The Aurora Sextology: Book Two - Phantom Of Aurora Vol One

Chapter Nine

With the galley full of caterers preparing the goodies that would be served at the Commanding Officer's Reception after the parade on Sunday Chef, with all the grandness and manners of the Sun King at his morning Levee, gave everybody the night off. His gesture fell flat in that Ray was normally off duty at 1800, Sandro would normally have been in Courtenay (he had stayed back to help with the preparations for the Commanding Officer's reception) and The Phantom left once the galley was squared away and the evening kye made.

After making his magnanimous gesture Chef had assumed the air of a martyr. He would stay behind and man the galley. As they left the Mess Hall Ray told the other two boys that Chef just wanted to keep an eye on the caterers and make sure that they didn't get into his stash of beer. The Phantom chuckled all the way home.

When he arrived home The Phantom found his mother standing at the ironing board, pressing his steward's jacket. On a wooden hanger, so they would not be creased, were his neatly hemmed serge trousers. "Ah, gee, Mum, you don't have to do that," he exclaimed.

"No, I don't, but I want to," his mother replied with a smile. "Sit down and have something to eat."

"I'm not hungry. I ate before I left."

"Well, sit and talk. We haven't done that for a long time, just you and me." She waved him to a chair.

"Where's Dad?"

"Out on the patio, polishing your shoes."

"Mum!" The Phantom wailed.

"You just leave him alone," replied Mrs. Lascelles with a soft smile. "He called an old buddy at the Base and got some sort of special parade polish. It's supposed to be a surprise. So be surprised."

"I will be, I promise, if you leave that." The Phantom pointed at the half-ironed jacket. "I can do it."

"No, I did it for your father. I can do it for you," replied his mother firmly. She sprayed water over the back of the jacket, and then applied the hot iron. "I used to do all of his uniforms, and his underwear. They were these huge old green things, baggy, but he claimed they were very comfortable. Just like the boxers you boys wear now." She finished the jacket and hung it up carefully. "You can put the buttons in later. Just make sure your hands are clean."

"Yes, Mum," replied The Phantom, smiling at his mother.

Mrs. Lascelles sat down and took The Phantom's hand, smiling warmly. "It brought back memories. When your Dad and I were first married there wasn't much money so I did all his things. He'd be out in the field all day and come home smelling of sweat and dirt, just the smell of a soldier." She giggled, remembering.

"I used to complain and one day I told him that he should change before he came into the house. There was a small porch at the back, but would he use that? No." Mrs. Lascelles continued to laugh quietly and The Phantom swore that a blush tinged her cheeks. "Not your father. He drove up to the house and stood on the front porch and took off everything he had on. He rang the doorbell and when I opened the door there he was, stark naked. I almost fainted."

The Phantom laughed heartily. "Dad? Jeez, the neighbours must have loved that."

"The Battalion Major certainly didn't. He was driving by on his way to church. He was a born again Christian, or something. My, the way he carried on. Your father, of course, thought it was all very funny. So did I, eventually."

"I guess he's a little disappointed in Brendan and me."

"Whatever for?" asked Mrs. Lascelles. She reached out and took her son's hand in hers. "He's very proud of both of you."

"Well, he hasn't come right out and said it, but I always got the feeling that he would really have liked one of us to join the Army. You know, follow in his footsteps."

The Phantom's mother thought a moment. "Phantom, your father and I love both you and Brendan very much. He understands that both you boys have to live your own lives and that the Army doesn't appeal to either of you." She beamed at The Phantom. "But then, I think he sort of got his hopes up when he saw your new haircut."

"You like it?"

She nodded. "It suits you. It makes you look older, though. Don't grow up too fast now, Phantom."

"I'll try not to," he replied, furrowing his brow, pretending to be serious. "Though I can't help getting older."

"Tell me about it." His mother patted her greying hair, stood up and turned the burner under the kettle on.

"Mother, can I ask you something."

She stared at him, giving him the old motherly fish eye. "Mother? Phantom, you only call me 'Mother' when you're in trouble. Or up to something. Which is it?"

He smiled at her and cocked his head. "Well, I'm not in trouble. So, I guess I'm up to something."

She sat down, and folded her hands in front of her. "I'm waiting."

"Well, I've been thinking," The Phantom began.

His mother rolled her eyes and shook her head. "The last time you did that you blew up the back bedroom with that chemistry set your Uncle George gave you for Christmas. Then there was the time you thought that the trees would look nice whitewashed, and ended up painting your poor cousin Tommy. Then there was the time . . ."

The Phantom reached out and squeezed his mother's hand. "Mother, I am very serious."

Her son's tone gave her pause. "Why, of course, dear. Please, go ahead."

"Okay, here's my idea," began The Phantom. "I start Grade 13 in September. If I keep my grades up I can go to the university in Victoria as an Untidy when I graduate from high school."

"You will not!" snapped Mrs. Lascelles, her eyes snapping with indignation. "You are a very tidy boy, though your room leaves a great deal to be desired."

The Phantom laughed until his sides hurt. "No, no. It stands for UNTD, University Naval Training Divisions. Untidy. If I get accepted the Navy pays for my university, and I serve five years as payback. As an officer."

"Oh." Then she laughed and reached over to stroke his face. "Your father would like that. And so would I." The kettle started whistling so she got up and made two cups of tea. She gave one to The Phantom who proceeded to dump two huge spoonfuls of sugar into it. Then he added a dollop of milk. She watched him and shook her head. "Just like your father."

She sat at the table, sipping her tea and looking directly at her son. "Are you sure?" she asked presently.

"Yes, mother, I am very sure," replied The Phantom, his voice firm and strong.

She nodded. "It's just that, well, you have never given us any indication that you might want to join the military. I suppose Aurora had something to do with your decision."

The Phantom nodded his head slowly as he replied, "In a way. I like the guys, and I have to admit that the Navy appeals to me. The Gunner - Leading Seaman Winslow - told me about the program and I asked him to get me some information and he did, although I don't think he was all hot to trot about me becoming an officer. I don't think he has much use for most of them."

"Your father never did," replied Mrs. Lascelles with small smile. "He always said that all they were good for was to take care of the paperwork and run up bar chits in the Officers Mess."

The Phantom giggled. "I hope he won't think that about me."

His mother leaned over and kissed The Phantom. "He won't. He'll be so proud he'll have to get a new hat six times bigger than the one he has." She sniffed delicately and wiggled her nose. "Good Lord, Phantom, you smell like liver. And onions."

"The main course on Saturdays."

"Well, your father used to come home smelling of his work, so why should you be any different." She pointed toward the kitchen door. "Go and shower. When you smell better come back down and we'll tell your father what you want to do. I'll bet you a fiver he starts to cry."

"Dad?"

"He's very sentimental. Under all that blubber he's really a big softy."

"Mother!"

******

While The Phantom's father did not cry, he did get choked up, and snuffled a bit when he heard his son's plans. The Phantom and his mother bickered about the so-called bet, and then decided to call it all off.

At 2300 The Phantom's father left for work in Courtenay and his mother, as she always did when her husband was away overnight, took one of her little pills and went to bed. The Phantom, left to his own devices, showered, gave himself his usual hand job, and dressed.

After leaving the house he went to the shack where he sat quietly, listening to the night sounds. He felt very happy. He had made up his mind about his future and he was about to go and do something he loved doing, making another boy very happy. Not that some of them needed any help. Brian and Dylan had finally found each other so he would give them a pass for the next little while, which he was going to have to do anyway since they would both be off on Monday to do their Venture Training, as would Val, who would be their training coordinator.

The two Yanks, Mark and Tony, were obviously serious, if all the whisperings and furtive touching meant anything. And Harry, who was not on his list, but could have been, had met his match in Stefan.

The Phantom giggled thinking about Harry and Stefan and wondered if they were doing anything together. Jesus, he thought, this place is getting like a mink farm. Not that he cared, for there were plenty of boys, and each one had a cock.

Which led The Phantom to think about the boys in Barracks 2. He would visit them, after Ray.

Ray, as he expected, was waiting and responded eagerly. He seemed to enjoy their foreplay, and having his underpants pulled slowly down which The Phantom, whose knowledge of sex was growing daily, thought was a turn on for Ray. A short time later, as Ray moaned and groaned his way to climaxing, he flopped forward, his mouth wide, breathing harshly and gasping, once again soaking the back of The Phantom's sweater, thrusting wildly as he blew his biggest load yet. After their signature farewell kiss and feel The Phantom crept his way through the washplace and entered Barracks 2.

Unlike the other barracks, this one was only half occupied and most of the double decker bunks had been dismantled, with only single bunks lining the bulkheads, but it was, as with all the barracks, just this side of a rubbish tip, with dirty clothes and gear scattered across the mess table, the few empty bunks piled high with extra bedding, which, in a way, worked to The Phantom's advantage.

Rob, David and Ryan had created a little space of their own separated from the rest of the barracks by a clothing rack and a bunk piled high with blankets and empty suitcases. It was easy enough to see that Rob and David worked in Clothing Stores. Where the other cadets had two complete sets of Class IIs they, and Ryan, had four, each hung neatly on the clothing rack. Extra boots and caps were stored under, and over, the uniforms.

Directly in front of him The Phantom saw the three sleeping boys. The thin issue coverlets covered Rob and David. Ryan lay on top of the bed, half on his side, half on his back, one arm hanging over the edge of the bunk, the other flung back. He had crooked his left leg in his sleep and the leg band of his loose fitting briefs gaped open. His sleep-tossed top sheet and coverlet lay on the deck beside his bunk.

The Phantom glided forward and looked at the sleeping Ryan. He seemed very small in the bunk, a not quite formed man/boy, with the coal black hair and slightly olive skin of his French-Canadian ancestors. He had a round, handsome, almost pretty face; with dark, wide eyebrows over his sleep closed eyes.

Kneeling down, The Phantom gently pushed the light blue cotton fabric of Ryan's briefs around and over his soft, pink, smoothly tapering penis, which ended in a ragged piece of slightly wrinkled skin. Ryan's testicles, though small, were well formed, and contained in a silken-skinned hairless sac. A small copse of curling, stray hairs gathered at the base of Ryan's penis.

Placing two fingers and his thumb around Ryan's thin penis The Phantom gently pulled the foreskin down, revealing a round, well formed head. The excess foreskin gathering in rippled rolls under his fingers. He stroked upward, hiding the curving head, then down. As he did so Ryan's penis hardened and thickened, his foreskin stretching, the now smooth sheath of flesh still protecting, except for a round, neat hole directly over the slit of the neat, little, arrowhead-shaped head that crowned Ryan's thin, deep pink shaft. The Phantom began to slowly masturbate Ryan, gently pumping Ryan's four inches of warm flesh, watching intently for any sign of the boy awakening.

With each downward movement of The Phantom's hand the silky sheath of Ryan's penis drew back to reveal the shiny, deep purple knob, the foreskin forming a tight collar of red-tinged flesh surrounding the curving glans. With his thumb The Phantom slowly and deliberately gathered the clear liquid that oozed slowly from the gaping slit that marred the beauty of Ryan's smoothly flowing helmet.

Ryan's testicles began to tighten, and his hand trembled slightly. His body shuddered and he pulled back slightly. His hips gave a quick jerk and a stream of thin, milky white fluid flew from his dick and gathered in small pools across the fabric of his briefs. As The Phantom's fingers held him loosely Ryan jerked again, and again, an ever-diminishing ribbon of sperm squirting out. The Phantom continued to pump as Ryan's dick, his orgasm over, began to shrink. He continued his slow, rhythmic pumping, squeezing Ryan's soft dick until only the smallest drop of semen seeped out of the thick roll of foreskin that hid Ryan's plum-coloured mushroom.

As The Phantom gently covered Ryan's penis and testicles with his semen stained briefs, his hand brushed against some of the still warm, immature seed that spotted the cloth. He licked the juice, noting that it lacked the potency, the power that the other boys had.

Slipping quietly from the sleeping area and into the heads, The Phantom stood in front of a urinal and fumbled his hard, straining, aching erection from his tight fitting jeans. With a few quick strokes he brought himself off, his ejaculation so powerful that his hips thrust violently forward. His heart was thumping loudly in his chest, and he all but stopped breathing until the last of a huge geyser thudded into the pisser.

When he was finished shooting The Phantom finger-cleaned his tender, acutely sensitive glans and sat down on the deck, sucking his semen from his finger until there was no more. After perhaps ten minutes he returned to the sleeping area. He had promised himself that he would reward the three boys for rejecting Little Big Man. He only hoped his dick was up to it.

Of the two remaining cadets Rob was by far the handsomer. The Phantom decided to save him for last and turned his attention to David, who was laying flat on his back, snoring softly, his mouth ajar. The Phantom pulled back the thin coverlet and saw that David, contrary to regulations, was naked. His slim, firmly muscled swimmer's body was completely hairless, except for the close cropped brown hair on his head. There was thin, hard stubble, marking his pubic area and David's thick, three-inch, circumcised penis hung over a loosely hanging set of decent sized testicles.

The Phantom remembered that David was the mainstay of his home unit's swimming team, a powerful winning dolphin in any competition. Obviously he shaved his body to gain a few precious seconds. He leaned down and nuzzled David's testicles, which tightened immediately. He sucked David's short, smooth shaft and spongy glans, feeling David's penis harden and lengthen, enjoying the sensation as seven hard inches tried to fill his mouth. The Phantom knew that he could never take in the entire thick, pulsing organ but he was bloody well going to try.

Fisting the thick base of David's hard cock, The Phantom deep sucked the upper half and head, combining his spit and the precum that flowed in ever increasing amounts from David's sex-gorged helmet to lubricate the quickly pulsing organ.

David began bucking and squirming, his balls so tight against his lower belly that they almost disappeared. He began growling, the sound barely audible, his breathing laboured. He began thrusting in tight little thrusts, murmuring softly. Suddenly, David's whole body tightened and his body arched, pushing his dick deeper into The Phantom's tight sucking mouth. He jerked and his balls exploded, slightly salty cum flooding The Phantom's mouth, so much so that he could not swallow fast enough and a thin jet flew from his mouth with such force that splattered along the length of David's turgid, crimson-fleshed organ.

When David's dick stopped pumping The Phantom licked and sucked him clean. He could not believe the amount of spunk that David's balls had produced. His belly seemed filled with it. His own hard dick, frictioned by the cotton underpants he was wearing, was jerking and trembling and his testicles were filled with boiling semen. Before he could even touch himself his body began to spasm and he was engulfed with mind-blowing ecstasy as his penis spurted a steady stream of warm, sperm-filled semen, flooding his briefs, coating his lower belly, and clotting his pubic hair with large globs of it.

Breathing heavily, his body tingling and trembling, The Phantom pulled the coverlet back over David's naked body. As he left the barracks The Phantom massaged the front of his jeans, caressing his warm flesh with the warmer juices of his body.

******

The Phantom slipped into the shadows and sat, his back against the weather beaten wooden wall of the showers that joined Barracks 1 and 2. He removed his woollen ski mask and breathed deeply. He uncovered the face of his watch and noted the time. He had blown three cadets in less than 45 minutes and ejaculated twice. He was debating his next move when the lights came on in the heads, shining through the windows and lighting the area.

Directly above The Phantom's head was an open window. Curious as to who would be up and about at this early hour, he eased himself up and peeked into the room. The Phantom stifled a snicker when he saw, barely ten feet away, Ryan standing at one of the sinks. He was naked, and washing his crotch, making slow, circling movements with the cloth he held in one hand, cupping his testicles with the other.

As Ryan scrubbed his penis began to harden. He reached down, pulled his foreskin back and passed the washcloth over his still enraged, purple-coloured glans. Ryan had the biggest shit-eating grin on his face that The Phantom had ever seen.

The Phantom eased himself down, waiting patiently. Presently the light went out and he was in darkness again. He shook his head and smiled. They never ceased to amaze him, these boys that he pleasured. Ray had given up all pretence of being asleep, as had Brian. Both boys knew exactly what was happening to them, and both of them made every effort to maximize the pleasure he gave them. Val and Tyler were hardly different. Val had obviously been waiting for him the last time he had entered the Chief's Mess. As for Tyler, well, he may have talked himself into believing that he'd had a wet dream, which seemed to be the normal excuse, but tonight would tell the tale.

And another thing, The Phantom thought, they never talk about it. Except for Sylvain and André, he had not heard a whisper of recrimination or anger, and Sylvain and André had reduced it all to a guy thing: guys get hard in the night, guys dream, and bingo, off goes their nut. Both of the French-Canadian cadets had bragged about the size of the load they had shot. And had never mentioned it again.

The Phantom knew that getting a blow job from a guy carried no bragging rights. Whether out of fear, or desire for more, there were certain things guys did not talk about, ever. They feared talking about the blow jobs, or the butt fucking, or the hand jobs, they gave each other, because to do so would label them queer, faggots or homos. They feared talking about it because, with very few exceptions, they wanted more of what they were getting from or doing to the other guy. To compensate they would go out of their way to be as masculine as possible, playing sports, pretending to chase girls, the whole nine yards.

The pretence of it all was really quite funny. With the exception of Brian, who had been on the giving end, as well as the receiving end, they were all quite content to lie back and enjoy what was being done to them, and pretend the next morning that absolutely nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

As far as he was concerned The Phantom thought that he was like the guy who robbed banks because that's where they money was. He went to Aurora because that's where the cocks were. And he was honest enough to admit it, at least to himself.

Standing up, The Phantom replaced his ski mask and headed for the Staff Barracks.

******

Val was lying on his bunk, feigning sleep. At The Phantom's first touch he raised his hips and pushed down his plaid boxers, freeing his throbbing erection. Though a little surprised The Phantom lowered his head and began sucking on Val's wonderfully musky balls. When The Phantom transferred his attentions to his delicious dick Val began a slow, steady, thrusting, thoroughly enjoying himself. As he neared his climax, Val began muttering softly in Sicilian and his thrusting increased. Suddenly his body stiffened, then arched and with a strangled cry of "Madonna!" his penis began pumping massive streams of his semen into The Phantom's embracing mouth. He finished with one last, determined thrust, and then lay back, his face grimacing, trying not to scream out as the warm, sensuous mouth and tongue ravaged his sensitive helmet-shaped glans.

