In the desert no one can hear you scream.

It's not because there's no air, oh, there's plenty of air, you can see it, shimmering up from every surface in waves. Not like the shimmer you see in the distance on a hot road, the illusion of a glassy puddle you'll never reach as it ever retreats from your sight. No, everything you see ripples as if looking through ancient glass. The air feels solid as you step through a door, a physical blow that takes your breath away, and you wonder for a split second if this is real.

It's not because your throat is too dry to make a sound, because you're constantly drinking. You can't walk anywhere without being within sight of a pallet of water bottles. You never go anywhere without a bottle or two bulging in your cargo pockets. You drink and drink and drink, pressing the plastic bottle to your dry lips and drinking the hot water as though your life depended on it, probably because it does.

It's never enough, after chugging an entire bottle in a few seconds, you're just as thirsty as you were before you drank it. It's not because you want to be quiet, oh no, you want to scream. Every day you wake up and hope it was all a bad dream. You awake in darkness the same 6 by 12 foot room, the hungry sun already trying to claw its way in past the cardboard you placed over the window, gleaming like diamonds, painfully bright around the edge of the door to your "pod."

Dust motes float like a curtain through an invading sunbeam. Your mouth is already dusty. Everything is dusty. Every. Thing. The dust is magical, it's worse than oil, seeping through cracks, violating everything and everyone. Outside, the slightest breeze lashes it into a blinding storm. It pools in places, splashing like water around your feet and legs as you dart from shadow to shadow. As you dress, you create your own little dust storm as you put on your uniform like an automaton, wearing the same drab colors as the land you've been exiled to.

No one can hear you scream because you're alone.

Alone, surrounded by thousands of Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines on a U.S. military base in South-central Afghanistan. Alone but surrounded you ask? Why, yes, quite possible!

You see, I'm a military journalist, charged with the duty to tell the story of our heroes. A job I dearly love... how I wish that everyone felt the same as I do! I was sent to "Ass-crack-i-stan" and assigned to a battalion of over 600 people. One lone journalist amongst a cadre of individuals that have a mission vastly different than mine. My place was made imminently clear when I was introduced to the Operations Officer.

"You're a fuckin' waste of oxygen and my time," he said, looking like he'd just stepped in something nasty. "Get the fuck outta here, do whatever it is you do, and don't fuckin' get in the way!"

So I did. I'd never quite felt so much like I was outside and looking in, than I did there. No one wanted to talk, no one wanted their photo taken. The ones that did just flipped the bird or did stupid shit I couldn't use if I wanted to.

I became an involuntary hermit. Like most people, I avoided the sun like it was out to kill me. I rotated my monotonous existence between my pod, the tent where they served our food and the "office;" a desk tucked in the corner of a room full of other desks staffed with people who obviously had more important jobs than I did.

Clearly I was feeling sorry for myself. Little did I know that things were about to change for the better... and stranger!

I was walking from the mess tent to the part of the compound where I attempted to work, the sun was just rising, I pulled my boonie cap lower over my eyes to block the malevolent rays. It was eerily quiet, a pleasant change from the norm, when at this time I'd usually see squads of Marines running in formation along the dusty roads through the camp, however, it was Sunday, and the typical constant flow of MRAPs, Humvees, HiLux pickups and local national "jingle" trucks was virtually non-existent.

I walked along with my eyes on the ground, my rifle lightly bumping against my back, an oddly

comforting sensation. I watched for interesting rocks and the like, the base was covered with gravel from local quarries and riverbeds, I never knew when a bright speck of color would be peeking from between the usual greys and tans. I gradually became aware of a rhythmic sound approaching, pulling me from my reverie back to the present.

Looking up, a lone figure was silhouetted against the rising sun, a ponytail flying side-to-side in sync with the quiet crunch of her footsteps against the road.

"Mornin'," she panted as she jogged past me, her easy, regular breaths echoed in my mind long after she was out of earshot.

I recalled that her mouth had been curled in a half-amused smile as I watched her diminishing form gliding effortlessly away from me. As I unfroze and resumed walking I knew that I had seen her somewhere before, but military girls are tricky to reconcile, their appearance changes drastically when their hair isn't up and their shape is no longer hidden beneath our rather formless and baggy uniforms.

