in love with someone on the ship. He fell hard, I mean, it was serious. They were making all these crazy plans, they’d told their families about each other…it was…” He fell silent for a long time.
Rob kept stroking his hair, keeping his notions of who the ‘friend’ actually was to himself.
Gil said, “Then that one died. And my friend got transferred to another ship and hung himself.”
…Or not, Rob thought as his hand froze in Gil’s hair.
“Don’t try and give me that shit. There’s no ghost in the transmitter room, geez,” Rob grumbled as Pegget and Nichols laughed.
“Well, there was a guy on here for the last cruise who almost killed himself in there,” Nichols offered. “Goss walked up in here after putting in the midnight movie and heard some thumping or something, figured it was someone fucking, right?”
“What the hell?” Rob interrupted. “Is that all you people do underway?”
Red faces and nervous laughter answered him well enough, and he rolled his eyes.
“Not me,” Nichols said. “That is, I would if I could,” he sneaked a glance at Pegget, who very distinctly did not notice, “but a lot of people. You get bored after a while. Anyway, he opened the door to kick them out and found the guy — his name was Watt, they called him Wiggity Watt ’cause he was a head case anyway — flopping around on the floor. Spit and blood all over. He’d taken a chunk out of his scalp on the corner of one of the transmitter racks.”
“He had a bunch of scars on his head,” Pegget put in. “Guess we figured out how some of them might’ve happened from that.”
“Guess so. Shit. What was he doing?”
“Huffing canned air,” Nichols said.
“What the fuck?” was all Rob could think of for that.
He’d made a routine out of taking a walk on deck after the midnight movie, the nights he had movie duty. Whoever had it that night didn’t have to be at the morning meeting, just had to wander up to the shop by around nine, so it wasn’t like he was missing any sleep.
Tonight he stood on the fantail, watching the broad wake of the ship glow beneath a full moon.
The flight deck overhead creaked with the stronger rocks of the ship, but he was used to that by now. Underway, this was one of the most private spots on the ship. Even when others were back here, it felt like everyone existed within their own pocket of black air and sea spray. Nobody spoke out here after midnight.
“Hey,” someone said quietly from in front of him.
Rob jumped so hard he was afraid he’d hit his head on the ceiling for one shitty moment. Heart pounding violently, he slapped his hands on the rail and whipped his head around, looking for whoever had spoken.
“Uh, sorry.” A low chuckle. “Guess you didn’t see me down here, huh? I thought that’s why you stopped there.”
“No.” Rob caught his breath and stared. Just visible behind the tower of coiled rope was a guy, pretty young from the voice. “What the fuck are you doing?”
“I’ve seen you walking around. You like being out here, don’t you?”
“So?” He was pretty relaxed by now, but still weirded out.
“I like that.” Rob could hear a smile in the guy’s voice. “There aren’t many of you mildet types who actually love the ship.”
“I haven’t spent a cruise on here,” he said drily.
“I don’t think it would really matter.” The guy shuffled to his feet, catching one of the ribs in the ship’s wall to pull himself up with. Rob stuck a hand out belatedly.
“Uh, sorry. So are you a civmar?”
Rob looked the guy over in the moonlight. Sure enough, he was wearing dungarees, with a third class patch on his sleeve. No nametape, though. “Why haven’t I seen you at training or chow or something? We haven’t gotten any new guys in a couple months, I thought.” He dug his cigarettes out of his pocket and lit one, taking a deep drag.
“I’m not officially here.” The guy waggled a brow, like he was a superspy and he’d have to kill Rob if he told him or something. Rob rolled his eyes. “No, seriously. I’m not on the ship’s roll. My presence on this ship is not officially acknowledged. And if you tell anyone you saw me, I, uh… I won’t kill you but…” He broke off and squirmed a bit.
“Right,” Rob said.
“I got lonely,” the guy said, and shrugged. “I never get to talk to anyone, I can only leave my shop in the middle of the night…and I kept seeing you out here. So I thought, why not?”
Rob tapped the cigarette on his lip for a moment, then shrugged also. “I’m Rob. What can I call you?– if you say something stupid like James Bond, I’m out of here.”
The guy’s mouth froze in place, half-open. He shut it and chuckled. “Gil.”
They shook hands. Then Gil stood there fidgeting for a while, while Rob leaned on the rail and resumed watching how the moonlight played over the swells.
After a while, he came back to himself abruptly and found his cigarette burned out and Gil nowhere in sight.
