Family and Friends
by C. Jerry Ueberall
Summary: What happens to the Rat Patrol and the Dietrichs after the war?
Notes: This story was first published 2000 in Flanking Maneuvers # 3 , a Rat Patrol slash zine by Lindberg's Legacy Press.
Series/Sequel: Sixth in the Pebble series. Sequel to Amidst the Ruins
Dietrich let loose a silent sigh when his back finally connected with the tree behind him. It had been nice at first to sit freely on the log that had been strategically placed in front of it, but with time he had felt the strain on his back and with his lover sound asleep on his lap, he had been forced to change his position very slowly and carefully so not to wake him. Looking down at Sam's sleeping form, he couldn't suppress the smug grin that followed the realization why his American friend was so sound asleep. Their lovemaking had been long and sweet and had taken most of the night, so it was no surprise that Sam needed a time out now. He remembered with fondness the erotic image of a naked Troy bringing him over the edge only through kisses; not once did his hand touch him. Of course afterwards it had been his turn, and he had used all he had to get his lover close to orgasm only to stop and then start anew. There wasn't a millimeter on Sam's skin that he hadn't worshipped at least twice last night.
Gently he stroked through his companion's hair, thinking of all the reasons why he loved that man so much, which had nothing to do with sex or passion and everything to do with the meeting of two kindred souls.
Looking up his gaze met that of his sister and a brilliant smile told him his situation had been noticed. She always got sentimental when she caught him and Sam doing something 'truly romantical'. She winked, then turned back to her task at hand, which was supervising four youngsters while they were throwing a knife at a colorful piece of wood. He smiled; he couldn't get enough of the tableau around him.
Jutta, her three children and Hitchcock's boy all fully engrossed in their competition. Not far away stood Elizabeth Moffitt with her twelve year old daughter and Anita Hitchcock chatting happily while arranging the food on a long table. He couldn't imagine two women more different than those two. Liz was almost as tall as her husband, with red-brown hair and striking blue eyes which her younger daughter had inherited, while Anita was a petite beauty with dark hair and brown eyes. Yet it wasn't so much the looks but their characters that made the difference. Moffitt's wife was a strong, self-assured lady who knew what she wanted and dealt with everything in a polite but no-nonsense way that showed her aristocratic background. In comparison to her, the American seemed like a girl, insecure, almost skittish - something even years of motherhood hadn't changed - and always looking to her husband for making decisions.
Dietrich's gaze wandered to their husbands who sat at another table deeply concentrated on their game of chess. He was glad that he was able to call both of them friends though he knew that he and Hitch would never be as close as they both were with Moffitt.
Over the years Jack had become a steadfast part of his life, all their lives. An interesting discussion partner, another 'uncle' for the Pettigrew kids, but one with the insight of being a father, and most important the voice of reason or advice whenever Dietrich couldn't get through the walls Troy had built around him. He sighed wistfully.
He loved Sam with all his heart and soul, and had never regretted the path they had taken, but there had been times now and then when their outlook on life, their background, or simply their stubborn single mindedness had collided. They had fought, mostly verbally, sometimes for real, and more than once it had needed the intervention of someone else to make them look beyond their pride so they would get together again. For his part, he would always listen to his twin; no matter the circumstances, Jutta just wouldn't leave him any other choice. But with Troy she wasn't always as successful, and when even Tully was at a loss, the Englishman always was his last hope.
Although one of Moffitt's standard complaints was that he'd never understand Americans, he was very adept at understanding Troy's moods and the deeper reasons behind them. This awareness could have made Dietrich jealous if he hadn't realized that it was his own involvement with the American that sometimes clouded his own judgment. He was too close to be objective, to analyze rather than sympathize.
A rueful smile lit his features. Of course he hadn't liked those fights and the disharmony they brought not only into their lives but also into those of his sister and her family, but admittedly the making-up had always been something worth remembering, bringing them closer together each time. Today those fights rarely happened, he and his lover were too much in tune with each other now, almost able to really read each other's thoughts, and he didn't mind. He liked it peaceful.
"What are you thinking?"
Troy's voice brought him back from his reverie and with a smile he looked down again, meeting the sparkling blue eyes of his lover.
