Looking Far Away


(prequel to "An Age of Miracles")

Running his already stained cuff over his weating forehead once more, the mercenary pulled a long-suffering face. God, but how this fetid, decomposing back-water of Africa stank! Evil-smelling, dank, dark, squelchy place. Feeling water seeping into his boot from the rancid puddle he'd just trodden in, the man found enough humour to wonder whether there'd be a healthy crop of mushrooms growing in his boots by now. There ought to be -- his feet hadn't been properly dry for weeks.

Silently condemning the whole damned country and its upheavals, thinking hell couldn't be much worse than where he was now, since dry heat was what he missed most, he continued treading stealthily through thick undergrowth. At least there were no betraying dry twigs snapping underfoot -- the oppressive humidity saw to that -- it was the thick rustle of leaves and grass he had to avoid and he was a year or more seasoned in that now. Not long, admittedly, but you learned fast out here.

There was no sign of his quarry. Sure that he must have gone to ground somewhere close, the mercenary stopped and listened. Experienced ears detected nothing. Lying low somewhere, then. There were two options now -- he could do the same and lull the city-bred idiot into an unwary move, or... he could track him. He knew which was the more pleasurable of the two. Hunter after hunted, mercenary tracking target, predator following prey.

Actually, there was a fairly good reason for continuing. Mobile, his senses stayed alert, unimpeded, every nerve alive to sight, sound and scent. Stillness brought with it a debilitating, aching awareness, an uncomfortable, dull knotting in his balls. One personal aspect of this hostile life with its fierce skirmishes, raids and vicious killings that he hadn't been able to control, physically at least, was his body's need for release from sexual tension. He hadn't envisaged a problem like this. There'd always been a plethora of willing females available and he'd never known the meaning of frustration. Until now. The dull ache was with him every day and wasn't helped by the insidious memories that kept creeping back to him, nor the furtive fumblings he heard sometimes among his group in the dead of night.

A grimace of anger, distaste and the very slightest tinge of fear was rapidly banked down. Mercenaries had no fear, couldn't afford it. But he couldn't see any way out. The others had been eyeing him up for weeks now. So far he'd managed to hold them off with a finely balanced mixture of aggression, contempt and seeming self-sufficiency. It wouldn't fool them for much longer. If their fox-like ears as much as heard him trying to toss himself off under his blanket, they'd be on him in an instant, offering help. His lip curled in a cruel fashion -- just like the other disguises. If they knew he wasn't experienced in this one quality of jungle hunting, they'd all have a go at rectifying the situation.

A sharp rustle snapped his head to the right. There... among that large-leafed bush... surely.... He watched closely. Another rustle... and a brightly plumaged bird flew up into the boughs. He relaxed again, feeling every muscle twitch minutely as it climbed down from an even higher adrenalin surge.

Damn this! Lips compressed together, he resolved to do something about the unbearable tension that night.. .somehow.

A slight itch on his calf made him pause a second and glance down. With a few swift and silent four-letter words, he saw that one trouser cuff had come adrift from its tight banding. He shuddered, realising what must have grasped the opportunity to crawl up his leg. It was fastened even now, draining away more of his precious energy. Gritting his teeth, he ignored the thought and walked stoically on. Time enough to deal with bloodsuckers... after he'd caught his prey.

As he tracked steadily on through the lush but evil-trapped greenness, he considered his target properly for the first time. A younger son of a highly placed government minister -- reputedly on holiday -- it was rumoured among the group that the local government wanted him for spying and in the current tinder-dry political touchiness, weren't fussy how he was captured.

This particular mercenary wasn't bothered whether or not the story was true. It was simply a job -- in fact, more than that this time -- there would be high rewards when they handed him over. It all meant more money. It also meant, for whoever captured him, increased standing in this motley, dregs-of-humanity group, who for the most part still treated him as some untried youngster who'd yet to learn the rules of the game. No, one more job, that's all this faceless stranger meant, and one pace closer to getting out of here for good and going home.

Stepping neatly and with the ease of long practice on the pain this thought conjured, he halted suddenly as instinct jabbed him with the sure knowledge that his victim was very, very close. He held his breath, as still as one of the great sloths he'd once seen in a Johannesburg zoo and admired with a a hunter's eye. And heard breathing, quiet, rushed, slightly panicky gasps that were suppressed for several seconds while their owner listened to the surrounding jungle, then resumed again.

Immediately, all but professional thoughts drained away and the mercenary crept slowly closer, bending slightly, trying to see through the all-veiling undergrowth. Without a single rustle, he lifted a many-leaved branch and peered through into a small clearing. There, half hidden beneath a thick bush, crouched his prey -- a slight, sweat-stained figure, topped by an untidy head of curls, quivering intermittently with nerves and a stubbornly crushed fear. He was facing away from the mercenary, staring out through the leaves, silent but for his betraying breathing.