Then he felt hands on the bottom zipper of his coveralls, and stiffened as a cool draft washed into the fly of his boxers.
Gil whispered up to him, “Want a blow job?”
“What’ll you have, honey?” The woman in front of Rob looked to be in her fifties, and trying hard to pass for thirty. Long hair that was colored somewhere between orange and peach fell over a white Harley-Davidson tank top and acid washed jeans. Rob looked up into her faded blue eyes from the bar stool he’d just slung himself across, and smiled.
“How’s it going, Aunt Vicki? Whatever you’ve got on special is fine. Two.”
“That kinda week already, huh?” She started pulling up bottles from the well, giving him a warm smile that threatened the integrity of her latest facelift.
“Yeah,” he sighed. Tapped his heels against the barstool. It was 4:26 on a Tuesday. Liberty Call had gone down at four o’clock sharp and he’d been on the first bus off the base.
She slid two tall, distinctly pink drinks in front of him. “I skipped the umbrellas, hon. Just for you. That’ll be eight dollars.”
He slid a ten across the bar and gestured to keep it. “Thanks.”
Five hours had passed and half the ship had Uncle Bob’s packed to the gills. No pun intended, ’cause Gil still wasn’t there.
Rob was feeling pretty blurry by then or he wouldn’t even have made that kind of joke to himself. He hadn’t really expected Gil to show up. But he’d secretly held out some hope. Gil hadn’t directly said no, when Rob had finally gotten him so well cornered that he couldn’t change the subject and slip out no matter how hard he tried.
Gil was good at that stuff. Rob put it down to how he was some kind of spook, ’cause that just went with the territory. But that still shouldn’t mean you always used it against your…
He couldn’t really say ‘friends’ there, since they were pretty far beyond the lines of friendship. Blow jobs on the fantail had become sixty-nines in the movie room and finally, when Rob’s roommate had been sent to a school in Japan for two weeks, fucking in Rob’s bunk.
But he had still never seen Gil during the day and he had never seen Gil off the ship. It was getting fucking weird.
He shook his head and slid off his stool. Tenth trip to piss so far tonight. That pink stuff, even after the regular price had kicked in at seven o’clock, was one hell of a deal.
“What’s that shit called, anyway?”
Rob realized he’d been staring at it as he nudged the stool back in, and the guy next to him was the one who had actually asked the question. “I dunno. Hey, uh. Will you save this for me?”
A few minutes later, Rob had navigated his unsteady way through the crowd and landed safely on the stool again. The guy next to him said, “Aunt Vicki says it’s Mojo. But — don’t tell her I said this, but that’s bullshit, man. It ain’t really Mojo unless you’re in Subic.”
Rob turned and squinted at the guy. Long, unkempt grey-brown hair and a truly awful beard surrounded a wolfish face and surprisingly kind eyes.
“Well, if you want to try one and see, I’m buying,” Rob said.
The guy spit a long dark stream into a paper cup next to him and nodded. “Sure, thanks.” He stuck a battered hand out. “Mike.”
“So she said she was gonna try to come out here and meet you, and she ain’t shown up, and you never see her except once in a blue moon, and in the middle of the damn night–”
“Well, I see her,” Rob interrupted, flopping a hand out to smack the bar. Gil’s gender had undergone remodeling by necessity. “It’s just… look, it isn’t hi– her fault, it’s her work schedule and… and stuff.” He took another unsteady swig of the San Miguel that Mike had switched them both to after Aunt Vicki had let them know Rob’s tab had gone over a hundred bucks.
“The fact remains is,” Mike said heavily. Rob’s eyes scrunched, running that one by again and not coming up with anything that made more sense on the second try. “The fact remains is, son…” He turned grave eyes to meet Rob’s. “You’ve got yourself pussy-whipped.”
Rob pulled his mouth shut slowly. “Right.”
“So, what’d you do for your last day?” Several minutes had passed, and Gil’s voice was chipper.
“The usual. Fixed a voice circuit. Stupid radiomen fucked up and put in the wrong frequency again, then tried to say the radio was broken. Again.” Rob watched his toes wiggle beside Gil’s for a moment. Then he flopped his head back on the pillow and sighed. “Slept in the transmitter room for a while. Talked to Goss.”
“How’s he doing?”
“His ship’s in Singapore. He’s gonna get a tattoo tomorrow from Johnny Two Thumbs.”