Finally, unable to stand it any longer, Val pulled away. "Fuck guy, please, enough," he whispered. "It feels too good."

The Phantom smiled and pulled up Val's boxers. Val immediately rolled on his side and pulled his pillow over his head. Impulsively The Phantom ran his hand up the back of Val's underpants, feeling the rough hair coating his legs, and the smooth roundness of his hard ass.

Instinctively Val crooked his leg, and The Phantom fingered his love trail and still tight balls. He ran his finger along Val's ass crack. Val clenched, then relaxed, groaning softly. As much as he wanted to have another go-round with Val, The Phantom withdrew his hand and moved across the room to where Tyler lay.

Unlike Val, Tyler was asleep, breathing steadily and slowly. A small bubble of spit that had formed on his lips expanded and contracted as he breathed. The Phantom reached into Tyler's white briefs, and slowly withdrew his soft penis and tightly hanging testicles, then without foreplay he lowered his head, engulfing Tyler, the soft dick hardening in his mouth, forming the bullet-shaped, wonderfully warm, erection.

Almost immediately Tyler responded, once again bucking and thrashing, overcome with the pleasure coursing through him. He began pounding the bed then, as his excitement increased, the bulkhead, his fist keeping time with the sucking rhythm of The Phantom's mouth. His thrusting drove his rock hard penis deep into The Phantom's throat.

Tyler began his muttered cum cry, biting his lips to keep from screaming as the dam of pleasure he felt within burst.

A deep, strangled growl rolled from Tyler's throat as his body arched and thrust upward and his dick pumped stream after stream of his thick, sweet nectar down The Phantom's throat. Gulping convulsively for air Tyler continued to thrust, almost weeping as the fire raged, then banked. He collapsed, gasping as The Phantom's lips continued to massage his slowly shrinking penis and then, with a sharp groan, pulled himself away, the pleasure overwhelming the helmet-shaped head of his penis excruciating, and more than he could bear.

The Phantom quickly replaced Tyler's now soft genitals in his briefs and slipped away into the night.

******

Cory was dreaming. He could see, in his mind's eye, a drummer, a drummer pounding a rhythmic beat on a huge, malformed drum. He could see the drummer's hands holding gigantic drumsticks. The pace changed, discordant, with no rhythm, just noise. He awoke with a start and sat up, shaking his head to clear the sleep from his brain. There was pounding, but not from a drum. Someone was pounding on the thin wallboard against which his bed abutted. Puzzled, Cory listened to the muffled sounds and then pressed his ear against the bulkhead.

While indistinct, he could hear a muffled voice, moaning and gasping. Cory knew exactly who was on the other side of the bulkhead. He also knew that Tyler was having one hell of a sexual experience. As he pressed his ear closer against the bulkhead Cory's hand unconsciously slipped into his boxers, and he smiled wildly as he heard Tyler's orgasm reach its inevitable ending, heard the muffled cry of "Ohfuck OhfuckohfuckohFUCK," as Tyler peaked in orgasmic ecstasy, and then the silence as Tyler came down from his climactic high.

Cory, who was no stranger to orgasms, or to cum-cries, lay back down and chuckled. Good old Tyler, he thought, Sheldon Straight Arrow by day, Manny the Masturbator by night. Who would have thunk it? He was about to file what he had just heard away in the little known facts about well known people file when he heard a door open, then close quietly, then the door leading to the outside open, and close.

At first Cory though nothing of the door closing, and with Tyler finally quiet, he could finally get some sleep! He plumped his pillow, not giving the strange noise a second thought, about to dismiss the whole thing as just a noisy self-administered hand job in the night when he sat up again, jumped out of bed and pulled Todd from his rack. "Todd, wake up, now!" he whispered fiercely, shaking his brother violently in his excitement and then pulling him from his bed.

Todd landed on the deck in a heap. He had only been asleep for a little over an hour and, exhausted from their marathon in the Ropewalk with Chris, was not at his best. "G'way, Cory, I'm not in the mood," he mumbled, pulling his covers over himself and curling up on the deck. "Go wake up Chris. He's always in the mood to play. Fuck off."

Cory resisted the urge to kick Todd. He dropped down and shook him again. "You fuck, get up, now! Somebody just did the dirty on Tyler!"

"Wha . . .?" Todd knuckled the sleep from his eyes and look up to see he brother looming over him. "Cory, what the fuck are you talking about?" he demanded crankily.

"Somebody just did Tyler." Cory shook Todd again. "Get up, dammit, we can catch the guy if we hurry." Cory stood and hurried from the Gunroom.

Todd uncoiled himself and followed Cory outside. Cory was perhaps 50 yards away, peering intently into the darkness, cursing, his white boxers stark against the blackness of the starless night. Todd gingerly made his way to his brother's side.

"Fuck, piss, shit, CUNT!" swore Cory heatedly. "We're too late. The fucker is gone!"

"Cory, just what is going on?" demanded Todd, surprised at Cory's language. Cory rarely swore.

"Some bastard just gave Tyler a fuckin' mind-blowing, ball-blasting, underwear-ripping blow job is what is going on!" Cory returned harshly. "I heard I all!"

Cory stomped back to the barracks, cursing as the gravel he was walking on savaged his bare feet. He plopped down on the cement stoop, staring angrily, cursing, as he removed a sharp stone from his heel. Todd sat down beside Cory and waited until the tirade subsided. "What happened?" he asked quietly.

Cory explained quietly, in detail what he had heard. "So, someone just did the number on Tyler," he concluded firmly.

Todd shook his head. "It could have been Val, you know."

Cory glared at him. "Todd, why would Val blow or jerk, Tyler, then leave the Mess and go wandering off into the night?" he asked impatiently, his tone expressing his obvious exasperation. "Why wouldn't he just crawl back into bed? He sleeps what, six feet from Tyler?" He stuck his hand into the slit in Todd's boxers, rolling his balls gently. "I heard Tyler cumming his nut. I know what I heard afterwards. Somebody was in the Chief's Mess and gave Tyler a blow job. It wasn't Val."

Todd spread his legs, giving Cory more room to play. He nodded his head. "I have to admit, what you say makes sense. Which is a first. Ouch!" Cory had squeezed tightly at that slur. "Okay, okay, I'm sorry," Todd whimpered.

Cory released his grip and resumed his fondling, "So. The question is, what happens next?" he asked. Then he snickered. "For someone who wasn't in the mood you've got a hell of a boner in here."

"We wait. We watch, and we wait." Todd slipped his hand into Cory's boxers. "Talk about boners." He squeezed Cory. "We watch and wait, because he'll be back. Maybe not tomorrow, but, he'll be back! He'll be back because this guy likes cock. My guess is that he's done Val, and now Tyler. Val at least once before, right?"

Cory nodded. "Yeah. At least once before." He thought a moment. "Not that I blame whoever it is. Both Tyler and Val have pretty impressive weapons." He squirmed in delight as Todd's warm hand stroked him gently. "You keep that up and you'll get what the, what did you call him?" he murmured.

"The phantom?" Todd began to slowly draw his finger up and down his brother's firm, erect penis.

"Yeah, the phantom. Why call him that?" Cory growled low, feeling the tingling sensation building in his testicles, which were beginning their retreat upward.

"Well, we have to call him something," offered Todd. "We can't very well call him Clive, or George."

"Okay, the phantom he is," agreed Cory. "And if you keep doing what you're doing you'll get what he got."

"What's that?" Todd shuffled closer to Cory and his fingers encased his brother's throbbing erection.

"A handful of something warm and sweet." Cory grinned and cocked one eyebrow. "Although from what I think I heard it wasn't a handful the phantom got, more like a mouthful."

Todd returned the grin. "I can do that, if you'd rather."

******

The Phantom, unaware of his near encounter with the Twins, hurriedly returned to Barracks 2. He had one more visit to make before his night ended. He found Rob lying loosely curled under the covers, breathing quietly, and hugging his pillow tightly. As he drew down the thin cover The Phantom saw that Rob's knees were drawn up, stretching his loose, baggy white boxers across what had to be the most magnificent ass resident in HMCS Aurora.

Rob's dark brown hair, slightly damp from the heat, loosely covered his high, wide forehead. A thin sheen of sweat covered the immature growth above his pink, well-defined lips. Rob's broad, square-jawed face, relaxed in sleep, glowed softly with the peaches and cream complexion of a wonderfully healthy young male and was lightly dusted with a light brown shadow of a beard. He had the hard, muscular body of the natural athlete; his broad chest smoothly and crisply muscled, with clearly defined abs. His stomach was flat and firm, with just a hint of a treasure trail disappearing into the broad elastic band of his boxer shorts.

The Phantom eased down Rob's leg and ran his hand up Rob's curly haired inner thigh, then under the wide leg opening of his boxers. Rob was already hard, his testicles drawn tight and warm against his body. The Phantom felt the storesman's smooth, tight, five-and-a-bit-inch penis that ended in a firm, curving helmet. His thumb crossed the top of Rob's penis, drawing a large dollop of precum around and over the mushroomed crown, rubbing gently at the knot of scar tissue directly under the head where it joined the pulsing shaft.

Rob moved and slowly stretched his legs out, allowing The Phantom's hand freer access as he fondled his tight ball sac, feeling the tight circle of hair that disappeared between the boy's legs. Then he reached into the wide slit in Rob's underpants, bringing forth his wonderfully formed erection. He quickly took Rob's throbbing cock in his mouth, sucking gently as he moved down to bury his nose in Rob's rough, springy, pubic hair.

The Phantom smelled the magnificent aroma of Rob: sweat, fresh washed teenager, clean, faintly bleachy boxers, body oils and the delicate musky odour that all males have.

Rob began thrusting slowly, pushing his erection, iron covered with silk, deep into The Phantom's mouth, a slow inch at a time, then withdrawing, then pushing forward, his body trembling, his muscles tightening with each gentle thrust. Rob was breathing heavily, his body arching, each thrust an exercise in self-restraint as he struggled to obtain maximum enjoyment from the wetness and warmth surrounding his jerking cock.

As a thrill of exquisite delight flashed through his body, The Phantom ran his tongue along the blood-engorged vein that ran along the underside of Rob's penis, then pulled upward, sucking and licking the glorious dick that filled his mouth, his tongue washing clean Rob's smooth- skinned, spongy helmet.

Rob whimpered softly, then his face contorted and his mouth formed a small "O" as his hips pushed upward and his cock slit opened and a thick gobbet of his bittersweet sperm filled The Phantom's mouth.

As Rob's cock pumped gusher after gusher The Phantom held it tightly in his mouth, swallowing slowly, enjoying every pearl drop. As the flow of semen diminished Rob began to move his hips in small little jerks, trying to withdraw, the sensitive head of his penis unable to tolerate the touch of The Phantom's mouth.

The Phantom allowed Rob's still throbbing dick to fall from his mouth, the top of it rubbing against his chin as it fell down between Rob's spread legs. He reached down and held the soft, warm, still twitching organ, about to return it to its hiding place in Rob's boxers when Rob's hand moved, covering his. Rob threw his free arm over his eyes, as if afraid to look at the boy who had just given him such pleasure. "Thanks for coming back," he murmured.

"You heard?" asked The Phantom. Then he realized the stupidity of his question. Of course Rob had heard him pleasuring David.

Rob nodded his head. "Will, um, will you come back?"

"I will. If you like."

Rob nodded vigorously. "Oh, yeah, man. I like."

******

It was Sunday morning. Der Tag had arrived and in every barracks turmoil reigned as the cadets cursed, swore, whined and cried as small defects in their uniforms and boots became apparent, requiring immediate attention, so much so that each barrack pulsed with unaccustomed activity as needles and thread were plied, boots polished, Irish Pennants snipped, cans of spray starch hissed and irons filled the close quarters with steam.

In the Gunroom, the Twins, by Appointment, Bespoke Tailors and Suppliers of Uniforms to the Gunroom, and wearing only white boxer shorts, had been up since before the crack of dawn when they were awakened by the shouting and tumult created by the Venture cadets returning, 24 hours late, bug and mite-bitten, scratched, sunburned and in foul moods, made fouler when they found the new white Class II uniforms on their bunks.

Stuart, and the Baby Buffer, Steve, immediately shook the Twins awake. "You gotta help us!" begged Stuart. "There is no way we can do our boots and get these fucking uniforms tiddly without you."

"Yeah, come on, Todd, you gotta help us," echoed Steve.

Todd glared at the two apparitions, one tall and thin, and the other short and thin. They were both clad in puke green, soiled, issue boxers. Stuart's fair skin was chafed and red, and there were several angry red bite marks on his chest. Steve, shorter and stockier than the Buffer, was just as dishevelled. He normally took great pains with his personal appearance but this morning, for all intents and purposes he looked like a bag of shit. And smelled like one.

"Jesus, Stuart, you stink!" griped Cory, getting out of bed. He sniffed loudly. "What were you guys sleeping in? Cow shit?"

"You try humping your ass all over Mount Washington in a heat wave for seven days and see how you smell!" retorted Steve.

From out of the blue a pillow flew through the air and hit Stuart on the back. "You guys got nothing better to do than to wake the whole fucking world up?" snarled Greg. He sat up and shook his head clear. "And what is that Godawful smell?"

"Us," admitted Stuart.

From the far end of the Mess Harry gasped ostentatiously. "You guys smell like a whorehouse in distress."

"Ah, come Harry, give us a break. Please?" begged Stuart.

"Okay." Harry rolled over and stuck his hand down the front of his briefs, thinking of Stefan.

Todd sighed heavily and looked at Cory, who shrugged. "What the hell, we're up now anyway."

"So is the whole fucking Gunroom," muttered Two Strokes from the depths of his bunk. He was roundly ignored.

"First thing you do is go take a shower," Todd ordered. "I am not touching either of you smelling like that!"

"And burn those drawers!" Cory shooed the two Boatswains towards the showers. "How did you manage to get skid marks on the outside of your shorts?"

Stuart and Steve stripped off, giving the Twins a bird's eye view of their wind and sunburned bodies, lobster red except for the square patch of stark white skin where their underpants had protected their bodies from the elements and as the two Buffers hurried into the showers Chris rolled groggily out of his bed.

"Go back to sleep, Chris, you don't have to get up for hours," said Todd.

Chris stretched and scratched, yawned mightily, stood up, shook the sleep from his brain and absently scratched at his crotch. "Guess who gets to supervise the work party setting up the parade square." He pointed his thumb at his chest. "Little me, that's who."

"Not so little last night," murmured Cory. He began rummaging in his sea locker, snickering to himself.

Sputtering and snorting Greg crawled out of bed. "I might as well get up if the whole world is going to be tramping through here."

Cory turned from his sea chest and was rewarded with the sight he had been aching to see since Greg moved into the Gunroom: Greg's morning woody. Cory's eyes hungrily caressed Greg's wonder jutting from the slit of his boxers, almost seven circumcised inches of brown and coral pink, perfectly proportioned hardon, with a gentle curve to the right.

"Don't get any ideas," warned Todd, seeing the look on Cory's face.

"I can always dream," was Cory's murmured reply.

Greg had overheard the muttered words. He slipped out of his boxers, ran his fingers down the underside of his morning wood, smiled enigmatically at Cory (who was watching his every move), and winked lasciviously. He then picked up his towel and headed for the showers. As he passed Cory he reached out and gave Cory's testicles a gentle squeeze. "You can always dream, Tiger."

Cory was so shocked at having the tables turned on him that his mouth dropped open and he stared at Greg's departing back.

Todd guffawed loudly at Cory's discomfort. The louder he laughed, the angrier Cory became. Finally, Cory lunged, and they fell in a heap on the deck, arms and legs flying.

Calling each other every vile name they could think of the Twins rolled on the floor, engaged in a first class domestic.

The noise attracted Stuart and Steve who stood, dripping from their shower, staring at the Twins rolling around on the deck. Stuart looked over and saw Two Strokes and Thumper, each propped on one elbow, lying in bed, enjoying the scene. "You going to do anything about this?" he asked."

"Why?" asked Two Strokes calmly. "If those two ain't fuckin' they're fightin'." Two Strokes glanced at Thumper. "Bucket of cold water, maybe?"

Thumper shook his head. "Too far to walk to get it."

"Well, hey, you're the fucking Regulating Staff. Aren't you supposed to do something about cadets fighting?" demanded Steve. "They might hurt themselves."

Two Strokes sighed heavily. He looked over at Thumper. "He's right you know. We really should stop them."

By now the whole Gunroom was awake. Fred and Jon rolled their eyes and shook their heads. Harry, pretending that nothing unusual was going on, picked up his towel, stepped around the battling Twins and ambled into the showers. Nicholas sat up in his bunk. "Whatever you do watch out for that little fuck's left hook," he warned. He rubbed his chin, remembering the contretemps after the infamous ball game. "Cory's stronger than he looks."

Thumper shrugged at Two Strokes. "So, what do we do?"

Two Strokes got out of bed and crooked his finger at Thumper. "Follow me, watch, and learn."

Standing over the rolling Twins, his feet firmly planted on the deck, Two Strokes watched carefully, like a Kodiak hunting spawning salmon, waiting for an opportunity. Suddenly his hand flashed out and he grabbed the elastic waistband of Cory's boxers and pulled sharply upward, creating a magnificent wedgy. Thumper, a quick study, did the same to Todd.

Cory released Todd. "Ouch, shit, man, that hurts. Hey, you're crushing my balls!" he howled.

"Yeah, come on, let go!" yelped Todd.

Two Strokes twisted the material of Cory's boxers, increasing the pressure on his testicles. "Only if you promise to be good little Twins."

Faced with crushed testicles and a packed butt crack, the Twins agreed to stop.

"That's good little Twins," cooed Two Strokes. "Now go and shower and put on some clean clothes."

"Don't push it, Roger," warned Todd.

"And look who's talking about little," snarled Cory.

