Sergeant Brian Kinney looked around him, keeping his ears sharp as he relieved himself into a nearby bush. He was well aware that letting his guard down for even a split second could spell the difference between life and death, and he was in no hurry to die. He still had a lot of living he intended doing before his number was up.
He had been the first to rise this morning, as always. He could see his men scattered throughout the small clearing, dug in as far as they could go in their fox holes. He couldn't miss their snores, something even Army training had not been able to stifle. The air was freezing cold. Brian could see his breath as it formed little puffs in front of his face before the bitter wind blew it away. This Winter in France was being called one of the coldest ever and Brian didn't doubt it for a minute. He cursed the fact that most of his men had survived the infamous Battle of the Bulge only to be threatened with freezing to death from the fucking weather.
The German forces were on the run back to their homeland with the bitter defeat of their last and final offensive to stop Allied forces from crossing the Rhine and entering their heartland. That didn't stop any of their stragglers from setting up pockets of resistance as the Allies moved forward slowly but surely through France. These determined but foolhardy snipers invariably were captured or killed, but not before managing to pick off a few of the opposing forces or at least slowing their progress just a tiny bit. Just a few days ago, one lone soldier, perched high in a tree, had managed to put a bullet in Brian's best sharpshooter leaving him one vital man short. His Lieutenant had informed him last night that a replacement was on his way to join the squad. He hoped to God the new guy had as much skill as Private Saunders, who had saved more than one of their lives with his ability to pick off the enemy.
Their assignment was simple...scout ahead for the enemy as protection for their Company which was ordered to clear all towns and roads of Germans, thus making the advance to the Rhine quicker and safer. It was a dangerous assignment, but Brian was a man who knew how to get the job done. He was well respected by his squad, most of which had been with him for some time now. Saunders had been among the long timers and Brian missed the big brute badly. The guy was from Tennessee and could bring down a target with uncanny skill, honed from years of hunting with his Dad.
Brian loved all his men, even the two newest ones who were only boys when they joined the squad but had been tested by fire and proven their worth. He wasn't attracted to a single one of them, but they wouldn't have known it anyway even if he had been. Brian was a gay man...had always known it and felt no shame about it. Brian was also a smart man. He knew damned good and well that being open about it could get him disgraced, sent home, or even killed just as quickly as he would have been if in the cross-hairs of an enemy soldier. He was too busy staying alive during his on duty time to do anything more than the five finger exercises like all the other men when the urge hit, which it did for him frequently, but he was extremely cautious with his off duty time. He had never been caught with his pants down, so to speak, in the three years he'd been in the military.
Brian grabbed his tin cup of warmed coffee from the small fire he'd built when first rising and moved over to a gnarled stump sitting near his fox hole. He settled down, drawing his wool cap tight over his ears and bundling his wool overcoat closer to his body. He had rested his M1 Carbine next to him and was ready to wait patiently for his men to begin waking. They were in no hurry for once since Lieutenant Masters had instructed them to wait on the arrival of the new replacement. Brian thought back to what had brought him to this god awful place.
Young Brian Kinney was in his last year at the University of Pennsylvania in his hometown of Pittsburgh when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He had been hesitant to run right out and join the Army when he thought of how close he was to graduating and finally feeling free of all connections to his past. It wasn't as if he relied on his family for anything. He was going to school on his own dime, after all. He'd earned his scholarship to the school with perfect grades and his sports skills, but somehow Brian felt he'd never really be free of his toxic family until he had made something of himself and could laugh in his father's face for all the times the old man had shouted at him that he'd never amount to anything.
Soon enough, like almost all young men in the Nation, Brian was doing his duty and enlisting. It was the only time he ever saw his dad show some pride in his son. Of course, having bragging rights about his 'brave' and 'patriotic' son didn't hurt. His old man acted like Brian was joining just to please him. Hell no! He decided to join to avoid the draft, which would have come after him the minute he graduated. At least by joining he could have some control over what kind of work he'd do and where he'd go...or so he thought.
Brian had hoped that his education in business and advertising would get him an assignment within the Army business end, such as handling military ads or even recruitment if it came to that. No such luck. The Army had the young man signed up for the infantry before he could turn around. The minute his training was over he was sent to the Western Front. He ended up being one of the countless soldiers waiting in England for the invasion across the Channel. His leadership qualities moved him up the non-com ranks and by the time he set foot in France he was a Sergeant in charge of his own squad. His Lieutenant liked and respected him and gave him some of the toughest assignments.
It hadn't been hard for Brian to leave his family behind one tiny bit. He seldom got any correspondence during mail call except from his best friend, Michael Novotny, who had been graded 4F thanks to a childhood accident that had left him with a damaged disk in his back and not allowed him to join up with Brian for military service. He had stayed home and gotten work as an assistant manager at a supply store. Brian missed Michael and their circle of friends, since being with them was the last time he had been able to be himself. Their small group of friends had gone to New York City before Brian left for boot camp and found the most popular gay establishment they had heard about through the grapevine. Brian must have hooked up with at least twenty different guys during the four day party, and managed to get some good tips on how to establish liaisons in the military from a few servicemen who were on leave and letting their hair down with the handsome new recruit.
