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New Beginnings
New Beginnings

New Beginnings

 

 

Chapter 1

"When?"

"When I'm ready." she states.

I sigh and hang my head. She's shutting me out again. Resumed doing it 3 months ago, even though she swore to me on the porch at the Dining Out that she'll never do it again. I've tried to help her, but she wouldn't let me. Time and again I hit the steel wall that is Desiree Booth's determination to keep me out of her life.

Now, finally, years too late, I realize what I should've realized long ago: Desiree doesn't want me in her life as anything more than a hopeful suitor whom she strings along for the purpose of making her feel desirable and swelling her ego; and as a safe bet for once she'd gone through the entire field of men and ends up alone, after every last one of them realizes she's only a great body, with vacuum where the heart should be and leaves her.

I'm done playing her games. This is it, whether she knows it or not, but she's just played her last card and unknowingly threw away her ace hidden in the sleeve. From now on she'll have to play the field without a safe net in case she fails at yet more relationships.

For the first time in years, I don't care whether she ends up alone and miserable and it's strangely liberating. I should've done this years ago.

She's staring at me, obviously expecting me to get out of her office. And I will. Just not right away. Instead, I confiscate her phone, pick it up and dial a number I have had in my mind for the past few days.

"Sheffield." answers the voice on the other side.

"Good morning, sir. This is Commander David." I say.

"Good morning Commander, have you decided about what we talked about?" he inquires.

"Yes, sir, I have. I would like to accept the offer if it still stands." I state. With my peripheral vision I notice Desiree looking at me curiously, but keeping quiet for the moment, though I know that won't last. Desiree is rarely quiet and never hesitates making her opinion known, no matter how unwarranted, how unwanted or how dumb her opinion is.

"Excellent, Commander. You're in luck, I was already on my way there and have the package with me. I'll be there shortly." and he hangs up.

I hang up too and notice Desiree is opening her mouth to say something. I raise my hand, cutting her off saying "Not now, Desiree. Later" and quickly turn towards the door.

By the look in her eyes I immediately knew she was ready to pull rank again. I can't believe the galls of this woman! She's only a few months my senior and acts like she's a god damn 5 star General.

And all these years she made fun of the supposed extra large size of MY ego...

While all through that time it was she who was the one with the swelled ego, always ignoring the fact that not even once during our friendship when I was still the senior officer did I throw my seniority into her face.

Before she can say something I'm out the door and have it closed behind me.

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JAG HQ

15 minutes later

For the last 15 minutes I've been staying in the bullpen and it's vicinity, evading Desiree with the skill, that if I were in a dogfight, would have made my Top Gun instructors proud. Hell, they were proud of me then, now they would've burst from joy. Just that I'm not evading an enemy, but my one-time best friend.

Suddenly hearing a commotion, I head out of the little break room. Upon arriving in the bullpen I notice the SecNav and the CNO, who has already summoned the senior staff and our temporary JAG, who is loving his position a tad too much, to attention.

The CNO notices me and orders me front and center. After repeating the Pledge of Allegiance, he announces "Commander Chance David.. I congratulate you on your promotion to Captain. After personally reviewing your record and yourself with the Secretary of the Navy, we have decided that some other decorations that you have deserved are due to be given to you.

First of all you are hereby awarded and ordered to wear the Navy SEAL trident for going through the training and qualifying as a SEAL, participating in other special warfare courses by them and participating in missions as a part of SEAL teams during some of your assignments.

Further you are ordered to wear the advanced marksman (sniper) badge for having attended advance

marksmanship school during your 6 Month TAD last year, where you qualified with the Barrett M82A1 .50 calibre sniper rifle.

For having attended and completed special training with the USMC Force Recon, you are hereby awarded and ordered to wear the badge of Recon Marines.

And last, for bravery and going above and beyond the call of duty in rescuing a fellow officer during your assignment with some other government agency, having destroyed a terrorist base and having aided in the destruction of a terrorist weapons cache, containing stolen Stinger missiles, having tested and helped in development of several top-secret experimental aircraft, landing a C-130 cargo aircraft aboard a carrier, for which you will also be awarded with your fourth DFC tomorrow, thus saving the government a lot of money and also saving the lives of the civilians aboard the plane,

having performed exemplary while leading the defence of the Secretary of the Navy, you will be awarded the highest decorations of the United States, the Medal of Honour, which will be awarded to you by the President personally tomorrow morning in front of the White House.

