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Special Forces Chapter XXXIII: Principles of War
 
 

October/November 1991, the Persian Gulf

Dan's and Vadim's shifts continued to be out of sync for the next couple of weeks, while the weather was finally heading towards winter. The nights had become cold, but the days were still warm. Nothing compared to late autumn in Russia, or even just Old Blighty.

Eventually, Dan was on the graveyard shift, and Vadim's covered afternoon and evening, leaving little time to be together except for the mornings. Jean, meanwhile, had been seconded away from Vadim's patrol to work with some newcomers.

One day the shit hit the fan. There'd been an ambush, and Vadim's patrol - or rather that of Pascal, who had taken over as the team leader while Jean worked with the new guys - had to go charging in, guns blazing, shrapnel whizzing past. Who or what attacked them they never knew, but the opposition had decided to do a quick hit-and-run, and Pascal, like any good leader, decided to get back to base 'pronto' as he said, and they grabbed the wounded and returned to the camp. No need to come down with the heavy boot. By the time they had enough men in place, the insurgents, rebels, or whatever they were, would be gone and were likely getting ready for the evening prayer.

Being easily one of the strongest, Vadim carried one of the men, and the guy was bleeding profusely from wounds in his face and temple; all Vadim could do was cover the wound and get him to the medics. He knew he'd get debriefed about the incident, and, still somewhat shaken, returned to Dan's tin hut to get a fresh set of camo before he'd be grilled by the CO. He did not like that officer, and the feeling was mutual, even though the man never raised his voice with him and never alluded to Vadim's association with Dan nor his origins as a defected former enemy.

When Vadim opened the door, Dan and Jean were standing there. Both were geared up to leave, both had the same shift, different teams, and they were standing close together, within touching distance. Half an arm away. Closer than touching distance. Jean turned to face him, and there was a strange smile, somewhere between embarrassment and something else.

"I'll see you at the checkpoint", said Jean, abruptly, like changing topic in mid-conversation, and suddenly Vadim knew what they'd been doing. Jean's eyes were somewhat glazed, there was an ease and calm relaxation about him that always riled Vadim as if he was 'taking the mickey', as the Brits said. With no further word, Jean walked past, acknowledging him with a grin. Door falling shut behind him.

"Hey," Dan smiled as he turned towards Vadim, "what got you back that early? I'm just about to hit the dust." He was fishing for his shades as he spoke.

"Ambush. Route was cut short getting some guys out." Vadim glanced at the door. He pulled the gloves off, then began to take off the vest that was sticky at the right sleeve. "I'm off to get debriefed."

"What?" Dan suddenly alarmed, the shades never reached his eyes. Dark glance, turning into even darker hardness. "What the fuck happened?" I could have lost you. Could have … no. Unthinkable. He stepped closer, hand resting on Vadim's arm.

"Dave's team got ambushed, people were firing AKs from the roofs, and there might have been an RPG involved. Pascal's team was the closest to get them out." Something wasn't quite right, like Vadim was asleep and dreaming. Dan sleeping curled around him. Dan fucking him. Dan kissing him and sucking him off. Dan. He frowned, staring at the shirt in his hand, idly touched his chest, right underneath the burn scar, nothing felt real, nothing seemed right.

You don't deserve human emotion, Krasnorada.

Vadim shuddered, and looked up, almost alarmed. Times of stress. Strain. His mind suddenly unsteady, reaching for concepts, abstract ideas. Like the idea of Dan and Jean. And why did that affect him like this? After the pool game? "Have a safe shift."

"Aye, but shit, Vadim, talk to me. That's not funny. Where the fuck were you and what happened?" Dan moved even closer. Skin on skin. Almost. Barely an inch between. "If anything, we need to know for the patrol."

Vadim reached for the map in his pocket, and folded it out on one of the crates. Functional. He was still functional. Thank fuck for those drilled-in responses. Professionalism. Dan and Jean. While he'd been working. They'd always done that. Yes. So why did it feel like this? "Here." Finger indicating the area on the map. "It's a troublesome spot anyway, that was bound to happen."

"OK." Dan nodded, making a mental note before he took Vadim's arms with both hands, holding tightly. "Shit." Couldn't help it, he was shaking his head while looking at Vadim. "Could have lost you today. Wouldn't know what the fuck to do." But he had to go, no time, no time. They were waiting.

Vadim nodded, inhaling deeply. "Won't happen. Better goat fuckers than those have tried. And failed." He lifted his hand to touch Dan's chest briefly, clenched his teeth together. "You're late."

"You here when I get back?" Dan couldn't bear letting go, still holding onto flesh and blood.

"Aye. And showered and maybe sleeping." He hoped. He was still numb from - whatever. Was that one of these irrational responses? One of those moments of dread he couldn't place. So what had caused it? The ambush? Something else? But he wouldn't talk about it. Dan was going out, risking his neck on patrol, and confronting right now could get Dan killed. He needed his wits about them out there. "You be safe out there."

"Aye." Dan smiled leaning in for a kiss. Couldn't go without that reassurance. "And if not, I'll haunt your arse to kingdom come."

Vadim felt an odd reluctance, but closed him arms around Dan and pulled him close, ignored, and still couldn't ignore the fact that Jean must have kissed him like that just minutes ago. Wondered if he could taste the other on Dan's lips, and found himself suddenly fierce, invading Dan's mouth, kissing him deeply, madly, like indeed this was the last time, and he pressed harder against the armoured body, suddenly helpless and tender and sad. "Godspeed, soldier", he murmured, pulling away, then turning away, only to make sure his face didn't betray any of that, his body helplessly wanting something that could just leave his life forever on the pull of a trigger.

Dan stepped back, surprised, silenced for a moment, and it took him a second or two before he managed to put the shades back on and nodded, more to himself than Vadim's broad back. "Aye. I'll be back." With that he vanished, for another shift, and another time of putting his life on the line.

* * *

Seven hours later, at the end of the shift and in the middle of the goddamned night, Dan returned to camp, dog tired. Meeting Jean at HQ, while checking in the weapons, he managed a few of his trademark glib remarks, an odd slap on a comrade's shoulder, and a bone weary chuckle. No more. On his way to the shared hut, he could think of nothing better but falling asleep, curled into a tight embrace and relishing Vadim's body heat in the cool of the autumn night. Nevertheless, he had to shower beforehand, half asleep already or not.

Vadim woke when the door opened, awake almost immediately, but a leaden tiredness told him he hadn't actually rested much, might even have been dreaming bad, something dark lingered on the edge of his mind, like a stale taste. He sat up, looking at the dark figure moving about. "How was work?" Strange, sounding like a housewife expecting the husband back. How was work.

"Same shit as ever. None of your earlier problems." There was a tired smile in Dan's voice. Audible, but not visible in the darkness. He wasn't wearing his shades, bare-eyed and bare-souled with tiredness, as he turned towards Vadim, armour undone and discarded, shirt and vest flung into a corner. Reaching out with his hand, fingers eager to touch. "Didn't mean to wake you. I'm sorry."

Vadim took the hand and kissed it, without even thinking about it, then pulled himself up, helping Dan undress. Dan came home to him. These were his quarters. Fuck the legionnaire. "Don't worry. Was sleeping light anyway." He pulled Dan into a tight embrace, suddenly feeling all that fucked-up tenderness again. "Let me help you with the boots." He knelt down, busying himself with the laces.

"Hey," Dan chuckled softly, "I don't expect you to wait hand and foot on me, aye?" Carding his smudged fingers through the short shaved hair, while enjoying the attention.

"I know." Vadim pulled the boots off Dan's feet, left first, then right. Helping him by tugging down the trousers, and Dan stepped out of them. "Can't have you fall in the dark, though."

"Good point. Would be hard to explain, eh?" Dan grinned and yawned at the same time. "I'll be back in a sec." Once he was naked, he wrapped the towel around his hips and got the shower utensils. "Better get under the water or I'll stink to heaven come tomorrow."

Vadim fought the impulse to join or accompany Dan, instead waited and switched on a torch, pointing it away from the bed. Waiting for Dan, sitting on the bed, still with that strange disorientation around..

It took no more than five minutes before Dan returned to the hut. Still damp, hair wet, yawning as he shut the door behind them. "Kept the bed warm for me, Russkie?" Softly teasing as he threw the towel over a makeshift rack near the window.

Russkie. One of two Russkies. "Aye", murmured Vadim and made room for Dan, who stretched with a satisfied groan, from head to fingertips and down to toes. Turning onto his side, he could hardly make out Vadim's silhouette in the darkness, when the torch was switched off. "Did the day rattle you?" Reaching out to trace Vadim's face. Dan's fingertips knew every single inch.

Vadim closed his eyes. He should let it rest. He should rub against Dan, claim him any way he knew, continue to claim him, love him, fuck him and be fucked in return. But it was impossible to ignore the paw prints in the snow. Strange thought. Aye, his father. His father had used that metaphor once. He had said that some events in the past were like a wolves' path through the snow. In the featureless white, these drew the eyes, and, worst, the mind, even if the trace was old and half snowed over again. Vadim had never really understood what his father had actually said. "I'm good. Good you're back." And what he wanted to say was: Good you're mine in this moment. And that meant he was jealous.

"You sure?" That was as far as Dan could think. Knew something was off, but too tired to sense every shift and change.

"Aye."

"In that case, let's go to sleep? I'm fucking knackered." Dan smiled as he shuffled closer, expecting Vadim to turn so he could spoon him. His groin and chest against Vadim's arse and back, that was the way it was right, and the way Dan loved it.

Vadim rolled over on one side, reached back to take Dan's arm and pulled himself closer, seeking a closeness that was more than the usual. He shouldn't bring it up, he should keep shut about it, didn't want to start a fight, he should just swallow that. Should somehow accept that his lover slept with a man who was younger, less fucked up, a man that didn't scream at night. A deserter, and, in certain ways, something that Vadim had never been, something closer and more like Dan. And that it bothered him. Unlike Matt. "You ... you're not serious with Jean, are you?"

Dan tensed, a rigid presence in Vadim's back. "What do you mean?" His exhausted mind frantically tried to get the picture. Something was wrong, no, a lot seemed to be wrong, but what the fuck was going on?

"What I said. You're not serious with Jean." Vadim glanced over his shoulder. "You're just fooling around, right?"

