[ bangkok ]

by trooper macniven

Taylor felt the M-16 shake in his hands. He sprayed a full clip into the bushes, ejected it, and loaded a fresh one. Before he could pull the trigger, air support arrived. The VC were dividing their attention now, focusing only partly on the GI's on the ground.

Once more Marcus sprayed the bushes, gritting his teeth. These suckers just wouldn't die. A bullet hit his shoulder. He jerked from the impact.

"Medic! Medic!" he yelled. In a few minutes, the kid was there.

"You know," he confided in Taylor, "I think I earned my CMB today." Taylor grunted in reply. This would really mess up his R&R in Bangkok. He was supposed to get married, for Christ's sake!

Sorry, Lord, he thought. I know you want your boy Marcus to get out of this and get married. Don't you? Yeah, he needed this R&R.

Lt. Patterson sighed. For the fifth time, she tried to figure out what to wear for her wedding.

Let me see, she thought. I've got something old- the uniform, something new- the garter I'll be wearing under the skirt, something borrowed- absolutely nothing. She snapped her fingers. I can borrow an Infantry Braid! That'll take care of borrowed and blue. Now, where'd Tucker get to? She went to her favorite LRRP for everything. He'd tracked Marcus down for her, he kept her supply of twenty-year-old scotch reasonably well-stocked, and he cheered her worst moods. Tucker came through for her once more. He took the cord off his khaki shirt.

"So you're getting married to a sergeant?" he asked. His deep voice never failed to amaze her. She'd never heard anyone with such a low voice. Even when Marcus' voice went husky and low, it wasn't like Tucker's. If she wasn't used to it, though amazed, she'd probably get all goose-pimply.

"Yep," she replied. And I went to college to say 'yep'? "Sergeant Marcus Taylor. I think you know him."

"Yeah," Tucker said. "What tour is he on now?"

"One behind you, so his third," Camille answered. Tucker shook his head.

"Crazy," he laughed.

Camille sighed. Her CO, a hard-ass major, looked up.

"You were saying, Lieutenant?" he asked.

"I'm getting married on R&R tomorrow. As for my tags, it'll still be Patterson, but for roll call, when we do it, it'll be Patterson-Taylor," she explained.

"Is he an officer?"

"A sergeant," she replied. "I've been engaged to him since before he came in-country. We just never had a chance to get married before now." Liar, she told herself fiercely. You never even knew Marcus Taylor existed before you met him two years ago.

Her CO sighed, snorted, and gave her a look. The same three things Major Darling had done before he'd transferred her form Tan Son Nhut to Da Nang. When Da Nang had closed down, she'd been transferred to Hue. Then to Pleiku. Pleiku was her request. She'd wanted to be closer to Marcus.

"Do you honestly expect me to believe that, Lieutenant Patterson?" the major asked. "I've seen that picture you carry around. That's the same man you're marrying."

"Sir," Camille replied. "What photo?" Her CO grinned. She did have one of those pictures, in her footlocker's false bottom. Marcus had the other.

"My point exactly. Enjoy married life, lieutenant." It was all Camille could do not to cheer as she left the office.

Taylor groaned. The bandage around his arm was just a little tight. It also showed beneath his shirt. Camille would spot it right away and haul his ass to a doctor.

The position of his arm and the way he had to sit on the plane to Bangkok were killing him. He would have one more Purple Heart next time there was an awards ceremony. My fifth? Or sixth? At either rate, he had more than enough to go home if he chose. No, he would stay until he got pulled back or until the war ended, whichever came first. Way things were goin', he'd die of old age before either happened.

He hated flying. Loathed it a passion. Actually,what he hated was the fact that flying made him have to piss. More than any amount of water or coffee could. He rose and walked through the aisle, headed for the john at the back. Marcus found himself scanning the seats for Camille. His bush-sharpened senses could pick up her scent, identify her by the touch of her fingers on his face, or by the feel of her skin under his fingers. No sign of her.

He groaned as the smell of the only bathroom on the plane assaulted his nostrils. Constantly sniffing the air for fish sauce had really sharpened his sense of smell. Fish sauce ain't nothin' compared to this! he thought, wrinkling his nose. It was his way of protecting his sensitive nostrils.

Walking back to seat, the pilot came on.

"We're experiencing a little bit of turbulence, so stay seated for the next few minutes, please."

