Chapter Twenty-Five (Epilog…) Mature Subject Matter

J.D. MacGinnis had been through some pretty harrowing moments in his life.

Were he a different type of man, facing down a full-fledged Brigadier General might give pause for thought.

And he admitted, deep down, that he wasn't exactly looking forward to this confrontation.

But he had never been the kind to back down from a fight.

Even so, those intent blue eyes trained so accusingly on him at this exact moment, were a little off-putting, to say the least.

"You broke our deal, Boy." The General was the first to speak, which signified to MacGinnis that the guy was so full of rage, it just sorta oozed out of him unbidden.

J.D. made a mental note.

One would never know from Grove's seemingly relaxed demeanor, however.

One might even say, the man was rather unperturbed, if one did not know the depths to which Leslie R. Groves could sink.

"..Did I?" J.D. asked, keeping his tone respectful.

Groves refused to dignify the remark with a reply. He just kept staring..his mammoth hands laying comfortably over his massive chest, his thick fingers linked in a pseudo-relaxed manner.

"I didn't see it coming." The large man stated, a tiny smile pulling at the corners of his mouth, but the emotion didn't reach those blue eyes, J.D. noted. "..I'll give you that."

The young man didn't pretend to misunderstand. "I needed to level the playing field a little. Grace's insecurities were beginning to wear on her a bit."

Groves nodded almost cordially. "She does let emotions rule her actions." He shrugged the concern away. "I'll work on that issue later."

J.D.'s brow furrowed slightly, for he disliked the implication that there would 'be' a 'later'.

"..So." the cool gaze was lifted. "Do you seriously think a piece of paper and cheap diamond will alter any outcome I have in mind?"

"Cheap?" J.D. took exception. "That fucking rock cost a bundle, not that Grace isn't worth it."

Groves leaned forward, his palms flat on his desk. "What did you hope to accomplish by this useless gesture?"

"To make Grace happy?"

"Or yourself?" Groves countered. "If you really had her best interests at heart, you would step aside and give me free reign."

"In what world?" J.D. scoffed at such a ridiculous theory.

"You can't begin to offer her what I can." Groves was just as disdainful. "What are your plans?" he stood slowly, facing down his opponent with steely resolve. "Knock her the hell up? Keep her barefoot and pregnant?" the large man shook his head disgustedly. "Grace is meant for more important things in this life. If you can't see that, then there truly is a problem."

J.D.'s conscience bothered him a bit on that one. "..Maybe there isn't anything more 'important'."

"What a bunch of horse shit!" Groves snapped peevishly. "That's fucking Neanderthal thinking and you know it!"

"Raising a kid right in this world means something, General." J.D. stood by his convictions. "You have a couple. What are your thoughts on the matter?"

Groves stared moodily at his opponent.

"Grace and me, we didn't have the luxury of the best parental units in the world." The soldier spoke his mind. "Maybe we want a shot at it. To do it right."

"Nice speech." Groves wasn't buying it. "I would be moved except for the fact, I know the only reason you want to seed Grace think it will discourage my interest in her."

There were two sides to every story, and the General wasn't shy about stating his outlook.

"You hope I will find a new play toy and move on..out of your life."

J.D. held his tongue, just as easily as he held the icy cold stare Groves offered.

"What I'm wondering is.." the man tapped his knuckles on his desk, his attention riveted and fixed. "How long, if I actually do decide to call it quits..will it be before you lose interest yourself."

J.D. lifted his head slightly, drawing in a deep, cleansing breath, willing to hear the guy out, as if he had any other choice.

"You hate my guts and the last thing you want is Grace and me as a unit." Groves accused. "So I'm the challenge that holds you here."

"You think highly of yourself, General." J.D. scowled darkly. "The world doesn't revolve around you..especially, my world."

"Really?" Groves mocked derisively. "Once the challenge is over and I am out of the picture. How long do you think you will last? A man like you." The blue eyes raked J.D insolently. "You crave the adrenalin, the rush of another mission. Tell me I'm wrong."

J.D's scowl deepened.

"If it weren't for me, I will wager you would be chomping at the bit even now." Groves lifted knowledgeable brows. "It's in your blood. It's a Spook's form of heroine."

