1992, New Zealand
was drumming his fingers onto the armrest while whistling
a crooked tune under his breath, glancing left and right,
back and front, anxious for takeoff.
tightened his seatbelt and leaned back. "What's
up? Impatient for the ... what? Twenty-eight hours flight,
two stop-overs, to start?"
I want to get it done and over with." Dan turned
to the side, grinning, "at least we have leg room.
Wonder how the poor bastards in the back are faring.
Probably worse than a good old Herc."
turned his head to face Dan. "Means they'll be
sleeping much worse, because I'm planning to sleep once
they turn down the light. Twenty-eight hours and the
time lag ... doesn't get farther on this planet than
but it'll be worth it." Finally, the fasten seatbelt
sign came up, and Dan clicked the metal buckle shut.
"Wonder if Beauvais is enjoying his stay."
He grinned from ear to ear, settling back into the seat
now I wonder what the guys do with him ... nice thought."
Grinning lazily, Vadim half-closed his eyes. "Shouldn't
take Hooch long to discover his talents."
we something like pimps now?" Dan mock-gasped as
the plane accelerated. "And what was this business
about meeting up in Berlin?"
I want to catch up with Hooch. If that's okay? Do you
want to join us?"
else should I do? Visit museums?" Dan snorted.
unlikely. Even though Matt did ask whether you'd fly
over to visit him. Remember?"
Dan looked at Vadim, pressed into his seat at take-off.
"But that would mean flying across while you're
here." 'Here' being some vague area that covered
not sure I could join you there." There
covering the vague area west of what Dan had called
do you mean? You got a bloody medal from them."
I guess." Vadim felt the powerful engines vibrate
and push them right into the sky. Waiting for the ascent
to slow and the plane to get back to horizontal. The
physics involved were quite astonishing, if he thought
about it. "Join us in Berlin, then. He said he
had been to Angola. I just want to try and stay in touch.
It's hard, the staying in touch part. I don't want to
repeat a few mistakes I've made."
need some time with Hooch alone?" Dan pulled a
packet of nicotine gums out of his shirt pocket, all
the while looking at Vadim.
That's not it." Or was it? He really didn't know
what he wanted, only, to maybe not let people slip away
that he cared about. It was so difficulty to get them
back. A simple 'Sorry I haven't called for, oh, five
years' or something like that simply didn't cut it.
It was awkward and embarrassing. And Katya was a strong
presence right in his mind. He needed to call her.
okay." Dan smiled, "no really, it is. If you
think he will become a friend, a real good friend like
Jean, then that's alright. As long as you love me,
then where's the problem? We all need friends."
Tearing the wrapper open, he stuffed the chewing gum
between his lips with a grimace of disgust.
..." want nobody else, Vadim thought, and then
he thought of the men they'd 'shared'. Matt. Jean. Beauvais.
The guys in Glasgow. Dan encouraging it, setting it
up, arranging it, and certainly never stopping it. "Don't
know, Dan. You can come along. Or I can cancel it."
Dark eyes intense. "You worried you'd fall in love
with the Delta?"
don't know." Vadim frowned. "He ... cuts deeper
than the others. I'd lie if I said anything else. But
it's not, nowhere near to ... us." This conversation
was getting into dangerous areas. Somehow.
" Chewing the gum slowly, Dan's only outlet
for a nicotine fix, "I figure that if you did
fall in love with him, then the whole thing between
us would be shit anyway. So, there's no problem, because
I figure you won't, but if you did ... then I figure
you didn't love me properly." He flashed a brief
shuddered. He couldn't even think it. There was simply
no alternative to Dan, and the thought of that breaking
or fading made him sick to his stomach. "You're
all I have, Dan. Every bit."
" Dan grinned more substantially,
reaching for Vadim's hand to squeeze it almost painfully
tight, "it's all sorted. You go see Hooch without
funny old me around, and I go see what else is on."
took the hand and raised it to his lips. He couldn't
think it, didn't want to get anywhere near that thought.
Losing Dan, or even losing what he felt, just opened
up the darkness and the fear. Dan was his antidote to
the poison they'd drip-fed him for two years. "First,
New Zealand", he murmured.
Dan smiled, leaning his head against Vadim's shoulder,
even though a stewardess was walking past. But they'd
been there, done that, and he just couldn't be bothered.
"Have to show you the dilapidated pile of crap
that I bought for a pittance and on a whim."
get it back up to specs. Well, I guess we can pay for
somebody to put it into order. I have to admit I'm useless
at menial labour. Not like Jean, eh? He seemed really
proud of that ... 'house' of his."
grinned and nodded. 'House' indeed. "We won't even
be there to fix it. Got to earn some more dosh to get
it all set up. Even though
I've been wondering,
is Kiwiland really a good place to move to? We'll be
out of the way from everyone and everything."
happen just yet. First, we go there on R&R, then
for longer holidays, and then we can still travel. Doesn't
mean we have to sit in front of the fireplace all day
anyway, and - people can come visit us."
think they would?" Dan lifted his head to look
at Vadim. "Flying across the world to visit two
perhaps if we make it worthwhile for them." Flashing
a toothy grin, Dan closed his eyes for a moment.
a possibility." Vadim settled in when the plane
moved to horizontal and people got up to stretch their
legs, head to the toilets. The beautiful stewardesses
appeared to serve a first round of drinks, and while
they did everything they could, the travel took forever.
There was only so much one could do to pass the time,
and Vadim found that simply waiting had become something
that his mind didn't agree to. Reading was difficult.
And sleeping - well, he should try to keep some structure
to the day. Go to sleep when the lights were dimmed,
and wake up when they were up. Which was nowhere like
his biological clock, as they slowly, painfully slowly,
flew across the vastness that was Asia. Hours and hours
to cross India, and it was strange to think he was much
closer to the place where it had all begun than he'd
been for a long time. Somewhere, a few hours to the
north, lay that vast and unforgiving country that Dan
was yawning, stretching on the seat that had turned
into something resembling a half-way comfortable bed,
yet never comfortable enough for men of their size.
"Where are we?" Sleepy, muzzled, and his hair
a wild mess, as he blinked to try and get his bearing.
south of Kashmir", murmured Vadim. "Give or
take a few thousand miles."
Kashmir." Dan set up, rolling his shoulders.
Clothes crumpled beneath the blanket. Reaching for his
shirt pocket to find his packet of fags - before realising
that wasn't going to happen. Took a fresh chewing gum
instead. "Part of what you crossed?"
grinned. "I was just that other side of insane
when I did that. If it hadn't been for the fear, it
would have been a great adventure."
looked at him for a long time, far longer than felt
comfortable, while he slowly unwrapped the next gum,
but never put it into his mouth. "I would have
died if you hadn't come." No inflexion. "I
couldn't find a
reason. Fighting was just too
took his hand again. "It's one regret I have. That
I didn't stay." Throat too tight to speak. Just
how much stupid pain they would have been saved, he
could only imagine. Maggie could have helped. Katya
- would have got the message that he had died. Lesha
would have had to answer some unpleasant questions,
but he was a smooth liar. Lesha. Whatever had happened
you couldn't." Dan's voice was quiet, holding onto
the hand. "Your kids
" Not the wife,
he squeezed the hand again, murmuring, "there
is no point in ifs and whats. What happened, happened,
and we are here, now, alive. In a plane on our way to
a godforsaken place with a view of mountains and an
old and useless but bloody damned picturesque apple
inhaled and nodded, trying to relax again and doze,
but the memory stood stark in his mind. The blue sky.
The dust. The vastness, the mountains, and with them,
the longing. He wished he could have reached out and
told a younger self that it would all be good in the
end, most likely.
smiled, settled in again, blanket pulled over his head
and eventually, while still holding onto Vadim's hand,
he fell asleep once more. Sleeping until it was time
to land for their first stop-over.
airport hit them with the full tropical force when they
left the plane, and before they entered the air-conditioned
airport. Vadim found a bottle of water and very nearly
emptied it, feeling dehydrated and, most of all, tired.
Changing to the other terminal, sometime in the morning,
when Vadim's body told him it was still the middle of
the night, and Dan was continuously yawning.
a deep sigh, Vadim changed the time of his watch to
local time. Better not cling to the time zone they'd
left and adapt to the new one ... even though that would
change again once they were back in the plane. "Two
hours waiting for the connection", he murmured.
"Then the flight to Auckland."
but it's a damn sight better than last time I did this
trip." Dan smiled at him, standing shoulder to
shoulder in the queue. "The last time
just say, Maggie sent me on R&R and it wasn't a
question if I wanted to go or not. I had just smashed
the entire content of my room in the embassy."
was that?" Vadim braced for the guilt, but tried
to appear calm. He was tired and already exhausted,
and he really just wanted to get there ... even though
he didn't want to get onto another plane. Next time,
they'd book a night in Singapore, only so they could
rest in between, and catch up with the vast distance
well." Dan shrugged, glanced at Vadim, and he smiled,
"had just been under a lot of strain. You were
gone, imprisoned, and things didn't work out the way
I had hoped. I flipped one day. No one's fault except
mine, aye?" Time to show flight passes and passports
once more, and they shuffled towards the plane.
nodded. "Better the room than yourself. Or somebody
else." Two years. It had been a nightmare. How
exactly Dan had spent the time he didn't actually know.
Whether there were secrets there, lovers, maybe, or
whether Dan had just, somehow, bottled it up and functioned.
got into the plane, Dan not saying anything else, staying
close, and falling asleep yet again the moment the plane
was in the air. The second leg of the journey was even
worse. Day, night, it all seemed messed up, legs hurt,
and a bone-deep weariness settled. Vadim drank every
time the stewardesses offered water, knowing he was
losing fluids, his skin already felt like paper. The
ocean crept past, Australia, too, hours and hours of
Australia. The place couldn't possibly be so big, but
it was. Earth was fucking huge, come to think of it.
Then, eventually, out over the ocean again, and yet
hours before New Zealand got anywhere close. The plane
slowed a little at last, and other passengers began
to stir. By now, Vadim wasn't even sure he had one coherent
thought left in his mind, and when Dan surfaced for
the third or fourth time - firmly according to the age-old
squaddie maxim of grabbing some shut-eye whenever the
opportunity - he found himself smiled at and small water
bottles being pushed into his hand.
down on Auckland airport, picking up the baggage in
the middle of the night, or noon, or whenever, customs
was queuing up on tired legs, shuffling the cabin bag
closer to a tall, stocky man in a uniform. Something
deeply primal about his haughty features and the almond
shaped, dark eyes. Vadim found himself smile wearily.