Now he tells me, Marcus thought. He got tossed to one side, his wounded arm hitting a GI on the shoulder. The soldier pulled him into the empty seat on Taylor's right.

Amazingly, he found himself between Camille and some Captain. They were deep in conversation about a grunt in the guy's platoon. Marcus checked his arm, hoping Camille wouldn't notice. Yeah, right. She glanced over to see who had fallen on her. It took her a moment to recognize his profile, but she clued in.

"Marcus!" she said. "Are you wounded?" Taylor nodded, checking the bandage. He was well aware of her eyes on him. There was a small amount of red seeping through the white. Both looked startling against his black skin.

"Ah, shit!" he swore. "I mean, uh..." He trailed off, cursing inwardly.

"Ah, shit!" Marcus snarled. "I mean, uh..." Camille tried not to laugh at her husband-to-be. He knew she hated it when he swore. Still, it was of his vices that made him him. Everything good and bad about balanced out in the end. He was her ideal man. Minus the smoking and the swearing, at any rate.

Marcus was tall, about six foot four, had delicious lips, a gorgeous smile, and the richest, dreamiest, velvety chocolate brown eyes anyone had ever seen.

Broad shoulders, wide chest, his body pared down to the essentials. No extra bulk, nothing where it wasn't supposed to be.

Check that last thought. He had small love handles. He'd earned them. A boonie rat could only do his job for so many years before the cans of ham and limas caught up to his stomach.

Oh, well. He's still damned good looking. She couldn't believe she got to spend the rest of her life with this man. Something would probably take him away from her before the war was over. Don't think like that! If you do, somebody's bullet will take him out. You know it. Camille shoved the thought aside.

They could barely keep themselves from skipping the orientation lecture. Still, every country was different, so they needed to go. As soon as the lecture was finished, they found a preist who spoke English. Half an hour later, Camille could've sworn there was an earthquake going on.

She was wavering slightly. A cool hand pressed into the small of her back. She looked out the corner of her eye. The Thai woman that was witnessing their wedding was steadying Camille.

Looking out the other eye, she could see Marcus give her a shaky grin before wobbling just a little. Another Thai steadied him, then nodded at the priest to continue.

Camille felt a ring slide onto her finger as her man repeated the words. She mimicked him as she placed a ring on his finger, saying softly,

"With this ring, I thee wed." They kissed, careful not to get too carried away. They could do that later.

Once more, Marcus carried her to the bed. He unbuttoned her shirt, kissed her slowly. Her T-shirt went over her head. Taylor slid down and unzipped her skirt. His tongue slid off her garter while his hands busied themselves elsewhere. Her husband unwrapped her like she was a precious gift. He kissed her one more time, letting her feel his full weight.

Marcus jumped up and briskly shed his own khakis. Then he leaped into bed, meeting up with Camille in a tangle of arms and legs. She took his lips, letting her tongue delve for his tonsils. They tumbled together, Marcus trailing hot kisses down her neck and shoulders.

At first, they were tame. Camille wrapped long legs around her husband's waist, drew him down in a body hug. His thrusts were easy, gentle. They found a rhythm and settled into it.

"I think...this is...why...we're not allowed...to fraternize," Camille gasped as a jolt of pleasure ran through her.

Marcus smiled when she said it. If every common grunt got to bury himself to the root inside a gorgeous officer like his girl, there wouldn't be much fighting getting done.

In response to her comment, he rocked his hips just a little harder. He could feel the pleasure jolting through his veins, building and stretching into one steady wave.

"It's all right to be passionate," he whispered. "Officers are only-" he broke off to moan as she bit his shoulder- "only passionate about body counts." The last word came out as a gasp as another intense jolt shot through the tell-tale knot in his gut. He kissed the sensitive spot between her neck and shoulder.

Oh, Lord, he thought. I didn't- o-oh- know anything could- mmm- feel so-o good! Oh-h!

They kissed each other to stifle sobs of pleasure. Camille groaned against his lips, tongue forcing its way into his mouth. His wife arched underneath him, tumbling them into orgasm. She gasped out how much she loved him and passed out from the intense, heated passion.

Taylor watched Camille sleep, tracing every curve of her face with his eyes. They were both coated with sweat. She had gotten even more passionate after his comment about body counts.

I can't believe I get to spend the rest of my life with her. What did I do to get her? She could have had any officer, any man she wanted. Why'd she pick me? We both know she's throwing herself away on me.

