For Jacob and Daniel, two young gay men aboard a Navy ship in WWII, the risks were high. Not just the risks of injury and death from Japanese planes and submarines, but the risk of discovery, of discharge, imprisonment or worse. Only a special kind of love was worth taking that chance. But from the moment Daniel met Jacob's eyes across a battle-scarred deck, he knew he had to try.
Being together required figuring out what it meant to be gay and in love with another man, in an era when they could be jailed or committed for admitting the desires of their hearts. On a ship at war, their relationship was measured in stolen moments and rare days of precious leave, with no guarantees there would be a tomorrow. And if they survived the war, they would need even more luck to keep their love alive through all the years to come.
This story was written for a photo and story request letter as part of the Goodreads M/M Romance Group Love is Always Write event. This is a free download in ebook. The audio book, narrated by Kaleo Griffith, is Whispersync'd to the free book on Amazon.
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Publisher: Independently Published
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: Varies During Story
Protagonist 2 Age: Varies During Story
Tropes: Coming of Age, Coming Out / Closeted, Find Love and Come Out, First Time, Friends to Lovers, Hurt / Comfort, In Uniform, Married Life
Word Count: 63000
Languages Available: English
Navy seaman Daniel Acardi saw Jacob Segal coming aboard the USS Gageway with the other new recruits. In that moment of eye contact, something about Jacob's openness and inexperience captured his attention. Jacob clearly needed someone to show him the ropes about life aboard ship, and Daniel figured he was the man for that job.READ MORE
For Jacob, this was a whole new experience— being posted to the sick bay of a warship heading out into the Pacific toward combat, and becoming friends with someone like Daniel.
Life on the Gageway is crowded, boring and a process of slow discovery, until the enemy attacks. When Japanese planes buzz overhead, and life and death hang in the balance, Jacob and Daniel find their friendship becoming something more...
Doc waved at Jacob and he hurried over with more supplies. The work went on. Medics and corpsmen cleaned and bandaged wounds, straightened and splinted limbs, held down and reassured the men moaning in pain until the blessed relief of morphine could take effect. The worst of the burned men died an hour later. Jacob could only think it was for the best. He paused looking at the man’s face, unrecognizable beneath the scarifying effect of the flames. Unrecognizable, but not Daniel. There had been just that first moment of agonized fear, but Jacob had known right away. Not Daniel.
Didn’t mean that Daniel was all right though. The news from above decks washed through sickbay, garbled by third hand reports. There was no doubt that there were more deaths than that one burned man. Calm was returning to the ship. PA calls for fire-fighting and damage control and medical assistance slowed and then ceased. The Gageway steamed along, rolling no more than her usual in the ocean swells. With an intensity that scared him, Jacob suddenly wanted to see Daniel. Just see him, for a minute, and know that Daniel had come through unharmed.
Jacob clenched a fist on the edge of the counter and breathed though his nose. Surely Daniel was fine. It was a big ship. Reports said eight dead topside. Or ten or maybe twelve. But out of a crew this size the odds were still good. Great, even. This sensible realization didn’t keep the thought of a fire a hundred yards from Daniel’s station from hovering in Jacob’s mind through the rest of the long night.
It was dawn before Doc told Jacob to go find his sack and get some rest. Gratefully he left the sickbay and its smells and its groaning men and stepped out into the passageway. Good sense would have sent him to his berth and sleep. He had abandoned good sense somewhere, because no way in hell he could go there yet. Anxiety and need would have sent him to Daniel’s berth, but that would have been unforgivable. So he wandered the ship, staying out of the way of anyone moving purposefully in the early light. He ended up at his favorite spot on the port-side rail, looking out over the water. The sky was clear, with just a line of gold to the east marking the rising sun still below the edge of the waters. The limpid blue and lavender sky looked as if it could never harbor death and destruction.
When someone came to lean on the rail beside him, he didn’t need to move or turn. Every inch of him knew who it was. He said, “I figured you’d be in the sack by now.”
“I was waiting for you.”
Daniel’s voice was low and warm and surely didn’t mean what it sounded like. In any case, there were men close by, sleeping in the hangars and out on the decks to escape the closed-in heat of the berthing areas.
Jacob said, “I’m glad you’re okay. You are okay, right?”
“Yeah. Not a scratch. You?”