Inhaling deeply, Dan let out his breath after a pause. It made sense now. So that was what was going on, picking up vibes he hadn't understood. "I have sex with Jean, aye. I thought you knew that? You sure as hell behaved as if you knew."

"Yes. I knew. Him and Donahue. But the kid ... is different. Jean. It's about him. I'm just ... I guess surprised you still see him like that."

"Why wouldn't I?" Dan's genuine surprise made him shift backwards, away from the tight embrace, trying to get a good look of Vadim while doing his best to understand a concept that made no sense to him. "It's just sex. He's a mate, and so's Matt and so's Hooch, and so would anyone be who takes my fancy and is willing to shag around for a bit. I don't understand, Vadim. Why wouldn't I?"

Shag around for a bit. Vadim felt his jaw tighten. Why not. Why not indeed. They weren't married. Comradeship wasn't exclusive. Friendship wasn't exclusive. He had never claimed anyone for himself. He had shared a wife that he'd loved but not desired, had taken men that had girlfriends, or wives, had had 'lovers' that were not his, not his, not his property. Vanya hadn't been, Platon hadn't been, Sasha neither. All his life, he'd taken what he could and never managed to claim all of it, always ever shared. It probably had started with the fucking masseur. No such thing as exclusiveness. No husband and wife games. Nothing like that. And he had made his own marriage a farce himself. "I don't know. Really, I don't."

"I don't, either." Dan fell silent, too damn exhausted to get his thoughts straight, he struggled to keep up with the whole thing which seemed a great and big and fucking huge problem, just not in his own mind. "It doesn't mean anything special when I fuck around. Why would it?" Taking his time as he tried to make sense of Vadim's thinking, so alien to his own. "Do you want me to get back to being monogamous, like I was in Afghanistan? I just didn't have the opportunity, but hell, you think I wouldn't have, if there had been? I'm not a girl, I don't expect you not to fuck others if it so happens, and I don't expect this to be expected of me." He stifled a yawn, it wasn't easy to get himself through this morass. "I'm sorry if you're hurt." He added, quieter than before. "I don't mean to upset you, it just never occurred to me that you'd be bothered by it." Moving closer once more, tightened his arms around Vadim. "I love you, Russkie, you know that. You mean the beginning and the end to me, and all that is in between. You are life and death and every single breath, but …" Dan paused, tried to gather his thoughts while fighting against the tiredness, "but that's why I don't get why it's a problem that I share bodily fluids with others." Before Vadim could reply to his last words, he added, "if it hurts you, and if you don't want me to, I won't do it. OK? You're more important than anyone or anything else. If you can't stand it, I won't fuck with others. I'll be exclusively yours if you absolutely want me to. Alright?" Falling silent.

Vadim didn't doubt him. Dan and his word and being absolutely loyal and reliable. And what he wanted to say was 'If you touch him I'll kill him', and he thought of the ease with Matt, and the kid's fucking wholesomeness, and the banter with Jean, funny, and light, and it tore him inside but that was something he would never be able to give again. He wasn't made for it, was too fucked up to be this good for Dan, and even if he did fuck around with them, and even if there was more than that between Jean and him, and he was almost positive that it wasn't just sex, maybe not even just friendship, that didn't take Dan away. And if it did, there was nothing he could do to stop it. There was always Dr William's phone number. "It ... doesn't matter. It's just sex. I don't have to see it, and I don't want to", taste them on you, "know. We're not married. And even that ... doesn't mean ... exclusiveness."

"You sure? Because if you're not, I'll tell everybody I'm not available." No matter how little Dan could understand it, he wouldn't … just wouldn't. Too dedicated to just one man.

Everybody. Vadim closed his eyes and held Dan's arm to his stomach.

"We share so much history," Dan added, "I don't want the present to get fucked up."

Worse than we already are? "I'm sure. Shouldn't have brought it up. Now sleep, Dan." And forget I asked. Let's just pretend this didn't happen.

Dan closed his eyes, scooting closer, as close as humanely possible, while his arm around Vadim tightened to almost painful level. "As long as you're sure, aye?" Softly, he was far too knackered to try and drive the point home any further, and far too willing to accept Vadim's agreement at face value. Was all straightforward and easy to his mind, that love and lust didn't have to be the same. Love was exclusive and lust to be shared. He was asleep within a few minutes, pressed against Vadim's back, safe in the embrace and the knowledge that he simply loved that man.

* * *

The next day finally saw a change in their shifts. At last they had some days off together, time for both Dan and Vadim to relax and work-out, if only … if only the camp wasn't expecting half a dozen trucks with spares, kit and explosive. Fresh supplies that had meant to arrive at least two weeks previous, but had been delayed. As usual in the British Forces, nothing went to plan, yet worked out in the end - somehow - anyway.

All hands were needed, soldiers and mercs alike, and all the guys off duty had to put their free time into unloading the trucks. While most men complained, whining and grumbling like bitches, Dan didn't give a shit. 11 AM, not a time he'd still be asleep, neither one he'd be likely to have sex, and well after breakfast. A spot of carrying shitloads of crates wouldn't hurt. He was walking across to the vehicle compound, wearing his shades and nothing but a pair of desert boots and hard-wearing camo trousers, while joking to Vadim, "makes a change to pumping iron, aye?" Grinning broadly.

Vadim peered up to the sky with narrowed eyes and knew he'd burn in the sun. The place had tanned him as much as he could get tanned, and he wore a sun lotion with a ridiculously high number on the pack, and he'd probably still get burned. In fact, he'd taken to wearing the dust scarf around his head, which made him look like a cheap pirate imitation in sand-coloured camo, but at least it meant his scalp wouldn't fall off in big patches of skin. He grunted something noncommittally, walking at Dan's side, wearing the undershirt still, but soon saw that he was overdressed. Most guys had stripped down to their camo trousers like Dan, and Vadim debated whether he should expose more of his skin or leave it at that, keeping a thin layer of protection between himself and cancer.

Dan shrugged and grinned after a side glance, finishing off his fag. Throwing the butt behind himself before they reached the trucks, he greeted his mates. Joked with some of his own team, then Jean's and Pascal's, and simply ignored the rest. Those men, who couldn't stand the faggot in the first place, and plain loathed the sight of a couple in camp. A gay couple. A bloody, seriously, goddamned happy gay couple of mercs.

Vadim just gave people he knew a nod, acknowledging them, as they acknowledged him. Still no runner-up for any popularity contest, but things around him had settled in a somewhat uneasy routine since he'd been part of the rescue op.

Dan had just about finished talking to one of the guys in Jean's team, when he caught a murderous glance from one particular man, and instead of allowing himself to be touched by the hatred, he laughed broadly into Midge's distorted face. "Fancy seeing you here. Didn't realise they let GWARs out in this sun. What with the ginger burn and all that."

Midge exploded into a cacophony of abuse, swearing in Dan's back, when he turned. Standing next to his big Scottish Sergeant mate, he was grinning while Vadim smirked. He couldn't remember what it stood for, but he'd heard the term used in SAS selection - against another 'ginger' as they called the pale redheads. Taking the piss out of gingers was Dan's answer to the constant drone of how they were gay, faggots, and should get their cocks cut off, which Vadim found far more grating than any joke about any hair colour could be. He stood between Dan and Pascal, luckily enough, and the men were forming a line as the trucks approached in a cloud of dust and dirt.

Midge, though, couldn't let go. Right behind Pascal, he kept sneering jibes at Dan, ignoring Vadim between them. Pascal didn't seem happy about this, but didn't do anything either, ignoring the man and the situation.

Dan did his best to ignore the nasty bastard, until Midge started to boast about how Dan had crawled in the dirt, not so long ago, and how he would have finished him off, had the Sergeant not appeared. Dan's eyes narrowed behind the shades, casting a furtive glance at Vadim, who actually didn't seem to pay much attention, instead downing half a litre of water, but appearances with Vadim could be deceptive. If Vadim understood what Midge was implying, the wanker wasn't going to live much longer. Dan half-turned, shouting against the chatter of voices and the roar of the approaching trucks, "yeah, ginger, and we all know why you're called Midge, aye?"

Vadim bent down to put the water bottle down and half-turned to face Midge, whose face was turning so red he looked close to exploding beneath his carroty head. Making it impossible for Dan to watch his face.

"Obviously, not because your name's Mitchell, but as everyone knows who's showered with you, it's because of 'midget'." Dan was smirking from ear to ear, while laughter exploded all around him, drowning out Midge's abuse. The guy was about to launch himself on Dan, when the trucks stopped and soldiers jumped out of them, with several of the higher ranks calling the line of men to order.

There were still sniggers and un-hidden laughter along the lines, and even Pascal kept grinning at Dan, who pretended that nothing at all had happened. And Vadim likely had not caught what the 'midget' had implied. Instead, the Russian was ready and eager to work, mostly to get it over with.

The unloading started. The first crates were handed down, with ample warnings that they contained explosives, mostly hand grenades. The bitches were heavy, found Vadim, taking the crate that came up, and handing it on, making sure that Pascal had it firmly in his grip before he released it. The crates came through fast, as they all wanted nothing more than be done quickly, get out of the heat, and Vadim saw with appreciation how the men began to sweat and how muscles rolled under the skin. He'd keep his shirt on, mostly for the protection, but also because he didn't know who else could read the word on his back, and the scars stood out especially when his skin reddened.

Dan felt sweat run in steady beads from beneath his too-long hair down his neck and trickling along his back, into the waistband of his camo trousers. Sweat that glistened on his chest, stung his eyes beneath his shades, and itched on the pale scars across his stomach, making the grip of his hands slippery. Like Vadim, though, he rather took his time to ensure the next man had his grip firmly on the crate, before he let go.

Everyone worked quickly, efficiently, except for Midge, who kept his jibes up, taunting every time he turned with his crate towards Vadim, who was in front of Dan. Dan ignored the shit, but kept wondering why the hell Midge tended to ignore the other 'faggot', Vadim. Fear, he reckoned, and grinned to himself. Because the bastard just didn't have a clue what he was dealing with. Or because he, Dan, had gone to the ground, and proven not to be invincible. Vadim worked stoically on, much like a machine, a look of concentration on his face, lips slightly pursed as he seemed to be in his own world, withdrawn, yet alert.