"I thought you were asleep."
"I was. Now, what were you thinking?"
"This and that. I still find it hard to believe how everything turned out. That I'm here with you, that we're living close to my sister and her family. That we can sit here like this and nobody shouts 'perverts' and calls for the police. It's still amazing."
The American nodded. "I know what you mean. I dreamt of having you, and hoped to stay in contact with the others, but seeing them almost regularly and their families too, and having a family of my own thanks to Jutta adopting me ... It's a miracle."
Feeling that he had used his lover as a pillow long enough, Troy sat up and looked around. "They are great friends with amazing wives."
Hans nodded and leaned back against the tree. "I'm glad it all turned out that way. I like seeing you happy."
Sam smiled and gently patted his friend's leg. He knew what his lover was referring to. Automatically his eyes strayed towards the chess game.
He watched wistfully, as Hitch bent forward to move one of his pieces. It felt so good to have him here with his family after the years of separation. He remembered very well the day the younger man had walked out of his life - the words, the pain and finally the certainty that the breach could never be mended. He was glad he had been wrong, even if the mending had taken so long.
It had been the day that Tully had announced his engagement with Jutta Dietrich, actually his announcement had triggered it all.
"You look like the cat that ate the canary, Tully. What happened?" Moffitt greeted the blond with a grin, and took his bag from the couch so that his friend could sit down.
"She said yes," Tully told them, smiling broadly. "Guess I'm engaged."
"What?!" Hitch's eyes nearly popped out of his head. "You asked Jutta to marry you?"
"Didn't think it was so serious." There was a hint of anger in Hitch's voice, but no one took notice of it until later.
Tully just shrugged and favored his friend with a lopsided grin. "I love her. What else can I say?"
"And you just went ahead and asked her? What's Dietrich got to say to you becoming his brother-in-law?"
A faint blush crept over the Kentuckian's cheeks. "Actually I went to Dietrich first, I thought I should, since they don't have any parents ..." He grinned self-consciously. "He said that if I wanted to marry his sister, why was I proposing to him, and I took that as a kind of acceptance."
Troy laughed out loud at that, imagining the scene and the faces of his lover and his friend.
"And have you set a date for the big event yet?" he wanted to know then.
Tully shook his head. "No. But we'll definitely do it here, my family'll just have to put up with it. I don't want to wait any longer than necessary and she's not ready to leave Germany yet."
"So you're going to live in Kentucky?" Moffitt asked.
"I want to, but Jutta isn't convinced yet. She wants to see America but living there ... I guess she feels like she'd be deserting her country if she left now."
"I know what you mean," Troy commented, "Hans and I talked about that too. It's still open. I mean I like Germany, but I wanna go home, but I guess I can't just expect him to leave here for good just because I'm homesick. After all he has never been to America, how can he know if he'll be able to live there?"
"Maybe if he sees it..." Moffitt was interrupted by Hitch who stared at Troy, a shocked expression on his handsome features.
"What do you mean 'Dietrich and you'? You wanna live with that Kraut? Why? What is it with you and him anyway? You couldn't kill him in Africa and now you two are almost joined at the hip, you could think that you..." The angry tirade stopped in mid-sentence; Hitch's face lost its color. "You're sleeping with him." It was a stunned whisper. "That damned Kraut's fucking you!" He was out of his armchair in a rush.
Troy was close behind him, stopping him before he reached the door. "Hitch, wait!" He grabbed the younger man's arm.
"Don't touch me!" Hitch whirled around. "How long? How long has this ... perversion been going on?"
As if hit, Troy stepped back. He could see the aggression on his friend's face, but he could also see a great deal of pain and that held his own fury at bay.
"Since Africa. I realized I loved him when we were with the slavers..."
"Love!" Hitch laughed harshly. "You don't really..."
Troy didn't give him a chance to finish that sentence. "Yes: love. I love him. With a big L. And there is nothing wrong with it. I don't care what others say. We're not hurting anyone, we're not asking anyone to join us. I can see no fault in loving anyone, no matter the sex or the belief. And I really thought better of you! I thought you would be happy for me." He swallowed. "I thought you knew."