The younger man crossed to the window, his thoughts private. He looked out over the setting sun of another day.

"Does Grace know what you really do for a 'living'?"

"You gonna tell her?" J.D. shifted a frigid stare.

Groves lowered his eyes. "She doesn't need to know that shit." The man crossed, coming to stand beside the younger. "But if she did, she wouldn't let you anywhere near her..or any child you produced, would she."

"How many people did your bombs take out?" J.D. countered. "You make me look like a fucking Boy Scout."

Groves shifted his gaze, he too, looking long and hard at the end of another day. "..Maybe we both should step the hell aside."

"I've tried that route." J.D.'s tone was tight.

"As have I." the senior officer sought the solace of a cup of coffee, securing a cup from the shelf above the blue porcelain pot which constantly set at-the-ready on his Government issued, two-burner stove. "So here we stand, two miserable S.O.B's wallowing in the mire we've made of Grace's life."

"I want the surveillance lifted." J.D. got to the point of this meeting, as far as he was concerned. "No more spying on my wife! Our private moments!"

Groves sipped his steaming coffee casually. "She isn't your 'wife' yet, but..sure." he shrugged massive shoulders. "I could do that." His smile was an unpleasant one. "But then, I would probably do something even more repugnant, knowing me for I would feel decidedly..slighted, you see."

"What the hell could be more repugnant?"

"Oh..Hell." Groves' mind boggled. "So many things come to mind." He shifted a stony stare. "You are the one who broke our arrangement, not me. It would be on your head..wouldn't it."

"..If Grace finds out.."

"She won't." The General's tone was most emphatic.

J.D. digested the confident remark, his doubts still plaguing him greatly.

"It's all I'm left, God-damnit!" Groves' true emotions emerged for a beat, the blue eyes flashing their contempt. "You take that as well?! You're the one who gets to hold her in your arms, taste her kiss!" the man's tone was beyond hostile. "What the fuck, MacGinnis! I thought, you of all people..understood!"

J.D. felt the pressure. "I..understand, General, but..Grace trusts me now..finally!" he had worked so hard to get back to this point. "It seems..wrong!"

"This has never been about 'right or wrong'!" Groves snapped curtly. "Bottom line? I don't trust you to not pull another disappearing act like the one that devastated Grace back at Los Alamos."

J.D. stiffened at the reminder.

"I'm the one who was left to pick up the pieces." Groves hated the man for hurting Grace like that. "You didn't see because your weren't usual!"

"I'm not that man any longer, damn it!"

"People rarely change, especially people like you and me, Boy."

J.D's worse fear was that the man was right.

"The Company has approached you, hasn't it." Groves stated more than asked.

J.D's face masked into a calm placidity.

"They are ready to forgive and forget, right?" Groves persisted.

The young man's jaw tightened.

"You are a valued commodity." Groves seemed to find the fact amusing. "They will always need someone with your..special talents, don't kid yourself you're free and clear of that life."

The silence was brittle.

"And that's why you're willing to remain attached to me." The General set his cup aside. "I can keep them at bay. But nothing in life is free, is it."

How well J.D. knew that axiom.

"It comes with a price. Now you have to decide.." it was cautioned. "Which Master you wish to serve and what this is all about."

J.D's hopes faltered.

"The only thing that will alter my outlook on the matter is time and commitment on your part."

"How much fucking 'time'?" J.D. exasperated. "There has to be an end in sight, General! I won't live under your rules forever!"

Groves gave the matter due consideration. "I can understand that." He mused openly, crossing to his desk, stacking a few papers neatly as he digested the problem at hand. "..I can't give any definitive answers at his stage."

J.D.'s countenance darkened.

"Grace seems relatively content and that will suffice on one level." The man continued, facing the other man squarely. "And our arrangement? I can live with but you take that away and we've got a problem."

J.D. closed his eyes, his heart sinking. "Where does that leave Grace?"

"..If you stay, then it means, I'm wrong about your intentions and I'll step aside." Groves had taken a long time to reply. "It means you're committed to Grace and..I will honor that commitment."