“What’s he getting?” Gil rolled up on an elbow, letting his other hand trail across Rob’s stomach.
Rob took a deep, slow breath and tried not to arch into it. “Well, he’s on the Kitty Hawk now…”
“So he’s getting a biplane?” Gil snorted, breath huffing against Rob’s shoulder.
“Um. No.” He pinned down Gil’s wandering hand long enough to collect his thoughts. “A cat, with hawk’s wings and…” Short nails scraped across his chest. “Cl-claws.”
“Talons?” Gil’s head dipped and his tongue flicked out to wet Rob’s nipple. His lips pursed and blew a thin stream of cool air across where he’d just licked.
Rob gritted his teeth and held himself still against the shiver. “Right.”
“Amusing. Too bad it makes him look ignorant.”
“Huh?” Rob craned his neck to eye Gil, who was planting kisses along his stomach.
“It’s pathetic, is what,” Gil mumbled. His tongue dipped into Rob’s navel, circled. “They get to a real ship and lose their damn minds. They hear the local bullshit and stir themselves up.” His hand crept down to cup Rob’s balls, sliding and rubbing. “Then they wanna mark themselves so they can point at it and say, Look, I was part of something special, okay? So fuck you… And never mind that it’s all just bullshit in the end.”
Rob’s eyebrow, raised beyond its former record height, twitched, even as his hips shifted to meet the slow strokes of Gil’s hand on his cock. “Whaddya want. We’re sailors, not historians.”
“Most sailors,” Gil said, sliding his body down the bed until his head was even with Rob’s balls, “seem to like the history. So you’d think they’d take a minute to realize they oughta at least check where the name came from. Kitty Hawk’s got nothing to do with cats.” Gil took a breath and wriggled his tongue back along the seam of Rob’s balls, pressing slickly between his buttocks for a moment before pulling away. “Or birds of prey.”
Rob forced his hips a couple feet back down from the arch they’d snapped up into, slowly unclenched his hands, and cracked an eye. Gil leaned across his thighs, watching him. After a few false starts, Rob muttered, “Ships. Named after people. What about.”
Gil gave him a “So?” stare, leaned down and licked the V beneath his cockhead.
“Ahh–” Rob reached a hand out and took a fistful of Gil’s hair. “They like to. Do something around the name.”
“When not even the guy with the name gave a fuck about it, let alone thought about it so damn much,” Gil mumbled, lips and breath tracing a circle around the head of Rob’s cock.
“Like those guys on the– David R. Ray,” Rob gasped. Gil dropped his mouth in one long slide until his nose poked into crisp hair. Rob’s eyes fluttered closed, then opened again as Gil stopped moving. He looked down. Gil gave him an inquiring look, warm wet mouth stilled politely so as to let him think. Or something. He took a careful breath. “They, um. They get– stingray tattoos–“
Gil pulled his lips up off Rob’s cock in a languid twist that ended with a thick wet pop. “Yeah, something like that.” He smiled at Rob’s desperate look and ducked back down.
Rob put a hand up against the memorial column in the center of the bar as Aunt Vicki yelled, “It’s gonna be a few minutes on that steak, hon.” He nodded absently, leaning in to look at the plaque and articles. He’d never gotten around to reading them before, as many times as he’d been in this place.
May 9, 1989: A fuel leak aboard USS White Plains results in a Main Space Engine Room fire, killing six crew members and seriously injuring five others. Those who died: Boiler Technician 3rd Class Muoi Cao, Fireman Apprentice Todd A. Follis, Machinist’s Mate Fireman Apprentice Paul D. Novotny, Fireman Apprentice Darryl D. Edwards, Boiler Technician Fireman Baxter Lesarlly, and Boiler Technician 2nd Class (Surface Warfare Specialist) Jon D. Ruhmel.
“That was a pretty bad year for the Navy,” a gravelly voice said from behind him.
He turned to see Mike watching him from the bar. “Oh, yeah?”
“Lost at least thirty sailors that year. All for bullshit. No training, bad equipment, bad drills when there were any, too many fucking deployments in a fucking row. Five of those guys died because they didn’t know how to use their fucking emergency escape breathers. We found them with the unopened cases in their hands.”
Rob took a slow breath. “You were there?”
A smirk was just visible under drooping grey facial hair. “I was on the Blue Ridge. They called in every damage control team in the western Pacific for that one. She was floating dead in the water for five days ’til they finally got her towed in to Subic, and three of those were spent waiting for the main space to cool down enough that we could finally access it. The boilers had blown straight up through the stack. Look, you said you’re on the San Jose, right?”