The blond shook his head slowly. "I didn't. I can't believe you..." He looked away, breathed deeply then turned back to the leader of the Rat Patrol. "Troy, I know that thing with the slavers was ... hard and I guess Dietrich and you got close then. But that's been over for years, you have to put it behind you. You can't go on like that."
"Hitch, you don't get it, do you? I can't just ignore it, and I don't want to." Without consciously realizing what he was doing he reached out to lay a hand on the younger man's shoulder. It was slapped away.
"Don't touch me, Troy. Not ever again, unless you end your fling with Dietrich. You may think it's all right, I don't. And I won't stand aside and watch a friend of mine do something like that and not try to stop it."
"Does that mean you'll tell the authorities?" Troy's tone was cold now, disappointment and fear melting into fury.
"You'd go to prison then," Hitch stated as if it hadn't occurred to him before.
"Troy, please. If you end it, I'll forget we ever had this talk and everything will be as it was."
"You're asking me to choose between our friendship and Dietrich, do I understand that right?" Troy's whole being seemed to be wrapped in ice now.
"Then go out now, Hitch, or I swear I'll do something we'd both regret. I won't leave Dietrich, no matter what. And if you can't accept it then I'm sorry, but it's your problem, not mine. And if you believe you have to turn me in, then do that and I'll do my time and when it's over he'll be still there, and if they turn him in too, then I'll wait for him, no matter how long it takes. Got that?"
For a long time they had looked at each other, both searching for the friend they had thought they knew and both not finding him. Then Hitch had turned and opened the door; without another glance back, he had left the room and Troy's life for more than ten years.
As if feeling the gaze Moffitt looked up and over to Troy. Guessing correctly from the American's expression what he was thinking about, Moffitt allowed himself to dwell on the past as well.
He could still see Sam's expression as he had closed the door behind Hitch and turned back to him and Tully.
"I thought he knew." Troy's agonized whisper spoke of his feelings towards Mark Hitchcock more loudly than any long speech could have done. It was the first time that Troy really had to face antagonism because of his relationship with Dietrich; having it come from someone he had considered a close friend, someone he loved like a kid brother was a blow that hurt much worse than a bullet wound ever could.
"I thought he knew," he whispered again then looked at them, especially at Tully with something close to fear in his eyes. "You knew, didn't you?" Having just lost one friend Troy was obviously unsure what to expect from the others.
Tully nodded. "I guessed back then in Africa, but it was really hard to not see it here." He shrugged. "It's your business."
"Hitch didn't see it." Slowly Troy returned to the table.
"Yeah, guess Hitch was really good at missing all the clues."
"He didn't want to know, Sam." Moffitt laid a hand on the hurt man's shoulder. "I kind of guessed that he had a problem with it, the ... ehm techniques in particular, I thought, and that therefore he decided to ignore it. I didn't realize it ran that deeply or I would have warned you. I'm sorry."
Troy nodded. "You couldn't know. I never guessed. I thought he was accepting it. Even when I still thought nobody knew, I thought you'd all be okay with it." Again he looked at Tully, still expecting judgment from him.
Seeing the damage Hitch had done to their friend, Tully stood and put his hand on Troy's other shoulder. "Troy, I don't know what's Hitch's problem, but it sure isn't mine. You're my friend, and I don't care who you're sleeping with." He thought for a moment then added: "As long as it isn't my girl."
That brought a grin to the older American's face. "No danger there. I'm quite happy with her brother."
"Speaking of Hans, I think you'd better go and tell him, don't you." Moffitt said, letting go of his friend with a light squeeze.
"You think Hitch will tell the authorities?" Tully asked, but the Englishman shook his head.
"Not really, no. But I think there's a chance they will run into each other and I think it would be better if Dietrich was prepared."
"I guess you're right." Troy groaned. "I wished I could get away with just telling him that Hitch had to leave suddenly. I'm not sure how he'll take this."
"What do you mean?"
There was real reluctance in Troy to tell anything more, but at the same time he could sense an overwhelming need in him to share his fears, and finally the American surrendered to it. "You remember how he was when I brought him here?"
When Moffitt nodded he continued. "He was so close to the edge, so close to giving up. He's just gotten back to be his old self, I don't know how this will affect him."