Btw. Captain, you are to wear all these decorations on your uniform beside and under you Wings. Let the world see what a true hero looks like.

Because as a Captain you won't be able to serve at HQ anymore, you are given the command of the JAG office in San Diego, where you will assume the command Monday 2 weeks from now. Congratulations, Captain Rabb!"

The CNO turns to her and announces: "Since you're neither married nor engaged nor your significant other is present here to do the honours, the honour falls to a female officer present. LtCol Booth, will you do the honours?"

Before Desiree takes a step I address the CNO: "Sir, if I may, I would like Petty Officer Sanders to do it. She's been a good friend during the last year and had she not looked after my ex-ward then I wouldn't have been able to defend Mr Sheffield this Spring."

I know it's a potentially risky request to have Riley do it, but I'm absolutely sure the CNO was fully briefed on our situation. Every candidate for the Medal of Honour is screened and screened again. Only to be screened 2 more times. Every single aspect and piece of their life is checked and re-checked a couple more times to make sure there isn't anything to cause a scandal later on. The US military had to learn the lesson the hard way with all the scandals following Greg "Pappy" Boyington during the last years of his life.

The point of this is that the matter of Mattie and Riley's co-habitation and Riley and me being neighbours had no doubt come up several times and the Admiral had probably had to inform them about it extensively. And since for the past few weeks I know we've been monitored I know that they know there is nothing more behind my request. The matter is that I have so much to owe Riley, so much I'm grateful to her for, that I can't imagine anyone better doing this than she.

Admiral Clark agrees and Riley steps forward, beaming as she pins the Eagles and other decorations on me. Then she salutes me and kisses me barely-there on the cheek and returns into the line. Desiree looks angry, but quickly covers it up.

The CNO dismisses us and he and the SecNav leave. I head to my closet of an office and start packing. The doors are opened with such force that they hit the wall and bounce back.

She's here.

CHAPTER 2

"Why the hell didn't you tell me you were being promoted and transferred? Who the hell do you think you are, that you can just up and leave? You promised me that you will always be there for me. Why am I not surprised? You are a coward and a liar, what happened to always keeping your promises?" she starts screaming and accusing as soon as she enters my little cubby-hole.

The tirade goes on for another minute until I have enough.

"First of all, Lieutenant Colonel Booth." As I say this Desiree glares angrily at me for pointing out that I am now her superior. But she's loved her superiority just too much these last few years and abused it indiscriminately, this being only one of the nails in the coffin of our friendship "You will not speak to me in that tone. Not only do I deserve respect as a superior officer, but also as someone who's always been a friend to you and put your wants, needs and desires above my own."

I know it's wrong of me to pull rank, but hell, she did it plenty of hundreds of times before, especially after I returned from flying, just to punish me for trying to go back to the thing that defined me as a person and for which I spent preparing for my entire life. All the while conveniently forgetting that when she herself had left JAG for money, a Porsche and a man, not only had I not begrudged her, but have even readily and with open arms accepted her back. Not only that, I also helped her get her job back, while she didn't go to any lengths for me last year while Evans was humiliating me in front of her. Not only didn't she defend me against the personal insults Evans hurled at me with such enthusiasm, she didn't even try to get my job back. I wonder whether, if I was the one trapped in Paraguay, she would've thrown away her career for me and come to save me. With the better understanding of her character that I got in Paraguay and in the year that has passed since then, I sincerely doubt she would. I'm just not on her list of things and people that are worthy of sacrificing anything for.

"If you think you can manage a civilized conversation, then we are still Chance and Desiree inside this office. Now, for why I haven't told you. Honestly, when could I have?" I exclaim, throwing my arms out, showing my exasperation "You've been too busy pushing me away even after you promised not to do it anymore, at the Dining Out and too busy with Tanveer. True, I promised that I will always be there for you and I tried my hardest, but how can I do that if you don't let me? You're still not letting me, just half an hour ago you rejected my offer again.

