Blaze of Glory
The men in Germany were an entirely different breed from the boys in basic training. They all had pictures from girly magazines and cheesecake calendars pinned by their bunks - Susan wouldn't have been a blip on their radar. The couple other rubes that made it to the Rhine with him were just as surprised by the sheer raunchiness of the seasoned soldiers as Hank was at first. But they acclimated soon enough, and they forgot about his sister quickly.
They had good reason to forget a sweet child like Susan. There were plenty of local girls with various endowments, nearly all of whom were ready for a good time. And they loved to practice their bawdy English on the American soldiers. The dirtier the vocabulary, the better.
Hank learned all of this second hand, of course. He was more interested in his assignment: the fire brigade. He'd never given firefighting a moment's thought back home - he thought he'd learn to shoot and guard the front lines or something like that. But the idea of being able to save people from fire, to be able to tame the blistering beast that could ravage a town in minutes? Oh, he would never have to worry about being useful to anyone ever again. He put aside the notion of becoming a career warmonger, and set himself to the task of firefighting.
His dedication to work rather than the pursuit of sex didn't make him into a pariah. The men simply pegged him for a good little religious boy who just needed a little loosening up. It worked for Hank. No one asked him about his escapades (or why he didn't have any), but no one left him out of the conversations, either. They respected him and his wishes, and he was happy to leave things at that.
Only, the men weren't so happy to leave things at that. On a three day furlough, his platoon had gone to a great deal of trouble to secure a room and several local girls for them all to enjoy, but they'd done so with the intent that one of the girls should appeal to Hank. He could enter the army a virgin, but he sure as hell couldn't end his first tour as one. The men in his company would be doing him a grave disservice not to help a good guy out, after all.
Most of the girls who'd shown up were game - they weren't hookers, as he'd first thought, but they might as well have been. They'd been around the block - probably a few times, judging by the way they draped themselves all over the other men without a care for the lack of privacy. If Hank had actually been the religious type he'd been pegged, he might have dropped dead in the middle of the rousing 'party'.
One lone girl, a short, round, raven haired, red faced little dumpling of a girl, kept her distance from the sexcapades. She looked at Hank shyly a few times, but she seemed content to sit apart from everyone - Hank included. At first, he intended to let the girl have her privacy, but as the kissing and groping went on, boredom and a queer kind of loneliness pushed him to reach out to her. He approached the girl slowly, hands up and eyes wide, and sat next to her. "Sprechen Sie Englisch?"
"Better than they do," she said with a perfectly clear Texan twang. 'I'm an army brat.'
Hank couldn't help the little jump that jerked him back. "What are you doing with them?"
The girl smirked and shrugged. "They're nicer to me than the other American girls. They say I should talk to their brothers, they all want little fat German wives to raise little fat German babies for them. And I am mostly German, so I could probably do it, too."
"But you're here."
Another shrug, another smile, this one a little sadder. "Bring the Major's daughter. The grunt might like a nice shy little American girl from the Bible belt, and she doesn't have to marry your brothers with her eyes closed." She looked at the floor again. "The boys in the barracks think I can't hear. Or I'm not smart enough to get it. Or something."
Hank felt sorry for the girl - not just because people talked over her like she wasn't there, but because they were wasting her time and energy. "Girls don't really interest me at all, actually. I'm just doing this so I don't have to hear them worry about my... 'needs' anymore. It's irritating."
"You're the grunt?" The girl looked him up and down, and her face seemed to get redder. "But you're so-" She snapped her mouth shut and looked at the near orgy playing out in the dimly lit room.
"I'm so what?"
She shifted uneasily. "Appealing," she finally said.
"Oh!" He chuckled. "You like me?"
She shrugged and got to her feet. "I should go." She pointed out a well endowed redhead who'd managed to get herself wrapped around two soldiers at once. "Monika is a real riot with the boys, but she's a sweet girl. She'll make it quick if that's what you want."
"Wait, wait, don't go yet. I'm not so good at... Listen, girls don't really go for me, so I kinda want to make this conversation last."
The girl looked at him like he had three heads. "Girls don't... you musta got dropped on your head in basic training. All the girls talk about the tall private in the fire brigade. The army brats, the local girls - even my mother talks about you."
Hank blinked, nonplussed.
"I should go," the girl said again, but she didn't move.
"I'm a virgin," Hank blurted.
"Yeah, I gathered."
"Um... wanna... help me with that?"
The girl laughed. "Monika is the one with the bright red hair and the big tits. The tits are real. The hair's a wig. She says she has thin yellow hair under there, so don't pull the wig."
Hank didn't even look at the bodies undulating next to him. "Bet your hair is real."
The girl laughed. "It is. So are the tits and the thighs and the belly."