I've been dumb all my life, can't ever remember getting better than a C+ average in school. That and Nam stopped me from goin' to MSU. Could've gone on a sports scholarship, but I didn't get the work so I didn't get the ball on the court. He reviewed the events before Nam, before Camille in Nam. Flunked grade twelve. Chose to redo it. Passed; just barley, but passed. Turned twenty the day before his court trial when he decided to go to Viet Nam.

Three months of waiting to become a member of the United States army. Six weeks of BCT. Another six of AIT. Two weeks before he shipped out. Twenty-one five months before Johnson shipped in. Twenty-two the day he was supposed to go home. Twenty-two the day he found out Louise had taken up with some Jody back in the World. Five months, no, six. Six months he dind't touch a woman, didn't pay some hooker to take his mind off Louise. Six months Louise had had him pinned down, knocked flat on his ass. Then Camille Patterson had stepped into his life. The lieutenant was right out of OCS; barley twenty-two and not looking a day over twenty. She did her job well. Then he said he might be out of line, but he'd like to see her.

Really messed up her career, so why's she with me? he wondered. He was worn out from the war at twenty-four, and he was going to get a lot older before it ended.

The comforting thing about Camille was that she didn't care if he was worn out. She loved him. As long as they had each other, they'd be all right.

Hell, maybe she could even go back to school, be something other than a soldier. He'd suggest it. Seeing her stir, he decided to talk about it later. When she was a little more awake. He kissed her jaw softly, grinned when she opened her eyes and returned the kiss.

"Damn, you're beautiful," he murmured. "I can't believe I get to spend the rest of my life with you by my side." Marcus watched a shy grin spread across Camille's face. He'd never gotten her to smile like that before, looking down demurely, letting her lips curl up slowly.

"Just remember," she replied. "You have to live with our children if you want to live with me."

"I can handle that."

They held each other in comfortable silence, every now and then letting their lips meet. Finally Camille stretched and looked up at him through her eyelashes.

"Want to share a bath?" she asked.

Camille ran the water as hot as she could stand it. She slid in with a sigh, inviting Marcus to join her. Her man eased himself into the tub, careful of his wounded arm. In the two and a half years she'd been in-country, Camille hadn't once felt clean. When she'd started a combat tour, she'd felt even worse. No amount of water would clean off the blood on her hands. Marcus dribbled warm water down her back, cupped some more, let it fall on her head. She remembered the waterfall.

Three or four tiers, cascading down the rocks. Pooling, running faster in some spots. Her initiation by fire. More water down her back. The memories were too vivid; she couldn't fight them off.

They were all taking advantage of the waterfall. Some guys were naked in the pool on the lowest tier, letting the water get them as clean as possible. Others refilled their canteens, dropping in Halozone tablets. Some were in skivvies, standing under the falls. Camille was one of them. The rest were soaking and soothing sore feet. There was a hollow whump! from a mortar.

"Incoming!!" her RTO screamed. Everyone able to do so grabbed rifles. The rest dove for cover. Camille yelled for the 60, switching of the safety on her M-16. She pumped a full clip into the muzzle flashes before she heard the comforting thudding of the 60. The gunner dropped beside her, covering her two o'clock.

The firefight lasted about three minutes. In the silence that followed, they could all hear the bodies being dragged away. Looking around, Camille saw that two of her specialists were dead. Two PFCs were kilo as well. A third PFC was wounded. Three minutes and her platoon was out twenty per cent of it's members. Worse, her medic was one of the two specs killed.

How had this peaceful waterfall brought so much death? she wondered. How was it possible? That's why it's called war. Waste And Regret. No VC would regret killing Americans. They would, however, regret greasing Lieutenant Patterson's guys. She looked at the bodies of her men and felt the tears roll down her cheeks.

"Camille? Camille?" Marcus sounded worried. "Camille, honey, are you all right?" Was she? She was shaking, she was crying, and she was cold.

"I-I-I'm not all right," she responded. "I was remembering- my first firefight. I lost four kids. The water reminded me of it. I'm sorry for losing it like that."

Marcus smiled, said tenderly, "It don't mean nothin'." Then he added, "Besides, you haven't lost anything yet. Let it all out." He drew her close as she let the last two years in combat come out in a flood of tears, which Taylor lovingly licked off.

"How long was I gone?" she asked when the storm had passed.

"Long enough for the water to get cool," Marcus replied. "You gonna be okay?"

