For Altameyer

The tumbler clinked as Jack put it down on the top of the dresser. The burnished surface bore the scars of previous whiskey bottles: little crescent moons of darkness where the liquor had penetrated the grain giving the impression of a multi-legged fossil. Malt upon malt. "Drowning your guilt at seeing me?"

"No," said the soldier, brown fingers curling around the crystal glass. "Just the taste in my mouth." With a single fluid movement he swallowed the contents in one go, grimacing as it burned its way down the lining of his throat into his stomach. From the armchair next to the bed Jack watched as Altameyer rested his head back on the pillow, his Adam's apple prominent against the whiteness, the empty glass limp in his hand. He was staring intently at the motionless ceiling fan. "They keep fixing it, it keeps breaking down. Sound familiar, Jackie boy?"

"I should get dressed."

With difficulty Altameyer pulled himself into a sitting position. "Why do you keep coming here?"

Jack gave a twisted smile as he pulled on white cotton ankle socks. "For the glorious sex." But the moment he spoke it sounded crass to his ears.

"You used to tell me I had muscular lips."

"That was before you gave up playing the bugle," Jack said lightly, tugging a plain tee-shirt from under a pair of faded denims at his feet.  He'd left his normal clothes in the back of the jeep. They hadn't seemed appropriate given the circumstances.

"You used to tell me my smile made you weak at the knees."

"It still does." Exasperated he pulled on his jeans, quickly fastening the buttons on the fly as he hobbled over to the bed. He kissed the man's shaven head and gently prised the tumbler from the soldier's grasp. "It still does." He replaced the glass on the cabinet, careful to avoid damaging the wood further.

Altameyer pushed back the sheet and twisted himself to the edge of the bed. "Help me to my wheels." His skin was still in the flush of youth; smooth, almost silken under the fluorescent strip light. A network of keloidal scars criss-crossed his left side extending as far as his spine. "My dressing gown's on the back of the chair you were sitting on."

Jack manoeuvred the wheelchair into position ensuring the brakes were locked. This time when he lifted Altameyer he seemed noticeably lighter. "I should get you a new gown. That one's worn through in places."

"You bought me that one, Jackie boy."

He'd forgotten. "Comfortable?" He watched as Altameyer lifted his legs into the foot rests.

"Bet you didn't know they're giving me a Purple Heart next month." The soldier fastened the gown's belt loosely around his waist. The front flopped open leaving half his chest exposed. He rubbed his bare skin absently.

Three weeks. So soon… Jack hoped those big brown eyes staring back at him couldn't see how hard he was fighting back tears that had suddenly threatened to well up. "Do I get an invite?"

"Of course, Jackie boy." Altameyer clicked off the brakes and wheeled himself towards the doorway. "But promise me one thing." He turned so his back was directly against the wall.

"If I can."

"Afterwards… Afterwards don't come back to see me again." There was an aching look in the man's eyes as he reached over sideways and threw open the door. "I'm not the man I was."

It was a promise on one level Jack knew he could keep.


Ianto screwed up an eye and peered through the half closed lid of the other at the wooden chest Jack had hauled out of nowhere into the middle of his office floor. "Arr, me hearties. That be for Capt'n Jack's pieces of eight?"

"I didn't think Long John Silver was Welsh."

"Fuck off. You know I'm no good with accents." He permitted himself a moment of curiosity and went to peer over Jack's shoulder. "I've not seen that before."

"No, you won't have."

"Where did you get it?"

"If you must know," Jack said, sounding irritated. "It's where I keep my personal possessions."

"You carry that around with you wherever you go? It's a bit unwieldy."

"Not exactly. I store it… Somewhere safe." He scowled at Ianto. "I thought you were out with the rest of the team."

"Didn't fancy it. Thought perhaps you and I could… You know." The shadowy content of the box was intriguing. To catch an insight into Jack's past…

"Sorry, Ianto. Tonight isn't a good night. How about you go make us both a nice coffee?"

"Is that a Vietnam Service Medal?" Before Jack could close the lid Ianto's hand darted in and retrieved a clear plastic bag from the top of the contents. "And a Purple Heart."

"Ianto Jones. Hand that over or I'll have you shot where you stand."