Whatever type of ethnic group that was, the uniform
and the savage pride in this man went well together.
though, was awake, having slept through most of the
journey, and his interest was all too clear. Still,
he behaved impeccably, didn't even crack a joke, just
stared at the officer all too appreciatively.
Dan grinned, once they had passed and were out of earshot.
"Fucking dishy, if you ask me. Shame many of them
are fat and ugly, but hell, the good ones I saw
holy fucking cow, they were sexy." They filed into
the baggage hall, claiming their suitcases soon enough.
keep an eye on them." Vadim nodded, tossing the
bags in the taxi, they headed to a soulless hotel 20
minutes from the airport, where everything was typically
chain motel style. The service was good, though, food
24/7, but Vadim just wanted to get out of the wet autumnal
weather. Not only were they now twelve hours behind
- or earlier, or whatever - but it was autumn, not spring.
And it was humid enough to make him breathe in big gulps,
like drinking. He managed to undress and set the alarm
clock, falling into bed, while Dan stayed downstairs,
wide awake since he'd slept most of the journey. He
had a large dinner with all the trimming, plus the inevitable
booze. The climate didn't trouble him. Afghan mountains
or Auckland, it all boiled down to one thing: knowing
he would walk to a room where Vadim was sleeping, crawling
under the covers, spooning close, and sleeping. The
alarm went off in the late morning, and they got ready
for the last leg of the journey.
Auckland airport. By day, Auckland was stretched out
and ugly, somehow industrial-looking and grimy, but
Vadim assumed it had to have nice areas, too. Only they
weren't passing any of them. Heading for the domestic
terminal - which was a tiny hall - of Auckland airport,
and then getting their Air New Zealand tickets for the
domestic flight to Palmerston North.
again a queue, until they finally sat in the last plane.
"You sure you want to settle here?" asked
Dan, buckling up.
me again after I've seen the place." The small
plane held maybe fifty passengers, and the flight was
less than an hour. Mercifully short. After take off,
all the greenness that was this island became visible.
Vast, vast green space, only dotted with what seemed
to be cattle or sheep, the occasional house. The area
they covered were mostly plains, and some coast. Then,
soon, touchdown in Palmerston North, which made Vadim
wonder if there was a Palmerston South, East, and West,
too. They got out of the small plane, walked across
the tarmac, entered a building that looked more like
a garage than an airport building, waited about five
minutes, and somebody tossed their luggage on the small
band in the room. Unceremoniously, uncomplicated, and
parking lot seemed like that of a supermarket, but mostly
empty. They just stepped out of the building right onto
it. The air was cold and humid, and the fact that they
didn't have to fly anymore made Vadim obscenely happy.
we have to get a car somewhere, aye?" Dan grinned
at Vadim, luggage at his feet, deeply, oh so deeply,
inhaling the nicotine.
do?" Vadim glanced around, trying to locate a car
rental place. There had been one in the airport, or
had there? The airport was nestled right into the 'city',
which was all flat bungalow style houses from what he
grinned, "aye, we do. I learned the hard way last
time, that if you don't get a car, you're fucked. Distances
are too vast." Pointing towards an innocuous area,
"let's head there, they should have our 4x4."
nodded, relieved, because there was an absence of taxis.
Dan picked up the car and off they were again, crossing
the small town - which was exactly what Vadim had seen
from the airport - stretched out, large houses with
large gardens, and one thing that became noticeable,
too. New Zealanders had no idea how to build smooth
roads. The 4x4 was overkill for the street, but even
through the car's suspension, they could feel and hear
that the street building had been sloppy at best. But
streets were straight and had 90 degree turns. Everything
seemed young and recent somehow, fresh, young, unspoilt.
And green. There were lemon trees, palm trees, and an
abundance of plant life that Vadim had never seen anywhere
consulted the map he'd requested, even though it wasn't
easy to get lost. Once outside the city, there were
hardly any roads crossing this one, and at some point,
they headed into a smaller road that headed into the
hills that became steeper and more wild, and then the
road hugged the mountains that were surprisingly green
and surprisingly steep. To Vadim's mind, it was very
obvious that the land had retained its primal shapes,
even if it was farmland. There seemed to have been little
impact on the land itself, apart from the street or
the small bridges that they crossed when they headed
into the valley. This area didn't even appear to have
a name. There were farms and sheep, occasional cattle
and horses. When Dan turned onto another road - or path
- right there, in a small side-valley that they seemed
to share with nobody, stood a two-storey building. In
that, alone, it seemed peculiar- all other houses seemed
to only have one storey.
gravelled area served as the parking space, and the
farm was surrounded by ancient apple trees. When Dan
opened the door, Vadim saw how empty the house was,
and that it hadn't been lived in for ages. The floor
boards would have to be replaced, and it was fairly
cold and damp. But when he touched the wall and knocked
against it, the lower floor seemed made from stone,
covered with a layer of wood. When he headed upstairs
- the staircase needed to be replaced, too - the upper
part was wood. Space. Plenty of space, and an old-fashioned
oven to heat the building. There were boxes that had
been delivered, standing against the wall in what Vadim
assumed had been the living room.
was still standing in the centre of the very large living
room, with its windows towards the mountains and the
old, disused apple orchard, holding his arms out wide,
and slowly turning around himself once. "Well,
this is it. I bought it at a whim, because I happened
to pass the auction. Dirt cheap, no one seemed to want
it, but I fell in love with that goddamned view and
the bloody apple trees." He grinned from ear to
ear. "What do you think?"
looked around. "Can you hear it?" he asked.
nodded, grinning. "Oh yes, I can. It's almost deafening,
went to the window, opened it, and breathed deeply.
The air was pure. He could see that the stones and wood
surfaces had been thoroughly conquered by lichen, orange,
green, white, tiny, fragile and yet hardy creatures,
not quite plant, not quite anything else. Lichen meant
the air was pure, he remembered. Pure like where he'd
been trained in survival, deep in the tundra and taiga,
far away from any human settlement that could provide
assistance. He'd been stricken by the fact that, for
a major road (according to the map) the street had been
empty. They had encountered maybe five cars on the way
- and all those had been very near Palmerston North.
Absolutely nothing once they'd entered this valley.
stepped up behind him, a hand on Vadim's shoulder. "You
think it might be too silent for a couple of old battle
just so pure", Vadim murmured.
turned his head, smiling at Vadim's profile, not quite
sure if he really understood what Vadim was saying or
feeling, except for
" far away from any war?"
nodded. "No guilt, either. Did you know they are
nuke-free? Famously?" He leaned back, touching
Dan. "Everybody here is a stranger."
Dan tilted his head, fingertips touching the hand on
his face, before fishing for his cigarettes.
past. No human memory, no history, no old battles. Well,
maybe a different matter for the natives, but, you know,
for everybody else."
that means we are both new and without past. And being
strangers doesn't matter because everybody else is?"
Dan would mull it over, needing to take his time.
nodded. "This is a place that doesn't force you
to do anything."
don't understand, what do you mean, 'force you'?"
places come with rules." Vadim smiled. "Expectations.
History. Culture. This place doesn't."
surely the people who live here have some rules, too?"
Dan continued the aborted motion, finding his pack of
cigarettes and the lighter.
but it's probably just laws. Don't steal, don't ram
cars ..." Vadim shrugged while Dan nodded. "That's
not difficult. And - this place is empty. Reminds me
a bit of that Swedish place."
never told me about Sweden, by the way." Dan smiled,
lighting his fag.
was like coming up for air. It's all blurred, but it
was a good place. Some good people there. Very generous."
we should go there? I've never been to Sweden."
Dan leaned against the other side of the windowsill,
blowing the smoke carefully out of Vadim's way.
for holidays." Remembering Manke. "You'd like
the village cop. I'm not sure I thanked him properly.
And, he was a good-looking boy. The Swedes are probably
the best-looking men I've ever seen."
put on his most lecherous face, "and wouldn't it
be damn convenient if they were all gay on top of that?"
likely the usual amount of them. Manke, I'd assume,
was straight. Not that I was in any state to even think
in that direction. He's a good guy, sometimes I wonder
how he's doing."
don't you find out?" Dan inhaled, thoughtfully.
"I think I learned something during the last two
years. Letting go of people is the biggest bloody mistake
we can make. We haven't got anything more important."
Dan nodded, mostly to himself.
inhaled deeply. "Yes, I know." Family. Family
was important, more so than a benevolent stranger he'd
met. He'd love to let go of others, but he was only
too aware that Konstantinov still lurked somewhere in
his mind, biding his time like cancer.
to Norway and Finland, on a few exercises, but never
Sweden. Neither Denmark, and I heard that Iceland's
supposed to be crazy. We should do a Scandinavia tour
one day." Dan glanced out of the window.
is crucial ... let's go there when it's not buried in
snow or full of mosquitoes."
would be when? Spring?" Dan glanced out at the
sky, figuring it would be getting dark in a few short
hours. Maximum two.
Vadim moved away from the window and headed over to
the boxes. "What's in there?"
walked over as well. "Survival kit. The usual.
Cooking stove, gas, air beds, extra large zip-together
sleeping bags, food stocks, lots of tins, water, coffee,
tea, kettle, and so on and so forth. There should be
a stack of firewood and a sack of coal round the back.
I got them to deliver everything, since there's nothing
here, and we're not even sure if the stove still functions.
They promised to send a guy round to check it out tomorrow,
same with the water pipes." Dan grinned, "and
I wouldn't use the loo just now. I got a camping one
delivered to be safe." Pointing to a plastic box
that was just visible round the corner to another room.
"Luxury, aye? No more shitting into hand-dug holes
grinned. "Let's set it up and watch the sunset?
We could even scout into town and see if they have any
when I was here there were a couple of places. A diner
and a BBQ. I kept alternating between the two. Those
ribs with sticky sauce were to die for." Dan grinned,
starting to rip into the first box. "Not a pretty
place, the town, but it's functional and all the folks
were damn nice. A few pubs along the road, even though
they call them bars. Weirdoes." Dan started to
unpack the box, piling the equipment into neat stacks.
we can find a Fish n Chips shop."
I also remember the usual assortment of Chinese and
Indian, but," Dan put on a 'posh' accent, "I'd
like to acquaint you with the delights of the sticky
not to sound like the Baroness, please." Vadim
grinned and joined him with the boxes, tearing the carton,
putting things together, and starting to build a camp.
The living room had a great view, and with nobody else
around, they could easily sleep downstairs. After everything
was set up, they went back to the car and headed into
town. Thirty minutes was all it took.
