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Special Forces Chapter XXXVIII: Unknown Shores
 
 

April 1992, Scotland

On their last day in Edinburgh, Dan had to bite the bullet and go shopping, or he'd get into deep shit with a certain Frenchie. Yet buying the best man outfit for Jean's wedding turned out to be less painful than he had feared. With Vadim picking up a tailor made suit later in Glasgow, Dan sent him off to scour the Edinburgh museums, so he could enjoy the National Gallery and Museum of Scotland on his own, while he was out of Dan's hair.

Walking up the Royal Mile, Dan had passed North Bridge and was on his way back down again, towards Holyrood Palace, when he spotted a large shop to his left, with mannequins in the window and a large, glossy sign: kilt maker.

With Dan's height, there was not much in ready-made kilts to choose from, despite the size of the shop, but the choice of tartans was staggering nevertheless. Still, his sept's tartan, the MacFadyens, was not available, except for the ancient hunting version, and after a short while of deliberations with the down-to-earth shop assistant, Dan decided on a black on black tartan, which had a subtle weave and went easily with the rest of the outfit.

He managed to get the whole outfit in his size, despite long legs, narrow hips and broad shoulders, and came back out in under an hour. Prince Charlie jacket with square silver buttons, white shirt and black cravat, black waistcoat and finely woven kilt. A glossy black fur sporran, black belt and silver buckle, with silver kilt pin in the form of a sword and thistle. The stockings, classic ghillie brogues and flashes as well, with the final accessory, the shean dhu.

He heaved a great sigh of relief and lit a fag once he stepped outside, laden with bags and parcels, to relax in one of the many cafés along the Royal Mile. Waiting for five o' clock to meet Vadim at the Tron church, and to down a well-deserved pint and dram in Cockburn street's - the name of the street making Vadim laugh - Malt Shovel and then a meal, wherever it took their fancy.

Dan forbade Vadim to even peek at the manifold bags, and thus he was none the wiser regarding Dan's outfit, when they checked out late the next morning, leaving the car in the hotel car park, strolling through the beautiful city. Dan was on his best behaviour all day, following Vadim around the exclusive shops, as long as he got strong coffee in regular intervals and his favourite Scottish sweets to boot.

It was Friday afternoon, when they sat once again in the car, heading towards Glasgow, after a quick phone call to the two men who'd be awaiting them. For a weekend of … Dan didn't quite know. Not yet.

"What are you planning?" asked Vadim, as if reading his mind.

"Damn, I don't know. What the fuck do you do with two prisoners who are hell-bent on getting off on humiliation and being used, for two days and nights?" Half serious question, half raised eyebrow and cocky grin. "I guess permanent markings are right out."

"Don't know. They seemed the type who might appreciate semi-permanent markings." Dan smirked at Vadim's words, who kept his eyes carefully on the road, as he was thinking hard. "And will I be a master too, or the third slave? Or something in between?"

"I …" Dan glanced to the side, then back at his hand, as it lay on the dashboard. Thinking it through for himself, up until now he had barged in and done what came to his mind. Did he have to properly plan everything now? "Not third slave. Not with those two there." It made sense, but if pressed, he wouldn't have been able to explain it. "Will you trust me?"

Vadim blinked and looked at him. "Yes. You know that."

"Good." Dan leaned back, relaxing. "In that case, I'll just do my usual: going ahead without thinking too much. Let's see what happens, I'm sure I'll come up with something all of us will enjoy." He winked at Vadim, who raised a curious brow and said nothing else, until they got off the motorway and into the city proper.

When they'd parked the car and got to the building, the door was buzzed open immediately, and they were greeted upstairs by the two men, so very definitely prepared as they knelt in the hallway, naked, their erections encased by cock rings, both wearing collars, both securely gagged, but Martin, the younger man, blindfolded as well and his arms shackled behind his back, while Gordon was holding the blindfold and the steel cuffs up towards Dan. Without a word but a look in his eyes, so hungry, it wiped out any worries that Dan might have had on the journey to Glasgow.

Vadim fell back slightly and thought to close the door while Dan cuffed and blindfolded Gordon, as matter-of-factly as if this was an ordinary occurrence. "No awkward talking this time", Vadim murmured, in Russian, and hung up his jacket.

Dan nodded, casting a glance at Vadim, and then he hooked a finger under each of the collars, and dragged the two men into the living room. The flat was warm, heated for being naked, and the kitchen, it quickly became clear, well stocked, while drinks were already waiting on the couch table, poured for two - not four.

Like a mystic, Dan found his way by instinct from that point, orchestrating two days and nights of intricately balanced pain and pleasure, fear and lust. Creating relationships that deepened with every stroke and touch, every groan and whimper, and each hour that went past. Watching straining, immobile bodies, culminating in gagged screams and collapsing bodies. Sated, exhausted, and shuddering with exertion. Only to be tied together, on the floor, immobile once more, and left for the night. Martin and Gordon - nameless and faceless during that time - were made to watch Dan and Vadim, on their own bed, with Dan tenderly making love to Vadim, spooning, and each gentle touch the mirror of every punch and slap and all the pain he had given out before. And Vadim couldn't help but realize how much he did enjoy being watched - even though the emotion was real, not an act put on, his own need increasing with every thrust and every touch, but strangely safe in these guys' house. Watched, because they couldn't move, and they watched with awe, if anything, no disgust, no cold camera eyes, instead taking in, memorizing. When he'd cum, he turned to press his face against Dan's chest, just breathing, then kissing Dan, and finally relaxing, all but forgetting about the two guys on the floor.