The hunter listened too and was satisfied no one else was within a hundred yards or so of them. Before making a move, he had an urge to see the face of this skinny body ahead of him. Only once had he known the complete and utterly stimulating satisfaction of tracking down his own, human prey. A hunter's gloating at his power -- just for a second or two -- before lashing his victim into a helplessly tied bundle, too shit-scared to even attempt an escape.

Slowly he reached into a pocket and fumbled silently, searching fingers finally closing on the smooth coldness of a spent bullet. Hand and arm lifting carefully, he tossed the object into the bushes to his left and at once, as he'd planned, the stranger's head jerked round to stare in that direction.

The mercenary stared with intense interest. The movement had revealed a pale and rather delicate-looking face, rounded cheek, small, straight nose, strong chin and slightly parted mouth. Shouldn't take much subduing, he thought smugly and stepped into the clearing, gun cocked.

Again, the head whipped round further and a large pair of eyes stared back at him, their depths seeming to mirror the surrounding greenery. The wide gaze was expressionless and the soldier stared back, fascinated by their verdant glare and the masculine beauty of the fully revealed face that was saved from being too feminine by a broken, odd-angled cheekbone and a strength of character that hadn't been apparent from his profile.

The hunter estimated his prey to be the same age as himself, possibly a year or two older, but no more, and was confident that he was the wiser, better versed in the ways of man and world. His finger relaxed on the trigger as he continued to study the slender form that rose slowly to its feet before him, from the crown of tawny, sweat-damp curls to the scuffed and sodden boots. His gaze was eerily drawn back to the stranger's face -- he'd never known anyone like this, hadn't known such beauty could sit right on a man.

His own eyes were wide and dark, their primitive stare, full of tension, need and fear, not lost on the other man and the silence stretched. Rapidly, cynically divining what could -- possibly -- get him out of this situation, or at least make things easier for himself, the stranger dropped his eyes to the crooked, narrow-pressed lips and feeling a stray trickle of sweat run beside his own mouth, reached out a slow tongue to lick it away. Nostrils flared a little at that and the grim mouth promptly softened, letting him see its more gentle sculpture. He met the dark, thick-lashed eyes again and stepped closer, having already summed up their owner's age and probable experience... and inexperience.

The stranger seemed to advance in slow-motion, giving the mercenary time to make a quick scan of the body, finding no evidence of knives or other suspicious bulges in waistband, pockets or boots. There was one bulge, however, that he wasn't suspicious about, for it was echoed in his own body.

They were close now, inches apart, eyes still locked, mesmerised in each other. The mercenary felt he had known this man before, desired him forever, waited for him forever. Stupid, but.... The silence and stillness seemed interminable until one soft and stealthy touch along his aching length broke it, causing his head to fall back and a breathy moan to leave his lips.

Unreal. It was totally unreal. He felt transported a million miles from this damp, smelly jungle, by that one, soft touch; whisked somewhere magical for a short while, to complete his education, vaporize his fear and tension... and for them to renew their knowledge of one another....

Vulnerable. A part of him screamed caution but the other ninety-five per cent urged his body on and as two slender finger skimmed back and forth along his stiffened organ, his animal needs reigned supreme.

The sight of those slowly closing, sloe-dark eyes and the long line of the strong, exposed throat made the stranger pause momentarily, such instant and unrestrained pleasure unexpected, and an answering twinge shot along his own body, lifting his lengthened and filled-out organ in blind search. In instant denial, he brought his thumb into play, pinching the hard, confined sex of his hunter, almost wishing to hurt him, and saw the softly drawn mouth open in anguished pain-pleasure. Watching these reactions, seeing the potency of this powerful body in thrall to him, everything was unbearably intensified. The tenor of his movements changed, motivations abruptly altered and it suddenly became very important to him that this young, free-lancing, corrupted individual should enjoy this as much as possible. He didn't question it, but let it hold him in its sway as he circled a swift and eager finger over the head of the organ, wishing fervently that he could see the silky, pulsing flesh instead of merely feeling it through cloth. Too late. The quick panting suddenly became erratic, halted for a heartbeat then gushed out in a long breath as the hard and desperate cock jerked and spilled its heavy load.

Feeling somewhat dazed himself, the stranger watched the slim but solid body sink slowly to its knees in front of him. Furiously denying his own need, he stood motionless until the dark, ruffled head tilted to look up at him... and promptly drowned, breathless, in night-shadowed invitation.

The attractive features beneath the curly hair were flushed with passion now, the full, soft mouth denying the coolness in the slitted, green eyes. The mercenary wasn't fooled and drew the thin figure down with him onto the spongy, damp jungle floor. It followed him willingly and he pushed it flat, unzipping wet, unwieldy jeans, going straight for his target with unerring accuracy.