"You shot me yesterday, remember." Ianto ran his fingers over the purple and silver surface, marvelling at the detail in Washington's profile. "All over the conference table." There was a small newspaper cutting in the bag. The wrinkles in the plastic made it difficult to make out the name clearly but it seemed to read 'Sgt. S. Altameyer. Awarded posthumously.' Thirty seven years ago to the day.


Reluctantly he handed the bag over. Instead of locking it away in the chest Jack extracted a small photograph from its interior. "Not a single word to the others." He passed it over.

The photograph showed Jack and a young black man stripped to the waist holding spades. From the light and the leaves on the plants Ianto guessed it was somewhere tropical. "You fought in Vietnam?"

"I was in Vietnam." Typical of Jack not to give a straight answer to a simple question.

"He's very handsome." Ianto handed the photograph back. "What happened to him?"

"He died," Jack said after a momentary hesitation. There was a hard line to his jaw he put the items back into the chest and closed the cover with a determined snap.

How long before I'm in there? Ianto wondered. Will I even make the grade? "You must have been very close if he left you his medals."

Jack stood up, brushing the creases out of his trousers. "How about that coffee now?"

Without warning Ianto lurched forward and threw his arms around him, hugging him tightly.  After a few minutes Jack sighed and rested his head on Ianto's shoulder. "It's alright Ianto. Everything's okay."

But they both knew it wasn't.


A force threw him against the wooden post. Before he could yell out something wet and alive pierced his lips and darted around his mouth. After a minute Altameyer pulled away grinning from ear to ear.

"Fuck you, sergeant. I could have shot you." Jack's arm was still where it had stopped in mid air, about to release the safety on his pistol. "Don't sneak up like that."

"You haven't got time to fuck me, Jackie boy. De Haan and O'Hara will be back inside fifteen." Hands that could work miracles with army machinery unfastened the buttons on his shirt and slipped it off his shoulders. "I've got other ideas." The same tongue made fast work with a nipple and slid wetly down his chest and stomach.

"Have I ever said you have a very muscular tongue?"

A belt buckle jangled noisily in the humid air before hitting the ground with a metallic thud. "Frequently. Now stop talking and start moaning." The dappled light coming through the walls of the hut bisected Jack's cock into two distinct shades, making the lower half almost as dark as Altameyer's skin. He paused briefly. "Good?"

"Just get on with it sergeant," Jack said teasingly. "You've now got barely twelve minutes left and I want my turn."

Four minutes forty one seconds later Altameyer got up off his knees and took a deep swig from a hipflask, wiping his mouth with the back of a hand.

"I wish you wouldn't do that. I'm beginning to think I shoot vinegar. Plus you really shouldn't be drinking on duty."

The soldier shrugged. "De Haan says it kills the germs. You can't be too careful in a hot country like this. God knows what's crawling around these gook hootches." He proffered the bottle to Jack.

"No, thanks. I'd rather you just dropped your trousers."

Altameyer's eyebrows arched skyward. A pair of pale fingers wound their way around his sides inside his shirt and tenderly stroked the hairs on his chest. As Jack held him he loosened his shorts and let them fall. "When all this is over we'll move to Annapolis and open up a store."

"Selling what? Your perfect body?"

His laugh turned to a gasp as Jack's mouth fastened on to his manhood and began its work. "Guns. Grain. Dry goods. Whatever." His hands clasped onto the back of Jack's head, hips bucking to the rhythm. "Oh Jackie boy, get into that groove."

Jack complied.

"We belong together," Altameyer said between gasps. "It's fate. Or do you have a donut dolly tucked away in Saigon?" His groans got louder. "Do you think Charlie likes round-eye meat? Boom boom, three dollar. " He let go of Jack's head as his friend pulled away.

"That's sick, Altameyer. I'm trying to blow you and all you do is think of Charlie."

"Sorry Jackie boy, just you keep in there." His cock was soon covered again. "Man, I love you." He let out a low whoop. "Shit. Cumming."

"Now who's talking about dry goods." Jack made a quick movement behind Altameyer's legs and the sergeant toppled over on floor with him. "Sometimes I think you're insatiable." He licked the line of Altameyer's neck down to his shoulder. "You taste nice."