Rob stuttered, “Y-yeah.”
“White Plains had the same basic layout. The fire blew up through the stack right between Radio and the Bridge. Half the injuries were from smoke inhalation in Radio, they had to evacuate all the communications spaces and finally the Bridge ’cause nobody could see to drive the ship. But the Main Space watchstanders, those were some fucking brave dudes. They stayed put ’til everything was shut down. If they hadn’t, that whole ship would’ve gone up.”
“Yeah.” Mike let him stew on that for a minute, then said, “I’m about to get me another beer. You want one?”
Over the course of another dozen or so beers in the night, the conversation took some wild twists. But the part that stuck out most in Rob’s mind was when Mike said:
“So the guys that were on White Plains, you know, some of them were pretty shook up. Bad enough they got transferred early. I heard one of those kids,” Mike took a long swig of San Miguel, “ended up on the San Jose, and never left.”
“Never left?” The bar was swaying pretty nicely by now for Rob. Just like rocking in the cradle of the ship, he thought dreamily. “Whaddya mean, never left?”
“I mean, he– Well, look. Here’s how the story goes.” Mike cleared his throat, which became an exercise of much hacking and a couple minutes.
Rob flagged down Aunt Vicki. “‘Nother San Mig, huh?”
She eyed him narrowly, pursing her lips, but gave a nod.
Mike finally got done with his lung removal and said, “Story goes, this kid was gay.”
The back of Rob’s neck prickled.
“He was, I dunno, involved or in love or who knows what with one of the guys that was down in the Pit that day. So he was pretty tore up, you know? I got nothing against those guys,” Mike was quick to assure him, seeing Rob’s stiff posture. “This was just how the story came around, a while later. Anyway, they put him over on the San Jose and next thing you know, he hung himself. Up in the transmitter room, I think it was.”
Rob choked hard. Piss beer from the Philippines shot through his sinuses and flooded out his nose.
“Hey, you okay, man?” Mike’s fuzzy voice sounded far away as he started thumping Rob’s back. “What, you a radioman or something? Nothing to worry about, I heard he’s a pretty nice one as far as ghosts go.”
Rob’s hazy vision made out Aunt Vicki leaning across the bar, wiping up the spill. “Quit giving him a bad time, Mike,” she said. “Look, the article’s right on the other side of the pole from the memorial. We figured he was another casualty. Kinda.” She put a finger under Rob’s chin and looked him in the eye. “You know what, I knew that boy, and he wouldn’t hurt a fly. He might be watching over y’all up there, but he wouldn’t hurt none of you. You just go read that article sometime.” She coughed. “When you can focus your eyes proper.”
“Will you let me fuck you?” Gil whispered to him.
Rob took a deep breath and tried to relax his thighs, which had clamped on reflex. He thought, while Gil’s mouth closed around his left ball, tongue swirling. Gil hummed and Rob shuddered, then the wet mouth moved to his other ball and his breath hitched.
Gil pulled back for a moment to put two fingers in his mouth, pulling them out with a pop. Then he moved back down and began licking Rob’s cock like it was the best popsicle on the face of the planet, while his wet fingers rubbed slowly down behind Rob’s balls.
Rob bit his lip for a long moment. Then, slowly, he let his legs fall loose. “Okay.”
Gil’s head tipped up and he looked surprised.
“Yeah, really. Okay,” Rob tried to laugh, but it caught in his throat at the sight of Gil’s tongue slipping back into his mouth, then Gil’s lips hovering around the head of his cock and giving a hard suck to pull it inside. He grunted and tried to focus on Gil’s face and lips, not where his fingers were going.
Then the first cold wet fingertip slid around the rim of his asshole and what came out of his mouth could only be described as a squeak.
Rob glared down over his stomach. He could feel Gil grinning around his cock.
The first finger circled slowly for what felt like days. Rob’s head fell back, his legs losing all tension.
The pressure increased incrementally, and the first finger was joined by a second. Then the fingers were inside and he was being fucked gently, while Gil’s mouth on his cock never stopped moving.
“You can stop,” he whispered on a rough breath, “treating me like a girl already.”
“Are you sure?” Gil whispered. He sucked his way up the thick ridge on the bottom of Rob’s cock, then licked back down, and kept going. He dropped a kiss on the skin between Rob’s balls and asshole, then pushed his hands under Rob’s thighs. “Lift up.”