Dan's eternal happiness, the BBQ place was still going
strong, and they spent their evening meal with a large
tub of coleslaw, a huge platter of sticky ribs between
them, with the sauce dripping off their fingers, and
two large mugs of cider. All crowned by big slices of
pecan pie, doused in hot custard, and the warmest and
friendliest welcome they could have hoped for. By the
end even Dan was too full to say 'peep', and they ventured
towards the nearest bar, aware that one of them had
to drive back. They were greeted with the same open
friendliness, and the locals immediately took them in,
particularly when they heard that they were the ones
who'd bought the big old place ('old' meaning that it
had been built in the fifties). They were ex-soldiers,
currently mercs, looking to retire there when they left
active service, currently seeking local expertise and
skills to redo the place and bring it up to scratch.
They made numerous contacts, all in the first night,
with cousins and brothers and fathers available and
skilled, and many out of work. The economy wasn't going
well and taxes were high, so everybody seemed keen to
make a little money on the side.
kept his hands to himself for once, and with a rare
wisdom, made no indication that Vadim and he were more
than very good mates who got along well enough to share
a large house in the back of beyond, seeking some peace
and quiet after a life on the line. Something which
seemed sensible given the crowd and the maleness of
them all. Vadim got the feeling they were relaxed, but
backwater, and he, too, didn't risk anything - and was
surprised at Dan's restraint.
both nearly fell over with tiredness, when they finally
made their way back, keeping the radio on to stay awake,
as Dan drove them back through the night. While the
stars were nothing like in the desert, the night was
as clear and wide open as they could hope. "I like
this place", murmured Vadim.
am glad." Dan's voice was quiet, and he smiled
as he glanced across. "Not sure if I won't miss
the adrenaline too much, but guess we can't keep going
don't want to keep going forever. I'm tired of it. No
more bloodthirst. I've had my fill."
Dan nodded, silent for a while. Too silent. "But
we have to keep going a little while longer or we won't
be able to afford renovating this place." His excuse,
his bait. Anything to keep going - and at least this
was the truth.
nodded. "Never too tired to survive", he murmured,
quoting some officer who'd drilled him, a military lifetime
ago. "It's well worth doing that."
smiled easier. "Couple more years? That should
get us enough money without having to dig into what
we've saved so far. Unless there's more wrong with the
house than we thought." He flashed a grin, slowly
turning onto the path towards the house. "According
to Duncan there is always more wrong with the house
than you think and it will always cost twice as much
as you envisage."
heard Jean say something similar." Vadim stretched
and yawned. "There's just no way around it, for
the time being. But maybe we can keep an eye on other
ways to make money. Win the lottery ... or something."
laughed, "yeah, as if that ever happened. We don't
even play the lottery." Switching off the engine,
he leaned across to look at Vadim, hardly visible in
the darkness of the night. "Sometimes, when I wake
up too early, I've been wondering what we are going
to do job-wise when we can't be on active service anymore."
have no idea. Handling weapons is right out. We could
open another fishing and hunting shop over in Palmy"
- he'd been amused that locals called Palmerston North
'Palmy', and was determined to use the nickname. "Seems
everybody hunts and fishes around here ... and there
are only, what, ten shops like that in town?"
rolled his eyes. "Don't think that would give us
enough money to fly round and visit mates. Or do you
intend to stay on the farm and never budge again?"
Vadim shrugged. "I'll think about it. We've been
lucky so far, aye?"
Dan smiled. "We've been damn lucky." For such
unlucky bastards. "Ready to hit the hay?"
nodded, yawning again. "Oh yes. Sharing warmth
might be necessary ..."
held his hands up, laughing, "but only sharing
warmth. If you expect me to get it up, no chance."
Still grinning, he got out of the car, not bothering
to lock it. "It's strange, you know." Standing
and inhaling deeply, while very slowly turning around
Vadim closed the car door. He figured locking that wouldn't
strictly be necessary either, but he still did.
strange. I never had a home. Not since I left my family's
farm." Dan's face faintly illuminated by the new
moon. "And here I am, at the other side of the
world, with my partner, and standing in front of our
home." He turned to face Vadim, "it's
one of the best fucking feelings ever."
closed the distance and embraced him. "It will
be good, Dan. I promise."
smiled, holding onto Vadim for a moment. "It will.
Hearth and home and all that shit, and a big bed with
lots of space and comfy duvets. Sounds like bloody paradise
Vadim kissed him, then nodded towards the front door.
"What about sharing warmth and maybe some 'cuddling'?
I could use with holding you a bit longer, but not in
good plan. Come on, then." Dan led the way inside,
and after a quick wash with cold water and a trip to
the chemical loo, they got themselves inside the sleeping
bags that they'd zipped together. Sharing warmth and
next days were busy. They caught up with the men they'd
met, had a few people look at the house and decide what
to do with it. When they were finished with that, it
seemed like it would be very slightly cheaper to repair
it than to demolish it. Much of the wood needed replacing,
and they could easily change the rooms and sizes, as
there would be few internal walls left when they were
done. Which suited them fine - that would make it easier
to move furniture around, later. Piping, electricity,
all that required checking, replacing, some digging
up to the road, and they hired one of the cousins who
was a qualified architect to take charge of it.
opened a joint bank account, and in the next days explored
some of the island. Venturing down to Wellington to
sit at the harbour, have coffees and teas and enjoy
the view out over the ocean.
was on one of those days that Dan sat on the pier, drink
in one hand, fag in the other, legs dangling into the
ocean. "You know, I think I should go and see Maggie."
glanced up. "Where is she 'stationed' at the moment?"
And, in an afterthought: "What about early May?"
in Dubai. She usually stays around three years and then
off to another place. Which means she's due to be posted
again soon." Dan took a drag from the cigarette,
"and as for May, do you mean if I'm going to meet
While we're on the way away from here, we can just as
well do it all in one go. I could even join you for
a day or two and we take her out for dinner or something.
mean, go from here to Dubai together, then you head
off to Germany and I jump on a plane to the US?"
Dan emptied his glass, thinking. "Not bad. I'd
like to spend a few days with her, if she'll have me."
could she not, and I'd like to see her again, too."
Vadim checked the watch. "Let's head towards the
ferry. There's the whole south island waiting for us
then." Stubbing the cigarette out, Dan got up,
feet wet, socks and shoes in his hand. "Best see
the rest of our future home country, aye?"
get the feeling there's far more to see than we can
cover in a few days." Vadim grinned. "Doesn't
mean we can't try it."
and we'll have a few more years after that." With
that Dan got his travel bag onto the other shoulder,
marching off towards the ferry.
explored the south island for almost a week, to return
to the house, after a lot of phone calls, where they
checked in with the workers. Finding everything in good
hands, better than they could have done themselves,
they knew there was nothing they could do there right
now. Leaving the camping supplies in a shed, safe from
the elements and wildlife, they headed back towards
Palmy, where they boarded the plane that would take
them to Auckland. Then the long flight back, with two
days holdover in Singapore to take the brunt of the
jetlag, which they mostly spent in the hotel and venturing
out every now and then to eat in the hotel restaurant
and various cafes in the centre, and to spend money
in one of the many full air-conditioned malls that dotted
the city. Spending a good amount in the nicest ways
possible, and then back to the hotel, and via taxi to
the airport for the last leg of the journey.
the plane to Dubai, Dan was leaning over to Vadim, smiling
as he placed his hand on the other's thigh for a moment.
"Less anxious than last time, eh?"
would have been less anxious if I had been staring down
a muzzle." Vadim grinned. "I was badly scared."
tell you a secret, when I first met her, I was rather
frazzled. She's got a way of looking
you and not at you, made me want to be on my best behaviour.
Hell, and did I fuck that up."
that's why you care about her. You like people who can
put you in your place, Mr cocky SAS."
Dan laughed, "you bastard, but that means that
I shouldn't like you one bit. Nor Jean. Nor Matt. Nor
Hooch. Nor anyone else." He stuck his tongue out
guess is, when you were young, you'd have hated all
of us. Am I wrong?"
I hate it when you pull that intellectual crap on me,
Russkie." Dan made a show of a veritable pout.
guessing." Leaning back, Vadim regarded Dan with
half-closed eyes. "Can't help but be curious about
Digging into a packet of peanuts, Dan's brows shot to
his hairline. "You should know me inside and out."
about how you've changed. I want to know everything
about you, every little detail, and there are many things
I don't know."
The stewardess was coming along and Dan asked for a
whisky, before turning his full attention back to Vadim.
was your best friend in school? Your favourite subject?
First girlfriend? When was your first kiss? Your favourite
piece of clothing when you were a kid? What were the
things in your mind when you started ..." He grinned,
then used the Russian word "wanking."
laughed. "Holy shit, you really are curious aren't
you? Most of these things I don't even know. Let's try
" Dan leaned back, closing his eyes to think
hard. "My best friend was Hamish Buchanan, a freckled,
ginger haired git who was a bloody great guy. We roamed
the Highlands, went fishing together and were generally
a completely nuisance of epic proportions." Dan
grinned, and Vadim laughed. "First girlfriend?
That's a trickier one. They are all the same in retrospect."
Shrugging, Dan tried hard to remember the name but failed.
"I can only remember how exciting it was to finally
get under her skirt and then
" shaking his
head, "never mind, I fucked cunts but I never did
like to touch or lick them all that much."
stewardess arrived, but Vadim found himself listening
with the same focus he'd had when sniping. Nothing should
escape him there.
first kiss was with someone I can't remember either.
Behind the neighbour's cow barn and not very
'memorable' he wanted to say when another memory, an
older one, suddenly hit him. "Shit. I'd completely
forgotten about it, but that wasn't my first kiss. My
first one was a dare, some shit I'd engineered,
I think and, well, damn. The first proper kiss
was when I was twelve and I kissed Calum. Fuck, yes,
I remember now. He was the son of one of the itinerary
sheep shearers and
. Damn." Dan downed his
drink, and if his skin wasn't so tanned, the red flush
would have been all too visible.
smiled, pressing Dan's hand. "Calum. I see. And
I thought I was the first guy." Grinning.
funny, you bastard." Dan grimaced. "I'd completely
forgotten about it. I was certain I'd been straight
till I was ... well, till I
well. You know. And
you know, too." He heaved a sigh.
"Anyway my favourite piece of clothing were the
walking boots I got from my dad, and for what I was
thinking of when ...." Dan made a dismissive gesture,
"I can't remember."
But see, that kind of stuff. I want to know everything."
I don't." Dan looked up and at Vadim, very intense.
don't want to know about yourself, or you don't want
to know about me?"
do you mean?"
said 'But I don't'. I don't what?"
don't want to know. Hell, it was hard enough to
trailed off and sighed. "Damn. Give me a moment.