"It will probably hurt him, Sam, but he'll manage, it's not as if Hitch was a close friend to him. You don't need to worry about him falling back into that suicidal mood. The only thing that would send him back into that state would be you leaving him. And you just made it very clear that you've no intention to do that." He smiled at the smaller man. "You are both very lucky to have found each other." Looking at Tully then he sighed. "And he's very lucky too. Seems about time I get out and get lucky myself."
"Good idea." Both Americans nodded in agreement.
"Oh, get out, both of you!" Moffitt all but pushed them out of his hotel room. "You'd better warn Jutta too, or we'll have to collect the pieces she left of Hitch if he were so unwise to tell her what he thinks of her brother's lifestyle." He was only half-joking, since they were all aware of the fact that Jutta was very protective of her twin and thanks to an unfriendly incident some days ago they had also learned that she was always wearing a knife and knew how to use it.
With Troy and Tully on their way to their respective lovers, Moffitt had decided to go after Hitch and try to get some sense into the man. But when he had finally found him, he hadn't pushed too hard, realizing just in time that if he broke with Hitch as well, or Hitch broke with him, then he'd be really gone for good without a way back. After all, since Tully was engaged to Dietrich's sister, Hitch had very effectively put that friendship on hold too, and as long as he didn't apologize to Troy and accept his relationship with the German, there was no way that he could take it up again.
With a silent sigh Moffitt reflected on the long years of separation, he being the only one who was still in contact with Hitch. He remembered the letters he had written, keeping Hitch informed, hoping that one day he'd stir up enough interest to get a reaction, a question, anything.
He had written about the wedding, the birth of Tully's first son James, Jutta's resolute decision to call her son Jes when it seemed as if every second boy in town was called 'James' or 'Jim' or 'Jamie'. He had told Hitch of the hard time when it had seemed as if Tully would be losing either his wife or his unborn children or even all three, and about the big party Troy had thrown when Jutta and her babies had finally left the hospital. He had even sent him a photo of Tully and Jutta each holding one of the twins in their arms. But Hitch had never reacted. His only questions had been about Moffitt's life, his wife, his two daughters.
The Englishman had been about to give up, when out of the blue Hitch had suddenly asked if he thought that Troy would still forgive him and would agree to meet him. When asked about his sudden change all Hitch had said was something about 'Not wanting to be a coward forever' and he hadn't asked any further but gladly arranged for a meeting.
Looking now at Troy and then at Hitch he was certain that it had been the best thing he'd ever done. For a moment Moffitt's gaze met Sam's, the Englishman smiled faintly then concentrated again on the game.
His gaze still on the chess-players, Sam wished his brother would have such a change-of-heart like Hitch had, but knew it was a futile hope. Very well he remembered their parting, the "I have no brother anymore" that accompanied him throughout the door. Why he had been surprised he didn't know. His brother was a lot like their father and Samuel Troy Sr. would have beaten his son to death before accepting that one of his children was a lover of men. He shook his head.
He hadn't planned telling his brother that he and Hans were lovers, but David had deduced it from his statement that he and Dietrich would move to Kentucky to live near Tully and his wife.
He could still hear his brother's voice: "You're going to share a house with that Jerry? Why in hell would you do such a thing?" David had shaken his head. "I have trouble enough understanding how you can befriend him, but living with him ... Don't you realize what that looks like?"
"I don't care what others think. It's my life after all." Not the wisest way of answering.
His brother had looked at him hard and then sneered. "You're queer, I don't believe it. My own brother a sissy. Get out of here! I don't want someone like you in my house!"
He still couldn't recall hitting his brother, but he must have because suddenly there had been blood on the side of David's mouth and the younger man had looked at him quite stunned.
"No problem, brother, I don't want to be in the house of a bigot anyway," he had replied, and taken his hat, his coat, and then had walked straight out of the house. He hadn't spoken to David since then. And it was very likely that he never would again. Troy sighed.
His gaze shifted towards his lover, the brown eyes of the German meeting him in silent understanding as if Hans could read his mind, and maybe he could. Sam smiled. He remembered coming back from his brother to his lover, still furious and hurt. Hans had taken one look at him and the next moment he had held a glass of whiskey in his hand.