He felt admiration and a strange, possessive delight in the uncovered, rosy organ and let it stand proud for a moment before giving it a single, experimental lick. He was ready for the body's jerk and moan and slapped one hand over lifting knees and the other over the open mouth and started to suck hard, using an expertise that seemed to come from nowhere and was as pleasurable to give as it must be to receive. Warm breath brushed his knuckles and soft skin pushed up as the stranger arched and pressed his head back. Twisting a little, the mercenary could see tightly squeezed-shut eyes and a tension that he yearned to break. He sucked harder, flat palm pressing the taut testicles, rolling and rubbing gently. Lost in another world, he almost missed the slight rustle of leaves a few feet away. He froze, lifting his head and clamped his hand even tighter over the muffled protest and held his breath. A moment's silence, then another rustle as the other mercenary moved on, unknowing.

Eyes and ears alert now, the dark man recaptured the glistening , bobbing organ and resumed his luxurious lapping, demanding, determined to win the ripple of response. It came soon, body tight-strung, while the heavy cock jumped and spurted beautifully into his mouth. He felt released all over again and knelt still and quiet, mouth touching the softened root in a gentle kiss, hand still covering the now relaxed mouth.

After a euphoric, pleasure-echoing moment, he felt a tongue tip glide ticklishly over his palm and was immediately half afraid again. He hadn't considered pleasure from there. Taboo. From all the queer talk he'd overheard and sometime partaken in, pleasure from that end just was not taken and certainly not given... wasn't thought of at all because it wasn't in keeping with the non-involvement, the one-night-stand scenario. It smacked of caring, a giving of oneself... and no one wanted that, did they?

The thought disintegrated effortlessly and he followed his own urgings, giving in to the desire to explore further. He trailed his hand slowly down the warm, damp neck, touched the small wisps of hair revealed by the unfastened shirt collar and paused on the still-heaving chest. The shirt was wet with sweat, clinging to moist skin and the sharp points of nipples were clearly defined to his searching, caressing fingers. Wanting to see now, he pushed himself back onto his knees.

The stranger watched the blue-black gaze roving over his body then sat up slowly. His mouth seemed to lengthen as if into a smile but didn't quite make it. The eyes, though, were glowing with some inner knowledge and the mercenary felt drawn to this mysterious man all over again. He felt no need for words -- they were a needless complication. They had expressed all that could be said. Only one more thing now....

Of their own volition, his hands rose to cup the round, wilful face, thumbs stroking softly until one brushed the corner of the full, shaped mouth. It parted willingly and unable to resist that invitation either, he tilted their heads to fit their mouths together with accurate and precise pleasure. It was a deep kiss, one that lengthened and intensified with equal response, until on a low moan, the mercenary pulled away. The corners of that desirable mouth tilted into a slow, warm smile and he sat back on his heels, staring at the sensual being before him, only now coming down from his sexual cloud nine. Unconscious of his own, sweet response, he took a deep breath and came back to earth, realising they could take no more risks. At any moment one of the men could double back, working a circle, and find them. Another deep breath and he reached into his pocket and withdrew his compass. Some other force, outside his control, was directing him. He went with it. In possession of his own clear, sure sense of direction, he didn't need this instrument, but this stranger... friend... did, if he was to escape with his life. Handing it over, he tapped its face gently, indicating a south, south west direction, and closed the long fingers over it.

Still saying nothing but holding the dark gaze, the other felt one square and calloused hand cup his face with immense tenderness before the mercenary rose lithely to his feet. Eyes still locked, he took one step back and was gone, swallowed up by the surrounding press of foliage. The other sighed, blinked, and opened his fingers, belatedly feeling the warmth of the other man's body lingering in the instrument. And his eyes grew unfocussed, looking far away beyond the suffocating jungle.

The mercenary tramped steadily, noiselessly on, absentmindedly pulling his khaki shirt free of his waistband to hang loose over the spreading, tell-tale patch round his groin. As invitation to any passing mosquito, but at that moment he didn't care about anything save that no one else should know.

His built-in sense of direction sent him easily on the right path, leaving his thoughts to weave their own pattern as, casually, he slotted that one, last jigsaw piece into the vast emporium called experience. The regret wasn't quite so easy to file away and kept pulling his inner eye back to what he'd left behind in that tranquil, other-world. He took several more deep breaths, trying to dismiss the puzzling feelings.

They'd never meet again, of course. The beautiful stranger would be back home soon, if he was careful, while he, Bodie, had a time yet to spend in the jungle -- and desert, maybe -- before returning to England. To what, though, he wondered? Army, probably -- as close to a home as he'd ever find -- and certainly no place for a slim, long-legged sprite with gorgeously clear, far-seeing eyes.

Stopping suddenly, all attention directed to the bothersome thing still feeding on him, he rolled up his trouser leg, lit a surreptitious and much needed cigarette, dealt efficiently and mercilessly with the unwanted pest and resumed walking, a sleek, contented figure, at perfect ease with his world for the time being.

-- THE END --

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