Okay?" He waved to the stewardess, who soon brought
him another drink and Dan sat, eyes closed, thinking.
nodded, watching. If Dan needed his time to muddle through
things, he'd be the last to pressure him. But the response
don't think I ever did imagine girls." Dan finally
offered. "A weird mix of stuff instead. Some sort
of violence." He frowned, opening his eyes to look
at Vadim. "Shit, that makes me sound like a creep."
gaze was intense. "Some form of combat? Pain? Fear?
Dan shook his head, looking and feeling decidedly uncomfortable.
"Control." Tossing the drink back in one go.
"Someone tied up, helpless. Faceless, genderless."
Dan shook his head again. "Shit, now what does
that say about me and how fucked up I have always been?"
not a psychoanalyst. But what if ... what if it was
me?" Leaning in to whisper. "What if you could
do that to me?"
looked at Vadim, straight on. Gaze intense and unwavering.
Never a man who'd shy away. "It would break and
create something in me. But not like the Glasgow guys.
More. I want more." 'I', suddenly, and he didn't
nodded. "Okay. In a place where we're safe. Space.
Nobody around. Somewhere ... where we're just us."
If the place is right ... why not?"
I don't know what the fuck I'm doing? And because we
have some rather hefty history?"
told you I'm yours. I gave you the bullet. You cut me.
You ..." Vadim moved closer again and Dan shuddered,
"you fucked me like a savage, more than once. You
had me fucked, you tied me up, you had a knife to my
balls when you sucked me. What more can you do? Anything
I'd be scared of? I don't think so."
your nightmares? What if you could not see, could not
move, could not hear, and could not breathe unless I
allowed you to
are not Konstantinov. You don't want to shatter me into
the smallest pieces you can manage. And besides, you
already broke me once. That was scary, yes. But it was
more than that. Even then."
I meant to destroy you back then. Don't you realise
that? Because you'd done the worst that anyone could
have possibly done to me. You'd not only violated my
body, it was more. I could have dealt with the body,
would have simply killed you for that. Clean, a bullet,
and that was that. No, I had to destroy you, because
you'd broken through everything else. I wanted to strip
your skin off, layer after layer, when you offered yourself.
" No, it wasn't that simple,
he hadn't wanted Vadim, and he bloody well couldn't
find the right words. Didn't even understand himself,
and the darkness of his eyes was more intense as ever.
nodded. "I know. You would have killed me. I know
that. At some point, I accepted that, I accepted death.
I accepted that there was nothing I could do to stop
you. That you held my life, my dignity, my sanity, everything
in your hand, you knew that, I knew it, and I hated
that ... that sick ... craving inside. I always wanted
you. All the time. From the moment I first saw you,
and to my grave. Maybe I hated the lie so much ... maybe
because, somewhere, deep down, I knew how .... depraved
I was, the fact that I had committed crimes, that I'd
moved away from the man I'd wanted to be. Maybe I wanted
you to annihilate me. Maybe part of the attraction was
that I knew you'd destroy me. I have no idea. All I
know was that up in the mountains, I did want you. Yes,
I played you, I tried to pacify you with offering sex,
but if you'd accepted the offer ... I would have wanted
it. How's that for 'sick'?"
moistened his lips, unaware. "I would have thought
that a condemned man tried anything to survive."
... offered because ... I needed to take your aggression
away. Risky gamble. So you could ... avenge. Yourself.
Like that. I'd have taken it. I'd have survived it,
I know that. I knew it wasn't lust from your side. I
knew it was about ... hatred. And maybe power. Yes.
Some kind of triumph, like ... like I felt, that night."
or power? Or both?"
Besting somebody like you. Somebody so strong and dangerous.
The more you fought, the more I needed you."
hand clenched around the empty plastic cup, and it took
him a long time before he could talk again. "Did
you use me to atone? For punishment?"
... later ... saw the time in the mountain as payback.
Proper payback. It certainly ... changed things. I didn't
have that ... appetite anymore, not like I'd had. I
guess I learn best through pain." Vadim lowered
his head and Dan moved his own, forehead against temple,
when Vadim continued. "My whole life feels like
atoning for things I did. I'm trying to ... be a better
man. Be worthy. Follow what I think is right, but I
don't. Too often, I simply don't. There's the anger,
and the pride, and that fucking darkness. Then I wonder,
why do I even try? And slip back. But Dr Williams told
me it's important to keep an eye on what I'm thinking
and feeling, because a lot of that might end up not
being very sane or healthy."
the you back then and the you now are very different."
Dan's voice remained quiet. "When it comes to the
I'd give my fucking right arm if I could
reach into that darkness and touch you down there."
nodded, swallowing. "Something Dr Williams said
- that I can only learn to live with it. It will never
go. They put something inside me and I can't take it
out. I can only try to ... live with it and try to control
it, because I can't just give up, Dan. It wouldn't be
you can't give up." Dan shook his head, taking
hold of Vadim's hand. "And that's why I don't think
it would be a good idea if you let me have
Fully. Because I might take from you what you've been
using to keep it all down."
maybe it would cut that festering wound open and drain
the poison." Vadim shuddered. "What if I feel
... the need to be controlled like that? With you at
least I know that that's not a response to ... what
they did to me. That that is older ... older than Konstantinov.
That it's about lust and need and not about ... destroying
me." He was surprised when he felt tears in his
eyes. Shame? Or just the fucking pressure that
found a way through the words, somehow.
fingers tightened around Vadim's hand, until they painfully
squeezed bones and cartilage together. "Give me
time." He whispered, face close, heads touching.
"Give me a little time until I've understood myself,
and I'll be what you need me to be."
are everything I need. I'm just saying, I trust
you. Whatever you want to do. I need you. And that includes
ways and things that everybody else would shy away from.
Because we're not everybody, Dan. We're us."
we are is pretty fucked up." Tension flowed out
of Dan as if a valve had been opened and he smiled.
Relaxing, holding Vadim's hand in his own.
from my perspective." Vadim laughed.
love you, Russkie. But you know that."
smiled. "And I you."
they arrived in Dubai, Dan looked his most dishevelled
self with wild hair and crumpled clothes, not quite
awake yet after snoozing on the plane. Once again they
went through the rigmarole of customs and luggage, but
at least the Baroness' driver with the air conditioned
limo was waiting for them.
Vadim, it was just a different kind of heat. After the
oppressiveness of Singapore, Dubai was scorching, but
bearable. "After the flight I feel like I need
another week or two off", Vadim murmured, leaning
back in the seat.
chance", Dan grinned, letting his hands run over
the cool, smooth leather. "You got to go to Berlin,
while I get to enjoy the luxury of the embassy a little
longer." Turning to Vadim, "you remember what
I told you many years ago?"
of the many things?"
leaned closer, grinning from ear to ear as he lowered
his voice, "that you are ruled by your cock."
not that, Dan. It's not about ..." sex, he thought.
But of course he knew what would happen. It wasn't about
playing chess, and in a way it was because Hooch looked
much like Dan. Which, strangely, might have been part
of Jean's attraction for Dan. Were they just both looking
for a similar type, minus ten years? "Not just
know." Dan settled back. "I can see how you
two can become good mates. He's not exactly a chatterbox,
and well, it just fits. Friends are important, aye?"
grinned. "I get the weirdest feeling ... I feel
almost protective? At the same time, I know he's a hard
bastard and doesn't need anything like that, never mind
I can't actually protect him, but ... I don't know."
think that no one can be that controlled all
the time, aye?"
That's exactly it. I ... know about bottling up, I guess.
All too well, really." Vadim rolled his eyes.
think Hooch needs some way of letting it all
out, and you want to offer him an outlet?" Dan
he's just a thrillseeker like you. I don't know. I only
know that I worry about him, and I don't do that often.
There's a select few, really."
I'm not one of them." Dan winked, "because
I wouldn't want anyone to worry about me. Not even you.
I'll be fine."
grinned. "Of course. But I may be concerned ...
interested, at least?"
as long as you are interested in the contents of my
trousers." Dan grinned, glancing up as they rolled
through the gates of the compound.
if you're naked."
mind, and fuck, am I glad about it." Dan grinned,
but then the limo stopped.
grinned and stepped out, and had to remember not to
carry his own luggage. They did that. 'They' being the
staff. Strange, after the self-reliance of the farm,
or, indeed, all their lives.
stepped out, and that very moment the door opened, as
if on cue. The Baroness appeared, standing on the top
of the stairs and smiling brightly. She didn't seem
to have changed at all; same elegance, same pearls,
same bomb-proof hairdo.
there she was, Dan's lady friend. Vadim watched Dan
and her, smiling slightly, as Dan's face broke into
a bright grin, climbing the steps. He twitched, but
then shook her hand with both of his, and he leaned
close. "I almost hugged you, Ma'm." Grinning
like a fool.
dear, Dan, wouldn't that have been against the protocol.
My oh my." She laughed lightly, holding his hand
for a long time, smiling at him, for once on the same
height, standing a step above him.
good to see you. Very good." Dan finally let go
of her hand, "it's been a while since I last lost
a chess game."
stepped closer. "That's because you never play
against me, Dan."
bad enough if I lose against her ladyship, I really
couldn't stomach losing against my lover."
Baroness chuckled and Vadim cast an amused glance at
Dan, then proceeded to shake her hand. "It's good
to see you again", he said, heartfelt. "And
of you to see us."
always have time for my friends." She smiled, holding
onto Vadim's hand as well, before letting go and making
an inviting gesture. "Come on in and refresh yourselves.
Dinner is in an hour, and there is no need to dress
grinned at that, then straightened his face. "Thank
you kindly. A shower is certainly welcome." Glancing
at Dan with a raised eyebrow. There was no need for
a blowjob to get rid of the tension - but it would certainly
ignored the eyebrow, at least pretended to. They were
led back into the same room they had occupied before,
welcoming them with elegance and luxury, something Dan
hardly noticed. "So, you heard her ladyship, we
have an hour. Want a quick snooze, or what about a bath?
The tub is certainly large enough."
later. I'd go for a bath ... just relax after the flight."
Vadim shed his shirt already and frowned. "I'm
sweaty and I feel disgusting."
you really are." Dan stood suddenly in front of
him, hands on Vadim's chest. "Really
can tell how ... appalled you are ..." Vadim let
his head roll back as Dan took hold of him, fingers
suddenly everywhere and he was in no mood to protest.