Dan concentrated on his job when a thought came to his mind, and he grinned. Pursing his lips to whistle Disney's theme tune for the seven dwarves, singing "hey ho, hey ho …," when he got too annoyed with the ginger bastard, and when heat and exertion were getting too much. Strangely, it was Pascal who caught and identified the theme song, and began to sing it, with several others falling into the tune. The logic of a chain gang, where anything was welcome to lighten the mood.

Midge became more erratic, the further this went on, and the more the sun was belting down mercilessly, and the more Dan ignored him, while taunting him in return. Erratic enough, to be steaming with anger, almost throwing the crate into Vadim's hands, who managed to catch every time, without moving a muscle in his face.

Every time, until the furious Midge, who'd been warned a couple of times already, turned in such a violent huff, the crate slipped out of his sweaty hands, before he had reached Vadim half-way. Crashing onto the ground, the joints of the wooden crate splintered from the impact, and grenades hit the ground, rolling.

Vadim's eyes were immediately on the scattering weapons, and several men seemed to pause. Dan froze, eyes immediately on the ground, while others were still handing down crates. Vadim spotted a single pin half buried in the sand, right in the middle of soldiers, not nearly far enough from the tents, nor the trucks that were full of fuel, never mind the explosives, never mind Dan standing right on top of it. Vadim's eyes darted around, frantically. The grenade without a pin lay close, and Vadim shouted a warning, not realizing it was Russian "Fire in the hole!"

Dan's head whipped around, the Russian warning drilled deeply into his own bones, and he yelled in English, "Take cover!" Throwing himself onto Pascal, who didn't react at first, while Vadim dove for the grenade. Held it just for a moment, then threw is as far as he could, fearing it might slip from his hand, bounce off something and it might not be enough. Drilled-in responses too powerful to deny in that moment Midge was only a comrade as well, just a soldier, and Vadim tackled him, bringing him down and covering him as the grenade went off with a deafening explosion.

Every man was on the ground, taking cover, the warning had spread like wildfire, when Dan tackled and took down Pascal. Covering their heads, lying flat on the ground, as dust and sand rained down on them, engulfed in heat.

Midge was cursing underneath him, but now that Vadim didn't hear any screams, couldn't smell blood, his mind shifted from battle-readiness to a flaring hatred. Midge was trying to shake him off, mostly by turning around, but Vadim grabbed a handful of the hair, just long enough to provide leverage, and got a leg in between Midge's legs, shifting on top of him to bring his groin right against Midge's ass, which tensed, but Vadim pushed against it, two, three times, hard enough to be impossible to misunderstand, but subtle enough that nobody but Midge got what he meant. Vadim moved to hiss into the ginger's ear: "Like that, bitch? I know you want to have my cock up your ass, cunt. And I won't be gentle."

Midge didn't reply, frozen beneath the heavy body. Mouth full of dust, body crushed. For once he'd lost his appetite for destruction.

Dan, completely unaware, was scrabbling off Pascal, who was trying to turn around and move beneath the heavy weight on top of him. "Sorry, mate." Dan's shades were hanging at an angle off one ear, as he managed to get to his knees. Adjusting the shades before looking around. No screams, no terror. They seemed to have got away with it. "Really sorry, I know how much you fear this gay thing is contagious."

"Don't worry. I read it's genetic", said Pascal, visibly shaken and caked in red dust.

Dan grinned with relief, to his surprise his grin was answered by Pascal's own. Showing enormous relief, until he caught a glimpse of Midge's ginger hair beneath Vadim.

"You fucking stupid cunt!" Pascal shouted, jumped back onto his feet before anyone realised what was happening. "You drunk or fucking what?" His French accent more noticeable in his righteous anger. "Merde! You could have killed us all, putain!"

"Here comes the paratrooper", muttered Vadim, slapping the back of Midge's head hard enough to sting, then rolled off him and stood. He spit a mouthful of dust into the sand, while Pascal kept shouting at the top of his voice, a stream of half-French, half-English expletives, cursing everything from Midge's ancestors to his carelessness and irresponsibility, only using far less pleasant or complicated words. Meanwhile, the others had got to their feet again, most visibly rattled and relieved. Vadim stood next to Dan, had checked him over quickly, then folded his arms in front of his chest, enjoying the normally placid Frenchie blowing his top.

"What a cunt", Vadim said, tonelessly.

Dan was still brushing sand and dust off his chest, but only rubbed the crap even further into the layer of sweat. "You have no idea." Murmured towards Vadim. Watching how the British Army took over the dressing-down and standing-to, and didn't even feel the tiniest bit sorry for Midge. As it was, he enjoyed every second. There was a moment's lull in the cacophony of voices, and Dan took his chance to shout, "what's it like to owe your life to a faggot, cunt?"

Absolute silence. Enough time for Vadim to feel the heat rise in his head. 'Faggot'. It just didn't stop being embarrassing.

Midge turned to stare at them, light eyes widened, struggling for composure or even just his usual act of meanness as the full realization struck him.

"I own your ass now", said Vadim, sneering. No use saying he'd have let him die if it hadn't been for Dan, or even stupid Pascal who was a decent enough guy.

It wasn't Dan who burst into laughter. Not even Pascal. Of all the guys in the line, it was Dave, Midge's Irish mate, who guffawed, laughing so hard, he almost pissed himself. He was the catalyst that got all the other men to burst into laughter as well. Infectious, all the way down to Dan and Vadim, and the final death knell for Midge, whose days in the camp were numbered anyway, when the MPs came to take him away for thorough investigation.

Dan was still chuckling when Midge was gone and they were sent away after clearing the last crates and securing the trucks. Still sniggering, as they made their way to the showers, while Vadim mostly smiled wryly, more keen to get out of the sun, and cleaned up.

"Russkie?" Glancing sideways, Dan ran a dirty hand through dust coloured, sweaty hair.

Vadim pulled the cloth off his head and wiped his face with it, turning his head to look at Dan. "Aye?"

"You do realise I love you, aye? No matter what shit any arsehole says."

Vadim smiled. "I do. Now let's get cleaned up." He placed a hand between Dan's shoulder blades and pushed him slightly to move towards the showers. Thought he should let him go, but then kept an arm around Dan's shoulders, walking in stride with him. Whatever they thought about it.

* * *

They'd just about managed to get into the shower and under the spray for about ten seconds, when a couple of squaddies walked along the centre aisle, straight up to Vadim. In towels themselves, one of them called out, "Hey, Russkie, whatever your name is."

Vadim cast a glance at them, his customary glare that gave warning that he was willing to fight and able to win, then turned. He wasn't sure these guys belonged to Midge, but that meant nothing in camp. Entirely possible they'd try and make him pay. Had been a while. "Yes?"

"Just meant to say 'thanks'. Fucking great reaction time. Didn't fancy getting turned into minced meat just yet." The guy grinned and his mate was giving a thumbs up.

Vadim paused, just staring, not even blinking. Trying to figure out whether it was a joke, or just a different strategy in the usual game. Thing was, there was nothing hostile about these men. They'd just wandered in and addressed him. Him, naked, under the shower, with Dan beside him, watching, but keeping out of it.

"Neither had I", Vadim finally managed. "Grenade had plenty of time left, too."

Someone suddenly shouted from one of the opposite stalls, "What's your name anyway?"

"Vadim. Krasnorada." Vadim had always assumed they knew it, with that strange feeling that everybody knew him, but apparently they hadn't. Didn't remember the polite question 'and you', he was too surprised.

"Ah, shit, that's not a good name for a guy in camp." The man from the shower stall was calling across. Poking his head out, he was second in command in the fourth team, run by a Welsh ex-infantryman.

"Why?"

"Too long. Not matey enough." The merc bared his teeth in a wide grin. Soap suds cling to his shaved head.

The two squaddies were laughing at that, nodding, "Damn true." One of them shouted across the showers that were filling with up with men, "Hey, anyone know the perfect nickname for our camp commie?"

Vadim was simply bewildered. The SAS had failed at giving him a nickname. He didn't expose himself enough, he had no official name, and he doubted he'd ever been in their files; no name meant no paperwork. But glancing across he saw Dan grin … that calmed him and suppressed the natural - hostile - reaction. But then, since the time in prison, how many of his reactions had been fully natural?

"Can't call him 'Drago', that'd be fucking unfair." Another merc grinned, soap bag under his arm, towel around his hips.

Laughter erupted all across, drowning out the sound of running water. "Damn right. Remember?" The first squaddie asked, expecting Vadim to know what they were talking about. "Rocky four. Rocky Balboa and the Soviet fighting machine."

Soviet fighting machine. Somebody called Drago. It just didn't make any sense. Judging from what Vadim knew about the recreational habits of this ilk, it was certainly not a book. Probably a comic.

Laughter once more, and Dan joined in, poking his head out to grin at Vadim, telling him non-verbally, that all was good. Good banter. Good jokes. Mates. Not enemies. Vadim nodded, brow dark, not understanding.

Dan switched off the water, angling for his towel. He was drying his hair when he casually commented. "Rocky, aye?"

This was picked up by the couple of squaddies, who grinned triumphantly. "That's it! That's it, mate. Perfect. Don't you think?" Calling into the room. "He's Rocky! Bloody lot better than Vadim or Krasnorada. That's what Civilians are called. Not us, and you're one of us. Right, mate?"

Rocky. Two syllables. It wasn't really about shortening the name at all. Vadim looked dubious, but he could see people were not being hostile. They meant this. "Err, right."

The second squaddie extended his hand. "I'm Jed and my mate's Gibbo. So, what about a drink in the mess? Two-can rule of piss-poor lager, but better than nothing. OK, Rocky?"

Vadim glanced at the guy in front of him, and shook the hand, firmly, briefly, half-expecting some form of practical joke. "Sure. That's …" What was it? "A nice thought." There. Talking.

"Sorted!" The man called Gibbo slapped Vadim's wet shoulder and - miraculously - didn't get punched by reflex. "1900 hours in the mess. See you then." Walking to one of the free stalls, he looked over his shoulder, "and bring Mad Dog. Not that he wouldn't come anyway." He and his mate were laughing as Dan flicked a lazy finger at them.

"Yes, later." Vadim was still dumbfounded and stared after the men.

Dan turned, towel around his hips, water still clinging to his skin. "Looks like you're going to be popular, Rocky." He was grinning at Vadim, who had guys nod at him and grin, and several thumbs up. "Are you done yet, or are you sunning yourself in your new-found celebrity status for a while longer?"