Two Strokes grinned and reached out to gently pinch the pale pink tip of Cory's penis that was peeking out of the slit of his underpants. He cackled lewdly. "You can always dream, Tiger."

Todd grabbed Cory around the waist and hauled him into the showers.

******

Showered and dressed in clean gym shorts, the Twins settled down to help the Buffers. Stuart and Steve, wearing white briefs, stood patiently while their bells were measured, writing off the light fondling they received as the price of doing business with the Twins.

The measuring finished, the Twins started sewing. The other cadets drifted off to breakfast. It was very quiet and they worked without interruption and were almost finished when Two Strokes came in and placed two covered plates in front of them. "What's this?" asked Cory warily.

"Something to eat. Go ahead, it won't hurt you." Two Strokes lifted up the covers to reveal bacon and egg sandwiches. "They're still warm, so eat."

"You're being awfully nice to us all of a sudden," said Todd suspiciously.

"Aw, you guys have been helping out a lot," replied Two Strokes, smiling. "I figured you'd be hungry so I brought you something to eat."

Todd thought back to the night of the baseball game. "You know, Roger, you're not quite the prick you pretend to be."

Two Strokes shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not. But I don't get paid to be nice. Besides, I want to be Master-At-Arms next year. Then I join the police force back home. I got my priorities and being nice isn't one of them." He left the table, sat on his bunk and began putting another coat of polish on his boots.

Val and Tyler came in and entered their Mess. Shortly thereafter they reappeared fully booted and spurred, two peacocks proudly displaying their plumage.

The Twins eyed the Chiefs and began clucking and fussing, finding minor faults. They made both the senior cadets take off their uniforms and re-ironed everything. Then, when Val and Tyler had dressed, they insisted on putting on and adjusting the high, patent leather gaiters each boy had to wear.

When both Val and Tyler were dressed to their satisfaction Cory stood behind Tyler and smoothed the stiff cotton drill.

"Cory, are you smoothing the wrinkles out or feeling my ass?" asked Tyler as Cory's hands moved quickly across his firm behind.

"Both," admitted Cory honestly.

"Well, I'll give you 15 minutes to stop it."

From what I heard last night ten will do you, thought Cory. He said nothing, however, grinned at Tyler and finished his "adjustments".

Todd, who was doing exactly the same thing to Val, laughed and pushed Cory away.

The Twins then turned their attention to Two Strokes. He had finished his boots and put on his new bell-bottom trousers and a clean, starched gunshirt. The Twins made him turn around so that they could examine the fit of his uniform. As far as they were concerned his bells were decidedly baggy in the seat.

"Two hundred guys here and we get the one with an ass as flat as the back of his head," complained Cory. "He can't go out looking like that!"

"What's wrong with it?" asked Two Strokes, turning his head and trying to see what the hell the Twins were going on about. "It's not that flat."

"Is so!" returned Todd. He gestured and reached for Two Strokes' belt buckle. "Okay, Big Boy. Shuck them. Come, on strip 'em off so we can fix them."

Two Strokes, much against his better judgment, and with a stern warning to the Twins to look, but not touch, began lowering his trousers, only to be greeted with a howl of outrage. "Oh, GAAWD!" Cory moaned. "Your briefs! They're grey!"

Two Strokes looked down at the ribbed fabric covering his privates. "So what? Who's to know? Besides, I don't have any white ones that are clean."

A pair of snow-white briefs smacked him in the face. "Wear those. They're brand new." Greg had returned from breakfast and was grinning widely at Two Strokes' discomfort. "I was saving them for my wedding night."

"A day that will live in infamy," muttered Two Strokes as he stripped off his grey underpants.

Val and Tyler snickered, watching as Cory muttered over the offending bell-bottomed trousers. Although he had seen Two Strokes naked many times before, Todd looked again and decided that Cory was right. Two Stroke's parts were small, but he did have a cute dick. Too bad he was planning on spending the rest of his life wasting it on ungrateful - and mouthy - females.

The Twins settled down to work. Out came the needle and thread, then the spray starch and iron. When Two Strokes was finally kitted out to their satisfaction they sent him away with a stern admonition not to sit down, not to bend over, and for Christ's sake not to take a piss because he'd get yellow stains on the crotch of his bell-bottoms.

"And that goes for you two as well," Cory shouted after Val and Tyler as they left the Gunroom.

Stuart and Steve returned, tempting fate by wearing only tight white briefs under their gym shorts, which they quickly stripped off at Todd's order. He then glared a warning at Cory, who recognized the look, and did not run his hand up Steve's leg as he held out the freshly altered and pressed trousers to the Baby Buffer. Steve had a nice little package that Cory mentally drooled over.

Their trousers approved, Stuart and Steve returned to their barracks. Greg disappeared into the showers and the Twins began dressing. Chris came in, threw a loose bundle of booklets on the table and began to strip off.

"What's this?" asked Todd, fingering the bundle of printed booklets.

"Programs for the service. I had to put one on every chair," replied Chris as he stepped out of Cory's boxers and reached for a towel. "It's going to be a scorcher out there today. We're going to roast in those white uniforms." He draped the towel over his shoulder and went to shower.

Cory began leafing through the program. He snorted from time to time.

"What's up with you?" asked Todd.

"Dirty Dave has dredged the depths for every Naval prayer he could find. Look, Psalm 107, Verses 23 to 30. 'To be read responsively,'" he quoted.

"What's that mean?" asked Greg, walking into the Gunroom wearing only his towel draped around his neck. He leaned over and read the page, his smooth, soft dick brushing against Cory's bare arm.

Cory gulped and resisted the urge to reach up and cop a feel. "It means Dirty Dave says the first verse, then we say the next, and so on," explained Todd.

"They even printed the words to the hymns," Cory pointed out.

Greg moved away and began to pull on his underwear. "What are we singing?"

"The usual. 'The Navy Hymn', then 'Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah'," replied Cory as he leafed through the few pages in the program.

Todd picked up the booklet. "Nice tune, nice words. Mind you, the version we know is better."

"Huh? Cory, can you do something with the hem on these things?" Greg was fiddling with the leg of his white bells. "The stitching is coming out."

Cory reached out and took the bell-bottoms. "We were on an exchange visit to England two years ago." He dug out the needle and thread and began hemming the trousers. "We had to go to some damp old church. We wanted to sleep in, but, oh no, no way, off to Church we went."

"The English cadets weren't any more pleased about it," continued Todd. "So they taught us some verses they knew and we sang them instead of the regular ones. It was a gas." He chuckled at the memory. "It also caused a shit-locker full of hurt to come down on us. Well, not us so much, the English guys, they got most of the blame, but it was funny."

Cory brightened and looked at Todd.

"Do we dare?" asked Todd, returning the look.

"Well . . ." began Cory.

Before Cory could get another word out Todd rummaged in his locker and pulled out a pen and a piece of paper. He sat down and began writing. "Greg, any chance you can get into the Ship's Office?" he asked when he was finished.

"Yeah, sure. What for?" Greg had not known the Twins for long but he could see the storm warning flags being raised.

"So you can photocopy this." Todd handed the piece of paper to Greg.

Greg scanned the paper and his eyes widened. Then, as he read further he burst out laughing. "Shit, Todd, you'll get your ass in a huge sling if you sing this."

Todd shrugged. "It's been there before." He raised his arms in an expressive "What the fuck" gesture. "If most of us do it, what can they do to us?"

"Sing what?" Chris, his shower over, leaned over and read the paper.

"Don't drip on it, dickhead. You'll smear the ink," complained Greg.

Chris read the words, his eyes almost bulging from his head. "Holy fuck, Batman!" He looked at the Twins. "You wouldn't dare."

The Twins shrugged their shoulders, and then looked at each other and grinned. "You said . . ." began Todd.

" . . . The magic word," finished Cory.

Chris groaned. "Fuck, I've created two monsters."

"It's about time somebody took responsibility for those two," returned Greg, grinning. "God denied it years ago."

"Here are your pants. Will you make the copies?" asked Cory, ignoring Greg's gibe.

Greg nodded, then pulled on his pants. "I'll do it," he said firmly. "I'll be back in ten."

After Greg left the Twins helped Chris get dressed, giving him a quick stroke while they did so.

Fortunately for Chris's state of mind, Thumper and Jon came in, and began to change. "Nicholas needs you to look at his jumper. He says the badges need looking at," said Thumper. "And can you help me with my gaiters?"

While Cory found Nicholas's jumper Todd helped Thumper with his gaiters. Greg returned and handed the photocopies to Todd, who showed them to the other cadets. After reading, both Thumper and Jon had to sit down. They had laughed so hard both feared doing themselves an injury.

"Don't say they wouldn't dare," warned Greg. "They will, and they are."

"This I gotta see," replied Thumper.

"And hear," said Jon.

"You will," promised Todd.

******

Mark and Tony, white uniforms hanging from hangers in hand, wandered into the Gunroom looking for an iron. Cory found the iron and Todd dug out the starch. The Twins pressed the uniforms, then ordered Mark and Tony to put them on and when the two American cadets dropped their shorts to reveal their tight, white briefs, Cory shuddered in ecstasy at the sight of their wonderful baskets.

"Don't mind him," said Todd. "He's on heat again. Just don't bend over."

Mark and Tony grinned foolishly. They didn't know if they should take the Twins seriously. Not that they could say anything. Mark still had the keys to the cutter. Todd showed Mark and Tony the revised song sheet. They immediately demanded copies. "We gotta get in on this, Todd," said Mark. "Old Broadhurst will pitch a fit."

"Or at least be scared sober," offered Tony sourly.

Then Harry barged in and dragged the Twins and Chris away to help with the New Entry Cadets. They spent the next hour fussing over Harry's Sea puppies, making sure that their boots were shined, that their silks were the proper length, that their white bell-bottoms bloused just so over their sparkling white gaiters, tying tapes and generally making sure that no disrepute would fall back on Harry if his charges were found wanting.

The Sea puppies were just as fussy, clucking over Harry, making him put on a new silk because the one he was wearing didn't look right to them. The Twins, and Chris, were judged adequate.

"You must look your best, Harry," said Stefan as he tied the tapes securing Harry's silk into a handsome bow, "because you are leading the Band, after all." He fussed about and pulled down Harry's jumper, smoothing the cloth. "Everybody will be looking at you, they always look at the Band first, you know, and did you clean your sash? I hope you did because it's a very nice sash."

He walked around Harry, his hand on his chin, carefully studying the handsome young man. "You look very handsome, Harry. Harry, have you ever thought of switching to boxers? Not that briefs are not all right, I wear them myself, you know, but I can see your briefs line under your pants and it sort of detracts from the overall effect, if you know what I mean. You have a very nice bum. Not like me. I have a skinny bum. But you do have a nice bum and it should look smooth and . . ."

"Stefan . . ." growled Harry, his loving smile giving the lie to his growl.

"I know. Stefan, shut the fuck up!"

"Stefan!"

The Twins, on hearing the exchange between Harry and Stefan, collapsed in a fit of giggling. Chris had to leave, barely able to control himself. The Twins joined him outside the barracks. "That kid has Harry wrapped around his little finger," chuckled Todd.

Cory nodded his agreement. "They sound like an old married couple."

"From the way that kid treats Harry I figure they're still on their honeymoon," said Chris crudely.

"What if they are? The kid could do worse than Harry. He could have fallen for Two Strokes," replied Cory, who had just seen Two Strokes and Jon turn the corner of the Sea Puppies' barracks.

"Did I hear my name mentioned?" asked Two Strokes.

"We were just commenting on how Stefan has sort of adopted Harry as his big brother. We think it is kind of cute," said Cory, all innocence. He had a very good idea of just what Harry's relationship with Stefan entailed and the last person he wanted to know about it was Two Strokes. Well, the second last. Little Big Man led the pack.

Two Strokes snorted. "I have a little brother. I only started looking at him as a person last month."

"What was he before that?" asked Chris.

"A fucking pest!" retorted Two Strokes. "Them little bastards ready?"

Harry loomed in the doorway of the barracks. "What did you call my little brothers, you skinny Kraut fuck?" he boomed.

Two Strokes backed away and held out his hands placatingly. "Just wondering if the New Entries were ready, Harry."

"They're ready, and no thanks to you, sperm breath," retorted Harry, scowling at Two Strokes.

This sally evoked a chorus of loud giggles from within the barracks. Two Strokes coloured and turned on his heels.

"Hey, Two Strokes," Todd called after him.

Two Strokes turned and glared at Todd. "What?"

"Does your little brother like you?"

"No."

Todd turned and looked at Cory and Chris. "Case closed," he finished.

******

The parade formed up in Divisions along the roadway outside the Mess Hall. As the Senior Branch the Gunners led, with the Gun Crews, the Signalmen, and the Storekeepers following. Behind them were the crews from the four YAGs, the Boatswains, the Engineers, the American contingent, with the Sea Puppies as tail end Charlies.

Across the road, with Harry to the fore, were the Band and two Colour Parties, one Canadian, one American. Kyle, resplendent in Class II white uniform, black patent gaiters, and wearing a gold hilted Naval pattern sword, carried the White Ensign. To his right was Brian, carrying the Canadian flag, to his left Dylan, who carried the Sea Cadet Colour. Behind them, completing the Colour Party, were Thumper, Chris, and Two Strokes, who was Guard Petty Officer.

Two Strokes, his uniform pants fitting him like a glove, carried a silver handled cutlass. The other cadets carried polished .303 Enfields, the metal fittings chromed for maximum effect. Hanging from their web belts and down the right cheeks of their well-formed butts, were foot-long, chrome-scabbarded bayonets.

The Americans were equally impressive. Ensign Berg, a curly-haired blond, carried the American flag supplied, along with the eagle-topped staff, courtesy of Nicholas, the Yeoman of Signals. Flanking Ensign Berg on either side were Tony, his summer whites freshly pressed by the Twins, and a young redheaded American cadet named Shawn. Both Tony and Shawn carried rifles with fixed bayonets, which they had borrowed from Gunnery Stores. In front of each Division was a Senior Petty Officer.

Fred, as Senior Regulating Petty Officer, commanded The Gunners. Cory and Todd led their respective Gun Crews. Nicholas, by virtue of his appointment as Yeoman of Signals, led the Bunting Tossers and Sparkers. Rob, as the Senior Storekeeper, led a small gaggle of Storekeepers and Hospital Attendants. Ryan, The Senior Engineering rate, stood to the front of the small division of Stokers and Artificers that kept the ancient outboards and diesels running.

Since there was no Deck officer, Steve was in charge of the Boatswains and would turn them over to Stuart when the call came for the officers to fall in. Greg, with nothing better to do, had been put in charge of the New Entries by Harry, with a stern warning not to let them fuck around too much. Mark, who was wearing USN short-sleeved tropical whites, jealously eyed Tyler and Val in their Chiefs uniforms, their gold buttons and crowns sparkling in the early morning sunlight, as he stood foursquare in front of the American contingent.

Formed beside the Band were the officers, Tyler and Stuart. Each officer held a gold hilted sword in a gilt encrusted scabbard while Tyler, the Senior Cadet, wore a silver hilted cutlass. Number One had all his gongs up, as did the American officers. They waited patiently for Val to perform his magic.

When the parade had been sized, and brought to attention, Val, magnificent in his uniform, which set off his olive skin to perfection, gave the traditional order. "RC's and Dissenters, Fall Out."

The Canadian cadets, knowing full well what lay in wait for them in Boatswain Stores, stood fast. The American cadets, knowing full well that the cutter needed a good scrub down, stood fast. Val smiled. They're learning, he thought.

As he waited for the Executive Officer to march out, Val surveyed the long column of white uniformed cadets. A strong breeze blew from the harbour, cooling the muggy air, toying with the blue, white striped collars the Canadians wore, and carrying with it the mingled aromas of starch, and cotton drill, and boot polish, touched with boy scents.

The uniforms were immaculate, every Canadian boot polished to a mirror shine, their distinctive round caps and short gaiters blancoed to perfection. The Americans were no less impressive, their uniforms just as pressed and starched, the high gaiters above their black, polished boots, scrubbed to gleaming whiteness, their Dixie cup hats bone-white in the harsh sunlight.

Val and Tyler, in their distinctive Chiefs uniforms, were glorious specimens of young Canadian manhood. Their spotless whites glowed with a faint aura. They had undergone a last minute inspection by The Twins. Cory was so impressed that he didn't even cop a feel, though he had a golden opportunity to do so when he smoothed the front of Tyler's brass-buttoned tunic. Todd, usually much less overt than Cory, had managed a quick feel as he smoothed the fabric covering Val's hard, melon-shaped bum.

The Band, fully aware of the importance of their role in the coming proceedings, were scrubbed and buffed to within an inch of their young lives, so much so that even Little Big Man looked good. The brass instruments, cornets, trumpets, French horns and tuba had been polished until they resembled rich gold. The silver plated drums, adorned with new, intricately woven, double, crisscrossed rope trails, had the deep, rich hue of fine old sterling. The drummers had all been issued with new white, chamois leather gauntlets, as had Harry, who stood front and centre of the Band, his white uniform crossed with his black and gold, richly embroidered sash. In his right hand he held the Mace, a long ebony and silver stick topped with a gilt globe, and the Crown and Lion of England.

The Executive Officer left the steps of the Mess Hall and marched to a position three paces behind Val, who turned about, saluted, and reported the Parade. Number One accepted the salute, and directed Val to "Take post".

When Val was in his designated position, Number One called for the officers to fall in. When they were in position in front of their respective Divisions Number One marched on the Band, then the Colour Parties.

When everyone was in position Number One ordered the Parade to turn to the right. Followed by Tyler he marched to his position, directly to the front of the Ship's Company, three paces behind the Band, with Tyler three paces behind him. At his order, the Parade began its march.

Two drum rolls and the Band crashed into the stirring Welsh music of "Men of Harlech". The Commanding Officer's Retirement Parade had begun.

******

The Parade marched forward and as the Band passed the last of the barracks blocks two double beats of the bass drum signalled the end of the music. With drums beating and colours flying proudly in the breeze, which had stiffened, the cadets marched onward, down the curving roadway that led past the Headquarters Building, the Drill Shed and the Stores Building, toward the parade square.