I proceeded to my office on autopilot while trying to remember where we'd met. While I thought about that, another thought occurred to me: she looked happy. Or maybe content... I dunno, but it was certainly different from the normal depressed misery I saw on most people's faces around me... and staring back at me whenever I looked in the mirror.

Gosh, how long had it been since I had exercised? That's right, since about a week before I flew into this hellhole. Would PT help me shake this funk? About that time I remembered when I had met the jogger, she worked with the comms guys, running the battalions' radios, satellite communications and computer network. Her name was.... L- Lisa! Yeah, Lisa.

Huh, Lisa. I had a completely different impression of her in uniform... with her hair up in a tight bun and her eyes hidden behind military issue "birth-control" glasses, the next most prominent feature was her rather large mouth. She seemed boney and her uniform overwhelmed her figure, her narrow shoulders appearing slumped.

This morning, running along in her PT gear, a brown t-shirt and navy-blue running shorts, she seemed like a different person altogether. Her slumped shoulders only appeared slumped because of her baggy uniform, this morning they were squared in perfect runner's form. Without her BCGs and a hint of a smile, her countenance was rather pleasant, handsome versus pretty, yet still quite feminine. My mind rewound the scene as she jogged past me and pulled out more details.

Her legs were thin, but not boney, with well-defined muscles, her arms were the same... In fact, the girl's ripped! Thin and muscular, like a... well, like a runner. A marathon runner. Her chest was quite flat, as well as her rump, and her hip bones were prominent. Replaying the memory of her as she dwindled in the distance, her wide hips and abnormally wide thigh-gap were most noticeable.

I new thought tickled my subconscious, a tiny spark of life in this desert, I concentrated on the sensation to coax it to grow. Could I kill two birds with one stone? Could I muster enough will-to-live and start PT- ing again? Exercise is an age-old mood lifter, if you can find an activity you enjoy. Could I make a friend and break my solitude by joining Lisa in running? God, I hate running! I'd almost rather do anything other than run, and getting up before the sun rises is my personal "kryptonite," yeah, yeah, I know, "then why did you join the military?" Anyhow, the rapid beating of my heart in my chest convinced me that there was something worth pursuing here.

I spent the rest of the day thinking about my new hope. Obviously inviting myself to join her running would be beyond rude, so I merely worked out the logistics of my new morning routine, when I would get up, what route I would run, when I would shower. Mundane details I could throw myself into, like finding my running shoes hidden under my body armor in my deployment bag!

-Intermission- ^_^

It's been about nine weeks, Lisa and I have been running together Monday, Wednesday and Fridays for about seven of those weeks now. Turns out it was pure chance, or destiny maybe, that I had seen her on Sunday. She had comms duty the next day and would miss her run so she chose to do it early.

Anyhow, I had started my own running routine and eventually we had sync'd up. The next thing I knew we were running along together while I attempted to gasp my half of a conversation while puffing along like an old steam engine. My 39 year old body eventually shifted from plodding along like Frankenstein's monster and learned to glide along the road as I was taught by the lithe, 24 year old marathon runner (guessed it!) beside me.

Lisa was a patient and gentle coach who transformed my loathing of running into an appreciation, maybe even a genuine like of the activity! I now enjoyed trucking along in companionable silence, eyes on the horizon, feeling my body warm up to the steady locomotion across the inhospitable landscape. We'd talk as often as we didn't as we jogged, our conversations ranging from our families' back in the states, to movies, work, life in the military, the list goes on.

Our mutual geekiness spanned the years between us and I felt my friendship with her quickly becoming genuine affection. Inside, I hoped she felt that same, outside, I knew we had to keep things above- board. In the military, there are real life penalties for adultery. So I kept my feelings to myself...

On top of the crushing loneliness I had been dealing with, there was another uncomfortable realty of being away from home... I was going on five months without any physical relationship with another human being. It's not just the lack of sex, I won't kid you, that's IMPORTANT, but what was also killing me was there wasn't really any kind of physical contact. Aside from a handshake or two when meeting someone... no high-fives, no fist-bumps, no hugs (side, front, or back), no sitting hip-to-hip, no cuddles, snuggles... nothing.