Hank let his eyes move down the girl's ample body. The tits did nothing for him, nor did the dress. But he reached out and put his hand on her thigh, and realized that yes, he could work with this. He moved his hand up her side, and slid around to her back, then pulled her closer. She was warm and oh so soft, like a living teddy bear. He leaned down and sniffed her hair. It smelled good, like a good old American shampoo. It reminded him of his Charlotte, who, before settling down with Tony, had always kept company with lean, tough farm boys. Hank looked at the tangle of bodies in one corner of the room, and found Monika wrapped around yet another soldier, while still another moved behind her, as if to make her the filling in a human sandwich.
He felt the plump girl shift against him, and looked back at her. "I should go," she said one last time. She didn't move.
"What's your name?"
"I'm Hank." He gave her a little squeeze, and relished the soft warmth. "If you want to go, I can walk you somewhere, if you want. Or... maybe... we could..." His face grew warm. He couldn't make himself continue.
Gretchen laughed a little. "I take it Monika isn't your type?"
Hank grunted. "She seems a little... forceful, I guess. I like to be in charge." He'd had no idea how he felt about domination and sex up to that moment, but the moment the words shaped his tongue, he knew they were true. He didn't have the slightest idea how to go about making it happen yet, but he knew he would take lead in whatever he did behind closed doors.
"That's no surprise - I thought most guys liked to be in charge anyway. But you're not making any demands," she said.
"Okay, well, in that case, I demand you huddle in the closet with me until we divest each other of our virginity. Hop to it!"
Gretchen's snort was decidedly unladylike, and it was loud enough to interrupt the debauchery in the middle of the room. A brief silence was followed by lewd, rowdy cheering. "Oh, lord," she said softly. "Now they're gonna think we're a thing."
"Would that be so bad?"
She looked up at Hank, and stared at him as if the thought had never crossed her mind. "You do know they're gonna give you hell, right? For making it with a fat girl."
"Oh, they already give me hell, Gretchen. And if I don't do the deed with somebody tonight, they'll probably hang me from the flagpole by the skivvies I'm in!"
"But it doesn't have to be me."
Hank sighed and dropped his arms. "Well, no. Not if you don't want it to be." He looked back at the tangle of arms and legs in the middle of the room, and cringed slightly. There was nothing for it but to face the writhing bodies on the floor. Maybe he could slide into the mess and pretend to get off on one of the girls. Except... god, he didn't want to touch a bunch of people with his clothes off, and he didn't want to roll around in their sweat, and he didn't want his first time to be a damned orgy. Maybe he could pull one of the girls aside.
"Hey," Gretchen said softly behind him. "Hank."
"Hm." He kept his back to her.
"Maybe you could walk me back to the base first. Before... you know."
He turned to her and smiled gently. "Sure. Let's go."
They left the seedy hostel hand in hand, and went out to the street. The air was biting cold, and Hank drew his jacket collar up around his neck. Then he noticed the girl next to him shivering in her thin sweater, and reluctantly took off his jacket to drape over her shoulders. She looked up in surprise, but he just gave her a closed lip smile, and hoped his chattering teeth weren't too obvious.
"You're a nice man, Hank. You should wait for a nice girl. Don't let them goad you, okay?"
"I met a nice girl tonight," Hank said. "Don't need to wait for that. Need to wait for a girl who'd like to have me."
They cut across the narrow cobblestone walkway in silence. A cold breeze whipped between the few standing centuries old buildings, and chilled Hank to the very bone. He was tired and disappointed and irritable, and surprised by his own ego. This little fat meatball of a girl had turned him down, and she wasn't having any of it, and he didn't even particularly want to sleep with her himself. But he was a soldier in the United States Army, and she was an outcast, and she didn't want him.
They entered one of the open marketplaces, dominated by a fountain that seemed unaffected by the shambles of post war West Germany. Gretchen went to the fountain and sat at its edge. "Give me just a second. My feet don't like these shoes." She looked around, and then sat up straight. "Actually," she said, shrugging out of his jacket, "we're so close to the base, I think I can make it okay the rest of the way."
Hank blinked. "You don't want me to walk you to the base? I don't have to walk you to your front door or anything, if you're worried about me knowing where you live..." When she didn't answer, he took his jacket from where she clutched it in her lap. "Suit yourself," he said, and turned on his heel.
He started to head for the hostel again, but the thought of everyone cheering for an encounter that neither happened nor would have done much for his social standing even if it had, sent him off on an adventure of his own making. He headed for the train station, with no destination in mind, just a need to escape.
The next departing train was headed south, for Switzerland. He'd spent his whole life traveling up and down the Colorado River, until they'd moved west towards Palm Springs. When he'd gone to basic training, he was sent just a few miles down the road to the desert, before being packed up in an all fired hurry for Munich. But once he'd arrived in Germany, the furthest he'd gone was honestly to the dirty hostel he'd just left. A shiver that had nothing to do with the cold tingled up and down Hank's back as he thought about passing through another country without so much as a howdy-do. He hadn't joined the Army just trade one set of walls for another. He'd wanted adventure, a chance to see something different, something that might change him.