On the steps of the Headquarters Building The Gunner, dressed in his green uniform, Chef, in full cook whites with black buttons, a tall chef's hat perched at a jaunty angle on his head, Ray, Sandro, and The Phantom all came to attention. As Number One came abreast of the small group of spectators Harry raised his mace.

Two drum rolls and "The Maple Leaf Forever", which many considered Canada's true National Anthem, sounded forth, sending shivers of delight and patriotism down The Gunner's spine. As the Parade passed he turned to The Phantom. "When you become an officer, Phantom, keep those flags flying." He waved his hand toward the marching cadets as they past the Drill Shed. "That is what keeps it all together. It's the flags, the drums, and the marches. It's the tradition of it all. Never let them forget or lose their traditions, Phantom. Lose the traditions, the discipline, and it's just another job."

"I'll try, Gunner." smiled The Phantom. "I don't understand all of it, but I'll try."

The Gunner nodded. "I'll come over after lunch, starting tomorrow. I have some books and, if you're willing, I'll teach you everything I can. The Navy needs young officers like you, sharp, smart, and not afraid of tradition."

The Phantom glowed with pleasure. The Gunner put his hand on The Phantom's shoulder. "Every branch needs its traditions, its links to the past, its symbols. It could be the old RSM's Victoria Cross, or Nelson's christening mug, a plaque made from the copper bottom of HMCS VICTORY, or SPIKENARD's Spike. It's the Regimental March and 'Heart of Oak'. Always remember your past, Phantom."

"I will."

"Good." The Gunner turned to walk away, then turned back. "You look very Pusser, Phantom. You look very handsome in your new duds. You done good." He walked off toward the parade square.

******

The Phantom blushed furiously above his blue collared jacket. The Gunner's words were the final accolades in a day full of them. At Chef's request he had come in at 0800 and helped to set up the Wardroom for the Captain's Reception. When that was done he returned to the galley and helped with the cleanup. He and Ray had showered together and he received his first accolade when Ray had complimented him on the size and shape of his genitals. He had returned the compliment, not mentioning that this was the first time he'd seen Ray's parts in their natural state, in the full light of day and not raging hard or drawn up tight against his belly.

Later, as Ray helped him dress by doing up the high collar of his jacket, The Phantom could have sworn that the light pat Ray gave his crotch was intentional.

Later, in the Wardroom as he passed the sherry, Mrs. Commanding Officer and the wives of both mayors told him that he was very handsome. Mrs. Commanding Officer also complimented him on the scent that he was wearing and told him that she was very glad to see that some mothers brought their sons up properly. She looked pointedly at her husband when she explained that when she was a girl a gentleman always wore scent and that the faint odour of the violet scented toilet water The Phantom's mother had made him wear brought back many fond memories. Father, ignoring his wife and reeking of bay rum, looked him up and down, nodded smartly, and told him that he'd make a fine looking sailor. Even Matron, not known for her compliments, smiled at him.

The Phantom's short journey to heaven was ended when Chef cracked him on his behind and told him to get busy and start setting up for the luncheon that would follow the parade. The Phantom did not mind Chef smacking his fanny. He hadn't felt it at all. The Gunner had noticed him, had complimented him and that was all that mattered.

******

As the cadets marched onto the parade square the last of the guests, including the Mayors of Comox and Courtenay, The Phantom's parents, the Wing Commander from CFB COMOX, and assorted friends, filled the chairs set up behind the Sin Bosn's pulpit which was, in reality, the dais from the Quarterdeck draped with a White Ensign. To the left of the seated guests the Bugle Band formed a perfect square, the drummers ready to perform their part in the coming ritual.

Dirty Dave the Deacon fidgeted nervously with his stole, somewhat miffed at the restrictions the Commanding Officer had placed on his service. He had been told in no uncertain terms that his sermon was to be no more than ten minutes in length, as the day promised to be hot and humid, and he was to keep High Church 'flummery' to a minimum. The Commanding Officer's words of "No Popery, Vicar! No Popery!" still echoed.

Behind Dirty Dave the assembled congregation fidgeted, as they always did before a service. They looked like a flock of brilliantly plumed birds, all of the ladies wearing summery, print frocks, impossible hats and, a few of them, white gloves. The Mayors of Comox and Courtenay wore their Chains of Office, and the Wing Commander of CFB COMOX had managed to find an RCAF pattern dress sword. All of the men wore either business suits, blue blazers with grey trousers, or uniforms, many of the men, particularly the Legion members, proudly wearing the brightly ribboned battle stars and medals from the War and Korea.

When the cadets were in position the Vicar turned and nodded to Sylvain. The opening movements were about to begin.

At the beat of a drum the Bugle Band tenor, bass and snare drummers marched smartly to the dais where they formed an Altar of Drums and when the Altar was formed they marched back to their places in front of their band. The return of the Bugle Band drummers was Harry's signal to raise his Mace. The Band raised their instruments to their lips and began to play.

As the slow, mournful notes of Elgar's "9th Enigma Variation" sounded across the parade square the Colour Parties slow marched to the Altar, and knelt on one knee. They handed over their Colours to the keeping of the Vicar, who draped the colourful banners over the Altar.

When the Colours were in place the bearers rose as one man and returned to their positions in front of the parade. A hush settled over the parade square. The Duty Signalman raised the Church Pennant to the yard. Dirty Dave the Deacon cleared his throat, and began the Prayer of Invocation. The service had begun.

At the rear of the parade The Gunner and Doc Reynolds promenaded, keeping a collective eye on the cadets, waiting for the first fainter. Nearby, in the Medical Aid Station, Two Sick Bay Tiffys from CFB Comox stood by a table laden with ice water, orange juice and an assortment of restoratives.

As the service droned on it was readily apparent that the Vicar was not an inspiring speaker. Father, who was half deaf anyway, felt his eyes become heavy and drifted off, which earned him a sharp jab in the ribs from his wife. In the rear row of chairs The Phantom's father, who had worked all night, snored quietly, much to the disgust of his wife.

In the ranks the cadets, for the most part bored, chattered quietly, scratched, yawned and passed folded bits of paper from hand to hand. The monotony was broken when the first cadet - an American - went down with a soft thud. The Gunner had seen him wobbling and hurried to where he lay in a heap, scooped the small body in his strong arms and carried him to the Aid Station. He was much too busy to hear the giggling as the cadets read the pieces of paper that had been handed to them.

The service continued apace and very much in keeping with The Divine Service Book. After the Invocation the Vicar intoned the Prayer of Confession, followed by the Absolution. The Mayor of Comox rose from his seat and read Psalm 107, the congregation, at least those who were awake and interested, responding. Next, everyone stood up and The Vicar began the Naval Prayer. Two more cadets, one of whom was faking it, went down. After the Naval Prayer the Band stirred and played "The Naval Hymn", a stirring, heart-warming supplication known to sailors all over the world.

The breeze had picked up and the sound of the assembled cadets singing was clear, and very beautiful. The Twins, Two Strokes and Chris, had clear, tenor voices. Harry, Tony, and Jon were basses. Most of the Sea Puppies, not having reached puberty, possessed pure, boy soprano voices.

Stefan, who sang in the choir back home, was particularly effective. The hymn words and the singing voices were so emotional that even The Gunner got a little weepy. Mrs. Commanding Officer and, of all people, The Phantom's father, blubbered quite openly. When the hymn was finished the congregation sat down and settled back, making themselves comfortable. It was time for the sermon and those so inclined closed their eyes, preparing for a short nap.

Dirty Dave the Deacon had laboured over his sermon and had been inspired by the Navy's motto of "Fear God and Honour the Queen." He began his sermon, extolling the virtues of Service to one's country, under the auspices of Divine Providence.

As the Vicar waxed lyrical The Gunner and the Doctor walked slowly down the rear ranks of the assembled divisions, listening to the sotto voce chatter that seemed to accompany any parade.

"Jesus, how long is he going to talk?"

"As long as it takes."

"Well I wish he'd hurry up. I gotta piss like a race horse."

"Tie a knot in it."

"Shut up about pissin'. I gotta go so bad I got a hardon."

"So what else is new? You've always got a hardon."

"He IS a hardon."

"Shaddup!"

"I rather think we should have brought a bucket with us," murmured Doc Reynolds.

"True. The little buggers never learn to go before they go on parade," replied The Gunner.

They passed the New Entry Division, which seemed to be involved in a mass fidget. "Well I think it's all right, for girls, but as I said to Chief Harry you don't want to call attention that way, if you know what I mean, even if you do have a nice one, like he does, but then again . . ."

"Stefan!"

"Yes, I know PO Greg. Stefan, shut the fuck up."

"Stefan!"

The Doctor could barely control himself and The Gunner was not far behind. "That kid could talk Nelson's balls off the binnacle," said The Gunner as they moved past the Engineering Division, half-listening to the muttered buzzing of quiet voices.

"Is he still going on? What does it take to get him to shut up?"

"Stick your dick in his mouth."

"No way! He might like it."

"You sure as fuck would."

"For fuck's sake, you guys, keep it down. The Gunner's on the loose back there," warned Ryan.

"Bite me on my most tender spot."

"You mean the one between your shoulder blades?"

"Shaddup!"

The Gunner coughed noisily and the muttering stopped, only to resume when the cadets thought he was out of earshot.

"How long has he been talkin'?"

"Too fucking long."

"What's he saying?"

"Nothing intelligent if you ask me."

The Gunner and the Doctor retired, defeated, to the shade of the tent covering the Aid Station. "Now I know how King Canute felt," said Doc, settling into a chair.

The chatter continued all through the sermon, and only stopped when the Vicar did. Several of the cadets watched him cross himself and muttered the old, profane invocation, "Spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch."

The Gunner smiled at the Doc. who smiled back and asked slyly, "I wonder where they learned that from, Gunner?"

"Not me, honest," lied The Gunner.

"Humph. Look out, we're up for the next hymn."

As the Band played the majestic, stirring, introduction to "Cwm Rhondda", the hymn tune, the congregation shuffled to its feet and small pieces of paper appeared from pockets and from under jumpers.

Led by the Vicar's somewhat tinny voice, the assembly sang the first verse of the hymn, which differed somewhat from the words being sung by perhaps 50 of the cadets, led by Todd and Cory.

"Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah . . ." sang the Vicar. "Pilgrim through this barren land . . ."

"Life presents a dismal picture . . ." sang the Twins, and their cohorts, with Stefan and three of the New Entries harmonizing.

"I am weak, but thou art mighty . . ." intoned the congregation. "Hold me with thy powerful hand . . ."

"Father's got an anal stricture . . ." complained the cadets with vigour, "Mother's got a fallen womb."

"Am I hearing what I think I'm hearing?" asked the Doctor, astonished at the words coming out of the cadets' mouths.

"Wait, it gets worse," replied The Gunner, who had heard the Cadet Version of the hymn before.

"Bread of heaven, bread of heaven . . ." warbled the congregation, "Feed me 'til I want no more, feed me 'til I want no more."

"Sister Sue has been aborted for the forty-second time . . ." returned the cadets, "For the forty-second time."

"Dear God!" ejaculated Doc as the Band played the coda to the first verse. "Do they know what aborted means?"

"If they don't know now they will by sundown," returned The Gunner.

The Band changed key, and the second verse, loudly sung by the boy sopranos in the New Entry Division, ably supported by the tenors, reached the ears of a growing number of spectators assembled around the Aid Station.

Chef, The Phantom, Ray and Sandro had come out for a break.

"Open now, the crystal fountain, whence the healing stream doth flow . . ." trilled most of the ladies and only a few of the men in the congregation.

"Ours is not a happy household, no one ever laughs or smiles," sang the cadets, huge smiles giving the lie to their words.

"Let the fiery cloudy pillar, lead me all my journey through," asked the congregation.

"Mine's a dismal occupation, cracking ice for father's piles." complained the cadets.

"Strong deliverer, Strong Deliverer, be thou still my strength and shield . . ." the congregation begged the boon. "Be thou still my strength and shield."

"Uncle Joe has been deported, for a homosexual crime . . ." The cadets shook their heads sadly. "For a homosexual crime."

"Good Christ," muttered Chef.

"Not his part ship," replied The Gunner. He turned to Doc. "I hope you do have a bucket." He was laughing so hard he was crying. "I think I'm going to wet myself if I hear any more!"

Doc snorted in indignation. He glared at The Gunner and growled, "Not a chance! You're enjoying this! For my money you can go and pee up your back!"

"Um, Gunner, I don't remember that verse being in my copy of Hymns Ancient and Modern," laughed The Phantom.

"I should hope not!" grumped the Doc.

The key changed again and now it was the turn of the basses and the tenors, and within the musical range of most of the male members of the congregation.

"When I tread the verge of Jordan, bid my anxious fears subside . . ." pleaded the congregation.

"Uncle Jim has been emasculated, for the safety of the race," winced the cadets.

"Bear me through the swelling current, lead me safe on Canaan's side . . ." appealed the congregation.

"Sister Jean is so frustrated, no man's safe around the place!" grinned the cadets salaciously.

"Songs of praises, songs of praises, I will ever give to thee," promised the congregation. "I will ever give thee."

"Little Jim keeps masturbating, though we tell him it's a sin . . ." Two Strokes, Jon and Chris looked at Thumper and grinned knowingly. "Though we tell him it's a sin!"

Ray bent over; having laughed so hard he gave himself stomach cramps. Chef smacked his fanny and told him to behave. Then they looked at Sandro. "Don't look at me. I'm Jewish. I don't know what they're talking about," he said archly.

The final verse, for the congregation, was a repeat of the first. The Band, in finale mode, increased the bass, adding majesty to the notes.

"Guide me, O though great Jehovah . . ." the whole congregation sang. "Pilgrim through this barren land."

"Dad's a man who likes the bestial, incest is my mother's fun . . ." grimaced the cadets.

"I am weak, but thou art mighty," proclaimed the congregation. "Hold me with thy powerful hand."

"Anal-oral trends disgust me . . ." chorused the cadets righteously. "As preferred by Uncle Tim." Six Tims, two American and four Canadians, immediately regretted their parents' choice of names.

"Bread of heaven, bread of heaven . . ." the congregation maintained, "Feed me 'til I want no more, feed me 'til I want no more."

"I prefer a sixty-niner, he sucks me and I suck him . . ." The Phantom's jaw dropped. Stefan giggled, remembering, Harry blushed furiously and Mark turned and grinned at Tony, who grinned back. "He sucks me and I suck him."

Doc rolled his eyes and leaned back in his chair, his sides aching from trying to stifle his laughter. He leaned back so far that he fell over backward, which caused Chef and The Gunner, already convulsed with laughter, to laugh even harder.

The Phantom, Ray and Sandro leaped forward and tried to help the Doc to his feet. He slapped their hands away and snarled at the Chef and The Gunner. "You two are an evil influence on these innocent boys. You three . . ." he pointed at The Phantom and the cadets, " . . . are to respect your elders, and not pay any attention to those two reprobates. Now help me up!"

"But you pushed us away," argued Sandro, reaching out and pulling on the Doctor's arm.

"I'm old. I can change my mind," returned Doc with a scowl as Ray and The Phantom grabbed the Doctor's other arm. Together the three boys pulled him to his feet. "There is going to be hell to pay over this," warned Doc as he pushed away the three boys who were busily brushing the dust from his uniform.

The Gunner shook his head. "Not really. Only about 50 of the little bastards were singing, and the wind is coming towards us, so we got the brunt of it. Number One is tone deaf and they could have been singing 'The Teddy Bears' Picnic' for all he knows. Father is deaf in one ear and can't hear too well out of the other."

"There are still the American officers! They aren't tone deaf or wearing hearing aids," returned Doc, quivering with righteous indignation.

The Gunner laughed heartily. "Oh, I'll just tell them it's an old tradition. We always make fun of the service. Don't we, gentlemen?"

The Phantom and the two cadets nodded enthusiastically.

"Ensign Berg is an okay guy," continued The Gunner. "He also wants to stay on until the end of the summer so I'll whisper in his ear that I'll talk to Father and Number One. Guarantee him a job. As for Broadhurst, well, you and I can fix that once the bar is open. I figure with my gift of the gab and your Irish blarney, we'll talk him into thinking the words were sanctioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury himself."

The Doctor raised an eyebrow. "And what makes you think I'll participate in this charade?"

"Because you're bored stiff with nothing but aches and sprains and the occasional Delhi Belly to keep you busy," replied The Gunner. "You need something to exercise your imagination, so you'll go along with it just for the hell of it."

Doc waved his arm in disgust, but did not reply.

"'Tis true, Doctor, darlin'," put in Chef. He gave the doctor a huge grin. "Now then, you do spin a dip with the best of them, so you do, when you put your mind to it, and the Irish is on you!"

"Hush, the pair of you," admonished Doc. "Dirty Dave is saying the blessing. Phantom, where in the hell is my cap?"

" . . . Keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be amongst you and remain with you always."

"AMEN" shouted the cadets.

The Band Officer, who had been seconded from CFB Esquimalt for the day, marched smartly in front of the Band and raised his baton. On the down stroke the Band began playing his arrangement of "I Am Sailing", a song which the Band Officer adored and which he played at every funeral back home (he was a church organist). The Gunner hated it.

Kyle, Ensign Berg, Brian and Dylan marched forward, knelt before the Altar of Drums and received the Colours. Once again they stood up as and returned to original places, timing their arrival to the moment when the song ended.

Number One brought the Parade to attention and the Drummers began the slow drum roll to begin "God Save the Queen". The Colours dipped in salute to the Sovereign and with the final cymbal crash the service was over.

The officers then marched forward and took up a position behind the dais. As the Cadet Petty Officers took the places of the officers, the Commanding Officer moved to a position three paces in front of the dais.

Tyler, as Senior Cadet on Parade moved the Divisions into line and marched to a position in front of the Band. He gave the order for the Parade to March Past. With two drum rolls and cymbal crashes the Band struck up "Heart of Oak", the traditional Navy march. Father's back straightened. All the guests stood up and Mrs. Commanding Officer, as the Band marched past her saluting husband, began to applaud.