After forty-eight hours, on Sunday, despite almost no words having been spoken - nothing beyond orders, they had forged a bond, born out of need and understanding. Knowing that each man was giving the other what they needed, with Vadim the somewhat less defined factor, an entity with more facets than any of them. Sometimes, he'd watch, detached from everybody else's lust, sometimes, he'd act on Dan's orders, sometimes, he'd give orders himself. Changeable, not knowing himself what he'd do the next moment, as the chemistry between all of them shifted and changed, and he'd act on instinct, whatever he felt was suitable. It was really his understanding of how Dan thought that still made this a seamless whole. He knew what Dan wanted him to do, and how, and what Dan intended for the guys, and he always moved to help that, enhance it all.

They stayed Sunday night, but that night was different. The 'game' was over, and the four men sat and talked, after Martin and Gordon had been cared for and tucked in. To anyone else their experience had to seem like an ordeal, but to them it had been physical extremes coupled with a mental intensity they had never experienced before. No awkwardness then, as they sat and shared a last drink, having found a mode and level of communication that knew no barriers and no embarrassments. Mates, on a sexual level of deep understanding, and the genuine promise and wish to meet again.

Sunday night Dan and Vadim shared the bed with them. Tight, but everything else would have felt wrong, and the night saw them sleep. All of them, dreamless, and sated.


April 1992, England

Vadim was calm and mellow when they left Exeter airport early afternoon the next day, picking up their rental car. He let Dan drive, it was his turn, after all, and Vadim preferred it that way. Even though the phone call had been pleasant, when they'd arranged the meeting just before leaving Kuwait, it had seemed quite far away, and now it was there.

The doctor would doubtlessly be interested how he was faring, medically, and Vadim was working on the best way how to report on the things that had happened. The nausea, the panic attacks, the nightmares. Not an altogether pleasant prospect, and he considered lying or playing it down. But then, the doctor could probably not terminate his contract - at least he supposed that. He didn't actually know. Not what to expect, not what to say.

With luck on their side they had no traffic hold-ups and drove steadily on towards Lympstone in Devon. Like Scotland, there was a lot of landscape variation pressed into this little patch of land, and finally, they arrived at the gates. The guards on duty were expecting them, and issued them a car pass after a quick check, as well as guest passes, to be worn at all times. Strangely enough, the few weeks spent here had made Vadim so familiar with this place that he still felt at ease.

"Any idea where the Mess is?" Dan had clipped the pass onto his shirt, and was driving slowly through the camp.

"Over there ..." Vadim pointed. "This is where they got me ready for Hereford."

"Ah, right." Dan nodded and moved the vehicle towards a building close to the flat-roofed medical centre. He found a parking space that wasn't designated in any way, and turned off the ignition. "Any idea how long it will take? Since we haven't organised accommodation, I was wondering if we could wrangle a coupe of Singlies rooms here." Unspoken that there was no way they could share accom. Not here. Not now. Not in the Forces. "Maybe somewhere in the transition block."

"Shit. No idea." Vadim reached over and pressed Dan's hand. "Guess we should ask the doc what he recommends?"

"Aye, but I don't intend to stay. This is between you and the doc."

"I don't have secrets from you."

Dan shook his head. "It's not about secrets."

They got out of the car, with Vadim stretching his legs and rolling his shoulders, while Dan put his shades back on, as if the April sky was too bright. Vadim was still tired from the weekend, and caught himself smiling as he remembered where the tiredness came from. "Ah, and there he is." He headed towards a distinguished looking man who'd just stepped out of the building, hand stretched out.

"Mr Krasnorada!" Dr Williams smiled, taking a couple of steps towards them, until he shook hands with Vadim. "It's good to see you, and see you so well."

"Not nearly as good as seeing you, Sir."

Nodding towards Dan, who had walked slower, watching, the doctor stretched his hand out to him. "You must be Mr McFadyen. It's a pleasure to meet you."

"Thank you, Sir." Dan couldn't help it, the honorific just slipped out, it seemed right with this man. This Dr Williams had a natural authority about him, which made Dan take his shades back off again, and generally behave at his best. Old surroundings, memories of instilled respect, but now with long hair, sans uniform, and far too many scars.

"Do come in, please."

"I ... if you don't mind, I have a look around. Might meet an old mate here, who knows." Dan shrugged, reluctant to stay just yet. He felt he needed to give space, and wasn't sure if it wasn't he who needed the space. The weekend had been more than he'd bargained for. Not in a bad way, but intense, perhaps too intense.

Vadim frowned slightly and shook his head. "You're welcome to be there."

"Indeed," Dr Williams smiled, "but I believe that it would a good idea if Mr McFadyen had a look around and joined us later."

Dan nodded, glad for the understanding. "I'll be back in the afternoon, aye? I'll have a look for accom."

"Okay."

"Ah, yes, I forgot to mention this, you will find that you have been booked into transit accommodation. The Officer's Mess happened to have a comfortable family room, and I took the liberty to reserve it." Dr Williams didn't even blink, and Dan began to wonder about the man for the first time. How it was no surprise he was friends with an equally formidable person: the Baroness.

Vadim smiled. "That takes care of our biggest worry - the accommodation, not the ..." fact it would be single rooms. Vadim coughed. "Well. Thank you, Sir." He extended an arm, touched Dan's shoulder and pressed it briefly. He met Dan's eyes when he smiled, then turned to follow the doctor, smiling slightly to himself.

"Well, then, Mr Krasnorada, would you like a tea?" Dr Williams led Vadim into the only comfortable room in the surgery, the one he had visited quite a few times before.

"Yes, always." Vadim looked around, again at all the medical journals on the shelf. "How is your research going? Any progress?"