“I’m well enough. That is, I’m not hurt.”
For few minutes they stood there, watching as the new day dawned. The sun rose above the water, trailing ripples of gold that faded into the greys and blues of the waves. The air was warming.
Daniel said, “Come on.”
It was some kind of choice that Jacob didn’t bother to ask why or where. He just trailed after Daniel silently, down the hatch and deeper into the ship, until they fetched up against a door. Daniel stopped with his hand on it and raised one eyebrow. Jacob allowed himself one breath. Just one moment to think all the things that were going unsaid. Then he reached past Daniel and opened the linen storage locker door wide.
The storeroom was airless and hot and the space was tight. But it was enough for what they needed. Daniel stood close to him but not touching, and shut the door behind them. In the darkness behind the closed door, Jacob took a breath and dug deep for the nerve to do this. He raised his hands and put them on Daniel’s chest, feeling the heartbeat under his right palm, the strength of lean muscle, the heat.
“I was so scared for you.” He almost didn’t recognize his own voice.
“Me too. For you.”
“Sickbay’s a pretty safe place.”
“Nothing is safe from bombs that can punch all the way through the ship.”
There didn’t seem to be any answer to that. He rocked forward slightly. Daniel’s hands closed on his biceps, steadying him, but not pushing him away.
“Have you done this before?” Daniel’s voice was cool but it shook a little on the last word.
Jacob was suddenly glad he wasn’t the only one scared to death here. “What are we doing?”
“This.” Daniel pulled him close. There was just enough light from under the door to see it coming, to tilt his head and part his lips. Then Daniel’s mouth closed over his.
Jacob had never felt anything like the touch of Daniel’s mouth. He’d kissed girls, more than once. He even thought he’d gotten pretty good at it. But none of those kisses had shaken him down to his soul the way this one did. It was Daniel’s lips and Daniel’s taste, man and smoke and cigarettes and a strong flavor of mint. It occurred vaguely to Jacob that Daniel must have brushed his teeth recently, but that was irrelevant. The only thing that mattered was to have more. To open his mouth for the silken sweep of Daniel’s tongue and to sway against him, feeling the solid mass of his chest against Jacob’s own. To sense the slide of Daniel’s hands from Jacob’s arms to his shoulders. Until the clinch became a hug so tight they had to break the kiss because there was no room between them. Daniel’s arms clamped around Jacob almost too tight for breath.
“God.” Daniel’s voice was a whisper against his hair. “God. Holy God. I was so damned scared. I’ve been in action before. Hell, I was at Pearl. And I was never as scared as I was tonight, not knowing where you were or if you were safe.”
“Me too. I was listening to the PA. You had to have been right in the middle of it.”
“Near enough.” Daniel loosened his grip enough for Jacob to draw a shaky breath.
“Now what?” Jacob couldn’t resist sliding his cheek against Daniel’s neck.
“I want to kiss you again.”
Daniel cupped his face between warm calloused palms. His skin smelled like smoke and fireworks. Jacob thought from now on he would always love that smell. Daniel held him steady and kissed him. Slowly at first, and then warmer, wetter. Their tongues met and stroked. Daniel nipped at Jacob’s lip and then Jacob pushed his tongue into Daniel’s willing mouth. The soft moan Daniel uttered as he opened for him made Jacob’s knees shake. He tightened his grip around Daniel’s back and their hips pressed together. Daniel was as hard as he was.
When they finally broke the kiss Jacob was panting.
Daniel kissed his neck and then his brow. “Don’t hold your breath.”
“Can’t help it.” Jacob felt dizzy and off balance. He frowned. “So have you?”
“Done this before?”
“Not really. Not for real. I did make out with another man a few times. Just enough to know this was what I wanted. Enough to scare myself silly by how much I wanted it. And that was nothing compared to you.”
“So you are certain you’re...”
“Queer? Homosexual? Yeah. I am. Are you?”
He couldn’t be. Jacob was his father’s son and his grandfather’s. It was his duty to come home and get married, to take over the Segal’s drugstore chain and have a little Jacob the Fourth to run it in his turn. He couldn’t be queer. But they were at war in the Pacific, thousands of miles from home. He might never get back there. And this man in his arms was waiting for an answer.
Jacob said, “Kiss me again.”
And Daniel did.