"As for the other promise... I'm 41 years old, Desiree." I plead with her to understand. I don't know why, but for some reason it's important to me "I want a family of my own while there's still time, before I'm too old or dead. With my job the latter is pretty probable. How long am I supposed to wait for you to either decide you want me or to just drop me again if you yet again find another man more interesting or if you decide I didn't do something right? I've been waiting for over 5 years, through your multiple side-interests, distractions and affairs and I'm sorry, but I can't dangle on that rope anymore. I'm too old to be letting myself be strung along anymore. There would always be someone more interesting to you than I and I would be pushed to the side yet again. I bet that had I not taken this promotion, a new officer would be transferred here in the next 2 or 3 months and you would start the mating dance with him all over again and I would again be forgotten in favour of the new interest. Again. I'm tired of always being the second choice, the fallback guy and safe-bet for when the times are slow for you and you're experiencing a man-drought. And in the last year and a half I realized that you were right: we would never work. But not only because we both don't want to be on top, since You’re the only one seeing relationships as power-struggles and wars, not me, but also because we're just too different to be compatible, we're fighting half the time, 90 percent of who I am you hate, you especially hate the part of me that defines me and has defined my life and identity ever since I can remember. This whole thing between us is just a dance that destroys everything and everyone connected. Look how many other people we've hurt over the years, Allison, Rick,... ourselves. It's time for this to end and I'm ending it now. I received a chance for a new beginning with a promotion I have given up on because I threw 6 months away last year for someone who was completely ungrateful then and still is now, and I'm taking it. I need to start afresh and if you want what's good for you and others then you'll do that too."

I can see in her eyes that this is not something she wants to hear, ever wanted to hear, but she also can't avoid the truth of my words. We both need a fresh start and the only way we have a chance of attaining that is by breaking it off completely.

She starts to protest, but I cut her off. I know I'm behaving tyrannical and not letting her speak, but I'm doing that because she doesn't need to. Her opinion on this doesn't matter and this new lookout is quite liberating.

This is not a democracy, I've decided to do this, I'm finally doing something for myself and not for others and for the first time in too long it's only my opinion that matters to me, no-one else's, not even Desiree's. I should've stopped letting her influence my life and letting her have a say in it long ago. If I had, my life would've been better now, on track and perhaps I would already be having the happiness that I've been wanting for decades, the happiness that I deserve.

"Desiree, you know there's no other way."

After a few seconds of trying to come up with something to say she deflates and shrugs helplessly.

Knowing that this might be the last time we will ever see each other again, I send her a warm smile. Our acquaintance was always volatile, I've had enemies I had better relations with, except for when they tried to kill me, but I still don't want us to part on a bitter, angry and hostile note. The reason is I don't want to have any regrets later in life and knowing I could've parted on peaceful terms and I hadn't, would definitely be a regret.

"Take good care of yourself, Marine, I'm not gonna be there to save your ass out of the fire anymore. Keep it and your head down and stay as far away from the Agency as you can, to stay alive. But most of all, try to find happiness for yourself. And, Desiree?" I decide to try one last time to appeal to her common sense and hope she won't blow me off again "Be careful with Tanveer, I've got a bad feeling about the guy."

She sniffles, nods and leaves the office. I know she didn't listen to my last advice, but I can't stay and hold her hand through life for the rest of eternity. It's time Desiree learns she needs to take responsibility for her own actions, not shove it on others and blame them when something goes wrong, like she's done her entire life. She also needs to take her life into her own hands and learn how to make her own decisions, lead her own life, not hang on someone else to make them for her, to tell her what to do. For always claiming and repeating how independent she is and how she doesn't need anyone nor their help, she sure can't do or decide anything on her own. While that is good in the military, it's also the reason why she's a loser in private and civilian life. The unfortunate thing with learning is that you learn on your mistakes. With Desiree's fetish for secret agencies, the world of spies and the wrong kind of men I just hope she'll survive her lessons.

I would've given her a hug, but we've become so estranged and distant in the past few years, especially this last year, that doing it would've just felt too awkward.

The door wasn't closed for 2 minutes when they opened after a small, timid knock, revealing Riley, barely holding on to her composure.

"Hey." she greets me, tears in her voice.

"Hey." I greet back.

"So, you're taking it, huh?" she fiddles with the buttons of her blouse. "When you told me about it, after the SecNav gave you the offer, you said you didn't know what you'll do. And now it's a done deal."