"That bad. He guessed about us then?" Dietrich had asked. He had nodded. "I'm sorry, Sam."
"Not your fault."
"You're losing people you love because of me. Are you still sure it's worth it?"
He had thought about it, thought about the alternative, a life without the German in it, without his touch, his advice, his silent comfort, his love. The alternative was unthinkable.
"You are worth a lot more," he had finally said and added: "And I don't lose people because of you, I lose them because of their narrow-mindedness. And they are not worth losing you."
Hans had been at his side then, taking the glass away only to hold him tight and kissing the pain out of him. God, how he loved that man. For the moment drowning in the chocolate brown gaze of his lover, Troy was unaware of the scrutiny they got from the chess table.
Hitch sighed and shook his head in disbelief. How could he ever have thought that the feeling between his friend and the German was anything less than love? He had seen the signs of it in Africa - hell, he had even teased Troy about it. Had been amused when his leader didn't answer his "Why'd you let him go, Sarge?" as if they hadn't all known that there was something going on between the German officer and their friend.
Still, somehow he had managed to avoid the logical conclusion and it had hit him totally out of the blue on this now far away day in Berlin. And it had hit him all wrong, he hadn't thought just reacted; he had felt hurt and had just lashed out.
All his shouting about perversion had come right out of his childhood, forgotten lessons he had dragged from their graves to put them around his mind like a cloak - hiding, even from himself, the true reasons for his pain and anger. And only the suicide of a once close relative who had been estranged from the family for similar reasons had made him rethink his own actions and feelings, surprising him with what he found.
He had been jealous, plain and simple. Oh, he hadn't been interested in Troy sexually, but he had viewed the Rat Patrol as his family and home. A close, sworn community, a fortress against anybody else. And then the Dietrichs came along. They hadn't been a danger to their close-knit group in Africa, but after the war that had been quite a different tale.
He had always disliked the affair between Tully and Jutta, sensing that it was more than a simple fling. He wouldn't have minded that much if Jutta had been a different kind of woman, the kind that waited at home for their husband, that didn't discuss their husband's decisions. But the German girl was not like that, she had wit, courage and was used to speaking her own mind, and he had felt as if she took the place at Tully's side that had been his before. She had been a direct threat to the way things were and he had dreaded any change. And while he had still been reeling from the blow Tully's engagement had been, the realization that her brother had also attached himself to one of his friends had just been too much.
He had been sure that the Rat Patrol was at its end and needing a scapegoat for his rage he had condemned the Germans. He had been so scared to be the one left out that he had in fact separated himself from his friends, not seeing that the Rat Patrol was only expanding, that the Dietrichs were actually being integrated and that they fit quite perfectly.
His fear had disguised itself as fury, and feeling betrayed he had turned away from his friends, hiding behind his pride for more than a decade. It had been one of the hardest things of his life to ask for forgiveness, to apologize after years of silence, but it had been the right thing to do and he had owed it to Troy and Tully.
Hearing the laughter of his son brought Hitch back from his reverie, just in time before anyone noticed at what or to be exact at whom he was looking. He was glad he had found the courage after all, and he was glad that Jack Moffitt had stayed in contact with him for all those years. His mind back on the chessboard, he realized that he was just one step short of losing. He sighed, and laid down his king. Finally he knew when it was time to give up.
Cheering from the knife-throwing group drew Dietrich's attention away from his lover towards the children and his twin sister. Jutta laughed about something her eldest son said while ruffling gently through his blond hair. Jes was a lot like his father, at least in Hans' opinion; as far as his twin and Troy were concerned he was more like his uncle and they saw his decision to go to West Point and become an officer as proof of that. And if he was honest, then he had to admit he liked the idea that this fine young man, the firstborn of his twin and the godson of his lover, reminded people of him. Easily he could recall the day Jes was born, in London, England, no less. Not what his parents had planned at all.
Not really happy with the idea of living in America Jutta had found reason after reason to stall their departure from Germany so that she was already in the 7th month of pregnancy when they finally got on their way. They stopped for a brief visit - or so they thought - in London with the Moffitts, but then Jes ignored the schedule and just insisted on being born. Jutta was anything but delighted.