I had begun to burn inside as we jogged along, sometimes willing with all my might to magically nudge Lisa off balance so she'd stumble into me. My skin would practically tingle if our sweaty elbows so much as brushed past each other. It was getting ludicrous, I'm not even going to mention the endless fantasies that paraded behind my eyelids as I attempted to get to sleep every night, a tent painfully pitched in my shorts until I finally broke down and satisfied the insistent little monster... it's a wonder that there's any skin left.

I felt ridiculous, like a dirty old man lusting after someone half his age, like a stupid cartoon character or a cliché, reduced to a parody of a middle-aged man. I hated my thoughts being run by the tyrant between my legs and decided to fix the situation (as middle-aged men are wont to do). I hated to do it, but I told Lisa that I was going to start running after sunset, my best solution for trying to put some distance between us.

When she inevitably asked why, I told her it was for her own good. That people in the battalion were starting to talk about us and that I didn't want any rumors reaching her husband at home, nobody needed that stress on top of the deployment too.

The hurt in her eyes was the first time I had any indication that my feelings may have been reciprocated. She looked downcast as we finished our cool-down stretches and was uncharacteristically quiet.

"Let's be smart about this," I said, offering her a fist to bump.

Lisa stared at my hand for a few seconds before unenthusiastically giving it a tap with her own knuckles. A high-five or fist bump was our traditional gesture when we parted ways after a run.

"Yeah, okay," she said, turning and walking away, eyes on the ground.

I felt sick to my stomach. This didn't feel right, but my mind was sure that I needed some space, even if only to sort out the incoherent jumble in my own head. Seriously, what did I expect if this went further? I'm sure as hell not going to give up on nearly 20 years of marriage, or risk losing my kids in a divorce, no matter how lonely or horny I was, nothing's worth that!

I tried to keep reminding myself that as I stumbled through my daily routine feeling ill. When I finally went to bed, I crashed hard and went right to sleep, my dick finally silent for the first time in weeks. I spent a couple days moping before finally gathering enough willpower to get back to running. After another pointless 12-hour day, I got changed and headed out for a run, the sun having just set.

I ran along the main roads for a mile, lit by the portable light towers before turning off onto a side road. The moon was already up and nearly full, coating every surface with a blue-ish, slippery kind of light. I heard the footsteps a second before another runner came up beside me, startling the wits out of me.

"Holy shit!" I squawked, breaking stride and stumbling a bit.

"Take it easy old man," Lisa teased with a smile, slowing a bit to let me catch my stride.

"What- what are you doing?" I asked, trying not to look too happy.

"I don't wanna be smart about this," Lisa defiantly said, giving my words back to me.

My heart soared in my chest and junior tried to make his presence in my shorts known, but an erection rarely stands up, so-to-speak, to running.

"Look, I'm sorry ..." I started, before Lisa cut me off.

"I know," Lisa said sharply. "Look I know what you're thinking, 'cus I'm thinking it too. And no, I don't know what this is. I know that I'm not throwing away my marriage and my baby boy for some middle aged man, no offence, and I know in my heart that you love your family as well.

"I also know that what's happening here and now is real, and it means something too," Lisa continued. "I like you... and maybe more than like you... I know that you feel the same. I could hear it in your voice when you said we wouldn't run together any more..."

Lisa's voice trailed off as we trotted along in the moonlight, the hulking forms of MRAPs and other huge trucks lined the "street," making a canyon of the road. The air was rapidly cooling, but the massive vehicles continued to shed heat stored in their thick metal shells.

"And... I want you too," Lisa spoke, ignoring the intervening silence and picking up where she left off.

Apparently, my simple brain couldn't process this information and keep my legs moving at the same time as I came to a stumbling halt. Lisa jogged on for a second before looking over her shoulder. Laughing, she turned around and jogged back, stopping to stand in front of me, hands on hips and breathing deeply.

"You want me," I repeated dumbly, to which she nodded.

"You sure?" I asked, incredulous.

"Yeah! Is that so strange?" Lisa replied, sounding frustrated.

I looked up the road we had been running on and back the way we came, no one was in sight. I quickly grasped Lisa's hand and darted in between the parked MRAPs, pulling Lisa along. After 20 feet I stopped and turned, and Lisa rushed into my arms, wrapping her own around me and holding me tight.