"No, we can go." Vadim reached for the towel and wrapped it around his hips. "What is Rocky? One of those stupid comic superheroes? Like Captain America?" asked Vadim in a low voice.

"Nope, much better." Dan grinned as he snatched shades and soap bag. "I have to get the videos for you, but Rocky Balboa is an 80s legend. Played by Sylvester Stallone, he's an underdog boxing guy, who makes it up to the very top with sheer determination." He shrugged, blinking into the sun when they got outside. "The old dream, aye? Little man making it big."

"Very British."

"In one of his films he fights a mean Soviet fighting machine, played by some Swedish bodybuilder who got no acting skills but a fucking great body." Dan's grin widened as Vadim raised an eyebrow.

"So, they can't use the Drago name, because he's the baddie, and they use Rocky instead, who's the goodie, since you did the heroic thing today."

"I didn't do it for them. I should have thought of pushing Midge onto the grenade and holding him down on it." And it was not quite a joke.

"Aye, but …" Dan stopped, turning to face Vadim. "Just remember, it's a great sign of respect to give you that nickname, and it's really the biggest proof of camaraderie that they can come up with. You made it, Vadim, you're one of us, if you want to, or not." Leaning closer, still with the same grin, Dan murmured, "and I very much want you to be one of us, but not in their way …"

Vadim's eyes focussed on Dan and, feeling his breath, Dan so close, so intent. Out in the open, public displays of affection, and how much he wanted to touch him right now. "That's how you got to be called 'Mad Dog'? I see."

"Aye, that, and because I showed some brazen balls in a suicide mission." Dan stood still too close. "Just don't tell Maggie about it."

Vadim grinned. "What are you offering?"

"Well …" Dan seemed to ponder, then pulled back, while the grin kept growing, if possible at all. "I tell you inside the hut." With that he turned and walked purposefully towards the hut they shared for sleeping. Not the one that housed clothes and kit.

Vadim glanced over his shoulder, but nobody appeared to pay them any mind. Maybe they never had. Maybe it had been some kind of misunderstanding and they hadn't actually been watched all the time. He entered right behind Dan and closed the door.

"Locked it?"

"Yes."

Dan threw the soap bag into a corner and undid the towel around his hips. The shades still on, he stood with the towel in one hand, the other pointing at his groin. "First off, did you notice I kept that up?" Pointing at his abs, where the trail of dark hair used to be, in between the gauges of scars. Still smooth, as much as a razor could manage, making Vadim's mouth dry out and his body come alive. "And I need help with that … " Turning round, Dan bent over, braced his legs, "You promised." Presenting his arse. "Remember?"

"I do …" Vadim closed the distance, lost the towel, ran his hands across Dan's back, one hand moving to Dan's ass. "Good … job."

"Could be better. You said you'd help me shave between my arse cheeks."

Touching and caressing more, Vadim leaned in to kiss Dan between the shoulder blades, and pulled him a bit closer. "You're offering … that?"

Following the touches like a cat, Dan straightened to stand close, back touching chest. He craned his neck, trying to get a glimpse of Vadim, who placed his arms around him, and moved closer, full body contact. "I offer you anything you want." Dan slowly turned within the embrace, until he stood face to face. "I offer you absolutely anything today. No matter what."

"No matter …" Vadim rested his brow against Dan's, knew in his bones that Dan meant it, and it seemed like the open ocean. Tantalizing, limitless, and potentially dangerous. Only, what was the source of danger? What hidden pull? "If you call me 'Sir', that … kills me", he murmured, head still touching Dan's. "If we'd … pretend …"

"Pretend what?" Dan murmured, one-fingered flicking his shades up and on top of his hair, before his forehead touched once more Vadim's.

"You know." Vadim closed his eyes for a moment. "Pretend I was your officer. That … that kind of thing." He felt queasy about it, mostly because that was very close to the bone, one of his favourite things, and at the same time so very close to the crimes he'd committed. Once upon a time. But different. This was his lover. His partner. Dan.

Dan lifted his head, tilting it only a fraction. His dark eyes appeared black in the gloom of the tin hut. He took his time, just looking at Vadim, with no expression on his face, until a ghost of a smile began to creep back onto his lips. "You want me to be a recruit?"

Vadim inhaled deeply. "Yes. Not a prisoner …" and where had that thought come from? Something inside recoiled from it, while Dan visibly twitched. Vadim knew the reality of that, and it was horrifying, nothing erotic about it, no, recruit was safe. It was just pretend. Make-believe. A game of sorts. And at the same time fucking embarrassing. "Oh shit. You … know what I mean."

"Aye …" Dan's smile began to widen until it turned into a grin. "I know damn well what that means." Plucking the shades off his head, he stored them on top of the soap bag, then wound the towel back around his hips. Stepping towards the door, he stopped, turned back, and pulled Vadim into a brief kiss. "You wait here. Back in a sec. And keep that thought …." With that he unlocked the door and walked out of the hut. In more haste than usual.

Vadim exhaled, paced, then found a pair of camo trousers, and slipped into them, mostly to do something and cover himself just in case Jean blundered into the hut. Waiting, not quite sure what he'd do and how, and whether he could pull through with it - there was still that shame, of having abused that position, that trust, that power, but this wasn't real, this would be just a game. He had to repeat that to himself over and over again.

Dan hurried over to the other hut, barely acknowledging anyone with more than a grin. Rummaging through his bergan, he picked out a few items of clothing and jumped into them. Searching for the last one, he finally found what he was looking for in the back pouch of his old army pack. He was gone for no more than a quarter of an hour. Stopping at the door when he returned, he didn't want to just walk into the hut, but looked around himself, saw no one, then lowered his head to pull his hair back and hid it best he could beneath the covering. He knocked.

Shit, Jean, thought Vadim, hating the Frenchman for always being around, always making his presence felt, or even just anticipated. "Yes? Door's open."

The door opened and a man stepped inside, briskly. "Sir?" In Russian, as he closed the door behind him and locked it. "You asked for me, comrade Major?" Still in Russian, while saluting the Soviet way.

Dan. Beret at the Soviet angle, Vadim recognized it like the pain from an old scar. An old T-shirt, too tight, nicely tight, olive trousers, pretty tatty and again too tight to be strictly comfortable when fighting, and boots, and an old army webbed belt with heavy metal buckle that seemed somehow familiar. Dan's old kit? He recognized one piece of equipment; a scarf round Dan's neck. He was fairly sure he knew that one. The same one that had covered his wounds - or an identical twin.

"Yes, I did." I did ask. Vadim looked at Dan, and knew he shouldn't meet Dan's eyes, just very briefly, but saw in them that it was alright. He stood, folded his hands in his back. The door was locked. Nobody listening. Nobody watching. And he was only half-dressed. He grinned, suddenly, knowing a good way to start this.

Dan stood to attention, like he had in his past, whenever he'd been called up by anyone superior in rank. Officers. Fucktards. Poncy arseholes, and yet he now stood and stared straight ahead, at a point to the left of Vadim's shoulder. Pretending to be perfect raw recruit material, while Vadim, in a state of undress that would be scandalous for a Soviet Army officer, paced around him. Studying Dan with that other set of eyes, from a perspective that was old, ancient, and entirely predatory.

"Comrade Major?" Dan finally uttered, still in Russian. Breaking the silence that had him tense and waiting.

"Shave me", said Vadim, slipping into Russian, and it made him wince inside. Russian. Like touching a broken bone that had been set. He nodded towards his shaving kit. "The straight razor."

Dan nodded sharply. Easy to fall back into an ancient skin, exaggerating behaviour to fit a projection that was larger-than-life. "Sir, yes, Sir." He immediately fell into motion, while Vadim sat down on one of the boxes, legs braced like he was in the middle of an earthquake, or just imitating his own Colonel in his most pompous of moments.

Dan prepared the shaving kit, set everything into place. Found water in one of their bottles, but it was cold. No use. Looking at Vadim and yet not looking, once again at a point above one bare shoulder. "Comrade Major, allow me to heat water?" His Russian was rusty at first, but getting back into it with every word.

Vadim nodded briefly, grunting as if the recruit didn't warrant any kind of proper answer. An inconvenience - and a damn fine ass in the tight trousers. Talking about tight trousers.

"Thank you, Sir." Oh, Dan remembered. Knew what his place should be in the fictional pecking order, and made it ten times worse than his own early days. Hurrying outside, Dan pulled the beret off, couldn't run around in that without inviting comments, making his way to the mess tent. He could either heat water on the small gas cooker in the other hut, or could get a bowl from the mess, the quicker option. It took only a small amount of cajoling, before he got the metal bowl full of hot water and remembered to pick up a couple of fresh towels from their second hut. If he was going to do this, he would do it as perfectly as he could. How easy it was to slip into this. Games, play, pretend, it all felt like a second skin that he could put on and off at will. Adjusting the beret, after checking that no one was watching him, he knocked once more.

Vadim had slipped into his own shirt and boots. Still in disarray, but being semi-naked didn't quite work in his mind. "Yes!"

Dan entered when he was called, locking the door. Set the bowl of water and the towels down before he saluted again, doing a passable impression of the Soviet salute that he'd seen enough times, then standing at attention, everything laid out. "Sir, everything is ready, Sir." Never truly looking at Vadim. Playing his role to the dot.

Vadim looked at him, frowning darkly as if something was annoying him. "If you cut me, there's hell to pay. Do you understand?" Dangerously low voice, as he raised his chin. "Get on with it, then, I don't have all day!"

"Sir, yes, Sir. I understand." Dan saluted again, crisply, hurrying to get the shaving utensils over to Vadim. Creating lather, he carefully smoothed the creamy substance into Vadim's face, making sure he did not miss a spot, while being watched by slitted, blue, baleful eyes. Placing the towel around Vadim's neck and throat, Dan checked the razor. It was sharp, and he hadn't done this often. Himself, yes, whenever he didn't have a safety razor, but on another? He remembered every single occasion he'd shaved Vadim, but right now he needed all of his concentration. Starting on the left side, he carefully moved down, before cleaning the blade. Going back to the cheek and jaw line. Vadim's right hand dropped from his thigh and came to rest on Dan's knee, from the inside. Keeping his eyes on the face of the 'recruit', his hand slid higher, to the inside of the thigh as he felt the blade again, sliding further up, as if without intention.