J.D. didn't trust the guy further than he could spit but the words oddly gave him hope.

"I will have to face the fact, you might conceivably be what she wants." Grimly stated. "Keeping in mind, I do not foreseen such an outcome for you two."

The man lifted his head, breathing in a deep breath, his eyes quietly trained. "What about you, MacGinnis? Can you be as magnanimous when my hypothesis is proven correct?"

"It won't be."

"But..if it comes to that?" Groves persisted.

"I..would like to think, I would do what's in Grace's best interest."

"It would take one fucking selfish bastard not to but, that exactly describes you and I, doesn't it." Groves laughed mirthlessly.

J.D. had to concede, the man had a point.

"Only time will tell." Groves philosophized. "In the interim, you keep Grace content and all will be well on my end."

J.D. had hoped for more.

"And by the way." The General's mood seemed improved. "Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials. I'm assuming it will be alright with you, when the time is appropriate..if I kiss the bride?"

"Sure." J.D. inclined his head slightly, his look saying it all. "If it's alright with you, if I knock you on your ass if you don't stay within the accepted parameters when doing so."

Groves chuckled appreciatively. "We once again, have an understanding." The big man was almost jovial now. "Now, go play with your new Fiancee and Kid.." Groves grimaced slightly. "Try to be a little more inventive, hum? Things have been a little dull of late. Step up your game."

J.D. scowled sinisterly for the remark.

"How is your 'role-playing' skills?" Groves pushed the envelope. "I think Grace would enjoy a little more creativity on your part. What do you think?"

J.D.'s jaw clenched and unclenched. "There is nothing 'make-believe' about what I feel for Grace."

"Don't be so fucking 'conventional." The General sighed heavily. "It's advisable to keep some spice in a relationship. I'm trying to help you out here."

"You are one sick bastard, Groves." J.D. had long since realized. "Do you know that?"

"She has a fantastic ass." Groves reminded needlessly. "Don't tell me you wouldn't benefit from that firm little cheek all pink from your handprint."

"You want me to knock you on your ass?"

"Grace is a strong-willed woman." The General didn't seem particularly threatened. "Seems to me, she would enjoy letting go once in awhile..allowing someone else to 'take the reins', so to speak. I could be totally off base here, what do you think?"

The innoculous remark pissed MacGinnis off royally.

"Of course, you have to do it just so." Groves cautioned. "Me? I would tie her hands..take it from behind but I kinda like to 'watch' it slide about you?"

J.D. felt his body respond to the stimuli, unable to believe he had allowed such a disgusting thing.

He should be livid and a part of him was but..his mind was very much attuned to the sick scenario the other man was creating, despite his attempts to control his thoughts and reaction.

"That little pussy opening up, all pink and beautiful.." Groves watched the other man carefully. "Swallowing you inch by inch?"

J.D. concentrated hard on controlling his body's response. What the fuck was wrong with him?

"And the fucking sounds.." Groves felt a little tightness in his own precisely pressed slacks. "The whimpers..the tiny gasps of..shock..the moans of total acceptance."

The soldier closed his eyes to the visuals the guy painted, beads of sweat breaking out on his forehead and upper lip.

"I fucking envy you the privilege."

J.D. grunted, shifting about restlessly.

Groves' eyes dropped to the huge outline of the other man's arousal clearly visible under MacGinnis' uniform khaki's.

"Want me to come over there, Boy?" the older man teased. "Suck you off?" Grove's grin widened. "We could make it a threesome. You fuck Grace and I fuck your ass. What'd ya think?"

J.D. swallowed his disgust and..his growing excitement.

"Or vice versa." Groves shrugged. "I'm flexible about such things."

"You fucking Son-of-a-bitch!" J.D. managed to rasp. "I should shoot you right in your smug face for speaking about Grace like tha.."

"Grace has nothing to do with it." Grove's eyes hardened. "Whether you want to admit it or're like me, MacGinnis! Experimentation is not a dirty it."

J.D. sat heavily in the chair across from the man's desk, needing the support.

The silence grew.

Groves studied his specimen with a keen intellect. "..Don't take it so hard, Boy. Only proves you're human."