Much good it would have done him anyway, and when his
turn came, all the better, because his knees felt weak
post-orgasm anyway. The bath afterwards was just perfect
for the comedown, and they took the time to 'cuddle'
in the bathtub, washing each other lazily and enjoying
the water and the heat.
they were drying off, Dan grinned sharply. "You
think we are getting too soft?"
what count?" Vadim was about to shave, hot water
in the washing basin, safety razor ready, and shaving
foam carefully distributed in his face. Lifting his
face a bit, he watched Dan in the mirror that was fogged
up at the edges. "Sex-wise or personality-wise,
Fuck, no. Personality-wise, maybe." Rubbing his
hair vigorously, Dan managed to stop the drips from
the silver-streaked dark mane. "You know, getting
older and losing the thirst for blood, as you always
say. Meeting my family, and actually talking
to my brother, stuff like that." He slung the towel
around his hips, "and not to forget all that 'cuddling'."
The grin grew even sharper, if possible.
flashed a grin, then concentrated on the razor cleaning
away the stubble on the left side. Swiping the blade
through the water, he looked up again. "Tempered,
yes. Strange, really. How you have to reduce a personality
to build a soldier, removing the doubts and the fears
and the 'selfish drives' - and how good soldiers rarely
make good or deep people." Vadim began to shave
the other side. "I prefer to call this 'reclaiming
my humanity'." A quick glance to Dan. "Because
that's what I prefer to be. Human."
leaned against the glass door of the shower, watching
Vadim through the mirror, until Vadim was almost finished
shaving. "I think I said that once, didn't I?"
checked for remaining stubble with his fingertips, then
splashed the soap off with water, and dried his face
with a towel. "Did you? Damn. And I thought that
was my nugget of wisdom."
Dan smiled, "the wisdom is all yours. I've never
been one for the wisdom stuff, but wanting to be human
I remember that, that feeling of being
he shrugged, "of not feeling, I guess. Of forgetting
that being human means a lot more than eating, shitting,
sleeping and scraping through to stay alive." Pausing,
he leaned his head against the glass behind him, "it
was in the cave, remember? On the plateau. We hadn't
seen each other for some crazy shit like nine or ten
bled out all the war inside you. I remember." Vadim
turned, studying Dan like that, and feeling as if he
should burst with tenderness. "R&R is all about
being human. Meeting friends and family. Remembering
who we were ... or could have been." In my case,
could have been, he thought. "That will get us
to the end. I'm sure of that."
used to have R&R like that. Used to get pissed,
visit mates, that was that. Never used to have friends.
How things have changed." Dan smiled, stepped close,
touched Vadim's smooth face with his stubbly one, before
taking his place at the sink. "Just not sure what
'the end' is."
Vadim grinned. "We all die. But hopefully of old
age, on a sun-drenched afternoon, sitting on the porch,
looking at those useless apple trees or the mountains."
Vadim kissed Dan's neck, who chuckled and shook his
can't afford sitting on the porch all day after active
service. Not just financially, we'd die of boredom!"
that. You raked up a pension, I haven't." Vadim
shrugged. He had, but it was unlikely he could ever
claim it. Not that it was much, the way things were
going in Russia at present.
pension is small." Dan shrugged, "I never
made it to the full twenty-two years, remember?"
But what we make as mercs should fill that gap. In any
case, I think that's the best thing. Dying, I mean.
I'd get sick of it if we were immortal."
give you that, but of boredom?" Dan picked up his
own can of shaving foam and lathered his face.
said old age, Dan." Vadim placed a hand between
Dan's shoulder blades on his naked back, the skin warm
and smooth from the bath. "No idea. What can old
battle horses like us do? I don't see us doing security
shifts in a warehouse or something. Ideally, it would
be something relatively easy that doesn't involve any
began to shave, now and then his dark eyes flickering
towards Vadim, looking at him through the mirror. "No
physical work? Why? That's all I know and have ever
been good at."
getting older means getting weaker. Losing stamina.
eyes closed up, like shields going up, and he moved
his gaze away from Vadim to concentrate on his own face.
Vadim turned to get his clothes. "Not for several
years." He likely had faced the effect of age on
his body for far longer. Knowing he wouldn't be able
to compete at sports much beyond thirty, not in his
chosen disciplines. And that without constant work,
and the four year interval, he'd had only one chance,
could possibly have had two, if they'd let him, but
they'd put their money, their expectations on younger
men, more gifted than he'd ever been. The feeling of
being 'too old' at thirty had prepared him for what
he'd be facing very soon. Could already feel it encroach,
the fact he didn't regenerate as fast as he used to,
seemed to feel pain more astutely, ran out of strength,
and didn't react as fast. It was a long way down from
the peak he'd reached, but he had been aware for years
that he was on the way down.
swilled the razor, then washed his face, skin smooth
now. Closing his eyes for a moment as he held onto the
sink. Ignoring the constant low-level ache in his knees
and the increasing intervals of 'twinges' in the right
one. No. He didn't belong to the scrapheap. Not yet.
have time to think about it later, aye?" Dan turned
around, facing Vadim. Stubble and foam swirling down
believe in preparation." Vadim grinned. "Like
the fact that I've found you some clothes that you can
wear - they are out on the bed."
sighed and walked over to get dressed. Putting on whatever
Vadim wanted him to wear was the easy thing - far easier
than thinking about it himself - but the rest
he didn't want to be reminded of retirement, couldn't
bear the subject. It was all he'd ever done and all
he'd ever known. Most importantly, all he'd ever wanted.
Apart from Vadim. "How the hell am I going to dress
myself when you're off to Berlin?" Dan joked half-heartedly.
matter, really, because I'm not there to see it."
Vadim smiled. "You manage fine without me ..."
Running a hand over his short hair, which was already
mostly dry, as he watched Dan sit down to get dressed.
"At worst, I can leave you a phone number."
good idea, I'll phone you in my mornings, so you can
tell me what to wear that day." Dan laughed out
loud, tying his shoe laces before standing up to close
the belt buckle. "I have a funny feeling you'd
soon want to whop my arse, especially if I happen to
" waggling his brows, "disturb you during
grinned. "I might not answer the phone right away."
Moving closer again to run a hand through Dan's damp
hair. "And I guess you'll find some good ways to
spend the time yourself."
I'll stay a few days here, catching up with Maggie.
Might check out a flight to the US after all, I'll leave
it to my whim and to Matt's roster." Dan smiled,
close his shirt but left the top button open, refusing
to wear a tie. Slipped into the jacket, though. The
air conditioned rooms tended to be cool, and in any
way, he knew the baroness liked him to make an effort.
"I just don't like sleeping on my own. Now, how
fucking sad is that?"
sad at all." Vadim smiled. "My feeling is,
a few days apart might result in some interesting ideas
when we're back in the same room. Bedroom, especially."
He pointedly glanced at the bed.
think they do mail order to hotel rooms?"
sure. Why wouldn't they? And what are you going to order?"
grin began to take on epic proportions as he straightened
his jacket. "Remember the catalogue the guys gave
me in Glasgow?"
swallowed. "I do. Now I do wonder what you are
planning." He shrugged into his own jacket, then
headed towards the door to open it for Dan.
see." Dan followed Vadim, the grin never waning
as he walked behind him, watching the broad back and
the way the muscular buttocks moved beneath the fine
cloth. He drew up close when they reached the door to
the dining room, squeezing Vadim's arse, "and it's
all mine, too." Murmured, before he opened the
grinned at that, again wondering whether he should call
off the meeting with Hooch, but he did think that occasional
separation might be actually good - provided it wasn't
for too long. No more months and months, maybe just
a week here or there. That wouldn't do any harm and
gave them time to pursue their interests. Even if those
interests were other men. Hooch was nobody one could
have a relationship with, he assumed, and the feelings
in this case were more friendship than that frantic
need that he'd felt with Dan.
baroness was standing at a mahogany side board, pouring
drinks from a crystal carafe. "So good to see you."
She smiled, "especially with you having put so
much effort into the appearance." Dan could have
sworn she was winking at him, as she walked towards
them with a small silver tray in her hand, carrying
three glasses. "I gave most of the staff an evening
off and we only have skeleton staff here, so don't expect
the usual standard. I took the liberty to believe that
being amongst the three of us would make for a nicer
smiled and took his glass off the tray. "It should
only take a skeleton staff to feed Dan strawberry tarts,
laughed lightly, while Dan rolled his eyes, and Vadim
studied her for a little, politely curious. She was
holding up well, and as his mind had been pondering
age, he wondered how old she was and how she'd accepted
ageing. But he wouldn't ask her - that would be a major
faux pas and, besides, she was a woman, and they took
it worse, according to everything he knew. He remembered
Katya discovering a minor line under the eye one morning.
"It should be a perfect evening. Something to fly
half around the world for."
smiled. "Frankly, I would have flown even further."
raised her brows in astonishment, as she took a sip.
Dan took a sip himself, not quite sure where to go from
there. "It's just that
it's good to talk
smiled with genuine warmth, nodding to both of them.
"It is, and I am pleased that you'll be able to
stay a few days. I am looking forward to catching up."
She paused, "there are not many I wish to catch
felt ridiculously pleased, his smile turning into a
wide grin, and he remembered what he'd said to Vadim
not long ago. That he'd never had friends, true friends,
and how much life had changed.
you like to come to the table?" She made an inviting
gesture, "the cook prepared a selection of courses,
and the pied de resistance is a fondue."
Dan, meat, prepared in advance, with a variety of sauces
and fresh bread, to be cooked on the table." She
pointed to the set-up in the centre of the round table
that had been brought in instead of the normal rectangular
had it, but I've heard about it." Vadim headed
over to pull the chair for the Baroness, acting without
thinking much, then hesitated whether it had been the
right thing to do.
smiled at him and sat down, thanking him, while Dan
sat down as well.
wine or white wine?"
go with red", murmured Vadim. "Dark meat,
strong flavours." He took over the care of the
wine, opening and then pouring the wine, taking the
table service out of the Baroness' hands. He didn't
expect Dan to know what to do, and it seemed wrong to
let her do that. Left him. He had at least a vague idea
about how to do all this. Far from flawless, he assumed,
but it seemed worthwhile to learn about the rest.
you, that is very kind of you." The Baroness nodded
towards Vadim, before pulling a trolley closer, laden
with a variety of first courses. "Would you mind
helping yourselves?" She took some melon and Parma
ham herself, leaving Dan to simply take some of each,
as always starving already. Then it was Vadim's time
to choose, who tried just about everything, but in small
portions, then discovering some favourites, like a mellow
sheep's cheese wrapped in ham, and green olives.
took her glass and raised it, "to your health,
to Auld Lang Syne." Dan continued, smiling first
at her, then Vadim, before the glasses clinked and they
had a mouthful of the exquisite vintage, which enhanced
the lingering flavour of the food.
do forgive me, but I must admit I am curious. How have
you been faring?" She was looking at Vadim. "My
old friend told me you were there for a visit?"
a quick visit, really, but I'm faring well. I think
it's all settling in my head, eventually." Less
nightmares, even though the feeling of dread was always
close under the surface. He felt more sane than he'd
had for years, but he could feel the scars if he reached
for them. Never mind the doctor had pointed out just
how dependant he was on Dan, and that he didn't face
that problem. It wasn't just the love - it was the fact
that he had no other shot at a regular, civilian life,
no other shot at a meaningful relationship. He didn't
believe that he could go through all that trouble again
to hook up with anybody else. Make himself that vulnerable
again. "I'll be heading out to Berlin in a little
while. An ... American friend of mine is visiting, and
I'm curious how this ... re-unified Germany is like."