Rob pulled his knees to his chest and tried not to bolt.
Gil’s tongue repeated the circles that his fingers had made, slow and slick, and somehow infinitely better as the feeling shuddered up Rob’s body. He brought a knuckle to his mouth and bit down hard before a moan could escape.
Gil began pressing harder, the point of his tongue dipping inside, until Rob’s resistance had left entirely and he was laid open for Gil’s tongue to thrust as deep as it could.
He didn’t recognize his own voice as he begged for Gil to fuck him already, just fuck him, please, please.
But he recognized the look in Gil’s eyes as Gil nodded and slid up his body, taking a knee in one hand and shoving the other behind Rob’s head to bring his lips up for a hard kiss. Not gloating, just…
Rob closed his eyes for a moment, then Gil said, “I want you to watch. I want you to watch while I do this.” He pressed an open-mouthed kiss to Rob’s neck and sucked. Rob tilted his head down and watched his body quiver as Gil’s cock slide into him.
“Like taking a shit in reverse,” he muttered, then gasped as Gil pinched his nipple.
“You are the most fucking unsexy moron in the universe.”
“Then why are you fucking me?” Rob grunted as Gil dropped his hips and made a hard thrust. “Ahh–” he hissed between his teeth. “That… that…” Gil hit it again and Rob almost bit his tongue off.
“Careful,” Gil snorted, chest heaving a little. “Here, let me give you a hand.”
He started stroking Rob’s cock and fucked him just like that until it was finally too much no matter how hard Rob tried to hold off. Too fucking good. He would have howled the ship down around them if Gil hadn’t sealed his mouth over Rob’s when he came.
“I can’t believe it’s been a year already.” Rob bit at the corner of his lip, studying the bottom of the upper bunk.
Gil tucked his head into Rob’s neck, the rest of his body cuddling in, wavelike. “More than a year. All packed, right?”
“Yup,” Rob sighed. “One last stop at Uncle Bob’s tomorrow and then… Look, are you sure you won’t come along? Just this once?”
Gil rolled up over him and placed a hand to each side of his face. “I can’t.” He leaned down and kissed Rob, slow and deep. “If I could, you know I would have.” He nipped at Rob’s lower lip, then sucked it lightly into his mouth, shaking his head. “I’ll wake you before I have to go. I promise. That’s… that’s the best I can do.”
Rob waved at the duty driver as the van took off from the damp gravel parking lot. So that was it. He was checked out, the ship was getting underway as soon as the duty driver got back onboard, and he was on his own until his flight left, whenever that might be after the typhoon passed.
Four minutes until the great wooden gates of Uncle Bob’s opened. He settled down to wait, watching the wild green overgrowth on the road bank sway in the mild gusts.
Aunt Vicki let him in with a quirk of one peach-dyed brow. “Thought you left.”
“That was just the party.” He gave her his best endearing smile. Yeah, so some of the civmars had trashed a couple bar stools last night at his farewell bash. They’d paid. Wasn’t his fault.
She sighed, shaking her head, and moved behind the bar. “So what can I get ya, hon?”
“How about a Jagerbomb to start out with.” At her nod, he abandoned the bar and moved around to the memorial.
With all the ritual noise and backslapping last night, he never had gotten around to reading that other article. He wanted to come back here someday, but just in case…
…three years as a deck seaman onboard USS White Plains, homeported in Guam. He was transferred to USS San Jose after the tragic fire onboard USS White Plains in May and received approval shortly thereafter to strike for the intelligence specialist rating. Seaman William Sandoval Marron will always be remembered…
“Aunt Vicki,” he said, “That guy you and Mike told me about, the one who–” He fought down the bile rising to his throat. The tears. “Who hung himself. Did he have a nickname?”
She seemed unnerved by his tone as she looked up and blinked at him. “Sure, honey. He told me the first time he came in here that his grandmomma never did approve of him having an American name, so–”
The buzz in his ears rose to drown her words.
“I’ll never forget you. I never will.”
Rob blinked away the sting in his eyes. “I’ll never forget you either. You’re sure… I mean, even an email address…?”
Gil shook his head a little, not meeting Rob’s eyes as he rose, already dressed. “Go on. Get some sleep.”
A quick breath and the last candle went out.
Mike is a good friend of mine and very kindly agreed (after only a little arm-twisting) to let me use him and a couple of stories he told me back in the day in my dirty story. Thanks again, Mike.