"Yeah, I almost didn't take it, but in the end I decided I need a new start." putting the last things into my box I'm finished and dedicate her my entire attention, ignoring the meaning of Riley being the only one in whom I confide, when she should be only a Petty Officer to me. She's stopped being only that months ago, when she became my only friend and my confidant "This isn't goodbye for life, Riley, we'll see each other again. You can still come visit me and I'll make sure to drop by whenever I'm in the 100 miles radius. As for until I leave... why don't you come over for dinner tonight? This is really not a good place for a talk. Besides, I'm not leaving today, we'll get our chance to say goodbye."

She nods and I can see the need for a comforting hug in her expressive dark pools of emotion, but we both know we can't do this here. There's probably already too much speculation about us among the staff after I chose her to do the honours, no need to give them any more ammunition. If the brass knew how good friends I am with an enlisted they would probably burn me on a stake, but you simply can't stay impartial and distant when you spend every waking hour with someone. It's gonna be hard, after spending entire days of months in her company, to suddenly being without her, but I know that somehow, some way our friendship will survive. She's my only real friend anymore, so our friendship must survive even this.

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After clearing out my office and packing my personal stuff into a box, I head out. In the bullpen is the whole staff waiting, minus Desiree. I shake hands with Ryan and tell him I'll drop by to say goodbye to Hillary and the kids. Riley is still standing in my office doorway, observing with her eyes shining from tears held back. Desiree and I have already said goodbye and I see her standing inside her office, looking into the bullpen, before she closes her blinds. For some reason, in that second, it feels deeply symbolic.

Next comes Kyle . We shake hands, but the tension that's build up a lot since I came back is still there. Our friendship is tainted and the time has run out to fix it. This strain on a 23 years old friendship lays heavily on my soul and I just hope it won't become a regret when it's my time to depart from this world.

After that I turn and leave JAG HQ and their lives.

EPILOGUE PART 1

Five years have passed since that fateful day in Autumn when I left HQ. Now I'm returning as the youngest JAG ever.

I kept in touch with Hillary and Ryan through e-mails and occasional visits, so we never did lose contact.

Ryan, Hillary and their now 6 children are still a model family, though they had some problems these last few years. A.J. had issues adjusting to having even more younger siblings and less attention from his parents, expressing them with temper tantrums and running away, but eventually he dealt with it. They were transferred to Italy last year and are enjoying the beautiful climate. Lucky them...

Why can't Force Judge Advocate Naval Forces Europe HQ be in Naples? Or Taranto? Or, better yet, Palermo? London is a beautiful city, rich with history, but the climate sucks and it's too crowded and too polluted. South Italy would be perfect. Maybe I'll do something about it now that I'm the JAG... Or maybe I'll even move the JAG's office from Falls Church to someplace warmer... DC is no longer my home, hasn't been in years, a literal lifetime has passed since the last time it was.

Kyle Slater retired to be Varese's manager and they married soon after. They now have 2 children with another on the way. Kyle , Matthew and I get together a couple of times a year, courtesy of military transports, and tell each other tall stories of heroism and horrors from the battlefield of marriage and family.

How things have changed... five years ago... hell, 2 years ago, we would be telling each other stories of combat, blood, gore, night carrier landings, navigating underwater canyons, gunfights, dogfights,... and now we talk about things like our kids' first words or their first going to the real toilet by themselves... We love our families, but there's no doubt we miss our old lives, the excitement of danger, the simple and quick moves from one billet to another. We just had to grab a transport bag, fill it with the essentials and then board a COD. Now even going to the store is a real operation, with car-seats, diaper bags, planning and more stress than planning a daytime assault. Still, I don't think either of us would be willing to sacrifice our new life and our families to go back to that old life.

Who would've thought that we, old bachelors, would all find love and settle down at roughly the same time, so late in our lives? Never would've thought he would wise up anytime soon, or ever for that matter, but Matthew had finally caught that bug called love and caught it bad. He namely married the (un)fortunate woman. Well, Kate personally thinks herself the most fortunate woman on Earth, which is good, as does Matthew of himself. Well, he thinks of himself as the most fortunate man, not woman...