J.D. didn't want to be 'human' if it meant he accepted..even welcomed, were he honest, something so perverse.

"You ever done something like that?" Groves was curious.

"I don't have to wonder about whether you have or not, do I." J.D. lifted accusing eyes.

"Not with my wife." Groves didn't take offense. "She wouldn't go for it."

"Neither would Grace!" J.D. stated bitterly.

"I know that." Groves nodded solemnly. "You didn't answer the question."

"It's none of your damned business!" J.D. spat.

"Which have and your reaction says you enjoyed it, so.." Groves shifted non-committal stare. "So don't be so fucking judgmental!"

J.D was backed into a corner and he knew it.

"You go home and you think long and hard about what you want in life." Groves suggested. "We can do this the easy way..or not."

"Grace?" the man hated to disturb the wonderful feeling holding the woman in his arms created but his mind was too active this night, his conscience, too troubled, his emotions..too raw.

She murmured sleepily, already wanting to sleep, sated and content, the man's body warm against her naked flesh.

"..You know I would do anything for you." J.D. tightened his embrace, pulling the lithe body more intimately to his. He buried his face in the fragrant tresses, gently kissing Grace's nape.

The question, or perhaps, the tone, disturbed the woman's serenity. She forced the euphoria aside, turning slightly in his embrace, her attention focused. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing." He was quick to reassure. "..I just wanted to say the words, I guess. So you would know."

"I already know, J.D." Grace's smile was a gentle one.

"That shit..tonight.." he didn't know quite how to say it. "Was just..a game, alright?" he stumbled over the words. "I just don't want you getting bored with me."

She grinned, flushing slightly. "Well, I'm not likely to if you keep doing..things like that!"

She quickly planted an awkward kiss on his brooding mouth.

" was ok?"

"I should be asking you." Her blush deepened. "I'm sorry I didn't ..catch on right away." She couldn't hold his eyes but valiantly attempted the feat from time to time. "I was clumsy and.."

"It was fucking perfect." He corrected quietly, his look saying as much.

Grace smiled happily. "I' time." She lifted a seductive stare.

"I..didn't hurt you did I?" he had lost himself in the 'role' a few times.

She giggled, returning to her former position, her hand seeking his, the small fingers intertwining securely. "Wasn't that the point of the whole experience?"

J.D. settled, spooning his body to the lovely plains of her back and bottom.

"My butt still tingles." She giggled again. "You're certifiable!" she chastised, seeking his heavy stare. "..You know that?"

She stroked his stubbled cheek line in open affection. "Where do you come up with such..inventive things?"

"Comic books." He dead-panned.

She laughed her delight. "I'll have to broaden my reading material."

" liked it?"

"Don't you dare tell anyone I allowed such debase treatment!" she teased. "I know just as many of your little secrets and don't for one second think, I won't rat you out!"

J.D. leaned, kissing her gently. "I love you, Grace."

Grace's green eyes widened, her mouth falling slightly agape for the totally unexpected proclamation.

"I always have."

"I.." she swallowed the threat of tears. "I..."

"With all that I am..or will ever be." He continued, his voice low..soothing. "And I will do so my dying breath."

Tears welled in the beautiful eyes. Grace squirmed about in his embrace, facing him finally, her hot middle pressed intimately to his early arousal.

She coaxed his mouth open with her kiss, hunger flaring between them. "Show me!"

So..J.D. MacGinnis took up the challenge, doing his very best to prove his boast, all his doubts and fears for what the future might hold, evaporating in the passion of Grace Morgan's kiss.

He could face the Leslie R. Groves of this world. He could face the pressures and demands.

What he could not abide..was the absence of this woman in his life.

Knowing he had her trust and love was enough to see him through anything else the World might throw at him.

For the first time in his life..Jack Daniel MacGinnis understood the purpose assigned him in life.

And for the very first time…he embraced his 'duty'.


Thank each and every one of you for reading and especially for taking the time to comment, encourage and guide. You can't know what it means for a writer to receive such a gift! Hope the story brought a smile here and there. It was pure pleasure to create and get to know these characters. Hope you are left feeling the same. Calli H