"Yes, thank you." Indicating for Vadim to sit down, the doctor went to busy himself with the kettle and the mugs. "I don't have much longer in the Forces, I will soon reach the fifty-five mark. I shall retire, but of course, this only means that I will be able to dedicate myself to my research." He glanced at Vadim, "Research, which is so sorely needed." Pouring the boiling water, he prepared the tea exactly as Vadim liked, remembering his preferences, which made Vadim smile. He was very fond of the man, he realized. Strangely, like some protective layer had been taken away and this man was actually close. Fifty-five mark. The doctor, then, was between ten and thirteen years older than he was. He looked older. But then, it always surprised Vadim on some level how old he was himself by now. Time just progressed.

"That's a worthwhile occupation. I'm not sure what I'll do with my retirement when it comes." Maybe I'll be able to read again, he thought, wistfully.

"Perhaps you might like to do all the things you haven't been able to do in the meantime." Sitting down as well, Dr Williams put the mug in front of Vadim, then took a sip. "How have you been faring?"

"Well, Kuwait's been good. I am fit for service, despite the ... ah, expected problems."

Nodding, the doctor took his glasses off and polished them. Something Vadim had seen a few times, whenever Williams was deep in thought. "Would you like to tell me about those problems?"

"Nightmares. It's mostly nightmares." Vadim frowned, thinking, choosing his words carefully. "I still scream, and then it's difficult to ... have anybody close. Which is pretty bad for Dan, but at least ... I don't attack him. I just struggle out of sleep and wake up, sweating, but I never remember what those dreams are. It's like fear, with no images. No reason, no faces, just some nameless darkness, some dread coming from deep inside, so deep that I can't reach it." He inhaled while Dr Williams took a sip of his tea, listening intently. "Under pressure, though, in a combat zone, I function. That's the reflexes. A few times, when there's a particular thing ... like somebody I feared ... and we talk about it, it feels like a kick to the stomach. Leaves me reeling and nauseous. That's pretty unpleasant, too." Like mentioning the colonel. Even in death, he was bad. Best try and forget him.

"Let's revisit what you said about the nightmares and about the functioning. Do you feel that the nightmares and other reactions are more, or less, frequent the more relaxed you are? What I mean is, are there triggers that you have been able to pinpoint? Does stress have a negative or a positive effect?"

Vadim pursed his lips. "I think it's less often when I'm calm. It's mostly when I anticipate something bad. Not battle, I can handle battle. Sometimes, I can't handle people. When there's guilt, or jealousy, or shame. That makes it more frequent, I think, at least that's a good guess." He paled. "Like ... Konstantinov said. I punish ... myself for something inside me. He was right. He got me on that count."

"This man, Konstantinov, is a psychologist, like I am."

"You know him." Vadim was almost shocked that Dr Williams was aware of the man. It didn't seem right, but made sense. He felt his teeth grind and forced himself to breathe against the tension. Nothing to be afraid of. But his mind was reeling back - he didn't want to remember Konstantinov, didn't want to dig around in that bullet hole. But then, maybe he could at some point extract the bullet. Wherever it was in the blood and guts.

"Yes." Dr Williams nodded. "In fact, I have been aware of his human rights abuse for too many years. This is why you might feel that he 'got' you in some respect, but all it is, is an understanding how the human mind works. A therapist would do the same, but to gain the opposite result." Dr Williams folded his hands around the mug, peering at Vadim over the rim of his spectacles. "The question is, do you believe you feel more guilt or shame than you used to, before the torture?"

"Yes. I've never been a ... moral man. I used to accept I was ... following orders. I killed, I committed crimes, war crimes even by Geneva Convention standards, but they never bothered me. That was war. The other side didn't pull any punches, either. The lines ... blurred, between a civilian and a dush... an insurgent. I never felt guilty for Afghanistan. After ... he was finished with me, I felt guilty for breathing ... for feeling what I feel. For being homosexual. For ... responses like desire. Dan ... Dan just a few days ago asked me whether I'd want to be 'normal' if I had the chance. I think he's onto something there. I feel ashamed. He ... just walks around and tells everybody we're together, but it makes me scared and ashamed. I just can't do it, and even though I get used to it, I still have that response. I can't help it, and the more I fight it, the worse it gets."

Dr Williams grey eyes rested with absolute concentration on Vadim. Each word, every gesture, nothing seemed to escape his acute but compassionate scrutiny. "Even though it will not feel like it to you, but what you experience now is a typical response to the torture that has been inflicted upon you. You are not alone in this, and while that fact might not help you right now, I do want you to know that it is possible to help and lessen the response, enable you to learn to deal with the triggers, and therefore get better."

So, it was normal. Experienced before. He wasn't out of the ordinary, it was all just a reflex, like blinking, like any other response. Vadim inhaled, fought the tension as much as he could, but it remained there, his body responding as if there were blows and kicks coming in.

Dr Williams took another sip of the tea. "It is a hard path to walk down and it would take time, determination, and might affect your relationship adversely."

Adverse effects. That sounded bad. "No. I've at least sorted that thing out. I ... only have Dan. What ... what do the others do? Get divorced?"

"Some do, yes." Pausing, "I won't lie to you, Mr Krasnorada, but I also believe that your determination to get through, and the strength of your relationship, are the best possible basis anyone can have. I don't think I am making false assumptions about your relationship?"

"No. It's just ..." Vadim flashed a pained smile. "I'm so scared to lose him. That that ... stuff inside me comes out and takes over everything. That I lose control."

Dr Williams looked at Vadim, waited a moment before asking, "how dependent are you on your partner?"

"I don't think I could live without him."

"And that, Mr Krasnorada," the doctor's voice was quiet, yet there was no doubt it held warmth and compassion, "that is where the problem lies. Instead of finding strength in your partner, you need to find it in yourself. You need to find the core strength, the essence of you, on which to rely on."

Vadim shuddered, forced himself to listen, but his throat was so tight he'd be unable to drink. Or even think of tea.