I am sure you will enjoy your time. I went there not
so long ago, on business, but I had the pleasure of
staying in Potsdam with a day for cultural exploits."
can just imagine." Dan murmured, grinning. "All
the same to me."
are incorrigible." The Baroness chided Dan gently,
but her fondness for him was always obvious. "You
haven't told me yet, are you planning to stay here before
going to Berlin?"
Ma'm." Dan was still grinning from having been
told off, "or rather, I'm not sure yet. I might
be visiting a friend in the US for a weekend."
smiled, a faintly curious expression on her face. "You
both seem to have developed a fondness for America."
his credit, Dan hardly coughed, when he replied quietly,
"I wouldn't quite call it that." Busying himself
with finishing the first course, then reaching for the
first bowl of meat. Beef, the others were pork, chicken,
turkey, and lamb.
but they made Dan a hero, with medals and all the trimmings."
heard, of course." She smiled, dabbing her lips
with the damask napkin. "After all, I had suit
and medals sent out per express shipping."
poured her some more wine, and then himself. "I
guess some Americans aren't all that bad. Even though
I'm not quite sure how deeply they looked into my security
files before I got a lesser medal back in the Gulf."
nodded, "I was wondering abut that. Do you believe
you might have complications entering the United States?"
I do wonder how long the memory of the only remaining
could investigate for you."
hesitated, his training telling him that prodding around
could make them suspicious. But he didn't play any more
games like that. "If it isn't too much trouble",
he murmured. "It would take care of something I've
been wondering for a while, and now that we have some
American friends ..."
course." She nodded, while Dan was glancing at
her, from beneath his lashes.
now, please do tuck into the meat, my cook did his utmost
best to invent some accompanying sauces, so he reassured
me." She picked up a piece of meat and lowered
it into the sizzling oil with the thin and long-handled
was fairly quiet throughout, mostly concentrating on
the food, which was too slow for his liking, until the
baroness pointed a second set of forks out to him.
were on the second bottle of wine and well into enjoying
the fondue, when she went from the pleasant chit-chat
and amused banter, to a more serious question. "I
assume you have not been contacted yet with your marching
shook his head, while mopping up a concoction of several
sauces on his plate. "No. But we've been busy travelling
- maybe they didn't know where to send them. Where's
the job this time?"
you have heard of the troubles in the Balkans?"
She delicately speared a piece of lamb onto her skewer
before submerging it into the sizzling oil.
Dan nodded, "was wondering about that."
I have been tasked with the somewhat delicate duty of
overseeing British interests and diplomatic endeavours
in the area. However, since it is rather high profile,
I shall do so from Budapest. Belgrade has been deemed
too dangerous, and Bucharest not suitable." She
never noticed the moment's hesitation in Dan.
place that blows up since the Iron Curtain has come
down." Vadim ran his finger along the glass. The
job would very likely not involve fighting shoulder
to shoulder with the Serbs, he figured. Serbian brother
nation. Long, strong, historic ties. He shouldn't even
consider those, given that he was a mercenary now.
We will need good men on the ground to aid in day-to-day
tasks that cannot be carried out by British soldiers,
neither under the flag of the UN." She checked
on her meat, then left it to cook a little longer. "I
would like you to report to the camp near Belgrade next
month." Choosing a sauce, she concentrated on pouring
a measure, before looking up, first at one, then the
other man. "I know your professional pasts, but
I nevertheless have to warn you. Gentlemen, what you
will encounter might be beyond your experiences."
Dan looked up, piece of bread in one hand, sauce-dripping
meat in the other. "There can't be anything we
haven't seen yet." Glancing at Vadim.
tilted her head, face carefully guarded, her eyes devoid
of any emotion. "Let me just say, that this is
not a war of any kind you might have encountered. Unofficially,
I see the threat of genocide. Brother against brother.
But officially, I have not mentioned such a thing."
war." And I'll be on the wrong side, Vadim thought.
The Russian part of me will fight against brothers.
Considering what it had led to so far, wouldn't it have
been better to keep the Iron Curtain up? What exactly
had Gorbachev done when he'd delivered everything into
enemy hands? He shook his head. He didn't want to think
about it. Not after what they'd done to him.
am afraid, yes."
shook his head, "can't be worse than camping with
the Mujas." He hadn't expected her look, which
silenced him, and he frowned. "Any wine left?"
He wasn't going to worry about an assignment prematurely.
If his life had taught him anything, then it was to
live life as it happened.
nodded and poured him the rest of that bottle. "Russia
won't be taking it lying down. The new politicians are
one thing, but the Soviet Army can't have changed much.
I'd rather say the same about the Interior Ministry
and the secret services." He frowned. "Damn,
I should have followed the news more." But again,
watching the news was more often than not, painful.
No day without something that reminded him, something
about countries that had changed beyond recognition.
is not about Russia," she shook her head, "this
is about an age-old grudge, a defeat five hundred years
ago, and two religions, two ethnicities. A country,
suddenly divided by a division that had been subtle.
Bosniaks and Serbs, Croatia and Serbia, Muslims and
Christians, and once again the question of who and why
and wherefore." She looked straight at Vadim, "however,
I deal with the present."
we should", Vadim murmured, acceding.
had chucked down his wine, holding the glass out for
more. "Any left?"
reached for the third bottle and opened it. "I
think this will be one of our last ones", he murmured.
"Wars, I mean. Even though Dan hates to think about
it, I believe we should talk about what to do in retirement
from active service."
groaned, this wasn't getting any better. So much for
a pleasant evening.
must apologise," the Baroness looked suddenly stricken.
"I should not have brought up the subject of your
next assignment over dinner. Please do accept my apologies?"
Looking from Vadim to Dan, lingering at the latter.
okay," he pulled his lips into a smile, "as
long as I get some more booze and the fondue keeps bubbling
is the subject of retirement such an unwelcome one as
well, Dan?" She smiled slightly, taking the opened
bottle out of Vadim's hand with a gentle nod, and pouring
a glass for both of the men.
and is not." He shrugged. "I know it will
happen, I just don't know what I'll do when it's time.
Active service is all I've ever known all my life. All
I ever wanted to do."
surely you two must have amassed an unparalleled wealth
of experience throughout your active careers?"
Dan uttered around his mouthful of wine.
certainly not writing a 'Tell all' book", Vadim
murmured. "And it's bad enough what passes as 'military
biography' these days." Not that he could read
much, but it was enough to get the gist of it - and
the fact that most were deeply amateurish in military
terms or badly written if the guy was actually writing
smiled, "I never had anything like this in mind,
but have you ever thought of making use of your combined
military intelligence? I know that in certain circles
your expertise would be most appreciated, and that such
consultation does not come cheap."
of the mind instead of the body?" Dan asked, before
filling up on meat.
ask if you should sell your soul?" She chuckled
quietly. "No, Dan."
that we haven't done that already." Dan murmured.
She looked at him, but he said nothing, masking the
lack of answer by busily chewing.
Vadim mulled this through. He certainly had the background
- and even better, the experience for it. Counting the
fact that many of the Eastern bloc nations were blowing
up, predictably, One by one, and he was an ' insider',
he assumed that, indeed, even his educated guesses about
these places could be valuable. "Beats tabbing
and tin huts by a mile", he murmured. "Can
you establish those contacts?"
nodded, "I'd be more than happy to help my friends."
Smiling, "apart from conferences and private consultations,
there is military intelligence that does not officially
listen to the advise of consultants, but
me just reassure you, gentlemen, that unofficially,
there is a lot of work to be had, if one has the right
contacts." With a gleam in her eyes that looked
positively youthful, if not mischievous, she added,
"and I have them." Raising her glass in a
toast, she drank a mouthful. "To a fruitful retirement."
looked at her, said nothing, but raised his glass as
well, emptying it just so he could ask for another refill.
however, grinned. He was only too aware of the fact
it took the right door opener to lead a good life. Once
upon a time, he'd had some contacts, but he'd never
really used them - not much. Just moving people and
gear around to keep the military machine going. He was
sure he could play that game better now. Less to lose,
for once, and more to gain. "That should fill up
a few years", he murmured, and refilled glasses.
"And pay for whatever needs to be done with the
farm and some extra."
Dan looked up, "at least that's a damn good reason."
The only one he could think of right now, but he'd cross
the bridge when he got to it, and right now he was still
in active service, as long as those damned knees were
baroness smiled, and while they were finishing off the
fondue, the conversation went towards calmer waters.
Helped by the booze that had pulled Dan back into a
lighter mood, forgetting about what had been going on
before. When they finally had dessert, he had his fill
with the strawberry tarts, while a fine drop of whisky
was flowing. Exchanging stories of their past that made
them sometimes laugh, other times chuckle, and all the
1992, Berlin, Germany
was cold and overcast. That seemed to be the standard
for this country when he arrived, and Vadim smiled,
flashing the British passport as he was scrutinised
by the border police. The big black booklet made things
much easier, he thought, then gathered his belongings
and soon hailed a taxi. Hearing the language again threatened
to transport him back into the late seventies, when
the city had been very different. The German colleagues
had always considered him an outsider, somebody to be
wary of, and they took their paperwork incredibly seriously,
that much he remembered. He'd always been seen as an
'uncle from Moscow'. Somewhat amused by the way they
were so precise and without humour, and always somehow
nervous and scared, as if he would report them at the
never undertaken anything else with them, had kept his
distance instead, but he'd forced himself to speak German,
even though their dialects had been colourful indeed.
He remembered Kraemer, from Leipzig, a tall guy with
a somewhat misshapen face who had been incomprehensible.
And a few colleagues from Dresden, who hadn't been much
better. His ear for dialect wasn't the best, but he'd
struggled through their language, because it betrayed
the German character, and he felt it was more polite
than force them to speak Russian.
through the city, there were construction sites everywhere.