A tiny twitch of Dan's hand, but he had himself under control. Still. Concentrating with narrowed eyes, he tried not to move at all, while doing his duty. Cleaning the blade once more, he guided Vadim's head back, to shave below jaw line and down the throat.

Vadim kept looking at Dan's face, had felt the twitch, and felt the corners of his mouth move into a minute smirk, as his hand moved further up, feeling Dan's balls in the tight trousers - thumb came forward and traced the line of Dan's cock.

Another twitch, but Dan's hand remained steady, even though his face broke into sweat. The concentration increased, no way could he allow himself to slip and cut the throat. Cleaning the blade once more, he started at the other side, working down cheekbone to jaw line. His shirt betrayed dark patches under his arms, no mean feat for a man who seemed to be made of kryptonite and never sweated in the desert's temperatures.

Vadim's grin grew, at the same time enjoying the tenderness of the steel blade, and pushed his hand up harder, almost yanking up against Dan's balls and dam. Twisting his hand to cup balls and cock, squeezing it harshly in the cloth, his lips turning into a sneer.

No matter how much he tried to steady himself, Dan's hand slipped when his body jerked, the blade nicking the skin on Vadim's right side. Blood turning the shaving foam pink. Dan froze, blade poised, "Forgive me, comrade Major."

"What. Did. I. Tell. You", shouted Vadim, jumping to his feet, grabbing the towel and wiping the rest of the foam away. The pink foam stark on the light towel, and Vadim hit Dan in the face with it, once, twice. "Down! Down I say!" Fuck, it was too easy. He felt actual rage.

Dan's face stung, the attack too swift for him to react. Not in this role. His first reaction to snatch the towel, pull, punch this motherfucker's lights out. Searing rage in his own eyes. Dark, burning, ready to kill for having been hit in his face, but then he looked for another second. Truly looked. Saw Vadim's face, eyes, anger, and the game had become goddamned real. Too real. Real enough to have caught him off guard and triggered a response outside of any role. Dan took in a sharp breath, had stalled too long already, muttered, "fuck!" then lowered his eyes, head, whole body and threw himself onto the ground. On all fours, Head hanging low. Damn, if this game was going to be worth playing, he would play it to the limit. Recruit. Fear. Helplessness. A nobody. Nothing. Copy, Sir!

The old Dan. The man who'd break his bones, the man who would answer blow with blow, the rage at wanting him, the rage and anger and pride. Vadim felt his heart expand, such a sweet pain inside, that feeling of seeing the man he'd fallen for, in love, in lust, amidst the dust and desolation, the man who could make him scared, who'd broken him, the man who needed a comrade without knowing it. He smiled, secretly, because Dan wasn't looking at him.

"You cut me", he whispered, touched two fingers to the burning cut - where the soap had touched the wound - and it came away wet and bright red. He raised a foot to set it against Dan's shoulder, and pushed. "You scum. Peasant scum! You think I can report to the general with a cut face? What does the general think when my men can't even shave? How can they win this war? Eh? Just because the Afghans wear beards doesn't mean they are as buttfuck stupid as you are!"

Resisting the push of the boot as long as he could, but in the end, Dan lost balance. Falling onto the side, he scrabbled back to his knees as soon as he could. Keeping his head low, never looking at the other, because no recruit would. None would dare lift their eyes towards the centre of wrath. "Forgive me, comrade Major. Forgive my stupidity!" Sticking to Russian. Crawling. Begging, like a seventeen year old would, faced with a force that could destroy him at the blink of an eye. A life meant nothing. His life meant nothing. Nothing at all. Not to the almighty Officer.

Vadim couldn't help it. A part of him loved this game, relished it, made that dark tide rise. And rise. Making his breathing shallow, constricting him with anger and arousal, with that lust that came with the power. He needed a moment to think, used that time to wipe his face more thoroughly, his throat, too, grunting displeasure. "Kneel."

And Dan did, remembered what it was like if all one wanted and needed and could possibly exist around was just the greed to live. Scrambled to his knees, eager to please, to live, like a recruit would have done. Looked up, quickly averted his eyes, staring straight ahead.

Vadim moved forward, pushing his groin very closely into Dan's face, pausing, for a moment, then moved forward, rubbing his groin in Dan's face, over his cheek, and his lips.

Dan wasn't Dan anymore. Lost in the game, he jerked away, tried to avert his face with a sound that caught in his throat. Man. Cock. Terror. And somewhere, in the deepest recesses of his mind, he remembered. Remembered what the correct response would be like: fear.

Too perfect. Vadim almost hurt, felt like a coiled spring released, a pressure inside he hadn't even been aware of, and he reached out to place his hand against the recruit's head. Pushed him forward, like a commodity, like a towel or anything else that would never resist. Part of him regretted he didn't have a pistol, but would be too far, too real, shit, Dan, on that first night. No, too much. "Are you good for anything? Are you even useful?"

"Don't kill me," the recruit whispered in panic. Russian words jumbled on top of the other, too fast. "Please don't kill me, Sir." Lips moving against the cock that was pressed against his face. "Please …" A body recoiling with revulsion, yet frozen with fear.

"Maybe", grunted Vadim, as if to himself. Keeping his hand against the recruit's neck, he opened his fly with the other hand and freed his cock. "Do like your girl does, bitch." Casual insult, his cock poking lips, his biceps taut against the resistance.

Resistance that was undoubtedly fighting against the obvious, body tense, tight with disgust. The recruit was letting out a strangled sound, trying to turn his head away.

Vadim hit him in the neck, a sharp, stinging pain, and the recruit's head came forward, with a sound of pain. Vadim's foot came down to kick against a tensed thigh, a short, vicious pain, again, and this time the recruit cried out, his whole body jerking. "You can't even do that!" Vadim hissed, sharply. "You want to go into the pit, right? Is that it?"

Pit. Horror. Tales of death amongst Soviet soldiers, and the recruit found his voice, as he tried to scoot closer again, towards that cock. "No! Please comrade Major. No, please. Not that." Head moving forward on its own, seeking out the cock this time, eagerness in desperation. Lips searching, finding, and taking in. With utmost clumsiness, and teeth scraping.

Vadim shuddered at the feeling of teeth, something inside coiling, just the fact it was bad made it good in a different way, and he pulled his lips back from his teeth, hissing "if I feel your teeth again, I'll knock 'em out."

Nodding frantically, the recruit moved back again, forcing his head down, as far as a clumsy boy could, who knew nothing about such things, instead repulsed by what was happening. Turning more reckless when the back of his head was hit repeatedly, the recruit fucked himself amidst gagging noises and a brutality that no real virgin would be able to handle. But this one could, and this one forced the cock down his throat as if his life depended on it.

Vadim suppressed a sound, what kind of sound he wouldn't even know, maybe it was Dan's name, or a 'yes', or just a groan, the tightness and resistance, the disgust, all of it was good. He pushed the recruit harder, forcing him into a rhythm that soon drew his balls up. And even though he'd loved to come into the face, there was something else. He pulled back, pushing against the recruit's forehead at the same time, then took him by the throat, and forced him to the side, down, and Dan went with it, moving with the force. His body offered little resistance, not now, not that he knew what was going to happen and wanted it to happen. Had known right from the start.

Vadim kicked him into position across the crate, where he kept him down with a knee, grabbing those hands roughly. The body shuddered, but the resistance was feeble, just as frightened as a seventeen year old recruit would be. Just that the body was tall, strong, and all too muscular.

Once Dan was bound, Vadim physically lifted him, and tore down the trousers. Naked. Baring a smooth arse, and causing a strangled sound to escape. Pulling them further down, he kicked the legs apart. Oil. There was the oil they often used, and he squirted some into his palm, briefly rubbing the stuff down, then got on top of the 'recruit', right into position.

"If you scream, I'll kill you", Vadim breathed, and the recruit whimpered, which turned into a badly suppressed scream when Vadim began to push in, efficiently, harshly, hips using strength, and the dark lust pooling in his guts.

The body beneath him struggled. Enough to give resistance, not sufficient to throw him off. Bound hands pushing upwards, trying to push away, but groping at nothing. Cries of pain and … something else, filled the room, when the body was used.

Vadim cursed, the lust near unbearable now, just knowing one thing, that they should be silent, had to be silent, his hand moving to the recruit's throat and roughly pulling the scarf loose, then twisting it around his wrist, like he had done many times, and his reward was a choked, desperate sound. At the same time thrusting with all his strength, no consideration, too urgent, too fierce in his need to have. Body. Recruit. Dan. Didn't matter. Using pressure, force, the motions underneath, but most of all that fierce impossible destructive force inside him pushing and pulling him into something savage, a kind of feeling that he knew well and that had no place outside war.

The recruit's body was slammed against the crate like a puppet, with every vicious thrust. Hands in fists, tearing at the restraints, and the frenzied sounds that came out of the constricted throat were worse than ever before. Desperate. A body on the edge of breaking … and Dan's body on the very brink. Too much, an onslaught of pain and images, and most of all, no air, no breath. No power, helpless. And something happened in Dan's mind, when he tried to draw in air and failed. Vision darkening as his body contracted, convulsed, fucked and abused, once, twice again, and more, and thrusting deep inside, torn, air, none, body. Death. Vadim. Lust … and his body bucked and thrashed in a last desperate attempt to scream and fight, not even realising he was cumming until he collapsed with a toneless shout, body convulsing in orgasm before he blackened out and fell limp.

The tension and fight brought Vadim over the edge, too, the sounds, that visceral panic, the smell of agony, and he came, letting go of the scarf immediately, just knowing, by instinct, by experience, that more would be bad. He pulled away, tried to stand but failed, instead knelt, wiping his sweat away, and the oil on his trousers, saw Dan was still … oh fuck. He got to his feet, immediately freed Dan's hands, pulled him up by his shoulders, checking the pulse, which was slow, but steady.

A choked sound came out of the abused throat, before there was movement. Disoriented, his whole body weight against the other, Dan remained slumped, but pressed out "oh fuck," before he was shaken in an almighty coughing attack.

Vadim let him go, only supporting him by the shoulders, wiped the beret off, ran fingers through Dan's hair, looking at him, trying to read his face. "Dan?" He reached for the closest water bottle and offered it.

When Dan raised his head, he rubbed both hands over his eyes. Looking up at last, there was the biggest shit-eating grin on his face. "You fucking kinky bastard." With a raspy voice. He took the water and downed at least half of it.