Matthew called me a week ago and told me they just found out she's pregnant. I've never heard him so content and, dare I say, happy. Even though I had my misgivings about the fate of their relationship at first.

Why?

Well, Kate Matthew is over 20 years younger than he because of which it really bothered him when he realized he's fallen for her a month after they met (more like, fought over a cab at the airport, which led to Matthew asking Kate out, and then they somehow just slid into dating), short, more plain than anything special physically and was about to graduate from pre-med when they met (see what I meant with young?), which means much smarter than the women he went for previously...

However, I now can't deny the fact that they're good for and to each other and definitely happy. And that's all that matters, isn't it?

At least now I can tease him about robbing the cradle...

Evans is coaching Little League Baseball in New York. All of our hopes for him fell through when he didn't follow our silent wishes and tried for a second start with Marcella. Guess he's just one of those people destined to live and die alone and lonely.

Webb was eliminated by the Agency itself because he became too much of a liability and of a rogue. This coupled with his drinking problem forced the Agency to take him out. Can't say it was unexpected with his track-record of shoddy planning and missions that went south one after another. Now, without me and Desiree there to save his ass and his missions, his failure rate was 90 percent and the Agency took him out before he created another Pig's Bay. Can't say any of us who knew the spook was particularly sad to hear of his demise, no matter how awful that sounds. It was after all his own doing that no-one liked him anymore.

LtCol Desiree Booth. Desiree survived her unhealthy interest in Tanveer due to Mama Bear Webb and stayed with JAG until her 20 was up. She was forced to retire then, due to the promotions board not bumping her up to O6 because her record didn't let them do anything else. One black mark by itself isn't much, but when they keep on piling up over the years they end up as one large black smudge. A smudge that doesn't let a career last past 20 years. After she took her retirement she disappeared. I hope she took my advice and found happiness for herself, wherever she is.

Mattie stayed with her father. Until she fell in love that is and followed the guy to a civilian College, to study Business. They're to graduate next year and then get married and start a family. Mattie is following the theme of the rest of us of the old JAG gang... life happens while you're making plans. But even though she's not flying, she's happy. She and Tom are good together and I can safely say that their marriage won't become a statistic.

And Riley?

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Well, honestly, Riley was the one who gave me the ride to AFB Andrews, since my cars and all of my personal belongings have already been sent out with a previous C-17 Globe master. Let me tell you, sleeping in a sleeping bag on hardwood floor for 2 days is more unpleasant than it was 20 years ago. Dressed in civilian clothes she gave me a suffocating hug and a tearful long wave goodbye from where she stood, beside the runway.

As with Roberts and Matthew, Riley and I kept in contact through email and occasional phone calls. The one time I visited her was less than 2 months after my transfer and the visit couldn't have come at a better time, since she was having problems with an old friend who popped up only to frame Riley for murder, and with the incompetent police who didn't want to bother trying to find the real perpetrator, when they had such a great scapegoat at their disposal.

It was 5 months after I took command that I had a surprising visitor while relaxing after a hard day's work at the office. When I opened the door, a most unexpected sight greeted me.

There stood Riley Sanders in civilian clothes, with a backpack on her shoulder, a baseball-cap on her head with her long hair cascading in a pony tail down her back through the hole in the back of the cap, looking very young and relaxed. There was no tension about her that was usual while she was at JAG. As it turned out her enlistment was up, she didn't re-apply and decided to move to a warmer climate and look for a civilian gig. She got a job as the head office manager at a law firm in San Diego and decided to look me up. As I found out only years later, the real reason for the move west was the fact that she was in love with me and wanted to act on her feelings now that we weren't bound by the regs anymore, but she didn't let that on back then. I was ecstatic to have a dear friend so near, one who stood so unwaveringly by me through so much. Though I did chastise her for not telling me about it the second she decided not to re-enlist and move west. Her only answer was her impish grin and, deciding I wouldn't be getting a better one, I dropped it.

Soon we started spending our free time together. Going to dinner, going for rides along the coast with my bike or the Vette with the top down, going hiking and to the beach together, flying in Desiree, whom I have had flown to here from DC.

