Austin stood rigidly at attention as the casket was lowered into the ground. Funeral detail had to be one of the worse duties to pull, he thought to himself. Trying to shake himself out of the self pitying thoughts, he reminded himself that the Vietnam soldiers had it worse; they’d had vile names hurled at them as well as being spat on.
Private Simmons’ family had mostly been quiet. Austin hadn’t really looked at the mother yet. He’d ridden in a limousine with the others who’d pulled this duty while the Captain had ridden in the family limousine that had followed the hearse. Simmons had been an only child and his mother had asked if soldiers of his Company could be the pall bearers. The funeral and burial was held at the state veterans' cemetery. Simmons’ youth had precluded him from having bought a plot in the family cemetery.
As the casket was lowered into the open grave, Austin’s eye’s slipped to Simmons’ mother. As if she couldn’t bear to see her son buried, her eyes rose up and met Austin’s. Instead of the question of “why couldn’t it have been you?” look that Austin expected, Simmons’ mother’s eyes were full of sadness and an odd gratitude.
When the Captain handed her the flag, the gratitude was finally understood.
“Thank you, Captain. It was so kind of you to have Mathew’s brothers in arms help carry him here,” Mrs. Simmons said softly. Her voice broke as she continued, "He talked of finally having brothers."
The men stood at formal parade rest as the Captain walked the Simmons to their car. When he returned, Austin thought he'd aged more in the past hour than he had in a year in Afghanistan.
"Thank you all, men. That meant a lot to Simmons' mother. If any of you need a ride back to base or wherever you are staying, we've the driver and limousine we can use," the Captain said.
Austin bade the Captain and the others good-bye as they determined who needed a ride and he walked through the cemetery to where Adam waited.
Getting into the car, and wanting to avoid any pesky questions, Austin quickly said, "I'm fine."
He squirmed a little in his seat, but then reminded himself that he was a soldier, a soldier with self discipline, and forced his body into stillness.
"A rough afternoon to get through," Adam said. "Let's run through a drive thru and pick up some hamburgers. We'll chill out in front of the TV."
The rest of the ride Austin gathered his defenses around him. He imagined he was a warrior of old and was building a stone fortress around his castle. He knew how to visualize and how to keep his emotions at bay. He promised himself he'd not break down in front of Adam; he'd show him he was strong.
At the Burger King, Austin was frustrated to be pulled from his imaginary wall building when Adam asked, "Do you want a soda or a chocolate shake?"
It took Austin a few minutes to fully understand the question and he blushed when Adam quirked an eyebrow at him. "Soda," he mumbled. Damn it, he thought. Adam knew exactly what he was doing.
As soon as they got home, Austin dropped the bag of food on the kitchen table. "Let me change out of this," he gestured to his dress blues. "I'll be right back."
"Yes. Come back here. Here as in here with me," Adam said. "I let you drift off in the car, but now I want you here with me."
The wall that Austin had tried so hard to build was almost destroyed by Adam's knowing perception. And that was all it took for Austin to lose any control. Swinging his arms wildly, knocking the fast food bag off the table, Austin yelled, "I'm here! Right here! In front of you!"
The outburst passed as quickly as it started. Austin stood still and was caught in Adam's gaze.
"Pick it up." Austin heard Adam say in a horrible voice. Horrible because it lacked anger.
Austin couldn't do anything but obey Adam. He wished Adam wasn't so damn understanding, or would lash back out at him. That way he'd have somewhere for his emotions to go. As it was he didn't know if he was sad or angry or full of resentment that he'd had to see the grief of a mother.
Without a sound, Austin picked up the bag. As soon as the bag was on the table, Austin was pulled to the bedroom by Adam. He continued his self appointed silence as Adam stripped him of his uniform. Austin let Adam pull him this way and that way while Adam dressed him in sweat pants and a t-shirt.
Once dressed, Adam pulled Austin into the kitchen, shoved the food and a drink into Austin's hands, picked up the other drink, and continued on into the living room.
"Eat," was the order, Adam demanded of Austin after they'd sat on the couch. Austin wished Adam would turn on the TV to give him something to occupy his mind. At this point Austin felt as if he could only do what Adam commanded.
They ate in silence, but Adam was constantly touching him. Not light touches of lovers, but hard strokes of his hand down Austin's arm; the top of Austin's thigh squeezed tightly by Adam's strong hand. The pressure of another human hand was oddly reassuring to Austin.
For a few minutes after they'd finished eating, Adam continued to stroke, squeeze and pat Austin. Austin's body couldn't decide if it wanted to relax or keep its invisible defense up. Before he could decide, Adam stopped and gathered up the wrappers. Austin watched him place the trash on the coffee table in front of the couch.
Austin's stomach tightened when Adam looked at him.
"Ready?" Adam asked him cordially.
Having been in this situation before, Austin knew the question was rhetorical and he didn't have to answer. He just nodded and let his body be guided over Adam's lap.
"I know your trick," Adam said once Austin was securely over his lap. "One dark night long ago, you told me how you can build a wall to keep out things that bother you."
Austin cursed himself quietly. He remembered that night so long ago. That's when he'd opened the walls of his fortress and allowed Adam entrance.
"Remember what I said to you?" Adam asked.
Austin did remember. "You said I could build my walls."
Austin flinched as Adam pushed him sideways to pull his sweat pants down. Fleetingly his mind wondered what Adam must think of his flexing buttocks.
"And?" Adam prompted.
But Austin wasn't ready to continue. Until he was encouraged with a sharp swat to his ass. "And I could build them as high as I wanted as long as the wall enclosed us in together," Austin said fast, the words blending together.
"And if you tried to separate us with a wall?" Adam asked with another swat.
"You'd sp-spank it down." Austin hated the stutter in his words. That was the beginning of the wall breaking down.
"And so I will."
The spanking that followed didn't have the slow build up of sensual play. The swats came hard and measured, like a sledge hammer tearing down a concrete barrier.
Austin felt his whole body spasm as the stress of the past few days left him. The tension that was left was from the anticipation of the next spank and to keep him from falling off a lap that he was too big for. Resting his forehead on the couch, Austin let his silent tears fall. Eventually he noticed that the hand that had been spanking him was now rubbing his ass and thighs.
He rubbed his face against his arm to wipe away the tears and then tried to push himself up.
"Do you need to pee?" Adam asked him.
"No," Austin answered bewildered by the question.
"Then you can just stay where you are," Adam said.
Austin hissed when Adam pulled his pants up over his sore butt and let Adam rearrange them so that Adam was on the far end of the couch with Austin's head in his lap. Austin felt Adam reach over and get the remote.
Letting himself enjoy the calmness that engulfed him, Austin watched as Adam flipped through the TV channels. He roused himself enough to ask Adam what was so funny when Adam started laughing.
"I think we'll watch the History channel," Adam said with mirth in his voice. "There's a documentary on tearing down the Berlin Wall."
Austin chuckled softly. Adam had a weird sense of humor, but he was pretty good at tearing down walls.