As if Berlin had erupted into cranes and piles of building
material. The part of the city that he remembered looked
poorer and greyer than the western part, due to the
bombardment and massive destruction wrought in the war.
It had been more important to house all these people
- and the refugees - than to make any allowances for
quaintness or beauty. German beauty was always efficiency,
he'd had reflected. Berlin had been a word of inspiration,
of achievement. He'd read about the race for Berlin,
with Stalin threatening his generals, promising death
and dishonour to those who'd get outpaced in the race
for the German capital - and how much blood that haste
Russian embassy was still in the old place, flying different
colours, though, which felt strange. He paid the taxi
driver to take him to the places he knew, or had heard
about: the significant areas. The Wall. The Reichstag.
The place where he'd once almost been tempted to blow
his own cover, a seedy bar, where he'd gone to drink,
not eye up any of the natives. Nothing had happened,
however. Not in his position, not as a foreigner in
this country. They must have smelled who and what he
was - and despite the lip service, Vadim could feel
that the resentment against the Russians ran fairly
- simple people, those that had been exposed to the
war, felt differently, he thought, especially when he
showed that he respected their culture and language.
"Hier ist es", he said to the taxi driver,
pointing at a grey house with a cafe inside. The taxi
driver pulled over, he paid him in Marks, took his suitcase,
and had to remind himself that he didn't have to remember
to pick up any peaked cap. This city had a way to turn
him back into a Soviet officer.
had been an impulse. He headed into the cafe, noticed
the shabbiness inside, the stale smoke, the same selection
of bottles in front of the mirror. Cafe by day, bar
by night. Nothing fancy, rather 'poofig' as the Berliners
called it. Shabby. The coffee had tasted like battery
acid, he remembered, but he could drink a good tea here.
Klein appeared in the door, rotund and short, she looked
faded and pale. Wearing a flowery dress that made her
look like the local 'Putze', a cleaning lady. She looked
at him as if she did not truly welcome any custom now.
That, too, was so typical of this city. The grudging
not quite acceptance.
darf's sein?" she grunted, and Vadim couldn't help
but smile. She looked at him, irritated, then clapped
her hands in front of her ample bosom that looked just
like another, somewhat higher layer of tummy. "Ja,
der Herr Krasnorada! Ist das denn die Moeglichkeit!"
sounded more like 'Meeglichkeijt", and it made
Vadim laugh. "Ja. Derselbe." Not quite 'the
very same', but that was of no consequence. Not to this
Pfannkuchen? Ich kann rasch welche machen! Nein, ist
das scheeen. Setzen Sie sich!"
sat down at the bar, and, as promised, she came back
soon with a steaming hot tea for him, served just right
- the Russian way, he reflected. Just a little later
she appeared with a pancake with apple pieces in it,
served with white sugar and mashed apple. She still
made that herself, her grandmother had an apple tree
that she plucked for her. Some things apparently never
glanced through the window, across the street. The main
reason why he knew this place was that he'd lived just
across the street, second floor, where he could see
the curtains and what looked like a row of potted plants
and either a fat red cat or a pillow with a tabby pattern.
He hadn't seen a point to always prepare his own meals
during his time here, and he had been somewhat lacking
in adventuring spirit on normal work days. While he'd
eaten in the best places on weekends, when people tried
to impress him or ingratiate themselves, and had been
invited home by the German colleagues, this place had
been something of a default.
asked how she was doing and listened to her tales, of
how Eastern Germany had quite unexpectedly won its freedom,
how the Soviet/Russian army had pulled out - including
'the good boys', as she put it, briefly touching his
hand and smiling at him, making sure he understood she
counted him among the 'good boys'. Telling him about
the woes that were high unemployment numbers, rising
rent, and the fact the East was treated as a second-rate
place that should be patient and wait out the West's
mercies and largesse. Her daughter had moved to live
in the west, and had married there. It wasn't easy,
but they'd pull through. Berlin. A tale of down-to-earthiness
that Vadim felt deeply attracted to, somehow.
pushed the plate back when she offered to make him another
pancake, shaking his head and lifting a hand. "Nein,
danke", he declined the offer, but took another
bringt Sie her? Urlaub?" Asking whether he was
here on vacation.
treffe Freund", said Vadim, then shook his head.
"Einen Freund." Dropping articles again. Accusative.
He was meeting a friend, which would have been 'ein
Freund', but the German language had a case system,
like Russian, and this had been Accusative: einen Freund.
ein alter Kamerad?"
- aber nicht mein Kamerad. Ein Amerikaner." Vadim
smiled at her astonishment that his old comrade was
an American. Long, complicated story. "Das ist
eine lange Geschichte", Vadim said. She, too, picked
up that it must have been a strange story. Soviet officers
didn't have that many American friends, and she might
assume now he'd been a double agent during his time
in Berlin. Which likely led to some thoughts that were
not altogether wrong. He told her he was doing fine,
that he'd left Russia, and that he was just refreshing
memories, and it had been nice seeing her again. That
he'd try to do that again, if time permitted.
refreshed after the long, friendly chat with Frau Klein,
he left the place almost two hours later, got into another
taxi, back to the train station, and headed out to Potsdam,
which was a short way by train.
now was an interesting city, thoroughly Prussian and
militaristic in its time, built to house the Prussian
army, which seemed only fitting. A taxi took him to
a leafy part of the town, where he picked up the keys
for the bungalow he'd rented. It stood on a patch of
land, with trees shielding it from the street and everywhere
else. The place had been done up and restored recently,
he could smell the paint and wood chips still in the
house. Catering to holiday-makers that didn't want to
miss anything. Sauna. Whirlpool. Two bedrooms, space,
glass, green all around. Large TV. He brought the suitcase
into one of the bedrooms and unpacked, then sat in the
kitchen for a while, before he made himself another
tea. The fridge was stocked as ordered, and he scouted
the general area when he went jogging just a little
later, locating places to eat and shop on the way. Ending
the day with a long soak in the bathtub.
phone rang shortly after he'd left the tub.
padded over to the phone. "Yes?"
no declarations of missing me and being unable to sleep
because you haven't got your favourite 'cuddle toy'?"
Dan was laughing into the phone.
yawned. "I haven't gone to bed yet." He grinned,
opened the fridge and poured himself some milk. "Plus,
this is a rented place. Any number of people could call.
How are you?"
the middle of the bloody night, Maggie has beaten me
three times in a row at chess and twice at poker, I
mean, at poker! That lady is a menace, I tell
you, and I am having a large double dram of whisky to
chill, but the bed is damned big."
poker face is easily better than yours", Vadim
grinned. "I might be able to help you with the
chess when I come back, but I was never the greatest
player, mind you."
it your flight was alright? Did you do some exploring?
Never been to Berlin, what's it like?" The sound
of Dan taking a sip of the whisky was heard.
exactly like fifteen years ago." Vadim grinned,
leaning against the work surface. "I like it. Didn't
trigger any bad memories. I don't think I have any of
this place ... well, apart from working here for five
or six months. We were flushing out some spies, back
then. Took a while, and I was sent to have an eye on
the Germans, which might or might not have sped up matters,
depending on your interpretation."
you never told me." The smile in Dan's voice was
replaced with an audible yawn.
have no secrets, I can tell you the whole story at some
point, if you want."
hold you to that one day." Dan yawned again, "Damn,
it's late." A pause, "I'm glad the place doesn't
bring up bad memories." Another pause, the sound
of the whisky again. "Hooch's arriving soon, aye?"
assume sometime tonight, or maybe early tomorrow. Depends
whether he gets a train."
won't call, I'll wait for you to call me. Don't want
to seem like a jealous lover who's checking up on you."
was a pause before Dan answered, with the faintest of
sounds that could be a chuckle. "No, Vadim, I am
not. You're my Russkie, and no one will change that.
Sleep well, tovarish."
I miss you", said Vadim, softly. "I'll call
you tomorrow, okay? I'm pretty much headed to bed, too.
Will be weird without you."
I miss sleeping with you. Guess I'll have to cradle
the pillow." A soft laugh was heard from Dan, and
then a tender, "good night, Russkie." In Russian,
before the line went dead.
smiled and slowly put the receiver down, standing there,
pensive for several long moments. Dan cradling the pillow.
He could just see it. He shook his head, switched off
the light in the kitchen and headed into the bedroom
which he'd set up - fresh bedcloth, pillows, the whole
deal. He assumed Hooch would sleep in this room, too.
If not, there was another possibility. He took the second
key out of the drawer, opened the door of the house,
checked around, but there was no sound, no motion, nothing
on the property. He crouched and pushed the key under
the mat, then stood and closed the door again. Not a
careful thing to do, but that meant Hooch could enter
whenever he wanted.
was asleep fairly soon, and the neighbourhood was quiet,
hardly a car driving past. It was around three in the
morning when a taxi pulled up and a man got out, shouldering
a heavy duty backpack, closing the car door behind him
with care. The dark haired man looked around himself,
then headed towards the bungalow, the house number clearly
visible in the streetlight. Knowing where to look, he
was feeling under the door mat with one hand, finding
the key and letting himself into the property, locking
behind him. All done with smooth movements, efficiency,
and hardly any sound.
inside, he put the backpack onto the floor in the hallway,
then moved with the same silence towards the living
room, which was empty and dark. Exploring further, he
pushed the bedroom door open and paused for a moment,
watching the figure on the bed, sprawled out and on
his stomach, illuminated by the streetlight that came
through the open windows. He took the few steps towards
the bed and knelt down, watching the profile in the
might have been breathing or a shift in gravity, but
Vadim woke up, drifting, slowly, knowing it wasn't a
nightmare, wasn't anything, and he opened his eye, half-turning
as he looked at the room. There. A figure. For a moment
he looked like Dan, but then he remembered it was Hooch.
"Hi." Vadim turned fully, sitting up, still
half sleep-dazed. "Looks like you found it. How
Hooch put a finger onto his lips, hushing Vadim. The
flash of his teeth gleamed briefly as he grinned. He
shrugged out of his jacket, letting it drop to the floor.