It was great to spend time with Riley again and it also felt nice to have female company again, one who doesn't try to score with you for either your possessions or because she's on the lookout for a husband or she has a thing for uniforms. That's the downside of a uniform, high rank and a sports-car... you are the target of fast women and gold diggers.

Somehow they can smell out when you're alone and thus make an easy target (my position doesn't allow for many friends, since the people I have most contact with are military and almost all of them are inferior in rank) and I couldn't go to a bar to relax after work without being constantly hit on. It was something that would've pleased me to no end 20 years ago, but not anymore. I wasn't looking for one night stands, it simply didn't appeal to me, and all that attention only resulted in me abandoning bars as relaxation in favour of visiting Mom and James and staying at home in the evenings, just me and a cold bottle of beer.

I have always appreciated Riley's company, but now, after being pursued by all those women seeing me only as a way to an easy life, I appreciated her and the fact that she had no such agendas even more. Slowly we became even closer than we were in DC. We started doing little things that meant a lot to each of us, but still we didn't cross that line between friendship and lovers. We occasionally walked around with our arms around each other, went running together every morning, we touched more than we did in DC, we hugged more, we even went on vacation together, but it was always platonic. We never kissed, except on the cheek or forehead, and we never made love.

She was also my support when James and mom were in a crash when a drunk driver ran a red light and t-boned their 300C. Riley and I visited them many times together and soon all the nurses and doctors thought we were married. It was probably Riley's familiarity with my parents, the close bond she and I shared, and the way she supported me. Mom and James thankfully survived, but due to their age their recovery was long and hard. I probably wouldn't have made it through that dark period so nicely without her.

She became my everything.

The first time I openly acknowledged I was in love with her was on a beach. We were laying on our beach towels next to each other on our backs, just talking and taking in the beautiful sun. It was after I sent a killing look at yet another beefed up airhead who was walking down the beach and started drooling at the sight of Riley.

I had to admit she's a very beautiful woman, something I was never blind to, but that little black bikini, a Rickrokini, she had on practically drew your eyes to her. It perfectly complimented her tanned skin, full breasts and killer figure, displaying her firm hips. She has always had a nice tan and a great looking body, but the Californian sun and so much time spent outdoors together, had tanned her body to the warm colour of deep bronze and toned it with a healthy muscle tone. Every time I looked at her I had trouble breathing, I'd been fighting arousal all day, as always when we went to the beach together. But the guy still had no right to look that way at MY Riley. That's when I noticed for the first time just how territorial I was of her.

When did I start thinking of Riley as mine? We weren't involved, she wasn't my wife and I had no right to stake claim on her. That's when it hit me that I've fallen in love with her. Okay, it didn't actually hit me since I'd known that my feelings for her weren't just platonic anymore even while I was still pinning away for Desiree. But to admit it to myself... that was something else entirely. I was finally ready to act on my feelings.

Noticing I've gone very quiet Riley turned her head to look at me. "Chance, what is it? What's wrong?" she asked me. The honest concern and love in her eyes, that I failed to recognize 'till then, did me in.

Not answering I started to lean in. She didn't move away, she didn't slap me, she didn't even run away screaming, as Desiree said every woman did around me. Instead she tilted her head up, her eyes became black pools of liquid and she did the most erotic thing I ever saw. She ran her tongue over her dry lips in preparation of our kiss.

Next thing I knew, I was crushing her against me, kissing her as if my life depended on it. Not that she didn't want it. She was giving back as good as she got.

The catcalls were a literal bucket of cold water for us. We were suddenly brought back to reality in which we were making out on a public beach. We slowly pulled apart, our lower lips still held together for a couple of seconds and then we just stared into each other's eyes, confirming what we saw in there. After calming our racing hearts, I lay on my back again and Riley cuddled into my side.

Her body pressed tightly into mine was a living contradiction. Soft, warm skin against muscles of her stomach. Somehow her belly managed to look soft and be toned at the same time, it's something that's still confusing me. The flatness of her stomach emphasising her full, heavy, beautiful breasts even more; they were like large soft cushions against me.

After a while, when I was sure she was already asleep, she slipped further up my body so we were cheek-to-cheek and whispered into my ear words I would remember for as long as I live: "There's something I wanted to tell you for a long time, since you came after me to the bar on that Christmas. I love you, Chance."

My voice husky with emotion I replied "I love you too, Riley."