Vadim grinned, too relieved that Dan was alright, and only now remembering to stuff his cock back in, after a quick wiping down. "I …?" Not sure what to say, or think, but he didn't have to apologize, apparently not. "…I'd have killed to be your commanding officer", he said, and couldn't help laughing.

Putting the water down, Dan let himself slump onto the floor, like a boneless sack of flesh and blood, exhausted. "Holy fuck, that would have killed both of us, and not in a good way." Twisting until he leaned back into Vadim, sitting with his bare arse on the floor.

"Yeah." Vadim placed an arm around Dan's shoulders, and kissed his throat.

"And shit, my arse is killing me."

"Sorry …"

"No, you're not. Liar." Dan cast a grin upwards. "You enjoyed it too much." He downed another couple of mouthfuls of water. "Must admit, I'm not sure I want to think about what that means for your past." He was still grinning though. Past, to him, was done and over with.

"I wasn't quite like that … but it's certainly inspired by … memory." Part his own superiors, part when he'd raped, and a bit of Gavriil, and that made a hellish concoction that was stronger than vodka.

Gently prodding at his throat, Dan frowned. That would be visible, no doubt. "And how the heck am I going to explain this?" Couldn't help grinning, though. His mind still reeling from the realisation that he'd cum. Just like that. By getting fucked. Like a highly prized whore.

"Hm. Wear a scarf. It's just red, should fade soon. Especially with your skin tone." Vadim placed his head on Dan's shoulder, the firm, steady, powerful body so close, and saw the crate, and the traces on Dan's chest. Cum. He smiled, and kissed Dan's neck. "But seems you enjoyed it." Sticking firmly to English again.

"Mmmm …" Mumbled, "I need to think about that one. Not sure what that says about me."

Vadim nodded, thoughtfully. "Seems, we … we both like to play with fire. Like we did before we had feelings for each other. When it was just about sex. You know? Seeing the other suffer … feeling him struggle turns us on." He inhaled while Dan reached for his hand, thumb stroking the palm. "It comes down to one thing, Dan. You are strong enough to suffer, and I … I am strong enough to suffer for you. If you want to do this to me, do it."

"Oh, no doubt." Dan's grin faded, replaced by a thoughtful look. Quiet for a moment, while he kept caressing Vadim's hand, as Vadim's fingers curled inwards. "But not like this." He finally murmured. "That's not me."

"The … officer?"

"Aye, guess I'm just not into humiliation. More into …" Trailing off, Dan shrugged when he couldn't quite grasp what he was trying to figure out. Twisting his head back up to glance at the other, the grin returned. "We'll see when it happens, but until then, I'd better get cleaned up." Pointing with his chin towards the mattresses on the floor. "And I wouldn't mind a kip. Or is that out for recruits?"

Vadim smiled. "Leave granted. At ease, soldier." He brushed his face against the side of Dan's face.

"Cheers, Russkie, but only if you clean me up." Dan groaned when he scrambled back onto his knees. He was a sticky mess, and there was still some warm water somewhere.

Vadim reached for the scarf and wiped Dan down, then, using the remaining water and the towel, cleaned him up after getting him out of boots and old BDUs. Then cleaned himself, while Dan pulled the t-shirt over his head, and Vadim grinned to himself in a strange, relaxed amusement. "Thanks. That was … good. I'm surprised how good."

Craning his head backwards, Dan raised his brows. "Surprised? I'm not. You're a kinky bastard and I'm no better." Winking at Vadim. "One of your more redeeming features, loverboy."

Vadim looked up. "I won't apologize, then." He got out of his own clothes, then dropped towel and scarf all onto the pile with the dusty uniforms and stretched out on the mattress, angling for a bottle of water. And, sure enough, Dan was right there, right next to him, side by side. Vadim knew as he dozed off that he'd wake up with Dan in his back, holding him and 'spooning', which was such a contrast to what he'd felt and done just minutes ago, but on the other hand seemed like things were settling in. Their past no longer some kind of curse, but part of the present.

* * *

Dan was slowly drifting awake after about an hour-long nap. Glancing at his watch, it was still early, barely afternoon. Plenty of time before 1900 hours. He lay with his front pressed against Vadim's back, his arm across and holding, hand covering Vadim's pecs. Without fail, he'd always end up like this, no matter what. No matter the temperature, and no matter the time, nor what they had done before they'd fallen asleep. He moved his head, only to kiss the shaved neck, smiling to himself. Vadim didn't move, didn't wake. Dan didn't figure as a potential danger.

That had been … different, Dan thought. Unexpected and, if he was honest with himself, rather shocking. Not Vadim's game, no surprises there, he'd known his Russkie since the days of being a merciless bastard, but his own reaction. He'd cum. Holy shit, he'd cum by just getting fucked. Aggression. Brutality. Bound and 'helpless', and most importantly, getting strangled until he'd blackened out. Dan's grin turned into a grimace in Vadim's back. Was he really such a sick motherfucker that he needed to re-enact the rape? Pulling in a sharp breath, Dan tensed, winced at the movement as a sharp stab of discomfort ripped through his guts. Ah, yes. His arse. That'd be an interesting evening, sitting on the hard benches in the mess.

Closing his eyes and letting the breath back out, slowly this time, Dan shrugged to no one and nothing in particular. Alright, so he'd cum. So they'd re-enacted the terror of eleven years ago. Again. Oh yes, once again. Wasn't the first time and wouldn't be the last, and hell, he'd enjoyed the added twist of being a 'recruit'. Kinky bastard? Fair enough, so they were, both of them. He distinctly remembered all the times he'd controlled Vadim, and there was no way he'd forget that buzz.

Kinky bastards. There were worse things to be.

The grin returned and Dan kissed Vadim's neck once more, as he stroked the pecs, which made Vadim stir a little, merely shifting his legs and an elbow. Murmuring into Vadim's ear, "I'll be in the gym." He needed to lift some weights, feel his body work.

"What, now", murmured Vadim and half-turned as if to glance at him but didn't turn enough to make eye contact. "Okay."

Dan got up quietly, wincing again, and carefully dressed himself in the discarded shorts he found in a corner, and a t-shirt, crumpled into a ball. They would do, as long as he had his shades, which he adjusted. He put his feet into the boots, and could feel the ache in his body. Slipping out of the hut, he walked slowly, just as carefully as he had dressed, and went to the gym, to gingerly seat himself into one of the machines.

* * *

Dan had been working out for a while, beasting his arms and upper body, but not his legs, when his Sergeant mate entered the place. The moment he spotted Dan, the guy's grin threatened to split his face. "Hey, Mad Dog, heard about Midge? He got busted. Out on the next plane."

Dan grinned, pushing the weights with renewed vigour. Said nothing, just kept his teeth bared between a grin and a sneer. Feral and endlessly satisfied.

"Not a great loss, aye?" Doug commented.

"Nope. None." Pressed out between his teeth, Dan shook his head like a dog when sweat stung in his eyes.

"That reminds me, what the fuck were you doing in your hut? I went past earlier and I wouldn't be a haggis tosser if I hadn't heard you scream."

Dan stopped, arms still in the butterfly machine, picking his towel off a metal bar to wipe the sweat off his face. Hiding something that he recognised as heat creeping into his face. Oh fuck. He bared his teeth once more in a shit eating grin when he came back up. "Aye, mate, simple. You just tell me what you do on an afternoon off when you can't get pissed."

Doug smirked, "Wanking. What else."

"You got it, mate."

"Interesting kind of wanking."

"You don't want to know."

Doug raised his brows, "you sure?"

"Fucking sure, mate. You really don't, unless you'd like to spend an afternoon 'wanking' with the Russian."

"Shit, no." Doug laughed, delivering a friendly but mighty slap to Dan's sweat drenched shoulder. "I get it, I don't want to know, but whatever it was, scream a bit quieter next time, or the boys get nervous." He was still laughing his head off when he went for the leg machine.

The gym started to get busy shortly after that, and Dan was winding his routine down. No way was he going to work on his legs, the movements would kill him. Half an hour later, he slid out of the biceps machine, forgetting to suppress a wince.

"Hey, Mad Dog!" Doug shouted across the noise of metal and grunts.

Dan turned, towel around his neck, and shades back over his eyes. Presented with the big Glaswegian sergeant, as he half-hung and half-sat in the thigh machine. Grinning at him like a lunatic. "Seems you got your brown wings, aye? Just not the same way round that I got mine." He was laughing as hard as before.

"Fuck you, Dougie." Dan countered half-heartedly and with good humour. Too knackered to take the piss, and far too sated.

"Nope, doesn't seem that way round, mate." Doug stated again, with an even bigger grin, "or should I call you Adrien?"

"What?"

"Well, you know, 'Adrien!' and, 'I am here, Rocky!'" Doug burst into laughter, most of the guys looking up, but none had caught onto the joke.

"Ha, ha, very funny." Dan tried to sneer but couldn't help the grin. Had a hard time suppressing the laughter. "Let me know when you're done taking the piss on my account."

"Never!"

"Thought so." Dan flicked the towel across Doug's legs, who only laughed harder. "Wanker." Adding as he turned towards the door, "at least I get some. You're just envious." And with that he sashayed out of the room, with an exaggerated swing in his hips and a hand that fluffed his sweaty hair. Making his exit amidst cat calls, laughter and wolf whistles.

* * *

Dan went straight to the shower, didn't bother to dry after a quick stint under the hot spray, and tied the sweaty towel around his hips. Water dripping from his hair onto his shoulders and neck, running slowly down the dark skin and pale scars of his body. Shorts and t-shirt under his arm, he made his way back to the hut, wondering if Vadim was still there. He didn't knock, tried the handle and walked right in.

Presented with the sight of Vadim, who had only half-turned, partially on his back, one arm across his eyes, the single blanket really just covering one leg, and a plastic bottle of water resting near his chest, indicating that, apart from drinking, he had done exactly nothing.

"I see, you were damn busy." Dan grinned as he threw the pile of stinking clothes onto the floor. "Preparing for a long night?" The towel ended on the same pile as the rest.

Vadim set the arm down and regarded him. "Preparing what?" He looked around and found the bottle close, reached lazily for it and sat up to drink.

"For a long night."

"Oh. That." Vadim grinned, still drowsy, then gulped down water, wiping his lips and glanced up. "Your charming way to tell me I should get up?"