"Vladimir Konstantinov is a very skilled torturer, because he is a very good psychologist, and that psychologist - against everything that is humane and ethical - has twisted and nearly destroyed that core strength. But it is still there and you will be able to find it. However, you would have to let go of your external strength, your partner, for the time of your journey. If not, you will always lean on him, instead of fighting through the pain, the nausea and the terror, to reach yourself."

Vladimir. Dr Williams did know the man. Even his first name. The name tensed him up again, knotted his guts as the face came back. The sound of his voice, the man's smell, the feeling of his trouser leg against his face. Vadim shuddered, closed his eyes, wanted to run away, and still knew that the doctor was right. The words almost too much to bear right now. Was he leaning on Dan? Yes, he was. He let Dan make decisions, went with them, quite gladly left them to Dan, like he'd been weakened. He had taken on a lesser role, become passive and accommodating, defined by Dan, and nothing else. Sexually, emotionally, and in all other ways, too. "I had it. For a while. During training. In battle. I can function. I can ... be strong. I can work. What ... what else do you know about Konstantinov?"

Dr Williams lifted his hand a little, a small gesture. "Let's backtrack for a moment. You might not believe this right now, but there is the chance that one day you might tear your partner apart. Aggression, turned inside for too long, suddenly turning towards the people who mean the most. I am not saying that this will happen. Not at all, but I am saying that it might happen, and that you need to be aware of this. You might, one day, hate your partner, for what you love him for right now. Loyalty, strength, you name it, it can get poisoned by the trauma." Dr Williams pulled in a slow breath and shook his head gently with a wistful smile. "I wish I didn't have to tell you all this."

Vadim was speechless. He'd be different. He wouldn't let this happen. Just because it had happened before didn't mean it had to happen in his case. No. Impossible. Wasn't that why he was holding back? Keeping safe? Questioning his responses all the time? Give his mind the power to question every response, every single emotion if it had to be.

"As for Vladimir Konstantinov, you could say the man is my personal nemesis." The doctor's small and humourless laugh was entirely appropriate in its dryness and disillusion. "He has been publishing so-called academic papers on how to break a person's mind. Of course, he would have never said this explicitly, but I have no doubts that they convey an implied how-to. I cannot even put into words how unethical this is. Inhumane, unthinkable, but sadly, I have worked with the results too often. To put it like this, for every research there is application - and this can be for good or for bad."

"That means he ... teaches his method." Vadim realized his face was cold, and he shivered. "He gloats about it. What he did to me. What he turned me into."

"You could call it that." Watching Vadim closely, Dr Williams leaned slightly forward. "You are not the only one, and the Soviet Union was not the only country." Pushing the cooling remains of the tea aside, he looked at Vadim. Straight on, and as always, no nonsense. "Neither am I the only one working on undoing as much damage as possible. You are not alone, Mr Krasnorada, not in any way, and what I said to you before you left for Selection still stands true: you may call me any time, and I will always make sure that you have my private number."

Vadim nodded, wanted to reach out, but at the same time didn't want to touch. It wouldn't be appropriate, he felt. Caught between these responses, he did nothing, merely looked into those kind eyes and wished, on some level, he could do that, could enter that therapy, but at the same time, he was fucking scared of breaking again. Because that was what it would be. Breaking him, and probably Dan, and what he shared with Dan. Even if he was weakened these days, he was functional. Dan accepted the occasional nightmares. As long as it didn't get worse than that, they'd be able to cope. "I just want to kill him", he murmured. "Replace ... that memory with the memory of his blood on my hands."

"And what good would that do? Do you think that everything that happened would suddenly be gone?"

"It's not about good. It's about settling that score and to make sure he doesn't do it again."

"A life for a life? But you are not dead … or are you?"

"I've killed for less", said Vadim. "Or do you truly believe this man should live?"

"This is not for me to say." Dr Williams' smile was tinged with melancholy, perhaps regret, and yet the compassion was always there. "I am a doctor. I have given an oath to heal, not to destroy."

Vadim exhaled, felt tension flood out and exhaustion replace it. He lowered his head, shaking it. "Aye. We are all just doing our job. I kill, he breaks, you mend. It can be simple."

"What will you do when you retire from active duty? Which side will you be on, Mr Krasnorada?" The doctor smiled.

"When I retire ... all I want is to be able to read again. I want to go to New Zealand, and read. I want good, fresh food, and I want to learn about wine and go hunting. I want to sleep without screaming. I don't want to wear camo again, unless I'm painting a wall or moving furniture."

"And if I can be of any help to achieve this, I will be there for you."

Cleverly distracting him away from Konstantinov. Vadim knew the man guided him, but didn't feel manipulated. Saner to think about what he wanted rather than about killing Konstantinov. "Thank you. I will think about it ... if things get worse ... I'll be in touch."

"I hope so." Dr Williams smiled, then sat back. "For now, what do you say about a physical exam? I'd like to check on the scar tissue, if you don't mind. Also, while you are both here, is there anything that Mr McFadyen might need seeing to?"

"I'm in pretty good shape", said Vadim, but already lifted the jumper he wore, stripping his upper body. Remembering, too late the slight bruising he'd received from the biting and kissing on the weekend, and froze. Again that response, again the feeling of having to hide, but that was a reflex. The doctor likely had seen far worse, and indeed, there was no reaction from him. Vadim stood to present the scars on his back. "Dan's knees are giving him trouble. Maybe have a look at them."

"I will, if you can get him into the surgery."

"That's the real challenge. Dan always thinks he's just fine. But I'll mention it."

The doctor stood up with a light chuckle, checking over Vadim's scars and nodding to himself, seemingly satisfied. "You must have been doing very well with the cream. The tissue is much better than it was last time."

Vadim grinned. "Well ... I get more massages out of it. Which is nice."