In the ensuing three years of training, placement, and replacement that landed him in this freezing cold forest outside the next French village his Platoon was ordered to liberate and clear of Germans, Brian had been ultra careful to keep his libido in check when necessary. On those rare occasions when he felt safe in the company he was in, he did his best to make up for lost time and fucked as many and as fast as he could. He knew of a number of soldiers who had formed close romantic connections with each other, but Brian Kinney was not among them. He kept any connections brief and temporary. He never let any relationship go further than a few fucks and never with anyone in his own platoon. He knew that one of the men in another squad in his platoon was also gay, but he avoided the man like the plague. The more distance between his trysts and himself, the safer he was from being outed. That was the rule he lived by and that was the rule he would continue to live by till he was safely back home.
Private Justin Taylor was scared shitless. He bounced painfully in his seat in the military jeep, as it sped along the barely drivable road in the forest to his first real assignment. Just two weeks earlier he was saying goodbye to his friends back home as they shipped him out to liberated Paris and then on to the front in the South of France. There was plenty of talk of the war coming to an end...at least the war in Europe, but it hadn't happened soon enough to save the young man from combat duty. He was pretty sure he'd be seeing some of that where he was going. The stories that came back to the men posted in Paris sent chills through the hearts of soldiers, especially the atrocities that occurred with the last big offensive put on under Hitler's orders. The Germans had lost the ground they gained during the offensive, but not before racking up plenty of casualties on both sides. Now it seemed only a matter of time....just not soon enough for Private Taylor.
Private Taylor cursed the day his father caught him messing around with a fellow student from the Academy he attended. Justin and Lincoln had become good friends during the last months of their Senior year and just days after graduating, they had finally given in to their attraction for one another. It had caught them both by surprise, but not as badly as the surprise they got the second day they came together. They had gone to Justin's house to swim. His dad was supposed to be at work and his mom and sis on an all day shopping trip. His father had gotten a hardship deferment since he was the sole support of his family, including elderly parents, but he spent all his time at work.
Justin and Linc had enjoyed their swim immensely. Summer was here and the water felt good. A little playful goofing off and they began diving down trying to remove each others trunks. Before they knew it they were naked in the water and the temperature was rising. Youthful enthusiasm overcame caution, and the randy young bucks started kissing and fondling. That's when dear old dad returned home and checked out all the noise going on in the back yard.
Justin had never seen Linc move so fast, which was saying something since he was on the track team. Two minutes later his friend was out the door, only to be seen from a distance from that day forward. Justin had never been hit by his father in his entire life up to that point, but Craig Taylor went ballistic. By the time his mother and young sister had returned from their shopping trip, Justin was nursing the bruises on his back and shoulders from falling down hard to the ground when his dad struck him. He figured it could have been worse, because the man turned on his heel and left the house without another word when Justin refused to get up and fight back. He had been so dazed by the blow and shock at seeing his father's anger, he hadn't the time to react.
Justin's dad didn't come home that night or the next, but he had called his wife and told her he had unexpected business out of town. Justin had given his mom a lame excuse for the bruise on his face and dropped the subject quickly. Jennifer was not the empty headed blond her men thought she was, but she kept her counsel to herself. She needed more facts before saying anything. Craig finally showed up on third day. He could hardly look at his son. Justin endured the silent treatment for a couple more days and then finally blew up. He confronted both of his parents with the truth of who he was. He had known for some time that he was only attracted to guys but never acted on it until finding a like hearted student. Craig Taylor gave him two choices....disavow such nonsense forever or leave his house. Justin packed his bags that night and kissed his weeping mother goodbye, pocketing the money she surreptitiously slipped to him.
Enlistment seemed his best option since folks were now saying the war should be over any time. At least he'd have a roof over his head and three squares, not to mention a free education once he got out, thanks to the GI Bill. The idea of being killed in the war never occurred to him until now. The closer he got to his new squad, the more nervous he felt. He hated guns but his artistic fingers seemed to have a natural feel for the trigger and his eye was skilled at spotting the smallest detail. Before he knew it he had been certified as a marksman. He'd have been more careless in training if he'd realized his unwelcome skill would put him on the front lines. Too late to change all that now. He was within minutes of meeting his new squad members.
Sergeant Kinney was the first to hear the motor of the jeep. His men had been up for about a half hour now and were just finishing up their breakfast. Canteens were being refilled and tin bowls, forks, spoons, and cups were cleaned and being put away. He had eight men under him and all had seen combat. None had disappointed him. Who knew what this new 'cherry' had to offer. He prayed the kid wouldn't run scared at the first sign of trouble.
The minute the jeep pulled to a halt at the end of the half-assed excuse for a road, Sergeant Kinney made his way to welcome the new recruit. At first his heart sank. The tow headed kid that jumped down from the jeep looked like he still belonged in high school. He knew the kid was almost nineteen, but his looks would fool you. And now they had told him the kid was a real sharp shooter. He must have started shooting when he was two years old, Brian laughed to himself.
Brian couldn't help noticing how really cute the kid was, but Brian had more important things to think about. If this kid wasn't as good as they claimed he could get himself killed or even worse, some of his other men or himself killed. They had better not be bullshitting him, that was all he cared about. If this kid didn't turn out to be every thing he expected and more, Sergeant Kinney was going to be one pissed off non-com.
To be continued..............