"Aye, get up and help me shave my arse." Standing with his arms crossed over his chest, Dan grinned.

"You sure you want something manipulating your ass? Might give me ideas, you know?"

"Listen, Russkie, or Rocky, or whatever. If you have only so much as a twinkle in your eye that might be the germ of an idea, I'd punch your fucking lights in. Got that?" Still grinning. "Nice, gentle help with shaving. I feel as if a sledgehammer had ripped through my guts, so no … bloody … stupid … ideas!"

Vadim laughed and got up, laboriously. "I better get dressed, then." He found a clean pair of camo trousers and slipped into them, and got some shaving foam and a safety razor. He only used the straight blade himself when he was very awake and calm and steady enough. "Okay. Uhm. Get into a good position." He filled some water into the bowl and uncapped the shaving foam.

"Remember? No stupid ideas." Walking over to the mattress, Dan let himself down with a wince. His upper body was aching from the workout. Pleasantly so. He'd never fail to enjoy feeling his body, at least he knew he was alive. Getting onto all fours, he opened his legs to allow access.

Vadim gathered up some water, wetting Dan's skin, then sprayed some foam into his hand and rubbed it in, massaging lightly, but the look of Dan's ass made him wince. Reddened and doubtlessly sore, and he was careful to keep the foam away. "Right. That was on ... the hard side."

"Aye, but you know I can take it." Still an odd thought that he'd cum, and even more intriguing to imagine what it would take to make Vadim cum without touching his cock. Very interesting thought indeed.

"Aye. I know you can." Vadim pulled the bowl closer and began to shave the stubble away. Wet foam, running down in droplets, baring dark skin over powerful muscle.

Patient, on all fours, Dan was suddenly struck by the hilarity of the situation. "Mad Dog alright, eh?" He murmured, hardly able to control a chuckle, and that really wasn't a good idea with a razor so close. Safety or not.

Vadim shook his head. "Last I'm thinking about is dogs."

"Well, whatever you are thinking about, you can always kiss it better."

Vadim grinned. "You want my tongue next?"

"Hell, no. Not in my arse anyway." Dan craned his head as far back as he could, trying to catch a glimpse of Vadim. "But there are other areas that might need some tongue action." He winked. "Russian recruits don't come cheap, you know …"

Vadim carefully pulled Dan's ass cheeks apart to slide in and shave off the wayward hair there, while Dan remained very, very still. Again confronted with the evidence, Vadim shook his head to himself, wiped Dan's ass with a towel, and placed a kiss on one buttock. "They do, but let's assume they don't."

"Possibly, but this Russian recruit here doesn't come all that cheap." Flopping himself down, Dan lazily turned over. Head cushioned on his arm, he grinned at Vadim. "We have half an hour before drinks in the Mess. What about 10 dollars, you love me long time?" Putting on the fake Asian accent again.

Vadim sneered. "Just don't pay me in fucking dollars. Make that quid."

"You're fucking expensive, mate." Dan laughed.

Vadim put the bowl down, wiped his hands, and regarded Dan's body, smiling. "Fancy a blowjob, pretty man?"

"It's the first time anyone called me pretty, and if you really think that I am, then you need to get your head sorted and your eyes checked, but hell, yeah."

Vadim shrugged. "I'm just trying to get into the role …" He lowered himself onto the mattress, lying on his side, one hand on Dan's other side so he could support himself.

Spreading arms and legs into an aching but relaxed heap, Dan grinned and closed his eyes. Vadim bent down and took his cock, sucking on it to get its attention, licking, nuzzling, closing his eyes, too, just mellow and nice, not a professional blowjob by a long stretch. More lazy and tender, which turned only urgent much later, when he took the cock deeper and with skill, swallowing when Dan came, and then resting on Dan's thigh, hands gently tracing the lines of Dan's muscles and the scar on his knee.

Just lying there for a long time, silent and breathing, with closed eyes, Dan was half drifting off into another snooze, when there was a rap on the door. Someone shouting outside, and Dan muttered obscenities under his breath. He drew in a deep breath and hollered in his most stentorian ex-sergeant voice, "what the fuck do you want?"

Another impatient rap was the answer. "I said, get our Rocky out for a celebratory drink of two cans of bear's piss!" Laughter followed the words, until a well-known voice cut through the ruckus.

"Okay, guys, bring the battering ram!" It was Jean.

Vadim's eyes opened, and he looked up, unpleasantly surprised at the turn of conversation, and even more when there was a loud clanging noise and the hut shook in its foundations, accompanied by laughter. "One! Come on, boys, don't tire out already." Another impact. "Two!"

"I'll skin the fucker," hissed Vadim, scrambling for his clothes.

"Oh damn." Dan groaned and reached for his shades that had fallen off the edge of the mattress. Otherwise he did … absolutely nothing. Lying just as before. Naked. Sprawled. And not giving a shit.

"Three!" A worse impact that made Vadim jump, and cross the space to the door.

"Alright! Stop it!"

"Listen, there's the surrender", said Jean, smug, which was as grating as Jean could possible be. "Relinquish 'Rocky', and come out unarmed!"

Vadim groaned, pulled up his trousers, and began to unlock the doors. Outside, jeering people. Mercs, several of Midge's brood that had changed sides, Dan's team, Jean's team, Pascal, the whole lot.

Dan merely raised his head, shades over his eyes, and waved a hand in greeting. "Take him. Have fun. He's worn me out." His grin threatened to split his face, before he let his head drop back. Amused by the shenanigans, and most of all how some of those turncoats managed to celebrate his Russkie now, while a day ago they would have spilled his guts. At least Jean was a constant, and some of his older mates. Even Pascal. "Leave something for me for later!" Dan shouted.

The mercs descended on Vadim, he was jostled, suddenly lifted up, and all he could do was hold back the violent urge to kill them all, as they carried him off to the Mess. Jean, meanwhile, stepped inside, Pascal with him.

"What a disgrace, giving up your lover to the mob", Jean joked, and reached down to pull Dan up by an arm, who allowed himself to be moved, but only under protest. "Come on, pussy, get up. Who knows what they'll be doing with 'Rocky' there." He laughed. "I mean, Rocky? Does he even know the film?"

"No. Of course not." Dan huffed, looking from Jean to Pascal. "And by the way, you haven't noticed that I am stark naked, with no clothes lying around?"

Pascal frowned, not actually looking at Dan, keeping his eyes somewhere else.

"That means you guys had sex", said Jean. "See? I'm a real Sherlock Holmes."

"I'm really impressed, Sherlock, but doesn't that give you a clue that I should get my arse out of this hut, over to the other, and find myself some clothes?"

Jean turned to Pascal. "You take his legs?"

Dan protested while Pascal frowned. "Shouldn't he get …"

"Is gay naked different to straight naked?" asked Jean.

"Huh?"

"Grab him."

Pascal moved forward, reluctant to touch Dan, but it was all a joke, really, wasn't it, while Jean's expression turned sly and he winked at Dan, who complained.

"Hey, Frenchies, what the fuck are you up to? No pawing of the goods, here."

Pascal hesitated again, which was funny considering he was the paratrooper type who was happy just charging into battle. "I could get you some clothes", he volunteered, very ill at ease.

Dan didn't bother to hide the smirk. "That's the best idea you've had all month." Winking at Jean, who might or might not have seen the gesture beneath the shades. "My bergan is in my old hut. You'll find polo shirt and shorts, anything, really. Just grab it. Cheers, mate."

"Okay." Pascal vanished, which caused Jean to call something in French which sounded more piss-taking than insulting. Once Pascal was out of the door, Jean leaned down to Dan. "You fucking tease."

"Moi? It's you who is the goddamned tease. Poor Pascal. With a friend like you, who needs an enemy." Dan kicked the door shut and grabbed hold of Jean's neck in the same motion, pulling him close. Naked body pressed against clothes, lips upon the other's. "We have 30 seconds …." Murmured.

Jean groaned, pressing in as well, shook his head. "I can't come that fast, no way. Shit." He kissed Dan, urgently, passionately, open lips, tongue, pretty much devouring him, breathless and needy, and if they'd had a few minutes rather than mere seconds, things might have gone very differently.

Luckily, Dan had cum not long ago, and when he pulled away, the moment some noise announced Pascal's arrival, nothing showed on his naked body. Jean, though, was another matter. Dan adjusted his shades and grinned at the French para who stepped inside with a bundle of clothes over his arm.

"Didn't know what you wanted, just took a handful."

"Cheers," Dan took the first pair of trousers that fell out of the bundle, and stepped inside. It was one of the pairs that Vadim had bought him in Thailand. Sand coloured, and far too good looking for a scruff like him in a place like this. "Better?" Slipping a polo shirt over his head, which just about fitted alright with the trousers. "No more scary naked faggot?"

Pascal shrugged, not sure what to say, and the whole issue always made him uncomfortable. "Why do you always say that", he said, with an air of exasperation. "It's not funny or anything."

"I say it, because you make it funny by your reaction. Has it ever occurred to you, that I'm just not goddamned interested in you? There's no need in being skittish around me, mate. I'm just a bloke like everyone else."

That didn't seem to convince Pascal who appeared increasingly flustered.

Dan closed the belt to keep the trousers on his lean hips, "but since you are such great piss-taking fodder, I keep repeating it. Faggot. Shitstabber. Poofter." Dan was laughing hard, but slapped Pascal's shoulder before the man lost his rag, and Pascal still didn't seem to know how to react, merely met his gaze, looking worried and insecure.

"Sorry, mate, couldn't resist. I promise to be better in the future."

"He won't bite. He barks a lot, but he never bites." Jean grinned, placed a hand on Pascal's shoulder and squeezed it. Giving Dan another wink.

"Uhm. Yeah", said Pascal, who looked like he'd rather be somewhere else and probably already berated himself for bringing the issue up at all.

"Right. Shall we? And I won't even call myself 'faggot'." Laughing again, Dan made his way out of the hut, managing to hide a wince that tried to escape as he stepped over the threshold.

Jean grinned, letting Pascal walk first, mostly to hide the effect Dan had had on his body, but as they walked to the Mess, Pascal fell in stride next to him. "What's so funny?"

"Seeing a big guy like you blush like a girl, that's funny. Just take it in stride. He's a good bloke, Mad Dog. Won't harm a fly."