The other guests took up the gesture. Standing beside The Gunner, The Phantom watched as the Parade marched past, one long, perfectly aligned river of young men. He heard the music and the blood pulsed through him. Impulsively he reached out and placed his hand in The Gunner's, feeling the rough, warm flesh. He squeezed gently, half expecting to have his hand thrust aside.

Instead, The Gunner squeezed back. "Now I know." whispered The Phantom.

When the Band had marched on they released their hands and walked towards the Wardroom, trailing the others.

******

The parade over, the cadets had been dismissed to the monster lunch laid out in the Mess Hall. It had been prepared and set up by the catering department from CFB Comox and arranged by Chef, who had called in more than a few markers.

On long tables were salads, sandwiches, open and closed, and a huge duff table piled high with cakes, pies, tarts and cookies of every description. The Twins thought that if The Gunner didn't kill them all the sugar they planned on consuming would.

Chef, with nothing to do but complain about the complete lack of originality on the part of the caterers and the blandness of the food offered to the cadets, wandered about the dining hall listening to the inevitable complaints. He had long ago learned that a sailor - and it did not matter if he was in the RCN, the USN or, he assumed, the flaming Red Fleet - was not happy unless he was complaining about something. He recalled the story that had gone the rounds when he was a fresh-faced young recruit, which held that a downy-cheeked Midshipman, a mere stripling, had been skiving about the decks of his ship after the Grog Issue and overheard a group of stokers (it was always stokers) carping about the conditions on board the corvette.

Their complaints were bitter and harsh, to the extent that the Middie had scurried off to the Captain's cabin, there to relate, chapter and verse, everything he had overheard.

The Captain, being a man of experience had listened patiently and then fixed his young officer with a steely glare.

"Young Snotty," he intoned, "a sailor will complain about the pitch of the ship, the colour of the paint in his bathroom, and the stains on his underpants. A sailor is never happy unless he's pissed off at some officer, Chief or Petty Officer! It is a red letter day when I give him something to natter about!" He then gave the Middie a drink and a word of good advice. "When the sailors are complaining they are as happy as clams. When you don't hear them complaining, that's the time to come scratching at my chamber door!"

Chef, who always managed to find plenty to complain about, smiled as he walked through dining hall. Everybody was obviously very happy for they were all complaining.

The object of the cadets' displeasure was their boots, specifically the state of them after the parade. They had spent hours polishing the leather carefully, using a soft cloth, water and Kiwi shoe polish (it was always Kiwi. God himself could never convince a sailor that any other brand of polish would do the job just as well), layering the polish until their boots shone with a mirror finish, so sharp they could have shaved in them, not that any of them had so much as the fuzz of a peach on their pink faces.

Then there was the subject of their uniforms. White uniforms were a pain in the ass. Not only had they to be washed after every wearing, then spray starched, they creased and attracted streaks of dirt worse than their blue serge uniforms attracted lint. And of course they could not let an opportunity to complain about the parade slip by and the dullness of Dirty Dave the Deacon's sermon.

All in all everybody was very happy. As he passed the table where the Sea Puppies sat bitching Chef overheard one of them nattering on about how his feet hurt. His boots were heavy and the parade route had been long and winding.

This was too much for Chef. Parade? Why the little brats wouldn't know a parade if it rose up and kicked them in the fanny! All they had done was take a walk, and a short one at that! Why, the whole thing was hardly a parade at all, and certainly not a Church Parade. Why, when he was a lad a Church

Parade was a Church Parade and it was time the little darlings knew what was what! He plonked himself down in a chair beside Harry, who raised his eyes to heaven.

In the galley The Phantom and Ray heard the muted groan that rose from the Sea Puppies and knew without being told that Chef was off and running. Ray poured a tot of rum into a cup and handed it to The Phantom. Together they went into the dining hall, placed the cup in front of Chef and retired to a neutral corner to watch the show.

"You lot wouldn't know a parade from a pretzel," Chef growled as he squirmed into a more comfortable position, pushing Harry half off his seat in the process. "Why, when I was a lad a parade was a thing of beauty, not a line of gaggling boys strolling down a country lane! And we had uniforms that were the envy of the world! Everybody knew a sailor was about when we were up and dressed!"

"I guess that means he spent most of his time in his 'mick naked," opined The Phantom out of the side of his mouth.

Chef pretended not to have heard The Phantom and continued merrily on. "Why, if we didn't walk at least a mile, with drums beating and the flags snapping, why it wasn't a parade at all! And the uniforms! In my day a uniform was a proper uniform and an officer was a gentleman, and expected to dress as one!"

"As opposed to today, when they dress like they live under a bridge," muttered Harry to Stefan, who giggled.

Coughing loudly Chef continued on. "In those days an officer dressed properly, and his uniforms were tailor made, not at all like today, when they go into Slops and have a green suit thrown at them and everybody hopes for the best!" He took a sip of his drink and sighed wistfully. "Uniforms were something to be proud of back then. Gold braid was gold braid - French Braid it was called - and not the cheap gimcrack they have today! The buttons were real bullion."

"Like the buttons that The Gunner gave to Val and Tyler?" asked Stefan. "They are very nice buttons."

Chef glared at Stefan who shrank back, Chef's threat to spank him after he had dropped the tray of dishes, still fresh in his memory. "Yes, lad, they were proper buttons," said Chef. "Not like today, with everything plastic or synthetic. Why, in my day no one would be caught dead wearing a synthetic anything."

Sighing wistfully, Chef continued, "The uniforms we had, ah, lads, they were things of beauty! And not just one general purpose uniform. A proper officer had his regular uniform, then a frock coat, and his tailcoat with the buttons from his waist to his neck, a double row of them. Then he had his white uniform, and his oh, well, the list went on and on. Then the lads, now, we were sartorial as well! A proper sailor took his first pay and had a tailor made uniform done for him. And not a zipper in sight, not like today."

Chef stared at Harry, who was lounging with his jumper undone. "In my day there were no zippers! We pulled our jumpers over our heads and it took two men to get it on! Today now, everything has zippers! I'm surprised you don't have zippers on your pants!"

"Oh, but we do, Chef." Stefan stood up and pointed to fly of his bell-bottoms. "See, Chef, a zipper. Mind you, it can be very inconvenient when you're in a hurry, or if you're not careful after you've . . ." he blushed. "Well, you know."

Harry snickered. "That's not what Chef was referring to, Stefan. People of a certain age and Chef's generation call pants trousers and your undies pants."

Chef turned red and puffed up like a toad. "What is that supposed to mean, may I ask? How old do you think I am?"

Ray leaned over and whispered, "The Gunner says he has two days on God!"

"I heard that, Ray!" bellowed Chef. He glared at Harry. "People of my generation indeed!" he sniffed. "Now then, where was I? Ah, yes, the parades! Well, now, in the old days when we had a Church Parade we had a church parade. We had the drums, and the Guard, and the King's Colour, as fine a flag as . . ."

Once again Stefan could not help interrupting. "Which King?" he asked. "We had the Old King, which was George V, and then we had his son, who was George VI. Of course it could have been the old, Old King, Edward, but then of course they're all dead and now we have a Queen, so wouldn't we have a Queen's Colour because . . ."

Chef fetched Stefan a look that said if he didn't shut up he'd be dead! He glared at Harry. "Does the lad never keep silent?" he asked, a glint of danger in his eyes. "He's like a magpie on the Irish so he is!"

"He can be wearing at times," replied Harry contritely.

"If he keeps it up he'll be wearing my hand on the seat of his trousers," threatened Chef.

Before Stefan could reply or protest Harry quickly put his hand across the boy's mouth. He grinned sheepishly at Chef. "You were going to tell us how lucky we were that we didn't have to march in the parades that you did," Harry said diplomatically, ignoring the stifled groans that rippled around the table. Not having to listen to Chef spin one of his dips might just be worth Stefan getting his bottom spanked.

Assuming a hurt air, Chef tossed his head. "'Twould be lost on the likes of you," he said mournfully. "'Tis a sad thing, so it is, when the young take the mock of the old." He gave Stefan a steely look. "And show disrespect to their elders!"

Stefan wiggled out of Harry's grasp and insisted on giving Chef a hug. "Oh, no Chef, I didn't mean anything like that. I like to hear the stories of the old days!" he lied enthusiastically, for he also remembered the thunk of Chef's wooden spoon when he had rapped Little Big Man on the top of his head with it. "Please, Chef, I'm sorry and I would like to hear about one of the parades."

Chef, who knew a not too subtle snow job when he saw one, still allowed the hug and accepted the apology. He was aware that the boys only half-believed the dips he spun, and that they made fun of him behind his back, but he was also aware that the only way the boys would learn about their heritage would be if someone told them. They were usually much too impatient to read what little naval history there was available to them with most of it, in Chef's opinion, not worth the paper it was printed on because it was all cleaned up, expurgated pap that either glossed over the unpalatable truths, or ignored them altogether, such as the three mutinies, which the RCN and, later, the CF denied had ever happened. Or the VE Day riots in Halifax, which had been headline news across the country but according to DND and its public affairs officers never happened!

Everybody dwelled on the fact that the RCN had been the second largest Navy in the world in 1945, and done sterling service during the Battle of the Atlantic. Nobody mentioned that the RCN's presence in the Pacific Theatre had been paltry and the government, instead of ordering the reinforcement of the Naval units already there, had feared a mutiny and called for volunteers to man the ships, and as usual shilly-shallied and dragged its feet until the US put paid to the little sons of Nippon and the war was over!

Chef heaved an inward sigh. He loved the Navy and had, from his eighteenth year onward, devoted his life to the Service. But he loved truth, honesty, and honour more. He also loved to spin a dip and so he would tell his lambs all about the Great Halifax Church Parade.

******

Chef settled back and with his voice dripping with nostalgia, swung the lamp and began to spin his dip. "It was a glorious time to be a young sailor. The war was over at last," he reminisced, "and the boys were coming home. There were new medals coming on line at last, and there was a special swagger in every man's step and Halifax, dear Slackers, the Warden of the North, had that special glow that comes from history and the Navy. Ah, it was grand back then."

Stuart Bedford, a tall, lanky Sea Puppy who came from Halifax could not help observing that the city was not so grand in the middle of January with a Nor'easter howling in from the Atlantic and the wind blowing up your drawers!

Chef asked him if he knew what salt beef and hardtack was. Stuart admitted that he did not and was not in any tearing great hurry to find out. Chef told him that he would discover the delights of such fare if he continued to interrupt! Stuart wisely lapsed into silence.

Chef glossed over the events leading up to the Great Halifax Church Parade, particularly the VE Day riots. They really had no bearing on the tale he was spinning and why tell two good stories when one could be told another day? What mattered was that the War was over and the Governor General had decreed a National Day of Thanksgiving to honour the dead and laud the living.

Someone in Admiralty House suggested that a Church Parade was in order, something that had not happened since the death of the old King back in 1935 (here Chef looked stonily at Stefan). A Church Parade would also afford an opportunity to bring back the old ceremonies and uniforms, which had been mouldering away in moth-balled trunks since September of 1939, and to parade the King's Colour, which had not seen the light of day since it had been presented to the Royal Canadian Navy by the new King in May, 1939 (it had in fact been stuck in a display case in the STADACONA Wardroom).

Everybody agreed that a day of bread and circuses, with a parade, would go a long way to restore the somewhat delicate relationship between the town fathers of the City of Halifax and the Royal Canadian Navy. Unfortunately there were not too many people around who knew the protocol. It was not that there had not been parades, there had, but they were primarily funerals.

King's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions were hastily consulted, meetings were held, The Manual of Drill And Ceremonial was dusted off and an old Chief, all but in his dotage, was hauled out of retirement. Telephone calls and messages flew between Admiralty House and the Flag Building. Everybody was in a right dither.

"Sure and the Normandy Landings weren't as much trouble," opined Chef.

"Typical Navy," sniffed Val, who was still smarting over his gaff yesterday. "If you're going to do anything make sure that you inconvenience as many people as possible!"

"Well, that is true," agreed Chef reluctantly. "Mind you, nobody found it necessary to examine the penises of the prospective marchers," he said sweetly. "But then, a mistake that anybody could have made!"

Val blushed a deep red and shut his mouth. Point to Chef.

Chef continued on. The first, and foremost thing that had to be done was the date of the parade. After much consultation with the Met boys, which Chef thought included examining the internal organs of a dead chicken, mid-September was decided upon.

"Which was a very good choice," said Chef. "Ah, Halifax in September, a crisp fall day, full of sunshine with just a hint of a salt breeze blowing from the sea."

"And the fog, the rain, the sleet and the snow," muttered Stuart Bedford. "And that's only in the morning."

"Ah, now, Stuart lad, I do admit that the weather in Slackers is somewhat changeable," agreed Chef. "But you have to admit that on a good day a parade in September can be wonderful."

Chef's lips were formed in a smile but his eyes told Stuart Bedford that if looks could kill the gun carriage was rolling across the causeway as Chef spoke.

"Now, then," continued Chef, "The admiral had decided that a traditional church parade was what was needed. Not like this morning, where you strolled down a country lane to a revival meeting. Not at all. 'Twould be grand, it would, with the lads marching to their churches." He began to wax lyrical. "After six long years, with millions of poor souls dead, vast acreages reduced to wasteland, great cities levelled, the War was over. It was time to give thanks to Divine Providence for the great victory vouchsafed to the World. Ah, just the thought of it makes me shiver with patriotic zeal!"

Harry quickly slapped his hand over Stefan's mouth.

"It would be a traditional church parade. No man could complain that he had not been afforded the opportunity to give proper thanks," said Chef. "And it would be no trouble at all, for are there not at least fifty churches not more than a short walk from the main gate of the Halifax Naval Barracks?"

"Not to mention the North End Tavern, which is not more than a short bottle toss from the main gate of the Halifax Naval Barracks!" observed Stuart Bedford.

"My kind of church," said Nicholas. "Are they open Sundays?"

"Heathens!" growled Chef with a devastating stare. "'Tis no wonder the Navy is in the shape it is, what with heathens such as you leading the younger ones!" He turned in his seat and addressed his favourite cadet. "Raymond, dear boy, would you be a good lad and fetch me wooden spoon?"

Six Sea Puppies and David unconsciously rubbed the top of their heads.

"The big one," continued Chef, "the one I use to stir the soup with."

When Ray returned with the biggest spoon he could find, and after more head-rubbing Chef grinned, waved his spoon, and called for order.

"Ah, it was a grand day, and an even grander sight to see! First out of the gate was the Colour Party, with the King's Colour borne by a decorated officer, then the Guard, all brave lads from the corvettes and the destroyers that had only short months before braved the dangers of the sea and the violence of the enemy, then the Band, filling the air with martial music, then the rest."

Whether from the emotion of the moment or the effect of the rum he'd been sipping all morning, Chef pulled a napkin sized handkerchief from his back pocket and blew his nose, honking loudly and setting the overhead light fixtures to shaking.

"Off they marched," Chef intoned, "with the flags flying, and the drums beating and the bayonets fixed, as was the Navy's right, having been granted the Freedom of the City years before. Out the gate of the barracks they went, turning down Gottingen Street to begin their march through the streets of the old port city.

"They stopped first at the Halifax Presbyterian Church, and all the Calvinists broke off. From there they marched to the Gottingen Street Baptist Church, where the non-dancers and non-swimmers broke off. From there it was on to St. Mary's Basilica for the Catholics. With the bag-squeezers, and the non-swimmers and the Mackerel snappers dismissed to their churches, a much-diminished parade proceeded down Barrington Street to St. Paul's Anglican Church, where the main service was to be held. The assembled parade was dismissed and . . ."

Val, who recalled The Gunner's adage about sailors and loopholes, spoke up. "Why do I have the feeling that there's a big, fat 'however' coming up?"

Chef nodded. "However, there was a problem. There they stood, the Lord Mayor in his robes and chain of office, the Bishop of Halifax, with his golden cross and crosier, and Himself, the Admiral, all decked out in his medals, with his brown gloves and his sword in hand." He shook his head and grinned. "Aye, lad, there was a problem."

As Chef told it The Parade Commander had just hitched up his sword and pulled off his gloves when the Parade Chief Gunnery Instructor, smartly uniformed in the manner of all Parade Chief Gunnery Instructors, marched up, the hob nails of his boots sparking on the asphalt of the roadway and reported a problem. The astonished Parade Commander asked the nature of the problem. The Parade Chief turned and pointed.

Standing properly at attention in the middle of Barrington Street was a grizzled, bearded, sea-worn, three badge Able Seaman. He was dressed in his best rig, with gold wire badges on his arms, and the Military Medal on his chest. His eyes were clear and his boots were polished, and firmly planted in the roadway. He was obviously not moving any time soon.

The Parade Commander, not wanting to cause a scene, gently inquired of the Able Seaman the nature of his problem.

There was, the Able Seaman replied, no problem at all. This was a Church Parade, was it not? He was entitled, under the Articles of War to participate in a religious service of his choice, was he not?

The Parade Commander nodded in the affirmative and then gestured toward the church standing across the Common.

The Able Seaman was forced to shake his head. In accordance with KR&AI he was entitled to participate in a Church Parade, and to be marched to the church of his choice, there to give thanks. He felt constrained to point out that while Saint Paul's was undoubtedly a handsome church, with a unique and historical past, he was most emphatically not a communicant of the Anglican Church of Canada.

There then ensued a heated, if quiet discussion between the Parade Commander, the Parade Chief Gunnery Instructor and one Able Bodied Seaman who knew his rights. Regulations were regulations. He had his rights, so he did. He wanted to go to church. He was entitled to attend Church, and the Parade Commander, under the Articles of War, was commanded to ensure that he, although only a lowly Able Seaman, attended the church he wanted to attend! He had his rights!