Dr Williams let out a sound which sounded suspiciously close to an amused snort. "Any other trouble?"

"Just getting older. A twinge in the back here, taking more time to heal there, some aches, but nothing painful. I'm just not thirty anymore."

"Trust me, it won't get better."

Vadim slipped back into his jumper. "Thank you, doctor."

Dr Williams walked over to the sink to wash his hands. "Would you care to join me tonight in the Officer's Mess? The food is not too bad, and the wine is quite drinkable."

"Unless there's an alternative good restaurant outside camp that we could drag you to - yes. But there weren't any that caught my sight on the way in."

"No, indeed, the Mess is the most reliable place, I'm afraid. It is more or less my home - as much as anyone could call this a home - and it might be of interest to you to see the differences between a Soviet and a British Officer's mess."

"I guess less vodka on the table." Vadim grinned. "No, my pleasure. I do miss some of the privileges, sometimes." The last word being the lie. He missed it, period. Responsibility, power, and privilege. All gone, just like the medals.

"Ah, yes, but you wouldn't have the freedom that you have now." Dr Williams put the towel away. "Living with your partner, for example. That must be worth losing some of the privileges for."

"Touché." Vadim smiled. "It's insulting that they think I'd be less of a soldier or less of an officer just because I happen to be homosexual. But the blockheads won't learn, and that means being a merc is the only thing I can do without having to hide - either from disciplinary action or getting thrown out."

"It is no different here, but as a medical doctor I know that the human nature comes in many variations." Readjusting his specs, the doctor guided Vadim towards the door. "And in that vein, if you could get your partner here to let me check those knees of his, and the scar tissue …. Not only would I be much obliged, but I believe that a mutual friend of ours would be very relieved as well."

Vadim grinned. "I'll see if I can find him - and I'll send him in. And if you talk to her next, please give her my best greetings."

He headed out, looked around, walked towards the car and saw Dan smoking near it, scarred hand pushed deep inside his pocket, looking strangely defiant.

"I'll live", Vadim stated. "But the doctor insists on checking on you."

"Why?" Blowing smoke away from Vadim, Dan's eyes narrowed beneath the shades. Long hair, t-shirt without collar, shades and fag, and right in front of the Officer's Mess.

"Because a certain lady tasked him to make sure you're alright."

"Oh, not again!" Dan rolled his eyes, but it was clear as mud that he'd comply with her wishes.

"Yeah. Checked on my scars, too. How you been?"

"Went along to the transit accom. Fuckwits. Nothing's changed."

"What happened?"

"What do you expect? I look like a scumbag, apparently, and I got treated like one. Oh to be a civilian, aye? At least I can tell them to stuff their fucking berets up their hoops."

Vadim grinned, but turned serious very soon. "Fuck them. If they want to cause trouble, trouble they can have." Glancing over to the building.

"Aye, and I told them what I thought of them, and that I'd still take three of them on at the same time." Dan threw the cigarette onto the ground. "Can we go now?"

"First, you see the doctor, and then we're invited to the Officer's mess for food. I promise we'll leave as early tomorrow as we can get out of bed, okay?"

"What? You want me to go to the Mess? With those fuckwits? Just because the SAS doesn't hand out ranks like smarties, they think they're better than me."

"You said it yourself - you can tell them just what they can do with their ranks." Vadim stepped close, both hands on Dan's shoulders. "Listen, if they give you any trouble, they'll pay."

"It's not quite like that here." Dan frowned, but shrugged a moment later. "You really want me to go see the doc and have dinner. Aye?"

"Aye. He's a great man. I don't think they'll give us any trouble when he's there. And he invited us to dinner, it would be rude not to go."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. You and your bloody behaviour." Dan sighed, resigned to his fate, though. Just like he'd always been resigned to whatever Maggie got him to do. "But I want a shag tonight. On those goddamned narrow bunk beds, or maybe they are a bit wider if you're an officer." Dan almost spit the word out. "Whatever it is, I want to fuck you, right here in camp, and I want to suck you. No, you know what? I actually want you to fuck me. Right here. Shit, yes, right here in camp."

Vadim swallowed, part of him glad Dan had changed his mind, because he could still feel 'the weekend' and its echoes. He glanced around. "That gives me something to think about during dinner." He drew Dan into a buddy-kind of embrace, slapped him on the back, and murmured into his ear. "I did enjoy the show ... and everything else, with those two guys."

"Aye, but don't you remind me of that right now or the doc is going to get to see more than he bargained for."

Vadim gave a short laugh. "I'll remind you later, then. With better timing."

"He wants to see me right now?"

"Yes. Should I wait here?"

Dan pointed with his thumb over his shoulder. "The Mess and the transit accom are over there. If you want to, you can throw the bags into the room, there'll be someone to show you."

"Good idea. I should still be able to remember how to prepare a bed military-style. Hasn't been that long." Vadim patted Dan's neck, another buddy-gesture, and turned to the car, getting the bags out and heading into accom. They both had day packs, one of those habits to only pack what they'd actually need and carry that in a smaller bag, whereas the bigger luggage stayed inside the car boot.

Dan was greeted by Dr Williams in the doorframe, and despite his reluctance to get checked out, the encounter was fairly pleasant, and friendly in its professionalism. He was berated for the state of his scars, told that if his partner could take better care of his own so could he, which caused Dan to grimace. His knees produced some noncommittal sounds from the doctor, with the urgent recommendation to check them out properly, including x-rays and consultations, an advice that Dan was going to studiously ignore.

They sat down for a moment, but Dr Williams never spoke about Vadim. Impossible for a doctor, sworn under the Hippocratic oath. In the end Dan left armed with a tube of cream, and the addresses of orthopaedic specialists, which he crumpled into a ball and stuffed into his pocket the moment he left the centre, making his way to the accommodation.