Suddenly it was as if every inch on me could feel every inch of her pressed against me. Her strong, wiry arms were wrapped around my ribs and the side of her face was pressed against my sternum. I could feel the subtle swell of her flat breasts pressing into my belly with each breath. Her warm belly was pressed against the bulge that had suddenly appeared in my shorts.

She turned her face upward as I looked down, and bending slightly, our lips instinctually met for the first time. Our lips were salty and slippery with sweat from running, but to me it was the most delicious thing I had tasted in months! Our hands had a mind of their own, roaming about each other's bodies and grasping, groping and rubbing every hill and valley, trying to memorize the landscape.

As our mouths and tongues drank each other up, our hands rapidly found their way to where they got the most reaction, a gasp here, a moan there. After grasping my ass tightly for a while, pulling my groin against her body, Lisa released my buns and made some space so she could manoeuver her hands between us, pulling the elastic of my shorts and underwear away from my body and sliding her hands down to encircle my hard shaft in one, and cup my balls in the other.

"Holy fuck!" I breathed, suddenly distracted from where I had been licking and nibbling on her ear.

"You like that, does that feel good?" Lisa cooed, squeezing my dick and balls for emphasis.

"Fuck yes," I whispered.

"Good," she purred. "I've been wanting to do this for the longest time. Every girl wants to help her daddy out."

Lisa had pulled back to watch my expression when she said that. My eyes got wide for a second as things took a kinky turn... and when she winked at me, I couldn't help but return her wicked grin with one of my own.

"As long as Daddy can return the favor," I growled into her neck as I resumed kissing and licking.

"Oh yes, Baby Girl wants everything Daddy's got," Lisa moaned as my hand found and firmly cupped her pubic mound over her shorts.

Rising on her tip-toes, Lisa began biting and licking at my neck while genuinely beginning to stroke my cock in earnest. Admittedly, my hands slowed down in seeking to return the pleasure I was receiving, my mind duly distracted by her surprisingly delicate hands, but I did manage to work my hand under her waistbands. My fingers wandered down through thick but incredibly soft pubic hair and immediately found the hard nub of her clit already poking out from between her outer labia.

"Oh Daddy," she moaned, goose-bumps spreading across her skin as I slowly circled her clit with my middle finger.

After only a few seconds, I felt a shiver run through her whole body and my hand was pulled from her shorts as her knees buckled and she sank to the ground, breathing heavily.

"Ungh, hah, hah," she panted quietly, trembling as her orgasm ricocheted through her body.

"Um, Lisa, Lisa?" I tried to get her attention, luckily she had let go of my balls, but her remaining hand was seriously coming close to strangling my dick and it was getting painful.

"Oh! Oh god, I'm so sorry," Lisa finally exclaimed, blinking and recovering from her daze.

"Mmmm, let Baby make it all better," she said coyly, leaning forward and rising up on her knees a bit to favor the swollen, rather large mushroom-shaped head of my dick with a sweet little kiss.

With that, her lips parted and slid around and over the head, slipping a few inches of my cock into her mouth. Though warm from running and standing between vehicles still hot from the desert sun, it felt like my dick was being dipped in liquid fire.

Lisa began to bob back and forth a little, taking only the end of my cock into her mouth, her small fingers were wrapped around the base of the shaft and her free hand came up to gently fondle my testicles.

"Huh-oh god," I grunted as I watched saliva begin dripping from her lips into the dust beneath us.

"I'm gunna, I'm gunna..." I tried to warn her that I was going to come, but she already knew.

Lisa looked up into my eyes and stopped bobbing, leaving only my head between her lips. She

lengthened her stroking motion and added a little twist and gave me a "I've got this" wink again. I could see and feel that she was applying some serious suction to my twitching organ.

"Fffffuuuuuck!" I squeaked as I felt my very soul jet out of my hard cock into Lisa's hungry mouth.

She stroked and pulled, sucked and swallowed as I reached behind me to steady myself against the hot metal skin of the MRAP, my knees becoming weaker and weaker. Lisa pulled her mouth off my dick with an audible "pop" and I allowed myself to sink, plopping down in the dirt in front of her. My cock was clean as a whistle and nearly dry as the last of the remaining moisture evaporated quickly.