She nodded. He drained the tub halfway and ran some more hot water. Sighing, Camille leaned against his wide chest. She was looking forward to more times like these with him. Just relaxing, talking, or making love. She knew there would be an occasional fight- she and Marcus were too different not to have them. If they loved each other, they'd be able to go through life without being apart. Much longer.

It would take some calculating, but they could go home on the same day. They both had unused leave time they could fool with, plus re-up bonuses and regular paycheck money that could go toward a house or a car. She remembered Marcus telling her about the house he was sending money home for with every paycheck. Okay, their money could go to that and a car. Something slid down her back, jolting her out of her Stateside thoughts. It took her a moment to realize Marcus was giving her a massage, kneading her back with soapy hands. Yeah, she was looking forward to more times like these.

Taylor eased his hands down Camille's back, enjoying the feel of her muscles rippling under his fingers. He could feel her tension melting away, could tell she was relaxing after the memories, after the tears. He continued to massage her until the water got cool again. They toweled off, drained the bathtub, and slid into bed.

Marcus eased his arms around her, gently pulling her close.

"I love you," he said quietly. "I want you to be happy. The army won't offer you that chance. We'd get court-martialed."

"I know. I wouldn't be here if I didn't love you, too. I would not be your wife if you weren't more important to me than anything else in my life." Her words were simple, easily said; the truth. He hesitated, unsure of how she'd take what he was about to say.

"Camille, how would you like to go back to school?" She blinked in surprise.

"I mean, how would you like to be something other than an officer? That way we could be together. It wouldn't work for me to go to school again. I've been dumb all my life and I'm not much good at anything but soldiering. What do you think?"

She considered carefully, like he had known she would. Weighing Leavenworth against going to school on the GI bill, getting her tuition paid for by the army, becoming something other than a soldier.

"I would like to be a history teacher," she said finally. "It would be a challenge, pitting myself against teenage kids. And it would give me experience." That last thought hit him hard. She loved him enough to have his children. If she wanted experience in handling teens, she'd get it. Anything was better than being called a grunt or going to Leavenworth.

"Just remember," he told her, "you will need to pay for some things on your own. The army won't cover everything." He was going by what Johnson had told him their exchanged letters. "But I can handle that. I'll help you every way I can."

"You can help me by going to sleep. I need some rest and your wound won't heal unless you get some sleep to help restore the blood you lost." He grinned at her, kissed her cheek.

They woke in the morning and dressed in civvies. There were a number of good restaurants in the area, ones that served Thai and American food. They talked more about their plans for the World as they relaxed, glad to be away from the war. Camille thought about having five children, going to school, and spending the rest of her life with Marcus. For him, five kids was too many. He'd prefer three, all girls.

"Why?" Camille wanted to know? "Women get bitchy. I get bitchy. Do you want to live with four bitchy women?"

"As long as they're part of you, I'll be fine," he responded.

"Hmm," she said. "Beautiful and smart. I never thought of that. How about we meet in the middle and have four?" she questioned.

"Beautiful and smart?" he replied. "And four sounds good," he added.

"Your looks, my brains, hon," she said easily, laughing at his face. He knew the shock showed. Then hurt. He'd repay her for that dig when they got back to their room.

She saw his hurt expression and reached across the table to take his hand. Marcus jerked away as if her touch burned him.

"Marcus," she said. He looked at her. "Marcus, you're not book smart. You're street smart. I'm learning how to be both, and it isn't easy. I've never liked people who were book smart, even though it meant never liking myself.

"You follow gut instincts. I like to weigh stuff out, but I don't always have that luxury. I was up the whole night after we got caught by Boyd and Hart. I thought about why I'd been in that hotel room with you. I listened to my gut and nailed their balls to the wall in LBJ, at the cost of losing you. I'll never make that mistake again.

"I could've acted like we'd never been together, but I wouldn't be able to be with you again. I didn't want that. Listening to my gut got me torn away from you. Listening to my head got me back with you.

"If you listened to your head, well, you wouldn't be alive now. You trust your gut instinct. It's what makes you a helluva soldier. It keeps you alive."

He got up and walked away. She had to work hard to follow him.

When Taylor got back to their room that night, Camille was waiting for him. Without giving her a glance, he undressed and went to bed. In a few minutes, her smooth skin touched his.

Camille snuggled up, letting him feel every curve of her body. He reused to let himself be tempted. Instead, he snapped off the lamp and put his back to her. She wasn't dissuaded. Her hand slipped down his back, slid across his waist.