They kissed wetly, trying to ignore the hardness of the wood against hips and elbows, Altameyer's peach fuzz goatee scratching his neck. "It's ninety percent humidity here and you smell as sweet as a newborn, Jackie boy. What's your secret?"

"I stand next to you."

"Fuck you!" Altarmeyer made a mock attempt to bite Jack's nose. "And don't think I won't if I get the opportunity later today."

"Worked up an appetite yet sergeant? You've got a choice today. Cold rice and little jungle rat. Or De Haan's ham 'n' mothers?"

"I think I've had my meat ration for the day." A silhouette fell over them from the doorway. Altameyer turned to look, shading his eyes against the glare. "Is that you O'Hara? Just fuck off and give us a few more minutes or I'll have you dancing a long green line."


For a moment the heavily accented words hung in the air then something oddly familiar rolled its way inexorably towards them.


'Nam was a hell away from home. It smashed open the gates of perception with an eight iron to the cranium. Dazed and confused we torched the wings off the better angels of our nature and soothed the bleeding stumps with napalm. Everything burned in 'Nam.

It was 93 degrees in downtown Saigon. The orderly who took care of me was wrapped up too tightly to answer what happened to Jackie. I was just another lame nigger stupid enough to get a soda can up the ass from a rice eater. You could tell from his eyes he'd no idea what the big words the doc said meant. Just a dumb hick pushing a trolley and changing bandages.

We were all dumb hicks snorting gasoline and climbing over a shit pile that kept getting higher. The gooks built their houses on bamboo poles so they didn't have to smell our shit when they slept.

Outside my window the grunts blew in the wind for Cecilia and the Day the Music Died. All I wanted was my Jackie and a quiet room where we could beat our brains out with a bottle of Scotch or a Bourbon. I didn't know if he was dead or lying in the room next to me or whether he'd pulled a Special Op to go up river to some goddamned town - the gook names all sounded the same to me.

The Viet Cong flag was blue, red and gold but the real tricolour of 'Nam was brown, green and orange. Brown from the shit and the mud and the wash-back from the Mekong. Green for the unforgiving jungle and the fucking mould the humidity caused to grow on everything. A man's dick could rot overnight in the Delta.

And orange. Everything we touched turned orange. Christmas was Father Nape and the twelve wise men were pillars of orange fire at the jungle edge. Our flares lit up churches and schools and in our compassion our Hueys airlifted their sacred cows downstream from the madness as Victor Charlie squatted on his scrawny ass and jeered at us from the safety of his bunkers.

It was half past Victory when Jackie finally showed up with two bottles of Tiger Piss in his hands and not so much as a mark on his smooth skin. Said he'd been up the blue line for a bit of bok-bok on his lonesome. He'd either gone UA or he was in so deep with Intel he couldn't even tell me.

As I told him they were shipping me back to the land of the big PX I noticed there were fresh wrinkles at the corner of his eyes. A few grey hairs had begun to show. He looked five years older than the last time I'd seen him. 'Nam does that to you.

We've still got Annapolis, he said, so fucking earnestly I wanted to shove the business end of a Zippo down his throat. He wasn't thinking clearly. If he didn't come home in a box it would be eighteen months before he got his duffle bag drag and his cornflakes. Almost as long as the time we'd been together.

"Fuck it, Jackie boy. Just pass me a 33 and we'll drink to the future of this motherfucking shithole."





Gook. Derogatory term for a Vietnamese person.
Hooches. Vietnamese houses.
Donut Dolly. Female American Red Cross volunteer.
Round Eyes. Westerners.
Charlie/Victor Charlie. Enemy Viet Cong.
Boom Boom. Sex with a prostitute.
Ham 'n' Mothers. A particularly hated ration meal.
Long Green Line. A line of infantry marching through the jungle.
Du Mi Ami. Vietnamese equivalent of 'motherfucker'.
Soda Can. The VC were adept at reusing discarded waste for bombs and grenades.
Rice Eater. Another derogatory term for the local people.
Nape. Napalm.
Tiger Piss/33. The local beer.
Blue Line. a river on a map, ie the Mekong.
Bok-Bok. Fighting.
UA. Unauthorized Absence.
Land of the Big PX. Home - ie USA.
Zippo. Flamethrower.
Duffle Bag Drag & Cornflakes. Packing up for transit home.