Pulling himself up, he knelt on the bed with shoes and
all. Knees on each side of Vadim's thighs, his hands
running from Vadim's biceps along his neck, chest, back
down again, exploring without a word.
grinned - he hadn't actually expected an answer, had
he? He moved, shifting his weight to lie down, stretching
out and pulling Hooch closer by his clothes. Trying
for a kiss, and astutely aware that he was completely
naked and Hooch fully dressed, minus jacket, just with
the duvet between them. A minor hindrance that Hooch
was getting rid off before following the pull.
the kiss, there wasn't a moment of hesitation, and Hooch's
lips opened, his tongue seeking for entrance in return,
which was granted. Hands between their bodies, one moving
straight for Vadim's cock, the other working on opening
his own fly, and Vadim groaned. Wanting the hand there,
the touch, moving to help Hooch free himself, shifting
his legs to accommodate him better, and pulling him
further down. That taste was Hooch and just like he
remembered, the desire turning to lust when Hooch ground
against cock, Hoch's hand helping the friction, his
body using increasing strength as he moved faster, harder,
hips bearing down, crushing, trapping, harshly grinding
his cock against and into Vadim's. His breath came faster,
and their kiss turned into a fierce battle, all the
time keeping his eyes open. Vadim, however, closed his,
allowing himself to be washed away by the desire, the
strength. All body, no thought, pressure and movement
just right, and he came, pulling the other man down
and bucking against him, groaning deeply.
seemed to drink in each sound, every touch, but when
Vadim moved his head to pull in air, Hooch sat up, straddling
Vadim, his cock still hard, weeping, and heavy in his
hand. He was watching Vadim, dark eyes intense. Just
watching, with an incredible amount of control stroking
his cock slowly, despite the urgency his body betrayed.
grinned, licking his lips. "Want me to suck you?"
Knowing that Hooch liked his games, that he enjoyed
the control, and that he had intended for Vadim to come
first. Hooch never did anything by accident.
nodded, scooting up and closer, his cock at Vadim's
lips. He couldn't watch this time, but he could feel.
Hands gripping the headboard, face towards the wall.
placed a hand in the small of Hooch's back, part to
steady himself, part to be able to communicate, in a
fashion, as he opened his lips and took him in. Nearly
up to the throat, then back a bit, tongue lapping up
the taste, a tang of sweat plus the need, the precum.
A taste unlike Dan's, and yet so typically male. Vadim
toyed with the head, cut, ran his tongue into the slit
to gather more of that taste, playful himself because
he had no urgency left in his body. It was just about
Hooch, which was likely the reason why the Delta had
brought him off first. He wanted to be taken time with.
Vadim then moved the cock deeper, slowly getting past
the point that was troublesome, but allowed Hooch to
feel the way his throat constricted for a few altogether
unpleasant moments - less unpleasant for Hooch, no doubt,
and got him down the throat.
Hooch's involuntary exclamation was the reward for Vadim's
troubles. The shudder that wrecked his body when Vadim
repeated the routine, was everything but controlled.
Hands tightening on the headboard, veins standing out,
Hooch kept his hips still, nearly shaking with the effort,
but managing to leave it all to Vadim.
took every inch, every fraction of it, not breathing,
in control, and loving it, loving how Hooch responded
to it. Fingers then sliding between Hooch's buttocks,
finding the hole, running around it, across it, as Vadim
tightened his throat, and moved back just a little,
again to fight the choking reflex for Hooch's benefit,
lingering there, right there, for as long as he could
bear it, then moved back and took the cock again in
one sweeping, fast motion, while pressing a finger through
the ring of muscles at the same time.
came almost instantaneously, and despite his usual silence,
a string of muttered "shit!" escaped his lips.
Panting, eyes wide open, he still had his body enough
under control not to slam forward.
moved back a little to be able to properly suck on him,
taking as much from him as he could. Cleaning the cock
and swallowing the cum, all of it, then released Hooch,
who was getting himself back under control.
lay back, loosening his neck. "Get undressed",
need a shower." Hooch flashed a half-grin, fingers
working on his soiled shirt, which he soon pulled off
and let it join the jacket on the floor.
grinned. "But this was more urgent? I'm flattered."
He sat up again, yawning. "Want something to eat
or drink? Towels are in the bathroom."
Air plane food was shit." Hooch got off the bed,
working on shoes, socks, then trousers. Finally naked,
he bent down and picked up the bundle from the floor,
to drape each piece neatly across a chair in the corner.
I'll sort a salad or something." Vadim wiped his
chest, then found some tight shorts in the wardrobe
and slipped into them. Heading into the kitchen, he
checked the fridge. "Caesar's salad okay? Some
chicken and green leaf salad, that's pretty quick."
Source of protein and green stuff. Very healthy, too.
anything." Hooch called from the hallway, before
he found the right door and vanished into the bathroom.
Leaving the door slightly ajar while he used the loo
and had a shower.
first washed his hands, then found a pan and cut up
the chicken breast, washed the salad and prepared it,
while the chicken fried happily, and let it cool as
he fixed the dressing, when Hooch appeared in the doorway.
Short hair damp, unlit cigarette between his lips, lighter
in one hand, and a towel around his hips. Watching as
Vadim set two large bowls onto the table with cutlery.
"What do you want to drink?"
do you have?"
tea, orange juice, beer, vodka." Looking at Hooch,
suddenly wanting to smell and touch him again the way
he stood there. "And milk."
me check." Vadim got up and headed over to check
the cupboards, while Hooch sat down at the table, unlit
cigarette and lighter beside his plate. The coffee machine
stood there, and Vadim found filters and ground coffee,
and in little time set up the coffee, then returned
to his bowl with more of the milk and two mugs when
it had run through, pouring himself the milk. "How
was the travel?"
Hooch shrugged, taking the coffee, black as it was.
"Forgot how boring civilian air travel is."
He flashed a grin before taking a sip of the hot brew,
with obvious pleasure.
supposed to be boring." Vadim laughed, tucking
into his food. Chicken, green salad and parmesan were
a match made in heaven, he thought, then ate in silence.
Watching Hooch and not really expecting him to take
over the conversation. There was no duty to talk with
Hooch, which was relaxing in a way, even though Vadim
was always curious what Hooch thought or would have
said. He wanted to know about Matt, about Hooch's last
Hooch remained silent, until he had finished his plate.
Leaning back in his chair, he looked at Vadim with amusement.
"Haven't eaten that healthy for months."
you don't mind", said Vadim, grinning. "What,
did Matt not feed you properly? Or did you pick up burgers
on the way to bed?"
can't cook." Hooch shrugged.
make me feel all domesticated ..." Vadim drank
some of his milk while Hooch showed more than his usual
half-grin, and held back from clearing away the bowls
because that would only prove he was domesticated. "But
he's okay? You guys having fun?"
young." Didn't seem that Hooch had really thought
about what he'd been doing. He shrugged, fished for
the cigarette, asking without words if Vadim minded,
and Vadim shook his head.
good to see him after the shit in Angola. Know what
think I do. It's good to have somebody so ... damn,
wholesome?" Vadim shrugged. "He always seemed
that way to me, really. Pure, in a way. Maybe a bit
too shallow for me ... but he's a nice guy. Even better
if he's good for you." Vadim cursed himself for
not having kept an eye on Angola - but if they had sent
Delta - official or unofficial - it must have been bad.
thought about it." Hooch lit his cigarette.
cleared away the bowls and left them standing in the
sink, then sat back down opposite Hooch. "Makes
me wonder what my attraction is."
eyebrows rose in a questioning expression. "To
know." Hooch pulled in smoke, exhaling slowly.
"You and Dan, you understand." Drawled, eyes
intent on Vadim, the same intensity he used for anything
he did. "But you, you're different. You let me
take my fill."
nodded, almost regretting having got Hooch this far,
to actually speak about it, only that Hooch seemed fairly
relaxed at the moment and far more talkative, and it
was a rare moment anyway. "I have the feeling",
he murmured, pausing briefly, "I can give you whatever
you need ... I want to. Whatever's going on in your
head. You can have it."
toyed with his lighter, all of his focus on his fingers,
until he looked up, smoke curling out of his nostrils.
"How far would you go?" Not elaborating any
further, just looking at Vadim.
far do you need me to go? What do you want?"
dark eyes never wavered, assessing Vadim, until he finally
came to a decision. "When it's been really shit,
I need to blow steam." Hooch stubbed the cigarette
butt out on his plate. "Need to let go."
nodded, feeling the hairs on his arms stand up. It made
sense, perfect sense. And Angola had been shit. "How
do you do it? Normally?"
fingers were still playing with the lighter. Round and
round, without ever dropping it and without taking his
eyes off Vadim. "Get myself to a big city. Go to
a club. S/M. Find myself someone. The risk's shit, but
I take it, or I blow." Hooch's lips quirked into
a wry half-grin. "When I need it, I need it hard,
but civilians don't get it."
closed his eyes for a moment, half shocked, half relieved,
feeling the pressure dissipate, somehow. A lowered barrier,
could feel he knew a secret and the explanation how
Hooch had managed to stay together. "Makes sense",
he murmured. "I always wondered how you do it."
The thought of Hooch suffering at the hands of a stranger.
Exposed, abused, torn apart, only to remain sane. It
made so much sense. "Dan and me, we're ... somewhat
adventurous. I guess you know that already, but yeah.
If you want me to ... blow steam, I can do it."
smiled, some of the tension that was forever in his
body flowing out of him, and he nodded. "Been a
good week with Matt, but could do with more. Lost a
buddy in the shithole."
stood and closed the distance to Hooch, placing a hand
on his shoulder, not quite sure what to say. 'My condolences'
was wrong, and anything else he could think of. "Come
to bed." In truth, he wanted to hold him, stroke
him, smell and touch, and that was awkward at the table.
"The buddy was Delta?"
member." Hooch stood up. "You got plans for
really. I have the whole week, more if I want to. Depends
on you." Vadim stretched. "I'll have a jog
and get some more food tomorrow. There's a bakery, a
butcher ... all pretty close, and a supermarket."
turned to look at Vadim. "I'll be jetlagged. Wake
let the coffee do that." Vadim grinned and headed
to bed, pulled the covers back and switched off all
lights but the one on the nightstand. He lay down, watching
Hooch join him, and adjusted the pillow in his neck.
turned his head to look at Vadim. "You got restraints
be just improvised stuff. But ... we could head into
Berlin tomorrow. I'm pretty sure they should have places
that offer these things." Or he could call Dan
and asked for that catalogue. The thought made him grin.
bound to." A brief grin crossed Hooch's face at
the involuntary pun.
And they probably even had gay bars. It would be a different
side of Berlin, clearly, something that had nothing
to do with his past. Vadim stretched out an arm and
found the light switch, which left only the light outside
to trace some lines. Vadim moved closer, his leg brushing
Hooch's, and Hooch stretched. Resting his arm across
Vadim's chest, legs touching, but he stayed where he
studied him for a while, strange to lie in bed with
somebody not Dan, somebody he felt close to, no less.
To make Hooch suffer. The thought intrigued him, slowly
moved through his mind and gained conviction. "Sleep
well", Vadim murmured, shifted and closed his eyes.
No embrace, just touch, contact, but it was good.