What would the King, God Bless 'Im, what would His Majesty say if he heard that one of his loyal subjects, a rating in his Canadian Fleet, a sailor who had just spent the last five years getting his ass shot at by the Germans, what would the King say when he heard that one of his own was being denied his rights?

While the Admiral, the Mayor, and the Bishop fussed and fidgeted at the church door, the Parade Commander and the Parade Chief withdrew for a hasty conference. When they returned to confront the Able Seaman the Parade Commander was conciliatory and apologetic. The Able Seaman was stone-faced and obdurate.

The Parade Commander tried logic, reason, and the bribe of a seven-day pass. When this did not work the Parade Chief growled threats and promises of dire consequences. Nothing worked. The Able Seaman held firm. He had his rights! Every other man in the garrison, from Ordinary Seaman to Captain had been marched to his church! He was entitled to the same privilege!

The Parade Commander threw up his hands in defeat and gave the necessary orders.

With all the shouting and tumult that attended every Naval function, the parade was reformed and the congregation of St. Paul's Church watched in amazement as the Halifax Naval Garrison renewed its march back up Barrington Street, one Colour Party (the King's Colour, one officer, one Petty Officer and four ratings), one Guard (two officers, one Chief Petty Officer, one Petty Officer and 50 ratings, the bayonets on their polished .303 rifles glittering in the late morning sunlight), one Band (the seven drummers beating the Silver Drums presented in 1935 by the late King George V, of happy memory, to honour the RCN's 25th Anniversary and coincidentally his own Silver Jubilee, one Lieutenant-Commander determined to retire come Monday, two Chief Petty Officers and 38 ratings), the Parade Commander (four rings, wearing a too-tight double-breasted tail coat and cocked hat, and thoroughly pissed off), one Chief Gunnery Instructor (mentally planning on what he was going to do to the little fucker when he got him back to the barracks), one Company Commander (three rings and totally confused), the Marching Unit (one very smug Able Bodied Seaman who had been putting up with Gate and Gaiters since he joined the Andrew back in 1932, and who had his discharge papers in his locker back in A Block, so fuck 'em), one piper from the Nova Scotia Highlanders (to play the "Lament" and half-soused on 1000 Pipers Single Malt), one Company Petty Officer (who was laughing like a mad thing inside, and who knew a first class leg pull even if the officers didn't), and the ship's cat, with drums beating, flags flying and bayonets fixed, wandered the streets of Halifax in search of the North Halifax Church of the True Gospel (Reformed).

"And the moral of the story," Chef said ponderously, "aside from it being a good dip to spin, my lads, is be careful what you wish for as you just might get it. And if you doubt your old Chef, well, I can give you the name of the Parade Commander."

******

In the Wardroom the invited guests sat down to a table covered in silver, crystal, flowers and the finest china the catering firm hired for the occasion possessed, which so intimidated The Phantom that he took one look at all the finery and froze. The Gunner, who was attending much against his will, clapped The Phantom on the shoulder. "Just remember to serve from the left and collect from the right. When you pour the wine only fill the glass three quarters full."

"I don't know," hesitated The Phantom.

"You can do it. I did it when I wasn't much older than you. Just suck in your breath, let it out, and off you go. Besides, you only have to serve the Commanding officer and his wife. You're his Tiger, you know."

"I know. And I am not looking forward to it."

"You can do it. Just don't stick your thumb in the soup or your pecker in the wine."

The Phantom giggled, then smiled mischievously. "Geez, Gunner, to do that I'd have to fill the glass to the brim."

The Gunner snorted and nodded his head. "Me too, boychick." He patted The Phantom on the shoulder and took his seat beside the Doctor until it came time for the obligatory speeches when he slipped quietly away.

******

In the Mess Hall the cadets were gorging themselves, relaxing and eating. The Twins had gathered around themselves a small coterie. Mark and Tony, amazed that the additions to the Hymnal had so far gone unpunished, were griping about their pending move back to the cutter.

Greg and Chris were wondering aloud when the wrath would descend. Two Strokes was predicting dire consequences. At another table Harry and the Sea Puppies were misbehaving themselves, while Little Big Man, totally ignored, sat in solitary splendour in one corner.

Cory was absorbed in devouring a particularly large piece of chocolate cake when he became aware of the distinctive click, click, click of cleats on the tile floor. He stared at Chris who was staring over Cory's shoulder. "Don't tell me," begged Cory.

"Okay, I won't, but he's coming and I'm going." Two Strokes pushed back his chair and stood up.

"Coward," snarled Todd.

Greg, Mark, Tony and Chris remained seated. Two Strokes, aware that he was now a minority of one, sighed and sat down as the sound of the metal heeled boots came nearer.

Cory hunched his shoulders and slid as far down the back of the chair as he could. "Sweet Jesus, are we in trouble now," he muttered, more a statement of fact than a question.

"I have a feeling my life is about to flash before my eyes," said Todd quietly.

"More like the Kama Sutra, if you ask me," muttered Two Strokes.

"Nobody did," returned Mark, scowling. He was not overly fond of Regulating Petty Officers at the best of times.

The Gunner crashed to a halt behind the seated Twins, reached out and rapped them sharply on the tops of their heads. "Howdy, boys," he drawled.

Both of the Twins sat up, smiled weakly and looked up at The Gunner. "Uh, hi, Gunner. How they hangin'?" asked Cory, hoping to joke his way through what he imagined was going to be a very painful experience.

Todd groaned. Jesus, Cory, why not just stick your neck in his hands? he thought. That way he can choke you all the easier.

"In this heat? Low and loose, boychick," replied The Gunner, grinning. "Mind if I join you?" He waited for the laughter to subside. "I don't know if I should commend you or spank the pair of you," he began. "I used to think that I was a hellion. But you two take the cake."

"Are we in trouble?" asked Todd apprehensively.

"You going to kill them?" asked Two Strokes hopefully. Greg punched him in the ribs.

The Gunner held up his hand. "No, and no." He looked at the Twins, a merry twinkle in his eye. "You should be keel hauled for singing a dirty ditty on such a solemn occasion. But, fear not, for the waters have subsided, and all is well, so much so that Mrs. Commanding Officer wants a copy of your latest addition to the hymnal. She keeps a scrapbook and wants to add what she has taken to calling the X-rated Cadet Hymn to it."

"She does?" asked Mark, incredulous.

"She does," nodded The Gunner in confirmation.

"Well, I'll be damned," swore Chris.

"You probably will be," agreed The Gunner, "if you continue to keep company with these two."

"So nothing's going to happen, right?" asked Todd, hoping against hope.

"I didn't say that. Not at all."

The Twins groaned. "Here it comes," sighed Cory.

The Gunner grinned widely. "It has been suggested that we have a banyan on the beach tonight. And what's a good banyan without a bonfire? So, certain Twins, and assorted cohorts, will gather the wood needed for the bonfire."

"Ah gee, Gunner," moaned Cory, "where are we going to find wood. I mean there's some driftwood on the beach."

"That's a start. Check in the woods. There's bound to be a lot of fallen branches. I have the greatest of trust in your abilities." He stood up and gently patted their heads. "Now, go find the old Gunner some wood, like good little Twins." He winked at Two Strokes, and left to sit with Harry and the Sea Puppies.

Cory glared at Two Strokes. "Did you . . .?" he snarled, starting to rise, his eyes fiery.

"No, Jesus, no. Cory, I wouldn't do that to you," sputtered Two Strokes. "Honest."

Cory looked doubtful, but accepted it. "Well, we better go change. I'm not humping wood half way to Shangri-La in my whites."

As they stood up Tony looked at Todd. "Is there anything he doesn't know about?" he asked, nodding toward The Gunner, who was patiently enduring Stefan's chatter.

Todd thought a moment. "He knows a lot, and he keeps his eyes and ears open. Some things he pretends he doesn't know about. Which means he keeps his mouth shut."

"Such as?" as Tony as they left the Mess Hall.

Todd, who was aware that Tony and Mark had connected, somewhere, saw no reason to hide his colours. "Such as he is fully aware that Cory is desperately in love with him. Phantom, too, though he tries hard to hide it." He shrugged. "Me three."

"And he doesn't report you guys? I mean, in our Cadets we'd be gone so fast you wouldn't see us for dust."

As they approached the barracks assigned to the American cadets Todd stopped and looked at Tony. "In our cadets, too. But so far as The Gunner is concerned so long as we do our jobs and don't bother anybody who doesn't want to be bothered he's not going to make a big deal of it."

"Is he queer?" asked Tony, asking a question that Todd had been asking himself for the past month.

"If he is, he keeps it well hidden." Todd smiled at Tony. "I don't have some kind of radar that tells me who is, or who isn't. Myself, I think he's straight. For Cory's sake, I wish he was like us."

"Like us?" asked Tony suspiciously.

"I might not have radar, but I know the signs," replied Todd. He smiled gently. "I've been there, Tony. I know the signs."

"And?"

Todd shrugged. "Nothing, so long as you're careful and don't go around advertising the fact that you and Mark are sleeping together. If you avoid the queer bashers . . ."

"Little Big Man and Two Strokes?" interrupted Tony.

Todd nodded, his face solemn. "You learn fast. Yeah. Two Strokes isn't too bad but Little Big Man is out for blood ever since we exiled him. Just be careful."

Tony chuckled. "No danger there, Todd. We're moving down to the cutter so we won't be able to get together."

"Says who?"

Tony sighed heavily and said, "Well, fuck man, we can't very well make love in the mess deck. It's open and there are forty guys. Seeing us going at it just might raise a few eyebrows."

"Who said anything about the cutter?" returned Todd as a smile formed on his lips. "There are some places around this dump that you can use, if you're careful and know when to use them."

"Yeah? And where might they be?" asked Tony, a glimmer of hope forming in his eyes.

"Well, for starters, there's the Ropewalk, which is safe after 1800, when the sailing is over. A friend just might lend you the key."

"Are you a friend?" asked Tony hopefully.

"Do bears shit in the woods?"

******

With lunch over and the guests gone, the cadets settled into their normal Sunday Routine. The Americans cleared out of their barracks and moved back on board their cutter. The Canadians cleaned into sports gear or swimming trunks and went off to play ball or swim. Ensign Berg, ably supported by The Gunner arranged an exchange. The Supply Officer, Paymaster-Lieutenant Dickensen, was seconded to the cutter. Ensign Berg moved into the Wardroom, sharing a room with Kyle, and would be the Supply Officer.

The Gunner and Greg then drove over to the airport where they greeted the new draft of 18 General Training Cadets, and four new officers, two Sub-Lieutenants, Eddy and Armstrong, Eddy so young that he still had braces on his teeth, and two Lieutenants, Higman and Farnsworth, all ex-Sea Cadets and well versed in Sea Cadet ways.

Once the new arrivals had been more or less settled into their barracks and the Wardroom, The Gunner joined Chef in hauling the huge pots and makeshift barbecues down to the beach. Then they repaired to the galley where they cracked open a beer.

The Twins, with Chris and Thumper (Two Strokes having pled duty and fled to the sanctuary of the Regulating Office), scoured the beach for driftwood.

Harry, with Stefan dogging his every footstep, got a game of baseball organized, wandered down to the Boat House and looked over the cadets sailing in the harbour, then went off to the School of Music. Stefan followed and they spent an hour together in the Unwinding Room, as the musicians' lounge was named. Then they went into Barracks 5 to check out the new cadets.

Most of the cadets gravitated to the beach. The day was very warm and swimming was the recreation of choice. Since the beach was crowded the Twins found a spot quite near the verge of sea grass separating the beach from the roadway. Chris and Thumper had gone back to the Gunroom to conduct a serious deckhead survey.

Cory surveyed the swimmers and opined that Ensign Berg, who was laughing and splashing with some of the American cadets, with his curly mop of blond hair, flashing white teeth and clear, steel blue eyes, was a stud. His opinion was reinforced when the Ensign left the water, his swimming shorts clinging wetly to his slim hips, his most important parts clearly outlined.

"Bit on the small side, if you ask me," opined Todd.

"Not if you allow for shrinkage," replied Cory.

Mark came up and dropped down beside Todd. "What are you guys up to?" he asked.

"Just studying the scenery." Cory nodded toward Ensign Berg, who had flopped down beside Kyle. "Not bad from where I'm sitting." He grinned evilly.

"Oh, yeah," breathed Mark. "Andy's got all the right parts. I've seen him, and man, he is nice."

"Do you think officers do it?" asked Todd. "I mean they get horny too, don't they?"

Mark considered this for a moment. "Well, I guess they do. They're human, and well, why not?"

"Why not indeed?" Todd looked at Cory. "Sorta makes taking a commission look good, eh, Cory?"

Cory nodded. "If they're all like him and Kyle, I'd definitely consider it."

Mark chuckled. "You guys never give up, do you?"

"And you don't?" asked Cory.

Mark smiled. "Since Tony and me started, no." His smiled widened into a wicked grin. "To tell the truth, though, Andy can park his number tens under my bunk any time he has a mind to."

"Send him over to mine when you're finished with him." Cory lay back and clucked contentedly. "I sure do love the scenery around here."

"Speaking of which, here comes Tony," said Todd, indicating the stocky young Italian who was striding along the beach.

Mark stood up. "Say, Todd, Tony and me would like to borrow that key you guys were talking about."

Todd nodded. "It's in my locker. I'll give it to you later, at the banyan."

As Mark walked down the beach Cory smiled at Todd. "You are just an old softy, you know. "

"Never let it be said that I've stood in the way of true love."

They lay back and idly watched Mark and Tony throwing a Frisbee back and forth. Tony missed a toss and the plastic disc flew over the Twins' heads and landed on the roadway.

Todd waved to Mark, got up and retrieved the Frisbee. He tossed it back and called for Cory.

"What?" Cory was very comfortable and the view was to his liking.

"Come here, please."

Grumbling, Cory stood up and ambled to where Todd was standing. "What now? I was just getting comfortable!"

Todd pointed to the beaten down grass at his feet. "Look." "At what? It's a trail of some kind. Big deal."

"No, look, you idiot." Todd knelt down and pointed to a faint boot print in the sand. "This print is going that way." He pointed toward the Mess Hall and the other buildings. "It shouldn't be. If anything it should be going over there, into the woods across the road."

"Come again?"

"Cory, cadets are not allowed to leave the Spit, right?" he asked.

Cory nodded.

"So, if some cadet had a mind to sneak out for a night, though I can't think why, he'd have to come along the beach, right? See, the beach is lower than the causeway so the guys in the guardhouse can't see somebody moving along the beach. To get out, you go that way. To get in, you come this way."

Cory shrugged, not an all impressed. "Big deal. So some guy snuck off base, walked into town, and got his ashes hauled."

Todd shook his head. "Who? Not an officer. They come and go as they please. Not a senior or staff cadet. They're always here. And Tyler and Val are much too Pusser to even think of it. I think some guy is sneaking onto the base and that, dear brother, is who our phantom is."

"Balls!" sniffed Cory. "You see an old beaten down piece of grass and a boot print that could have been there since Christ was a Killick for all you know, and you add two and two and get twenty-two . . ."

Todd snapped his fingers. "That's it. You're a genius."

"I am?"

Todd pointed at the boot print. "It's a boot, a hiking boot. Look at the imprint. Who around here would wear hiking boots?"

Cory thought a moment. "Nobody. They all wear running shoes, or gummers, or sometimes sandals, a lot of the time no shoes at all." He squatted down and stared at the boot print. "I have to admit, you have a point, Todd. But really, that print could be old."

"No," replied Todd, shaking his head in disagreement. "We had the big storm, remember? It washed away everything. This print is fairly new. Trust me, I know."

"Yeah, right. Big woodsman Todd, the Last of the Mohicans," scoffed Cory. "The closest you were ever to the woods was when we went to that wilderness camp four years ago."

"So? I remember what your buddy Big Jake the Snake taught us."

"My buddy?" Cory's nostrils flared - a danger sign that Todd should have recognized. "Fuck off. He was a prick. He liked little boys to boot."

"You'd know. You're the one who bit him," returned Todd snidely.

"Talk it up, brother. You're the one who took up with that piece of trailer trash from the next cabin."

"He was not trailer trash," protested Todd, balling his fists. "He was a nice guy. You take that back, Cory, now!"

"Fuck you."

"Fuck you!" snarled Todd.

All thought of the boot print forgotten they lunged at one another.

The Gunner, dressed in his trademark baggy shorts and a white T-shirt, and The Phantom, who had changed into a pair of shorts and nothing else, were humping two picnic coolers full of beer toward the barbecues when they heard the shouting and tumult.

"The Twins are at it again, Gunner," sighed The Phantom.

The Gunner put the cooler down. He motioned for The Phantom to follow him. "Be careful. Don't let one of them get his hand up your shorts," he warned as they approached the brawling Twins.

The Twins rolled apart and The Gunner lunged. He scooped up Cory and carried him to the water and dropped him in. The Phantom grabbed Todd around the waist and hauled him, kicking and squalling, into the sea where they grappled and fell under the water.

Cory, never one to let an opportunity slip by, thrashed about and grabbed The Gunner's legs, pulling them out from under the man. The Gunner went down and Cory leaped on top of him. Much to his surprise The Gunner felt Cory's hand slip under his shorts and give his genitals a good feel.

The Phantom, who was splashing about trying to fend off the not really irate Todd, felt the same thing. Unlike The Gunner, he could, and did, retaliate in kind. He pushed his hand down the front of Todd's shorts and matched him squeeze for squeeze. "We can keep this up until we give each other a hardon, or we can stop. Which do you want?" he whispered in Todd's ear.

"We better stop." Todd released The Phantom and laughed loudly. "I guess were even."

The Phantom nodded and grinned. They left the water and sat on the beach, watching Cory and The Gunner. When he saw a very strange look come over The Gunner's face The Phantom knew that The Gunner had failed to follow his own advice and had not been careful. He laughed loudly and nudged Todd with his elbow. "Cory got The Gunner, didn't he?"

Todd rolled his eyes and shuddered. "If I know Cory, yes," he groaned as he shook his head.