Vadim had been led into one of the guest rooms - which the soldier had referred to as 'family' room. It became soon obvious why: there was a double bed - which apparently was all it took to get anything branded as 'family', the possibility to have sex or cuddle up without being on top of each other. Cheap-looking historical prints that, at first glance, appeared to come straight from a 1970s interior decorator's idea of a Victorian war-hero's parlour. A small bathroom was connected to the room, a small shower that would just about accommodate one of them.

Vadim set the daypacks down, unpacked, then prepared the double bed, smiling vaguely to himself. But the smile froze when Konstantinov returned to his mind. Vladimir. If there was any way to face him again, any possibility to cut the bastard's throat, to beat him into a pulp, break his neck - there were many possible deaths, and none seemed slow and satisfying enough.

Dan knocked onto the door before entering. "That doc of yours is an ankle biter." He groused as he looked around the room in surprise.

"Is he? Just because he's insistent that you should take care of yourself?"

"Aye, but at least he's giving me a good excuse to get you to massage my scars." Dan waggled his brows, "especially the ones down there." Pointing to his groin while flopping onto the freshly made bed.

"I always thought it was a great pick-up line: Want to oil my scars?" Vadim stood there, crossing his arms, seeing Dan stretched out on the bed. "Well, and at least it's a double. I was wondering why the soldier looked at me strange when he led me here. This is clearly for the 'gay family'."

Dan laughed, "I honestly don't think the chap even thought that far. It's a no-no, remember, not allowed. Keep schtumm." Zipping his mouth shut with his fingers, "zilch." He shrugged, "not that I have any idea what he would have thought instead, and frankly, I don't give a shit."

"Well, he didn't walk away with his back to the wall, so I suppose he didn't connect the dots."

"Shame, that." Dan sniggered, "I always wanted to fuck an Officer, but I guess ..." he pointed at Vadim, "I already have, aye? Just not a Brit."

Vadim laughed, with a hint of tension entering his body, but of the good kind. "Even a Major. These days, it's just an ex-Major, but still. Funny. I did have fantasies about getting fucked by a few of my men. I mean, about a few of them, not ... oh dear." He shook his head when Dan burst into laughter. "That's not what I was saying. Or thinking. But there were a few pretty attractive guys that I worked with. Shame I had to fight it. There was a Tajik once, he almost got me to the point to yield. The bastard was a fantastic wrestler."

"So, no Russian gang-bang? Damn, that."

"Yeah, with the officer at the bottom of the pile." Vadim shook his head. "I'd have been dead. That's not discipline as we kept it."

Still sniggering, Dan spread out on the bed as if it belonged to him alone. "And that Tajik ... tell me about his technique. Seems I can learn something from that guy, if he almost got you to give up your precious arse, back in the day."

"He was Spetsnaz, too. One of the really tough guys, worked mostly as a scout, great infiltrator, too. Hard as nails. Wrestling is some kind of national sport there - and I was stupid enough to try and compete with him. After a long, drawn-out match, he pretty much sat down on me, and I was aching in a thousand places and tired, and I guess I gave up for a few heartbeats. He saw that. I saw that he saw. And that he knew what that meant. That was when we were getting ready to cross the border into Afghanistan. Plenty of time, unrest, we were all itching to go, and one early morning - two hours or so before wake up, the guy showed up in my room. I did want him, and I'm pretty sure he saw right through me. And I kept thinking, fuck, you're Russian, he's a Tajik ... I don't think I'm racist, but just what anybody would think if it did come out. There was another wrestling match, and he was accidentally very close, and I was accidentally working to shake him off. We both acted as if we weren't hard, and as if we didn't cum, working against each other. I was aching for days, afterwards."

"Hmmmm …" Dan was sitting up by now, eyes on Vadim, with that certain expression which read no more than three letters. "Fuck, now I'm horny."

"Aye, me too." Vadim glanced at the door, then headed over and locked it. The memory had done it. The man's fantastic, hard, agile body, who controlled him, who flipped him over on his stomach, and could easily have fucked him. All levers, all control. Face unreadable in the pre-dawn gloom, dark hair, light eyes, slightly slitted, but relatively pale.

Blinking once, Dan looked Vadim slowly up and down. "I don't think we did ever wrestle, did we? But then I'm no Tajik, whatever that means." He winked.

"It's an ethnic group, north of Afghanistan. Some of the warlords were Tajik. Some worked for us, some for the enemy, but then, they were still brothers and spoke each other's language ..."

"Oh fuck, of course, I forgot." Dan was pulling the t-shirt off over his head. Always ready.

"Not important ..." Vadim came back to the bed. "We should have enough time before dinner?"

"Depends who wins." Grinning, Dan opened his jeans, then lifted his hips off the bed to slide them down.

Vadim pulled his jumper over his head, shed the shoes, then pushed his trousers down, dumping the whole lot on one of the chairs, while Dan got his shoes off, throwing the jeans onto the floor. Vadim got onto the bed, on his knees, facing Dan. Feeling slightly awkward and exposed, but horny - he couldn't remember the man's name, just that silent fighting, not-fighting, that understanding that sex was impossible, but finding a way around it.

"Well …" Dan murmured, "first things first …" Coming up, his arms wrapped around Vadim's shoulders and his legs twisted to kick the balance from under Vadim. "Wrestling …" gasped out, half strained, half laughing, "on the bed … is crap!" Intent on throwing both of them onto the floor. Vadim responded, falling, head slightly banged against the floor as he hit the ground first, with Dan's weight on top. Good feeling, Dan's thigh against his cock, which made him want to lose, almost immediately. But he owed Dan a run for his money, so hooked his leg across Dan's, made sure he didn't put too much strain on the knee, and tried to roll over.