In the beginning, Tully and Hans stayed at her bedside, ignoring the looks of Elizabeth Moffitt and the midwife who found their presence very disturbing. It was only when Jutta had asked her husband for the second time to please shoot her to stop the pain that Tully left the room. But Hans never wavered, lending his hand to his twin, accepting the bone-cracking grip on his fingers. In reward it was he who carried the newborn into the other room and laid him in the arms of his father.
"It's a boy," he told the waiting men, his gaze on his brother-in-law who held the child with a look of awe in his eyes.
Jack and Troy came over, slapping their friend gently on the back.
"What'll you call him?"
In reaction to this question Tully turned towards his former sergeants and answered smilingly: "We already decided that. His name is James Erich Samuel."
It took a moment for the last name to register and then Troy's eyes widened. "That last for me?" he asked quietly.
The proud father nodded. "We thought about really naming him after you, but then decided having two Sams would lead to confusion."
The older man swallowed, then held out his hands. "Can I hold him?"
"Of course. Just handle him like he was nitro." Tully grinned, and carefully gave Sam the baby. "I'll go and take a look at my wife." And off he was.
The American's gaze as he handled the child was a mixture of pride, love, wonder and gratitude that would have fooled any outsider in believing he was the father, and Hans loved him even more for it. Although they had once spoken about their feelings towards fatherhood - where Troy had denied that he wanted to have a child - he knew that his lover adored kids and deep down missed the chance to become a 'Dad'. Becoming the godfather for this baby was as close to his wish as he would ever get, and Sam's expression showed that he knew that and was content with the situation - more than content - happy.
A slightly frustrated sound from Jason-Tully interrupted Hans' voyage through the past. Obviously his younger nephew wasn't satisfied with the way the competition went. He smiled wryly. Considering the bad temper of his niece it would be a good thing if it was J.T. who lost the game; his twin Johanna just didn't take losing with the same stoicism and quiet.
He let his gaze wander, it finally locked on his brother-in-law who sat on the grass, chewing a matchstick, and seeming to observe his wife and children. Hans smiled, wondering what the Kentuckian was thinking about.
If Dietrich had speculated about Tully having thoughts similar to his own, he would have been only partly right, because though Tully's thoughts were also about Jutta and knives they had nothing to do with the competition, but were about love and marriage and the past.
After meeting Jutta Dietrich for the second time in Berlin it hadn't taken him long to realize that he was in love with her, and he had been pretty sure that the love was mutual; still, he had hesitated to propose to her. It had nothing to do with her being German or that he had once fought her brother, but was simply an insecurity on his part. What did he look for in a wife? How could he know that she was Miss Right?
And then the 'knife-incident' as they called it later happened. Hitch and he had taken Jutta and another girl out for a late dinner and on their way home had encountered a gang of young Germans who wanted to flex their muscles and had just found their target - the two Americans.
Everything had happened very quickly. Something had hit him and he had gone done, he hadn't been unconscious, but for a moment the world around him had been nothing more than a blur. He had felt Hitch falling down next to him, and while he was trying to track the German boys by sound alone, he had prepared himself for the next blow. But it never came. Finally able to see again his gaze had fallen on his girlfriend who had held a knife in her hand. He then had looked at the boys and realized that the one standing closest was bleeding from an arm wound. It really wasn't hard to deduce what had happened. Jutta had been talking fast and angry, her green eyes flashing. He didn't understand her German tirade but got the meaning nevertheless, her threatening tone and pose universal.
Later he learned that she had said something to the extent that she was very good in throwing the knife and if anyone dared to go near her friend again she would not hesitate to use it in a more lethal way.... The boys obviously had gotten the message, and with him and Hitch on their feet again, now prepared for a fight, they had felt outnumbered anyway and couldn't leave the place fast enough.
Realizing that the German nurse had been carrying a knife all the time and knew how to use it had thrown him and Hitch a little. And the explanation that she had learned it from her brother hadn't really helped since they had never imagined Dietrich as a knife-man. It just didn't seem to fit.