The Gunner, who hadn't been groped in years, didn't know if he should be flattered or furious. He managed to pull Cory off of him and stood up. He dragged Cory to his feet, smacked him on the bottom and pushed him ashore. "Damn, it, Cory, you trying to get me hung?" he grumbled.

More certain now that The Gunner already was nicely hung, Cory composed himself and lied. "It was an accident. Honest!"

"Well, no more accidents! Please?"

Cory looked up at him and saw The Gunner was blushing furiously. He suddenly felt ashamed. "Please don't be mad at me."

The Gunner held up his hand. "I know. Don't say it." He placed his hand on Cory's shoulder. "It can never be, Cory. Please understand that."

"I know," whispered Cory. He pulled away and sat down beside Todd.

The Gunner motioned to The Phantom who stood up and followed him as he walked back toward the coolers. "He got you, didn't he?" asked The Phantom.

"Leave it, Phantom. It was an accident."

"If you say so."

"Don't be cheeky, Phantom."

******

As the sun began to set and dusk approached the cadets and staff gathered for the barbecue on the beach. The Commanding Officer, Number One, and the volunteer cooks - officers all - kept the fires under the huge pots of boiling water roaring. Others kept the fires in the makeshift barbecues tamped low.

Lobsters, prawns, T-bone steaks that Chef had kept hidden until tonight and potatoes roasted in the huge bonfire, together with a small ocean of pop, made a fine supper, made even more palatable by being cooked and served up by the officers.

When all the cadets had eaten their fill the officers, The Gunner, Chef and The Phantom ate, then helped with the washing up. Most of the officers left after a polite interval, some for the Wardroom, others for ashore. Doc had laid in a supply of wine, Chef had his beer, and he, The Gunner, Phantom, Kyle, and Andy Berg watched and listened as the guitars came out and the singing began, mostly fumbled attempts at current rock tunes, and a few camp fire songs learned long ago.

The cadets also sang all the Navy songs they knew, and by and large had a hell of a time. In the shadows the boys sat in groups. The Twins, Chris, and Two Strokes sat together just outside the ring of light cast by the fire.

Harry, with Stefan firmly at his side, sat next to Greg. Next to Greg sat a General Training Cadet, one of the new arrivals who had, willy-nilly, decided that Greg was going to be his big brother (or more, if he could arrange it), for the next fortnight. He had stumbled as he came off the airplane and fallen into Greg's arms.

"Who are you?" Greg had asked.

"OrdinaryCadetStephenTylerPerkins, SIR!" the cadet had shouted in a rush as Greg helped him to his feet.

"Slow down, dickhead."

"Sorry, SIR!" Cadet Perkins had replied.

Greg had glared at him and then asked for his cap, which the cadet reluctantly removed and handed to him. Greg gave the new arrival a sharp rap on the top of his head with the cap and then said as he handed the cap back, "Don't call me sir! My parents are married and I work for a living," he had ordered. "Now, tell me your name, slowly, and then we'll go get your luggage. And you're not hurt, are you?"

For the first time since starting out from Quebec City, Ordinary Cadet Perkins had been treated with some semblance of courtesy and caring. Later Greg had helped him sort out his paperwork and get settled in Barracks 5. He immediately attached himself to Greg.

They sat on he beach, Stephen Tyler, as he insisted on being called, as close to Greg as he could get, huddled under a blanket, as the night air had set in and the temperature, finally, had plummeted. Harry, who had the foresight to bring a jacket, had draped it over Stefan's shoulders. "You're not cold, are you, Stefan?" he asked solicitously.

Stefan cuddled as close to Harry as he could, snuggling, one hand firmly around Harry's waist, the other hand playing idly with the hairs on Harry's legs. "I'm fine, my Harry. Honest." He smiled warmly, the light from the fire dancing off his spectacles.

Stephen Tyler had both his arms around Greg's waist. Greg had one arm around the boy's shoulders. "You okay, kid?"

"As long as I'm with you, I am, PO Greg."

"Stephen Tyler, you're not going to get all funny on me, are you?"

Stephen Tyler nestled his head against Greg's chest. "Only if you want me to."

Harry snickered. "Get out of that one, fool," he muttered.

Greg squeezed Stephen Tyler. "We are going to talk, you and I, me son."

Kyle and Andy Berg, blankets draped over their shoulders, drank beer and observed the cadets. "That doesn't bother you?" asked Andy, indicating Harry and Greg and their cadets.

Kyle shrugged. "Why should it? Unless you're reading into it something that isn't there." He reached into the cooler and handed Andy another beer. "The senior cadets look after the younger ones. They keep them from getting lonely, listen to them when they need someone to listen to them and generally help them out. It's no big deal." He chugalugged a huge draught of beer, belched, and then said, "If anything, it's a pain in the ass for the seniors. How would you like to have some young kid dogging your every step?"

"I could, if I wanted it to." Andy sipped his beer. "See that redheaded kid? He's a Navy brat. Only child and Daddy's away at sea too much. He's from Charleston, is 13, and has moved every three years to a different base. He thinks he's in love with me."

Kyle laughed. "I know the feeling well. That dark haired kid, sitting beside the Twins? He's from my home unit and I know he's in love with me."

"That doesn't bother you?"

Kyle shook his head. "Not really. I'm sort of flattered. But he knows I'm not into teenage boys, so he's cool about it." He shrugged. "What happens next year is an entirely different thing altogether."

"What happens then?"

"He leaves the Cadets and will probably join the Naval Reserves. He's already applied for Queen's, which is where I read English and History and, unless I miss my guess, will probably go for his commission."

"Which puts him in the same Wardroom with you."

Kyle nodded. "Plus we go on joint exercises with the Reserves all the time. I'd be seeing him two or three times a week, maybe sharing a cabin or a tent with him."

"Well, there's nothing wrong with what my uncle, the priest, used to call a special relationship," said Andy quietly, his words heavy with meaning. "As long as you're discreet, who's to know?"

Kyle stared at Andy. "Since we're sharing a cabin, maybe you should tell me if you're planning on having a 'special relationship' with anyone while you're up here."

Andy stretched out his legs and scratched his stomach. He turned and looked at Kyle. "That's not up to me. But, since we do share a cabin, yeah, I just might, if the right guy comes along." He took a swig of beer. "You still want to share a cabin?"

"Only if you get rid of those awful red paisley briefs you've got on underneath your shorts. God, are they awful." Andy raised his bottle and toasted Kyle.

"I don't know, Kyle, I'm awfully fond of them. It will take some doing to get them off."

Kyle returned the toast. "Oh, I don't know about that."

******

As the night progressed more and more cadets left the beach, heading for bed. Mark and Tony slipped away, the key to the Ropewalk in the pocket of Mark's shorts. Kyle grabbed a couple of bottles of wine and he and Andy went off to their cabin, there to sample the vintage.

Chef looked sadly at the empty cooler and announced that, since the beer was gone, so was he. The Gunner agreed. "It's time I wasn't here. And a certain Captain's Tiger is more than ready for his bed." He nodded towards The Phantom, whose head was drooping, his eyes closed. "Come on, boychick, I'll take you home."

The Gunner prodded The Phantom, who awoke with a start. "I can call my dad," mumbled The Phantom sleepily.

"No, you can't. Let's go." The Gunner walked over to Tyler, told him that he had the Watch, and together with Chef and The Phantom left the beach.

Chris leaned over and whispered to Cory that he had the keys to Boatswain Stores, Stuart and Steve having long since hit their racks.

"Todd, I'm going to bed," Cory told his brother loudly.

Todd nodded, knowing that Cory would be nowhere near his bunk until as near to Lights Out as he, or Chris, could manage "Sweet dreams," he replied, maintaining the fiction. "I think I'll stick around for a while."

Cory said goodnight, as did Chris, and together they left the beach. So far as any of the others were concerned Cory and Chris were headed for their beds.

The other cadets moved down, closer to the fire. Greg noticed that Stephen Tyler was fast asleep. Stefan, while awake, was drowsy. Thumper, an old veteran Queen's Scout, began to tell a ghost story, so full of blood and gore that Stefan huddled closer to Harry and all but ripped the hair from his leg. It did not help matters that just as Thumper finished his story a peal of thunder crashed over the Spit, waking Stephen Tyler and causing

Shawn and the two American Tims to move closer to the fire and huddle together for safety.

Two Strokes, not to be outdone, told a convoluted story about spirits with heads, spirits with no heads, as replete with blood as Thumper's story had been.

Todd, wanting to test the waters, and find out just what, if anything, some of the other cadets might know about the phantom visitor, also told a story. "You guys know that the Spit is haunted, don't you?" he asked.

To a chorus of nos, and get out of heres, he continued. "It's true. The Spit is haunted."

Todd settled back to spin his biggest dip ever. "Long before the English used this place, the Spanish used to sail up and down the coast and, so the story goes, in 1715 they exiled a sailor here. They tied him to some stakes and sailed away."

"Why'd they do that?" asked Thumper, falling into Todd's trap.

"He was accused of pederasty with the Captain's servant. The cabin boy."

"What's pederasty?" asked Stephen Tyler.

"Oh, I know." piped Stefan. "That's when a guy sticks . . ."

"Stefan . . ." muttered Harry as he gave Stefan a sharp squeeze.

"I know. Stefan, shut the fuck up." Stefan leaned around Harry and looked at Stephen Tyler. "I'll tell you later."

"You do and it won't be Chef giving you a spanking, it will be me," threatened Harry.

Stefan saw the look in Harry's eye and snuggled closer. "Okay, Harry."

"May I go on?" asked Todd huffily.

"Please do," replied Harry, matching Todd's sarcastic tone.

"Thank you. Anyway, according to the legend, the sailor was all tied to these stakes, no water, and no food, pecked at by the birds, for days. When the Indians finally found him he was almost dead. So he told the Indians that he'd get his revenge."

"How could he do that?" asked Two Strokes. "You said he was Spanish."

"He spoke Indian," explained Todd glibly. "The Spaniards traded all up and down the Island, you know."

"Bullshit."

"No, it's true. I wouldn't lie to you. Anyway, he swore that he would stay on the island forever, and when the moon was full he would take his revenge on a young sailor, take his fluid out of him, and live on. Forever. So every time there's a full moon a long-dead Spanish sailor walks the Spit, looking for a young sailor, and when he finds one that looks like that cabin boy, he takes his fluid from him."

"What this crap? What do you mean 'he takes his fluid from him'? What the fuck fluid are you talking about?" demanded a totally sceptical Two Strokes.

"The fluid of life," replied Todd with a ghostly moan. "The fluid that only a male can produce." Todd didn't know where he had read that, but thought that it sounded good.

"You're making this up as you go along," accused Two Strokes. "Give me a break."

"And just how does this ghost take the fluid? Beat the kid off?" asked Thumper.

"Nooo," groaned Todd. "He sucks the fluid from the boy's body, and when he's done he goes back to the Underworld, to Davy Jones' Locker. But he only takes the life essence from those young sailors who look like the cabin boy who betrayed him. Anybody else he's not allowed to do that to."

"So he sucks the guy off and swallows his cum," insisted Thumper, wondering when the next full moon was.

"Todd, that is so much bullshit!" exploded Two Strokes. "I never heard of such a thing. You really expect us to believe that some ghost comes around once a month and sucks some guy off, just so's he can eat his cum and live?" He grimaced. "You really expect us to believe that some phantom, some ghost of a Spanish sailor, is running around the ship wanking guys."

"It's true," murmured Anson, who had been listening carefully. "There's a ghost, and he does. I mean, so I heard, because . . ."

"Jesus, another nutter heard from," interrupted Two Strokes with disdain.

"I suppose the next thing you'll say is that he did you!"

"Oh, no, not me," answered Anson quickly. "But my cousin, he was here last year and he told me that someone told him that someone was beating guys off in their sleep."

"Well I was here last year and I never heard anything like that, at all," said Nicholas firmly. "Sounds like wishful thinking on your cousin's part."

Two Strokes rolled his eyes. "So now, not only do I have to put up with you clowns, a record heat wave, Cory, and probably a cyclone before the summer's out, I have to worry about some phantom wanker sneaking into the Gunroom and molesting me in my sleep." He snorted in disgust.

"You don't have to worry," retorted Nicholas with a mean chuckle.

"And why not?"

"You're dick is too small and you don't look Spanish."

Two Strokes was not at all pleased with the laughter that followed Nicholas's remark.

"Now, with me, this phantom Spaniard had better look out." Nicholas spread his legs and grabbed his crotch. "I'll be waiting with my legs spread, my knickers off, and my dick up. If the critter wants the fluid of life I've got about five gallons just waiting for him."

"Nicholas, that's gross!" snapped Greg. "Jesus, man, there are young kids here."

"What kids?" asked Stefan sleepily. Harry shushed him.

"Gross or not, I'll still be waiting," returned Nicholas, an evil grin on his face.

Two Strokes looked thoroughly disgusted. "Really, Nicholas, the kids?" He nodded toward the sleeping boys.

"It's okay, they're both asleep." Harry cradled Stefan in his arms and stood up. "Todd, you really are the biggest bullshitter I know." Harry shook his head. "The Phantom Wanker of Aurora, what a laugh."

Greg stood up and pushed Stephen Tyler over his shoulder as if he were a sack of wheat. "This kid will make a good sailor." He smacked Stephen Tyler's bottom. "Sleeps like a log." He gave Todd a huge grin. "You know, Todd, you had me, you really had me. Until you said 'The Cabin Boy.' Then I knew you were bullshitting."

"How's that?" Todd asked.

"The cabin, boy the cabin boy, the dirty little nipper . . ." sang Greg.

The other cadets laughed and took it up " . . . he stuffed his ass with broken glass and circumcised the skipper."

Greg waggled his eyebrows at Todd. "North Atlantic Squadron, Verse 101." He nodded to Harry and they walked off to put their charges to bed.

Two Strokes slapped his forehead. "I should have known. You fucker, Todd."

The cadets stood up and overhauled the fire, dusted the sand from their shorts and then headed for their bunks.

Todd made a point of staying behind claiming that someone had to make sure the fire was out. He had spent a good hour thinking. Whoever the phantom was, he was real, and had been for at least two years. He was also safe. Todd suspected that from the tone of Anson's denial he had been visited by the boy he now thought of as the phantom. Todd knew of at least six guys who had been blown, or wanked by the phantom visitor. Not one of them would admit it, if Anson were any indication.

He left the beach, plodding wearily toward the Gunroom, more than ever determined to find out just who the phantom was.

******

The Phantom was very quiet on the ride home. As The Gunner turned the car and headed into town The Phantom spoke. "Cory loves you very much."

"I know. And I thought you were asleep."

"I'm not and I love you, too." There, it was out in the open.

The Gunner gripped the steering wheel tightly. He had been dreading this moment for a long time. "Phantom, I can only tell you what I told Cory. It can never be."

"I know that," replied The Phantom quietly. "I'm willing to take whatever you give me."

"All I can give you is my friendship."

"That's all I need."

The Gunner exhaled loudly. "You're taking this all rather calmly."

The Phantom stared out the window. "Neither Cory nor I can help the way we feel. I wish we could, but we can't. Cory groped you for a reason. Now that he knows what he wanted to know, he won't bother you again."

"What did he want to know?"

"That's for him to explain. Sorry, but all I can say is that he knows now what he wanted to know, and he won't bother you again."

"And you?"

"I won't be sticking my hand up your shorts, if that's what you mean. Like I said, I'll take what you give me. If it's just friendship, that's okay."

The Gunner pulled to a stop in front of The Phantom's house. He turned and looked at the boy. "I wish, sometimes, that I could give you what you want. But I can't. It's not you, it's not Cory, it's me. In my own way I will return your love. Maybe not in the way you'd want me to, but I will return it."

The Phantom turned in his seat and smiled. Then he leaned over and kissed The Gunner deeply.

For a few brief moments The Gunner allowed the kiss, wanting it to continue. Then he pushed The Phantom away. "Phantom . . ." he began gently.

"Please, Gunner, don't," asked The Phantom. "I'm not at all sorry I kissed you. It's all I'll ever have of you." He got out of the car and leaned in. "Will I see you tomorrow?"

"Of course. And Phantom?"

"Yes?"

"For what it's worth, if things were different, we wouldn't have stopped at a kiss."

"I know. But things are different. Goodnight, Gunner. I love you." He closed the door and walked into the house.

******

When The Gunner arrived home he picked up the telephone and dialled the number in Vancouver. He let it ring for a long time before he put the handset down.

******

The Americans sailed at dawn and things returned more or less to normal. The cadets went to class, paraded, and practiced for their next big function, the Ceremony of the Flags in Victoria, which would occur on the first Monday in August. The Gunnery cadets, including Val, Brian and Dylan, went off for their Venture training. Chris and Tyler, along with Sub- Lieutenant Eddy, the new Gunnery Officer, went off for a three-day steam with the YAGs to learn ship handling.

Each night the Twins lay in wait, hoping that The Phantom would return, not knowing that he confined his visits to Ray and Rob. With Brian, Dylan, Val and Tyler gone The Phantom had decided to lie low for a while. He had also heard about Todd's ghost story and was waiting to see what, if anything, would come of it.

With Sub-Lieutenant Eddy on board, The Gunner returned to his training duties. He sat with The Phantom every lunch hour, talking and teaching him as much Naval tradition and lore as he could. He never mentioned their kiss.

Todd and Cory, with Chris gone, enjoyed each other's company. They missed Chris more than they had realized. Still, they had each other, and were happy.

Kyle and Andy Berg during the day were normal, competent officers. Andy even managed to get along with Chef. At night Kyle and Andy were lovers.

Stephen Tyler, when he wasn't in class, or playing sports, or in bed, was with Greg. He worshiped the tall, competent young Petty Officer. Up to a point Greg returned Stephen Tyler's affection.

Harry was the happiest he had ever been. He adored Stefan, pure and simple. Each evening, after Secure, they would join the other cadets in the baseball and soccer games that The Gunner or Kyle organized. Twice they went sailing on the bay, Harry teaching Stefan how to be a safe and competent sailor. After Secure they went to the School of Wind. Harry, as Drum Major, had the keys to the school and they would go into the Unwinding Room, and love each other.