"I heard that!" Dan called backwards, "don't believe him, Pascal, I am a mean fighting machine. Honest." He lifted his shades to wink at the guy. "Not hurting a fly is a very bad reputation to have for a merc. So, forget about that immediately."

They could hear the noise from the Mess tent, and Dan began to wonder in how much 'agony' he would find Vadim. Part worried, and biggest part highly amused.

Inside, Vadim was sitting on one of the benches, surrounded by the jeering mob. Cans of weak lager were everywhere, and people shouted at the top of their lungs - a general piss-taking that didn't seem to take into account the half-naked Russkie sitting there, battling the instinct to free himself and break a few heads on the way out. People were slapping his naked shoulders, back, a dozen hands on him, which Vadim bore stoically.

Jean stuck his fingers in his mouth and gave a sharp, painful whistle. "And here's 'Adrian'!" he shouted, and the mob surged forward to engulf Dan as well.

"Oh shit, you fucking bastard!" Dan managed to yell at Jean over the noise, before he was taken into the centre of the mob. Finding himself eventually, thankfully, right beside Vadim. Pushed down onto the hard bench, he would have yelped when his arse hit the wood, if he hadn't had a can of bear's piss on his lips.

"Well." He managed to get out, breathlessly. "What's it like, being Mr Popular all of a sudden?" Grinning at Vadim, he gave his thigh a squeeze.

"Not sure", murmured Vadim close to his ear. "I keep thinking they mean somebody else."

"I can see that." Dan grinned, his lips close to Vadim's ear, "but you're doing well, considering you're the camp bogeyman." He winked, then added, "you want me to get you a shirt? Or are you comfortable, flaunting your manly body to all and sundry?"

Vadim cast him a quick glance. "Boots, actually." Glancing down to a stray bottle that just hit the ground hard enough to splinter into shards. "Boots would be good. And, yeah, covering the scars."

"Actually, this is the Mess, you shouldn't even be here without a collar."

"That's fine, as long as it doesn't have a name tag attached."

Dan twitched, eyes widening behind the shades, before he caught himself and laughed. "Alright, 'Rocky', I'll be right back." He was about to get up, but didn't get far, when Jean leaned over, both hands on Vadim's shoulders, which didn't even make Vadim flinch, having been touched and prodded and slapped for what felt like a long time. Jean's touch wasn't uncomfortable, not threatening, even though he still didn't like him. "I think you guys should marry", Jean shouted over the din. "It's legal in Denmark."

The roar of laughter drowned out Dan's protest, who had to wait a moment before he could shout against the ruckus, "No fucking way! I'm a man, not a sappy, romantic Frenchman, who's heard too much of l'amour, and can't wait to get married himself!"

Jean grinned back. "You finding a fault in my manhood just because I have the most fucking gorgeous sexy model girlfriend anybody could possibly want to lay their paws on?" Kneading Vadim's neck, almost as an aside. "Hey, Vadya, what do you think about it? Am I less of a man, eh?"

Vadim glanced at Dan, finding the touches not too bad, even though he was at loss for a great answer. "No idea about your manhood, Jean. Haven't had a chance to test it." A meaningful glance to Dan, who suddenly broke out in a coughing fit, most unusual for him.

It took him a moment to get himself under control, before he downed the rest of his cold but tasteless lager, and slammed the empty can onto the table. "Anyone here who thinks holy matrimony and happy wedlock is for incurable saps who should know better than to stop dipping their cock into many waters, raise their hand and shout!"

The answer was almost unanimous. A barrage of shouts and whistles, hands being waved and raucous laughter.

Dan turned to Jean, lifted his shades and winked. "See? Told you," before touching Vadim's biceps and heading off to weave his way through the crowd.

"My girl at least wouldn't be able to rip my head off, Mad Dog." Jean shouted after Dan, then sat down next to Vadim. "Good to see you lighten up a bit. You're not all grim and nasty, eh?"

Vadim shot him a glance, then heaved a sigh and relaxed. He had no chance to escape, sex had made him mellow, and this was still better than ending up with a split lip and a swollen face. He listened to the banter, every now and then snapping a remark, but it seemed like he could say or do nothing wrong. Jean's hands were on him most of the time, touchy-feely as the Frenchman was, so much that Vadim got the feeling Jean missed Pascal.

It took Dan longer than expected to find socks and boots and a shirt that appeared mostly clean. Once again making his way through the guys, who did a veritable impression of being drunk without actually having enough alcohol, until he found the bench. Fag in the corner of his mouth, he dropped the clothes on Vadim's lap and prodded Jean. "Since when are you groping my man?"

Jean grinned. "Just keeping him 'warm' for you." He laughed, slapped Vadim's back, then moved a little away, amidst laughter. Jean's protective shield of assumed straightness still held up.

Dan squeezed in between Jean and Vadim, and winced again as he settled down. Muttering to himself that they could do with some goddamned cushions. Prodding Jean again. "Careful, or Pascal will be jealous." Baring his teeth in a smirk, then dragging at his fag and blowing the smoke into Jean's face.

Jean promptly reached for his own cigarettes and lit one, giving Dan a sly grin. "A dose of jealousy keeps the sex good ..."

"With Pascal? Ha, ha, even I couldn't turn him less-than-straight." Grinning at Vadim, who was lacing the boots, "you should have seen him earlier. The guy's worried to touch me, in case he might catch the gay virus. Poor sod."

Pascal caught his name being mentioned and rolled his eyes, but didn't move to defend himself.

Vadim met his eyes briefly, then shrugged. "Well, you caught the virus."

The observation shut Dan up for a moment. "Damn." Rubbing his nose while inhaling smoke. "Hell and damnation, you are bloody right. So," nodding first to Vadim, then to Jean, "we have herewith established that I was an innocent straight guy, who got infected by the evil Russian with the gay virus. Therefore, 'Rocky', it's all your fault."

Vadim simply shrugged while pulling the shirt over his head.

"Don't tell Pascal ... we can't have deserters just because of fear ..." murmured Jean, then laughed.

"What?" asked Pascal.

"Dan was straight when I met him", said Vadim, ever so helpful. "He knows everything about 'turning gay'."

"Aye, and trust me, back then Vadim wasn't quite as cheerful and seductive as he is nowadays." Dan's grin went from ear to ear. "But I couldn't help it, there is something …" snapping his fingers, "je ne sais quoi, about our 'Rocky'. Don't you think?"

"'I don't know' is about right", murmured Pascal, frowning, with tension around his lips, but still his rather friendly, balanced self. "Can't we talk about the weather?"

Jean leaned in, arm resting on Dan's shoulder.

"Sure, but with Jean so close, I figure the weather is rather warm." Dan grinned.

Pascal looked at Jean, almost unpleasantly surprised, as if he was finally catching on that Jean was awfully affectionate with Dan. And what it might or could mean. Then, almost visibly, thinking about how Jean touched him, too. "No idea what you mean." He stepped back and looked like he was about to bolt.

Dan started to laugh, covering up his realisation that maybe they had been going a step too far. Laughing hard to dispel any doubts. "I'm just taking the piss, Pascal. Our Jean, here, is just an annoying touchy-feely git, but as hot blooded as a straight male can be. I can vouch for that, I'd get into his pants if I could, but goddammit, no chance. Not with that lady of his." He winked, slapping Jean's shoulder and sidling up to Vadim. He'd just lied worse than he'd done for years, and he didn't even feel guilty about it. Flicking the cigarette butt into the nearest ashtray, he wrapped his arm around Vadim's shoulders.

Jean snorted and shook his head, while Vadim couldn't suppress a smirk, almost spiteful. Jean's protective shield had been damaged, as Pascal visibly re-evaluated and seemed to go through incidents in the past, looking thoughtful, but then shrugged to join the rest of the crowd again. It all went back to boisterous fun, cat-calling, and enormous exaggerations of adventurous deeds, women's tits, and the last dump. Vadim watched, bemused, but too mellow or tired to join.

Dan kept his arm around Vadim's shoulders for a long time, joined in the occasional banter, shouted the odd insult, and laughed with the lot of them. Talking to Jean and moving to coke after his allotted two cans, but even that couldn't keep him awake. He became quieter over the last half hour, his body succumbing to the fatigue of sex and workout, and a far too eventful day.

Having just lit another fag, it hung in the customary corner of his mouth as he sat with his head slowly leaning towards Vadim's shoulder, finally hitting it. Eyes closed. Cigarette burning, he had fallen asleep amidst the ruckus.

Vadim noticed the shift in weight, half turned and pulled the cigarette from Dan's lips before it accidentally dropped into his lap. "There, Lapushka. I think we call it a night, hm?" He ran his fingers across Dan's cheek, and gently touched his head to Dan's, who was barely roused, but smiled.

"Kitten paw?" asked Jean.

"I see your Russian's still functional", Vadim murmured.

Jean's eyes betrayed surprise, but tenderness. "You are the most ... extraordinary guys I know, you know that, Vadim? Not sure I'll ever fully understand you."

Vadim snorted. "I'd be fucked if I understood it myself. But it doesn't matter." Gently slapping Dan's cheek, he murmured: "I'll take you home, soldier", and slowly lifted Dan off the bench, half-carrying him. "Thanks guys, nice party."

As they made their way back to the hut, with Dan more asleep than awake, they had voices calling after them. Not insults, not threats, but good wishes.

 
 
Special Forces Chapter XXXIV: Close Combat
 
 
Warning for Readers

The following work of fiction contains graphic homosexual interaction, violence and non-consensual sex. With this work of fiction the authors do not condone in any way any form of intolerance and injustice, e.g. racism, sexual harassment, incitement of hatred, religious hatred nor persecution, xenophobia and misogyny. Neither do the authors through this work of fiction promote violence nor make light of such grave matters as genocide, any taking of human life, murder, execution, rape, torture, persecution of sexual orientation.

By accessing this work of fiction you hereby accept and agree that this is a work of fiction and does not reflect in any way the opinions of the authors. The authors do not necessarily endorse the views expressed by the fictional characters.

By accessing this work of fiction you hereby indemnify the authors against all claims and actions whatsoever arising from reading the work of fiction.

All characters are fictional. Any similarities with living or deceased people are coincidental. In case of real life events, creative license has been applied. Special Forces is intellectual property of Marquesate and Vashtan. Copyright © 2006-2009. All rights reserved.

 

 
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Published 15 February 2008