"Marcus Taylor, quit acting like a child. I'm sorry, but you said you've been dumb all your life. We both know that's not true. You know people and you can tell if they're on the up-and-up or not.

"As it is, I do happen to think you're beautiful, but I'd like to think there's something more to you than looks. Sleep on that for the night, and remember that your wife said that."

He did think about it. There was lots to him. He was a practical joker. Marcus could dish it out as well as take it. He was also a damn good sergeant, and he sure weren't no people person. His gut did tell him to stay away from certain people. His brains were not his best feature.

Beautiful? No. He was gangly, lanky. Too tall, all arms and legs; a stork. Worn out, old before his time. Face like his belonged on a forty year old man, not a twenty-four year old.

Camille was right; he was acting like a child. Three tours in Nam and he could do that. Amazing, he thought. I can act my shoe size. Maybe I haven't done that much growing up in-country. He thought for a little while longer, then fell asleep.

Lieutenant Patterson-Taylor looked at her sleeping husband. Maybe she should wake him. Before she could decide, he woke with a yelp. Camille put her arms around him,careful of that shoulder wound.

"Marcus! Marcus, what's going on?" She wondered if ti had anything to do with what she'd said the night before.

"I was dreaming that you left me," he said. "Promise me you won't Camille." Yeah, it had everything to do with what she'd said.

"Marcus, sweetheart, you know I would never, ever leave you. I promise. We can't be separated," she reassured. He was staring at his hands. She knew it was his reaction to a nightmare. He never told me that, so how did I know? There'd be time to be curious later; right now she had to soother her man.

Sweet kisses and quiet murmurs settled his nerves. She held Marcus for a long time, returning the comfort he'd given her in the bathtub. After a while, Camille felt arms slide around her.

"Camille? About last night. I"m sorry. I was acting childish. You were right." She knew just how much it took for him to admit that. Shrugging, she replied tenderly, "It don't mean nothin'." Damn grunt mantra! she growled inwardly.

He reached up and stroked her cheek. Camille caught Marcus' hand and held it there, turning her heard so her lips touched his palm. If all they could get were three-day R&R's, it was going to be a long time before she got over the way a simple smile from him made her shiver with delight and anticipation.

Taylor slid his hand across her face, gently took her lips. Camille pulled her man close, kissed him more seriously. He eased her against the pillows...

"Housekeeping," the maid called, knocking. Taylor pulled away from Camille, glared at the door, and slipped out of bed. They both dressed in quickly, then let the maid in. She nodded her thanks.

"I don't remember asking for a wake-up call," Camille murmured to her husband.

"We didn't," he replied. They both laughed, finding some humor in it.

As they ate breakfast, Camille watched her husband. He smiled every now and then, and she returned the grin. They were both thinking the same thing. Going back to their room and making up was first on their minds. Camille darted away when the twosome reached the floor their room was located on. Marcus followed more slowly, torturing them both. When he reached the room, Camille snapped the door shut and pounced for a kiss. Marcus enthusiastically participated in it, sweeping her off her feet.

"You know what I like about fighting?" he asked. "Making up." With that, he carried her to the couch. Camille settled herself on his lap and pressed her lips against his. Her man pulled her close, groaning deep in his throat. She stopped and pulled away. Noting his confused look, she smiled.

"It's okay," she said in a sultry tone. "Just give me a moment to catch my breath." In horror, she remembered something. It was the last day of their R&R!

"Marcus," she cried, "we can't!"

"Why not?" he demanded.

"It's our last day! We can't!" He swore as he realized it was true. Hurriedly, they packed. They ran to the desk, checked out, and bolted for the bus to take them to the airport.

Marcus sighed. He'd really wanted to get snarky on the flight. Now he was kicking himself for being mad at her last night.

To hell with rules! Taylor thought fiercely. He turned to Camille, whipped her into his arms, and kissed her passionately. Short-timers, cherries, and guys returning from R&R whistled and cheered as Taylor and Camille kissed. They broke apart slowly.

"I love you," she whispered.

"Love you, too," he whispered back. "Now get yourself to Pleiku and don't get yourself killed." It came out fiercer than he'd intended. She went to the jeep waiting for her.

Taylor noted an officer looking at him darkly.

"My wife," he said by way of explanation. A raised eyebrow was the response he got.

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