She then settled down and went to sleep while I remained awake, holding her to me and just revelling in having it all for the first time in my life. For the first time since Taylor I was truly happy again and I swore to myself to never do anything to screw it up.

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That was also the first night she slept over. We didn't make love right away, deciding to take it slow in some areas. We already knew each other, so that phase wasn't needed, but we both felt our first time should be something truly special. From experience I also decided that we shouldn't stall things either. A real courtship began. Romantic dinners, holding hands, kissing, walks on the beach in the moonlight, the works.

More and more of her possessions found their way into my house and soon, more and more of our things were mixed together all through it. My shaving kit and her feminine one, our tooth brushes in the same glass, her feminine products under the sink, our clothes mixed up in our closet, her underwear, bras and clothes in our washing machine and on the drying line,... It was obvious a woman was living in my house, you could immediately see it, there were hundreds of signs. Seeing our stuff so mixed together, a warm feeling of domesticity washed over me. Everything about this scene told me that this wonderful, warm, loving woman is mine and is here to stay. It all screamed of domesticity, of a life-long commitment, something that I craved with her. Something that I've been wanting for 20 years, but could never achieve until now.

Mom and James were ecstatic over the new progress and officially welcomed her into the family. I say 'officially', since they've been counting her as family for a long time now. One late evening after Riley had fallen asleep against my shoulder in the wicker loveseat we were sitting in, in my parents' beach-view backyard, and James had already gone to sleep, Mom used the opportunity and confessed she and James knew immediately after Riley moved to San Diego that she would be good for me, and I for her, and that they've hoped we would find love and happiness together.

From the start of my relationship with Riley I was completely aware I would be proposing to her soon. She knew it too. There was no doubt where our relationship was heading and neither of us felt like wasting too much time.

Finally one day when we went flying in Desiree, Riley settled herself into her seat when something caught her eye. There on the stick was something glittering. She immediately recognized what it was. With tears streaming down her cheeks and shaking hands she reached out and tore away the thread with which the ring was tied to the stick. Beside it was a card. I have thought long and hard of what I would write on it, but decided that the honest, direct and simple approach was the best, so this is what awaited Riley *Will you marry me?*

Short and to the point, I'm not the type to wax poetics and, frankly, sharing my emotions was always hard for me.

She turned to me where I was still standing on the wing, ready to strap her in, and what I saw in her eyes took my breath away. The depth of love and the amount of joy in her deep pools were overwhelming. She didn't say anything, just smiled a watery happy smile and slipped the ring on her finger. That was all that was needed.

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Getting married was just a formality, we were already married in our hearts, minds and souls. Our wedding ceremony was an intimate affair, just the two of us, my parents and the Justice of Peace, on top of a cliff overlooking the ocean.

That was also the night we first made love. Unconsciously we'd waited for our wedding night to consummate our relationship and after the fact we both agreed it had been worth waiting. That night Riley also gave me another amazing gift, her virginity. When I asked her about it her answer was simple "You saw the kind of men I was around. Can you really see me giving it to them?" I couldn't and for that I was damn glad. I was and still am sorry I hadn't waited for her myself. I can see now how couples of the previous generations, couples who waited with sex until their wedding night, were together for 50 years and more. It definitely creates a special bond between that married couple.

There is also something completely empowering, powerful, primal about being the only man this amazing woman has ever and will ever make love to. Sexual revolution and this new, shallow way of looking at sex and relationships, has robbed an entire civilization of something special and amazing.

Every time we've made love since then has been on a completely another level from any of my previous experiences. It has become an almost spiritual thing to make love to my beautiful wife. I guess, making love to someone you're so much in love with makes a big difference.

We got married just in time for only a week later I was promoted again. Well, not with a rank, but with a better, more important billet. I became the new Force Judge Advocate, Naval Forces Europe.

Our twins, Alexander and Eve, came into the world exactly 10 months after our wedding, making our already happy life even happier and fuller.

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So now I go back, a new man, a better man, a family man; with my beautiful, devoted and loving wife Riley David and our two children, ready to face new challenges with Riley's support and look to the future, which will be bright and wonderful - of which I have no doubt; as the newest and youngest JAG in the history of the U.S. Navy.

Fin