Stefan was as curious as a monkey. Their first night together he had stripped Harry naked, and explored every inch of his body, feeling the warm, hard-fleshed, hair-dusted orbs that formed Harry's ass, sniffing Harry's armpits, fascinated at the amount of hair around Harry's penis. He masturbated Harry just to see how far Harry's ejaculate would carry. He licked Harry's erection as if it were a Popsicle, amazed at the taste. He loved nuzzling Harry's testicles. He also liked to just lie on top of Harry, purring as Harry caressed his smooth skin. Once they just lay together as Stefan told Harry all his plans, all his secrets.

Stefan enjoyed lying between Harry's legs and rubbing his cocklet against Harry's balls and hard cock, squawking when he spermed, as he called it, and crowing when Harry, stimulated by Stefan's rubbing body, squirted great streams of semen over both of them. He also enjoyed it when Harry took Stefan's cocklet and balls, which fit to a tee, into his mouth. Stefan would pant like a puppy, mutter "Oh MY," when he ejaculated, and collapse, purring, on Harry's chest.

And he never shut up. He insisted that Harry looked better in boxers, and cajoled him into asking The Phantom to do the necessary shopping. He insisted on telling Harry everything he had done during the day, and they always just had to have a post-game inquest every time they took to the playing fields.

Harry adored him.

They both forgot that while Harry was on board for the duration Stefan, as a New Entry Cadet, would leave on Friday. In a way, neither one of them quite admitted that what they had together was going to end.

******

It was Friday, and a day of good-byes. The New Entry graduation parade was over, the Boatswain Calls handed out. It was time for them to leave. The bus, motor running, was waiting outside of the Headquarters Building, to take the 38 cadets to CFB Comox, where they would board their flight for home.

At one end of Barracks 6 Todd and Cory loitered. At the other end of the barracks Chris and Greg sat idly on the stoop. To any casual passer-by they were just killing time, taking life easy, waiting for the afternoon routine to begin. Actually, they were standing guard as Harry said good-bye to Stefan.

Inside the barracks Harry sat on Stefan's bunk, helping him pack away the last of his clothing. As Stefan handed him the garments Harry placed them in the green canvas kit bag that stood gaping beside him. They were almost done. Underwear, briefs, mostly white, but some black and navy, socks, black, and grey wool, neatly rolled, finally, gunshirts, stiff with starch.

"You haven't forgotten anything, have you?" asked Harry as he pulled the drawstrings and closed the bag. "Didn't leave any of your underpants lying around anywhere?"

Stefan giggled and sat down beside Harry. He put his arm around Harry's waist, and then laid his head against his muscular chest.

Harry stroked Stefan's head, feeling the soft hair. "So, this is goodbye," he murmured.

Stefan nodded, then looked at Harry, his grey eyes behind the rimless spectacles brimming. " I love you, my Harry."

"I know." Harry kissed the top of Stefan's head. "I love you too."

Stefan buried his head in Harry's chest, sobbed once, and then pulled away. He stood up and wiped the tears from his face. "I'm not crying, Harry. Guys don't cry, do they? I'll cry when I get home, when no one is around. My mother always says that you cry in private and . . ."

"Stefan . . ."

"I know, Stefan, shut the fuck up!" He laughed and hugged Harry.

"Your language is deplorable," admonished Harry gently. His embrace tightened and the fresh, clean smell of boy filled his nostrils. "God, I love you!"

Stefan kissed Harry then wiggled out of the embrace. He traced his finger along Harry's strong jaw, then along his lips. "Thank you for loving me, my Harry."

They could hear loud voices outside as Two Strokes and Thumper hustled the other cadets along. The bus would not wait forever. "You have everything?" asked Harry, his throat tight. He picked up Stefan's kit bag. "Travel orders? Money? You need some money?"

Stefan reached into his locker and pulled out a long brown envelope. He showed it to Harry. "I have everything. And I don't need any money. My folks are picking me up at the airport in Edmonton." He grimaced. "My sister will be there, too. She's a bitch."

"Stefan!"

"Well she is," he insisted stubbornly.

Harry laughed and rubbed the back of his hand along Stefan's smooth cheek. "I will always love you, Stefan. You know that, don't you?"

"I know, my Harry."

Harry could feel the tears rising. He stood up and held out his hand. "It's time."

Stefan smiled shyly. "You don't have to hold my hand, my Harry."

"I want to."

"People will talk, Harry."

"Let 'em."

"Please don't cry, Harry."

"I'm not. And don't you, either."

"I won't, my Harry."

Trailed by the Twins, Greg and Chris, Harry and Stefan walked to the Headquarters Building and the waiting bus. Harry stowed Stefan's bag in the luggage compartment, then bent down until his face was level with Stefan's.

"You need anything, you call me, you hear?" Harry put his hands on Stefan's thin shoulders. "You write me, or call me."

Stefan nodded. "I will."

"I will miss you, my Stefan," Harry whispered.

"I will miss you, my Harry." Impulsively Stefan wrapped his arms around Harry's neck and hugged him tightly. Then, without another word, he got on the bus and took a window seat. Almost immediately the door closed with a hiss and the bus pulled away. As Harry watched Stefan waved a small goodbye.

Harry's shoulders slumped as he watched the bus disappear towards the road leading to town, and the airport. Then he walked toward the Gunroom.

The other cadets watched him go. "He's crying," said Cory softly.

"I know." Todd turned to Chris. "Go find The Gunner."

"You sure?"

"Yeah. We'll meet you outside the Gunroom"

******

The Gunner greeted the four boys sitting on the stoop leading to the Gunroom. "How bad is it?" he asked Todd.

"Bad. He's just lying on his bunk, staring at the deckhead, crying."

The Gunner mounted the stoop and opened the door. "Don't let anybody in until I tell you."

All four boys nodded. "Take care of him, Gunner," said Chris, close to tears. "He means a lot to us."

Harry, wearing only his new boxers and a T-shirt, lay on his bunk, tears coursing down his cheeks. The Gunner sat on the bunk and took Harry's hand in his. Harry turned his head, saw The Gunner, and groaned. He tried to smile, but could not. "I'm sorry."

The Gunner released Harry's hand, fumbled in his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. "What for? For crying, for doing what millions of guys have done a million times?" He handed the handkerchief to Harry. "Here, blow your nose."

Harry struggled to a sitting position and did as he was told. "I guess you think I'm some kind of a jerk, huh?"

"No, Harry. You're not a jerk." He waved away the handkerchief that Harry tried to hand back. "You got hit by the thunderbolt. Now it's over."

Harry lay back against the bulkhead. "What I did was wrong." His tears began afresh. "I knew that what I was doing was wrong, dammit but . . . but . . ."

"You made a big mistake, Harry," interrupted The Gunner gently. "You fell in love. What may have started out as two boys giving in to their raging hormones, what may have started out as nothing more or less than lust, turned into something that quite frankly overwhelmed you."

"I should have stopped it from happening, Gunner. I should have!"

The Gunner thought a moment, regarding with eyes full of sadness and understanding the suffering young man. "Harry, no one can predict when he will fall in love, or who he will fall in love with."

"No lecture? No sermon on the evils of what I did?" asked Harry.

The Gunner sighed. "Harry, I believe that I understand what you are feeling now. I understand the turmoil and the feelings of guilt that you feel. But, Harry, it should not have happened."

"I know that," wailed Harry. "Don't you think I didn't know that?"

"You knew it, and that is what is eating at you, Harry." The Gunner shook his head. "In a way, Harry, I am just as guilty as you were. I saw what was happening and I convinced myself that it was just a schoolboy crush on Stefan's part and you, out of loneliness, out of, oh, I don't know, missing your brothers and family, responded. And, to be honest, Harry, I allowed my personal feelings to interfere with my judgement." He shrugged.

Harry wiped his tears with the back of his hand. "I love him, Gunner," he said weakly. "And he loves me! I know that's no excuse for what happened, but it's the truth. I'm not sorry we fell in love. I should have tried to stop what happened from happening but I didn't. The more I was with him the more I wanted to be with him."

Suddenly Harry wanted The Gunner to know everything. He could not, and did not hold back. "No one has ever loved me that way before, Gunner. No one has ever made love to me before. You can condemn me if you want, but it won't change the way I feel." He reached out and grasped The Gunner's arms. "We never . . . we didn't . . ." He fell into The Gunner's arms, weeping, his body wracked with guilt. "I couldn't . . . I could never hurt him!"

The Gunner held the weeping boy close, rubbing his back and making small shushing noises. When Harry's tears subsided he pulled away. "Harry, I am not going to condemn you for something you had no control over. I am not going to add to your guilt. And I do not believe for one minute that you and Stefan did . . . "

Reaching into the pocket of his shirt, The Gunner handed Harry an envelope. "If I thought that you had in any way taken advantage of Stefan, if you had used your position to take advantage of him, or if you had hurt him in any way, I would not be giving you this."

Harry opened the envelope and saw that it contained a photograph, a photograph of himself in full Drum Major regalia, his arm around a smiling Stefan.

"Phantom's mum took it the day of the Church Parade," The Gunner continued. "He thought you might like to have it. The negative is there as well, in the event that you might want to have an enlargement made."

Harry gazed at the picture, then started to sniffle. "Fuck, man, my Mace is taller than he is." Then he began to cry again.

Once again The Gunner reached out and pulled the weeping boy to his chest. Harry reached around, hugging him tightly. The Gunner waited, Harry's tears staining his shirt, until the boy's body stopped shaking.

"I love him. I really love him," Harry murmured. As The Gunner stroked the back of his head he continued. "It hurts, Gunner. It hurts."

"I know, son. I know."

Harry pulled away, wiping his eyes, smearing his face. "How could you know?" He blew his nose loudly.

The Gunner reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. He fished through the contents, pulled out a tattered photograph and handed it to Harry. "When I said I understood how you were feeling, the hurt that you feel, I was speaking from experience." He tapped the picture. "You see, Harry, I fell in love once myself."

Harry looked first at the picture, and then at The Gunner. He saw the image of a not very good-looking young man, with dark hair and almond-shaped eyes. He was wearing a sailor's uniform, standing against a backdrop of a White Ensign. "You love him?" he asked softly.

The Gunner nodded. A secret shared. "Yes, Harry, I love him. Unlike your Stefan, he did not love me in any way. You at least knew Stefan's love. I didn't but that did not stop me from feeling the hurt and the pain, and the emptiness." He took back the picture and replaced it in his wallet. "Like you, I was 18. Unlike you, there was no happy ending."

"But you still loved him."

"Yes, Harry, I did. I still do. You were luckier than I was."

"What did you do?" asked Harry, intrigued.

"What you are going to do," he pointed to Harry's chest. "What you and Stefan had is over. You know, as I know, that what happened between you was, and is, unacceptable behaviour on your part." He saw Harry about to protest and held up his hand. "Harry, not everybody is as understanding as I am, as your friends are. Accept the inevitable."

"I don't think I can," protested Harry softly. "I know that what I did was wrong, but don't expect me to forget him! Don't ask me to pretend that he never happened!"

"You didn't let me finish," said The Gunner. "I am not suggesting that you forget what happened. What I am asking you to do is to accept that you cannot have a relationship with Stefan. Perhaps later, but not now. You can love him because nobody can stop you from loving him. But you cannot be with him." Again he tapped Harry's chest. "So you keep him in there. You keep your memories of him warm and safe in there. You hold them close and every so often you find a quiet place and you take them out and remember."

"I guess sometimes that's all a guy has left, huh?"

"Yes. But there will be other memories. The hurt, the pain, they go away. Another person comes along, not necessarily a guy, not necessarily a girl . . ."

"Nobody will ever make me feel the way I feel about him, Gunner, nobody."

"Perhaps. But someone will come along who will make you feel almost as good, and you accept that. And you get on with the rest of your life."

Harry nodded slowly. He wanted to ask, but didn't dare, if The Gunner had found someone else. Then he groaned loudly.

"What's the matter now?"

"The guys. Shit. What are the guys going to say to me? They probably think I'm a queer who likes little boys. But it wasn't like that, honest, Gunner. I just fell in love with him. I couldn't fucking help myself. He's the only boy I ever, ever felt that way about." Harry buried his face in his hands. "They're going to have a field day."

The Gunner pulled Harry's hands away and looked into his eyes. He knew, as Harry did not, that the other cadets would never speak of the darker side of Harry's relationship with Stefan. They might think that Harry had had sex with Stefan; they might know that Harry had had sex with Stefan, but they would never discuss it, never speak of it. If they did not speak of it, it had not happened. At least so he thought. He assumed a sceptical air and sighed heavily. "Harry, I learned a long time ago that when friends think or know that you have done something wrong, or they disapprove of, they put it out of their minds. They don't want to talk about it, period, because one of their own is involved."

"Easy for you to say," returned Harry with some heat. "You weren't the one who . . ."

"No, I wasn't," agreed The Gunner easily. "But I've seen it happen."

"You have?"

The Gunner nodded. "When I was in Gunnery School one of the other students was gay. Thinking back, I suppose we all knew that someone was going to get it on with him. When the inevitable happened we all knew about it. And we never talked about it."

It was Harry's turn to look sceptical. "Never?"

"No. What happened was between messmates. They were not hurting anyone, and it was consensual from the word go. Now, I admit that those of us who were not getting anything from our friend did talk about it, but only amongst ourselves. We never mentioned it to the, shall I call them participants?"

Harry was forced to chuckle. "Messmates are messmates, huh?"

The Gunner nodded. "If we didn't talk about it, we could not disapprove. We could pretend that nothing untoward was going on."

Harry's gaze swept the Gunroom. "And you think that the other guys will keep quiet?"

"Yes Harry, I do. I think it because in their own perverse little way they love you. You are as much a part of them as they are a part of you. Sailors, and by definition, Sea Cadets, are horribly sentimental and very loyal creatures. They know you're hurting and want to share that hurt because they have accepted you as a part of their lives. Because they have accepted you they will try to understand. Maybe some of them have felt the same thing you felt, or loved the same way you loved. They don't need to know the details, just as you don't need to know the details of their past. They accept you because of who you are. They love you because of who you are, Harry."

The Gunner looked evenly at the distraught teenager. "You are their friend and if that were not the case I wouldn't be here, and four of them would not be parked on the doorstep worried sick about you. You're their messmate. You accept the Twins because they're your messmates, right? Even though you know they're gay? But that doesn't matter, does it? You accept them, and you love them. Little Big Man forgot that, and it's cost him."

Harry nodded.

"Then give your friends the chance to love you, with all your faults. Give them a chance, Harry, to return your love. Give them that chance and you might be surprised."

"Even if they find that it was more than a school boy infatuation?"

The Gunner held up his hand. "Harry, I have a feeling that some of them know exactly what went on between you and Stefan. As for them taking you to task for what happened?" He chuckled softly. "Right now half the Gunroom is pacing back and forth in the barracks yard, worried to death about you!"

"They are?" Harry found this hard to believe. If anything, his messmates were more likely to chuck a boot at him than hug him.

"They are," confirmed The Gunner. "I told you, Harry. Your messmates are your friends, and they do love you. They won't ask and I would strongly suggest that you don't tell."

"I won't. Frankly, I don't think that it's any of their business."

"Good. Let these be your watchwords: A gentleman never kisses and tells."

Harry blushed. "I'm not a gentleman, I'm a football player." "That's as may be, and perhaps one day you will also be a gentleman." The Gunner grinned at Harry.

"So what happens now?" asked Harry.

The Gunner stood up. "Now you get on with your life by taking a shower and getting changed, and when did you start wearing boxers? I always thought you were a briefs man."

"It's a short story," said Harry, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed.

"I don't think I want to know," The Gunner replied with a smile. "Now, get showered, get changed, and then we eat. Chinese. We'll wait for you outside, so don't dawdle."

"I won't. And Gunner?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks for talking to me. It means a lot."

The Gunner smiled and leaned over. He brushed the hair from Harry's wide forehead and kissed it. "You'll be fine, Harry." He started walking towards the door. "Now hurry up. I'm hungry."

******

Outside The Gunner tossed his car keys to Greg and told him to bring the Land Rover alongside. As Greg trotted off to get the car the Twins and Chris looked at him questioningly. He assured them, with a conviction he did not feel, that Harry would be fine. Harry, for all his bluster was, deep down, an emotional young man. He might, in time, accept that Stefan was gone from his life. Until that happened the teenager would need a great deal of support and the love that only his friends could give him. "Just keep an eye on him," he asked. "He's going to need some time, so be gentle."

"We will," the boys chorused. Harry was their friend, and while they might not totally agree with what he had done, they would support him as much as possible.

"I depend on you, Todd, you Cory, and you Chris," said The Gunner. "I want you to call me, day or night, if things get to the point where you don't think you can handle it. Promise me that."

"Don't worry, Gunner," replied Cory confidently. "We'll look after the big moose."

"I know you will," returned The Gunner. "Now, go and change into your civvies. We're going ashore."

"We are?" Chris asked.

"We are. Harry is hungry and so am I. I am treating you all to lunch."

"But we have classes," objected Todd. "I'm, I mean Cory and me, were confined to barracks."

The Gunner thought a moment. Then he spoke. "Well, so long as I'm still the Gunnery Divisional Officer you, Todd, and Cory, are technically in my custody and I am constrained to ensure that you are treated properly." He winked. "You both look right peaked."

"We do?" asked Cory. He looked at Todd, who was the picture of health.

"You do," replied The Gunner, his smile growing. "I am taking you ashore to seek alternative medical attention, namely, as big a dose of Chinese penicillin as you can eat!"

The cadets guffawed and shook their heads at The Gunner's nonsense.

The Gunner turned and addressed Chris and the other cadets. "All of you go and change. Don't worry about any classes. The Crushers are sitting around the Regulating Office with their thumbs up their bums doing bugger all. We'll stop by the office on the way out and tell them that they're going to earn their pay for a change."

"They won't like it," offered Todd.

"Tough. Life's a bitch," growled The Gunner.

"Then you marry one, or die," finished Cory.