Still, while he had been surprised, Tully hadn't been shocked, and lying in bed later that night, he had finally found his answer. What he was looking for in a wife was actually a partner. Someone who would literally stand beside him if problems arose. Someone who would back him up, but with a mind of her own, not just a follower. Someone he could rely on like on his friends.... He had grinned self-consciously, suddenly understanding the attraction between Troy and Dietrich a little better. The knife-incident had revealed that part of Jutta to him, and so had shown him that she was Miss Right; he hadn't wasted any more time wondering about it.
Tully spit out his matchstick and stood up, stretching his back he smiled at his wife who was just demonstrating for Hitch's son Mark how to throw a knife best. He knew that neither Moffitt nor Hitch or their respective wives approved of it, but for himself it was always a kind of kick to see his lover that way.
Maybe the fact that if she had to she could be as deadly as any of his comrades, should have unnerved him, but instead it made him feel secure. Because he knew that she wouldn't turn away from him in disgust if he ever felt the need to tell her about some of the things he had done.
Like killing Major Bracken for example. He grinned. Hell, with her protective instincts towards Sam and Hans she would probably approve of his doing it. She was a very strong person, even dangerous if the need arose and he liked that in a woman. He just wished he had considered his friends' feelings on the matter a little more carefully. If he hadn't told the others the way he had, maybe Hitch wouldn't have taken off, maybe ... He shook his head about himself. It all was water under the bridge now, and in the end everything had turned out well.
Feeling someone watching him, Tully turned around and met his brother-in-law's gaze. He liked Hans. Liked the happiness the former Hauptmann had brought to Troy's life. He was glad that they had found each other, as he was glad to have found Jutta. He smiled and got a smile in return. Yes, everything had truly worked out for them.
Catching the quick exchange of smiles between Hans and Tully, Troy smiled to himself. Who would have thought that these men would ever become such close friends? But then ... why shouldn't they? After all, they had a lot in common. At least two people whom they both loved and who loved them, even if it was in slightly different ways.
He let his eyes roam over the countryside. If someone had asked him where he thought he would spend the rest of his life he surely wouldn't have answered Kentucky, but then again the Dietrichs wouldn't have imagined the United States at all, so it seemed quite fair that he had left his home to live here. It had been a compromise - one he didn't regret at all.
Time shifted and he was back with Hans in their hotel in New York, just after having said good-bye to Tully, Jutta, and Jes, who had left for Kentucky.
Hans had been quiet for some time and he looked like a man who had just lost someone. "They aren't out of the world, Hans. We can visit them whenever you want." He tried to cheer up his lover but failed.
"Sam," the German began in a patient but strained voice, "even in Germany you lose contact to someone who's not living in the same town very fast, and Germany is a lot smaller than America. Distance becomes distance, it just happens."
He wanted, but he couldn't really argue that point, since he knew it to be true more often than not. Not sure before, he was now glad that he and Tully had discussed the issue. He hadn't really anticipated the problem because Hans hadn't complained, but Tully had seen his wife's reluctance to move to America and wondered about a way to make it easier on her. And Sam was now thankful for his friend's plan.
"Guess we have to move to Kentucky then," he said matter-of-factly, startling his lover.
"What?" The German stopped gazing out of the window and looked at him. "Could you repeat the last sentence, please?"
"I said we have to move to Kentucky then." He grinned; he liked the expression on his companion's face, partly hopeful, partly mistrusting.
"But I thought you wanted to live at your home, and that isn't Kentucky?"
"True." He shrugged. "But it's a lot closer to my home than it is to yours. At least it's still my country."
"Shh." Two fingers on his lips he silenced his lover. "Look, Hans. I know I more or less talked you into living with me in America because I felt homesick. You didn't want to leave Germany and neither did your sister. You both sacrificed a lot, and Tully and I are aware of it. And so I figured if you are prepared to change continents for me, then I can do states."
A smile lit the German's somber features. "You're sure?"
"Yes." He smiled. "I've already cleared it with Tully. He said there is a smaller house not far from the main house, kind of a cabin, which we could have."
"On his land? That close?"
"Yes. I mean the whole point was to make sure you and Jutta could see each other as often as possible. That cabin sounds perfect. Close without sharing their home." He looked up at the taller man. "What do you think?"
"That it sounds perfect." Hans grinned then added. "Jutta will be happy to have her babysitters so close at hand."