Fighting with concentration, Dan was lighter than Vadim, and he almost lost, already half on his back, when he managed to slip one leg between Vadim's, applying pressure with his thigh. Distraction, using every dirty trick in the book, and giving as good as he got.

Vadim groaned, hand came to Dan's ass, pulling him closer, the other going to his cock, to line him up with his own, pushing against him, any thought of combat was gone, had only been an excuse anyway. His body reacted too well, too easily to Dan, another reflex. Floor hard but even, the worst that would happen was carpet burn.

Dan was becoming breathless, exerted all his strength. Muscles hard beneath his skin, trying to flip them back over, with him on top. Vadim resisted, but loved the coiling muscles, knew he'd had an advantage, he had more technique, was heavier and stronger, but he didn't want to press for that advantage, instead went with the motion. Controlling Dan's hands and arms, legs straining against legs, working with levers and angles, but above all, they were stomach to stomach and cock to cock, which made Vadim groan again, shoulders to the ground, Dan on top. He smelled the carpet, came up with his head to bite and suck on Dan's lips.

Dan growled into the vicious kiss, hips grinding, pushing down. Straining to stay on top. Sweat between their bodies made each movement increasingly slippery, unable to get a grip, and Dan lost himself in the feeling of cock against cock. Speeding up the movements of his hips, and slamming down with all his strength and an animalistic growl.

Vadim released his arms, pressing Dan closer, every push met with a push from him. Breathlessly grinding, much like back in Afghanistan, only without giving no quarters, and more knowledge, more fucking love; he pressed up hard, Dan's harsh thrusts got him over the edge, and he held Dan, clung to him, fingers digging into his ass and back, while Dan kept thrusting down. Needing longer to get himself over, and finally cumming, while biting into Vadim's shoulder.

Crashing the next second, still holding, embracing, and rolling to the side, Dan took Vadim with him until they lay face to face, panting.

"Damn," Dan brought out, "you'll be the death of me in my old age." Burying his face into the crook of Vadim's sweaty neck.

Vadim grinned, fingers in Dan's thick hair. "You started it."

"Bollocks. It was you who had to tell me about Tajiks, wrestling, and wanting to - possibly - get fucked."

"Okay, maybe I did start it ..."

Dan groaned, stretching his legs. "Hmmm …. We have a couple more hours before dinner, want to go running and hit the gym, if they let us?"

"First shower. We don't have to hit the racing track while being ... well." Vadim slowly disentangled himself, then offered a hand to Dan, pulling him up. "You can shower first. Who knows, we might meet the rubber man. Smudge. The guy 'beasted' me."

"Shower? Before training? Where's the point in that?" Stretching properly once he stood, Dan looked down at himself and grimaced. "Okay, get it. Sticky." He grinned, "give me a couple minutes, can you dig out the sports kit in the meantime? And I wouldn't mind meeting your PTI, those guys are near indestructible."

"Yeah, he was quite annoying. Bastard." Vadim wiped himself down and dug out the sports kit, laying it out for Dan and himself, listening to the water.

Dan took hardly more than two minutes, coming back out, still partially wet and hair more or less dripping. "They made that bathroom for midgets. Still, those officer bitches should be thankful for the privacy, we used to have to walk along the hallway to the communal loos and showers." Rolling his eyes, Dan slipped shorts and t-shirt on, then sat down for the socks and running shoes.

Vadim grinned. "Well, it's a small mercy in our state." He headed into the shower, took a luxurious seven minutes, while Dan smoked a fag out of the open window, watching Vadim put the sports kit on and tie his laces.

"Let's go, then."

"You do realise that we've never done this?" Dan stood, musing, surprise on his face.

"Done what?"

"Running together." Making a sweeping but economic gesture across the room and their kit. "This normality. Running. Something as stupid as this." He shrugged, "wonder why we never did."

Vadim shook his head. "No idea. But it feels damn nice, doesn't it?" Normal life. The kind of thing other people had. Building habits, routines. No more strange, weird, extraordinary stuff, a perfectly regular life. Or as regular as it got for mercs.

"Aye, even though I'd get bored to death after a couple of months." Dan winked and opened the door, but not before they'd both clipped their visitor passes on.

"Running is not for entertainment. It's meant to be boring. Interesting runs happen near minefields ..."

"I didn't mean the running." Dan laughed. "Anyway, never asked you," walking along the corridor towards the staircase, "what kind of runner are you?"

"What options are there?"

"Racer, sprinter, plodder and juggernaut." Dan laughed at the latter, as they stepped outside.

"Depends on how much ground I have to cover ... somewhere between racer and juggernaut. Unless I don't get what you mean." They left the building and Vadim took the lead, remembering well the site of his suffering and humiliation - but now fondly remembered like any other training site he knew like the back of his hand.

Dan followed, falling into a comfortable trot beside Vadim. "I've never been much of a sprinter, guess I'm more of a long-distance plodder." He grinned while feeling the movements come together, like slipping into a comfortable old shirt. He quickly found his favourite speed, with Vadim trotting in the same rhythm next to him. Impossible to say who took whose rhythm, or whether their bodies just agreed on a compromise.

"I'm a bit slow for the sprinting and too heavy for long distance stuff", said Vadim, breathing deeply, relaxed, chest open, all limbs just moving. No racing involved, speed mostly steady, not incredibly fast, but they were still warming up.

"I remember having to race for Maggie's life, and hell, did that feel like slow motion." They were passing along the edge of the parade square, towards the singlies blocks of the other ranks.

"The car bomb?"

"Aye, the worst run of my life." Picking up speed gently, now that their muscles were beginning to warm up. "Seemed for a while to be my last one as well." They were passing along rows of buildings, all the same. The place seemed deserted. It wasn't knocking off time yet.