Laughter echoed through the room. "Right. I bet she'll love it."
Dietrich nodded, his face somber again. "Thank you, Sam," he whispered, and before Troy was able to reply anything his lips were sealed with the hungry mouth of his lover.
Gently Hans was backing him up against the wall and it wasn't long before Troy was thankful for the hold it provided. The German's hands were sliding up and down his body, opening buttons and caressing his skin in what seemed a thousand different ways. Hans' lips took possession of his mouth again, then attached themselves to his throat, almost chewing his Adam's apple. Troy's legs turned to jelly while another part of him became hard and demanded attention. And then his burning erection was engulfed in wet heat and knowing fingers kneaded his balls, brought him to an even higher peek. His own hands were tangled in Dietrich's hair, stroking his skull. He wanted to whisper his lover's name but all that he managed where moans of pleasure, and then he came with a shout, his seed spilling into the willing mouth of his companion. With his release his strength left him and he slid down straight into the German's waiting arms. The embrace was tight and heartfelt and spoke of more than mere words ever could.
"So," Troy wanted to know when he finally found his voice again. "We're going to Kentucky?"
Hans nodded and kissed him before saying: "Yeah, count on it, cowboy."
"Cowboy?" Sam echoed, not sure if he shouldn't feel insulted.
The German grinned lightly. "I always wanted an Indian, but you'll do."
Now he felt insulted, and amused. "I'll do, yeah?"
Amusement won out. "I'll give you a cowboy!" he threatened.
An eyebrow came up questioningly, but Dietrich didn't ask, so he explained: "I'll ride you good and hard!"
Hans' brown eyes became smoldering pools. "I hoped you meant it that way." And Troy realized that he had been manipulated by an expert and he didn't mind at all ...
A hand on his knee brought him back from the past and he looked up to find his lover kneeling in front of him. The position brought back some of the last pictures and the blood rushed towards his groin.
"Sam." Hans' voice held a stern warning, and the soldier felt himself blush as he remembered where they were.
"Sorry," he whispered, then looked around. "Did anybody notice?"
"That you were lost in a little fantasy?" his lover asked just as quietly.
"I don't think so. They had better things to do than watching us."
Relieved he smiled at his companion. "It wasn't a fantasy, by the way, though it was quite fantastic," he told his friend, patting the hand on his knee. "Cowboy."
Delighted he saw his lover's cheeks reddening.
"You are crazy," Hans commented.
"But you love me anyway."
The German nodded and stood, extending a hand to get Troy to his feet too. "Yes, I do. Very much."
Sam didn't get a chance to answer that as Liz and Anita were loudly announcing that dinner was ready. Within seconds any other task was forgotten as young and old nearly stormed towards the buffet.
As far as storming was concerned Hans held himself a little back, more interested in watching the others join around the table than getting something to eat. It was fascinating to see how the adults moved along the table to meet with their respective other halves without really noticing it. While the children were gathering around the lemonade and the cake.
For no other reason than that he liked to feel it, his hand moved to the small gold chain he was wearing. Its pendant was a smooth black pebble that didn't look the slightest like the pebble Troy and he had shared in the desert, but the reference was clear nevertheless. It had been his sister's idea to give such a chain as a gift to his mate after she had heard about that part of their shared enslavement. Of course she didn't tell him that she had nagged Troy into doing it as well. And so he and his lover had one Christmas exchanged very similar gifts, reminding them of a wedding ceremony, and knowing his sister, that had been the intention behind it all the while. He loved her for that.
Placing himself next to Sam, Hans sent a loving smile to his twin which she gave right back. When finally everyone had a glass in hand Jutta looked each one in the eyes then proposed a toast: "To family and friends. And to love in all its ways."
The kids rolled their eyes, but raised their glasses nevertheless. Then they forgot about their parents and their friends and concentrated totally on getting their food.
The grownups on the other hand seemed to forget about children and friends and only focused on their life-partners - stealing a moment of shared happiness for themselves.
Hans looked into his lover's eyes, watching his own feelings mirrored in them. Smiling he lifted his glass. "To love," he said quietly.
Sam nodded, carefully touching his glass to that of his companion. "To us."
© Late 1999