"I lost it so bad when I heard about it", murmured Vadim, lengthening his strides, too. "Somebody cracked a stupid joke about it, and I went at him like a tiger." Vadim laughed. "Or mountain lion. Scared a bunch of green junior officers witless."

"Did you? You never told me." Talking easily while comfortably falling into a faster stride that accommodated both their styles, set to keep running for a long time. "Shit, we never talked about any of it. How did you find out in the first place?"

"I came in from an exercise, if I remember correctly, and one of the lieutenants told me that a turkey'd been blown up. Something to the effect of "suits him right", and "a good start" or something, and I just exploded. I was still high on adrenaline. I eventually just walked into the embassy and demanded to know where you were. The Baroness probably didn't believe for an instant it was because I 'owed' you. But it was the only thing I could do. Got my old comrade Lesha to cover for me ... wonder what he's doing now ... he was a good friend, back from basic training ... made him believe I was clearing up my heroine addiction ... well, and you know the rest of the story. I suppose that was when I ... kind of switched sides ..."

"Holy shit." Dan glanced to the side while they were crossing a road, running towards the guard house, which promised more open space once they'd left the compound. "There's a hell of a lot of 'story' in those few words, aye? You got to tell me all the nitty gritty over some booze."

"There isn't really that much more to tell", said Vadim. "But I'll tell you the extended version at some point. It certainly was a few interesting weeks, that's for sure."

"I wish you'd properly switched sides back then, but fuck, we couldn't have known."

"I don't have many regrets, but ... that's one."

Dan was starting to feel the comfortable sensation of his body working like a well-oiled machine, honed muscles and strength, while ignoring the twinge in his knees. "No point in regretting anything. If I could, I'd go back and kill a few people to avoid some serious shit, but it's impossible." He smiled, taking in air in deep breaths, feeling the power of his body and the exhilaration of movement.

Vadim gave a nod in silence and focussed on the flow of his breath. Expanding his chest and breathing deeply, calmly through his nose and allowing the breath to flow in and out naturally.

They continued to run, picking up pace when the second wind kicked in, both men harmonising their steps, as they went on for mile after mile, until Dan steered them towards the camp and back to the Officer's Mess. He could feel his knees, increasingly, like he always did after running or too much marching, but the pleasant exhaustion was worth it, and the joy of doing something as ordinary as running side by side with Vadim. Ordinary, normal. Just two guys - partners.

* * *

The dining hall in the Officer's Mess was as overly laden with Victorian silver and sculptures as he had expected, mirroring the Mess in Hereford, which Dan dimly remembered from Christmas drinks, when the Officers had 'lowered' themselves to invite the senior NCOs to a posh piss-up in their own bar.

Dan was uncomfortable in the surroundings at first, but Dr Williams, in his calm way, reminded him enough of the Baroness to put him at ease. Being reminded of the days in the embassy when he had stood amongst the mighty and rich, while trying to blend in, never realising how much of an elegant figure he'd cut in the tailor made suits that hid the bulge of his pistol.

The meal was excellent, nothing to fault, but he remained quiet throughout the evening, while the doctor and Vadim were talking. Chatting about a whole range of topics, from art to music to historic battles, where Vadim seemed surprised the Doctor was aware of the finer points of the so-called Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union. The Doctor in turn talking of matters such as the training of the historical Red Coats, both men perfectly at ease jumping from topic to topic. From military history to current politics, always polite and with a dash of humour. The Doctor tempered by age, and Vadim tempered by a profound disillusionment. Dan, though, was tempered by nothing, and thus he tucked into the wine until the doctor mercifully asked if he'd prefer a beer, and then supping his pints, listening with half an ear in on the conversation that often went over his head.

Dan politely stayed for a long time at the table, until he finally made his excuses and ventured to the bar, where, as a civilian guest on a normal day and not a function, he could go and buy his own drinks. He soon got into conversation with some of the guys, and found - somewhat to his surprise - that not all Officers were pompous arses, but quite a few had made it up the ranks. Immediately engaged in discussions about battle tactics, hand to hand combat, training and SAS fighting styles compared to Marines, and a thousand other things. Ending amongst laughter and pints, topped up with whiskies, all of them bought for him, while he told some of the tall tales of his past and present. Every now and then, Vadim's eyes flickered over to him, and a smile would curve Vadim's lips. It was Mad Dog who'd found his stride - yet again.

It was nearly 3 AM when the last ones were flagging and even Dan struggled to suppress a yawn, as he glanced over to the table. Vadim took the hint and stood, smiling, after making some excuse or other, about the fact that he was still used to military time keeping. He was sad the evening was over, but was relaxed and at ease after a truly great conversation with a man who knew the deep dark places of his mind and soul and yet neither shied back nor chided him, and he realized with a bit of shock that he was deeply fond of the man. Even though Dr Williams was too young to be his father, the feeling remained that it would have been good to have a father like that, and not the twisted or the powerless or the sad or the disapproving men that had taken that role in his life.

Dan, too, excused himself, walking over to the table, he shook the doctor's hand. Looking at him for a moment too long, studying the man as if asking questions he didn't dare ask, but perhaps the booze was to blame for wanting to know how he could stop the nightmares. How … but no such thing, and he smiled, the world mellowed by the free whisky. His hand went between Vadim's shoulder blades, a short touch, nothing but best mates, comfortable in each other's presence - unless one knew the truth.

Vadim took the Doctor's hand with both his hands and gave him one of those rare smiles, the true 'farewell' while the words were polite and friendly.

They went back to the room they shared, sleeping entwined, while no one in the Mess was none the wiser, no one asked questions, and none of the soldiers cared.

 
 
Special Forces Chapter XXXIX: Best Men
 
 
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 8 May 2008