1992, The Balkans
long as Vadim was around, Dan spent the morning exactly
as he would have normally, then went to phone Maurice
in Belgrade centre. He was lucky, his mate was off duty
early that day, and they met in a café near the
French embassy, where Maurice downed his obligatory
wine, or two, or three, and Dan, for once, stuck to
strong coffee, black and brutal. He liked it the Serbian
told Maurice all he needed to know, asking the man to
collect the Russian, and after a few questions, as remarkably
dry as the whole man, Maurice shrugged, lit another
cigarette with the glowing butt of the one before, and
nodded. He'd pick up 'the parcel' and make sure Dima
would be taken good care of, while they were trying
to figure out the paperwork.
was getting towards the end of Vadim's dayshift time,
when Dan headed back, hurrying to get to the camp before
the other returned. Checking the vehicle park, he booked
one of the Landrovers for later, and wished he had a
legitimate reason to sign out a weapon, but the bastards
had no duties for him that warranted the extra security,
and he counted as a civilian - officially. Not that
that stopped any of the goddamned natives on either
side to pick up an AK and go slaughtering, just as Dima
had mentioned. He'd simply have to be careful.
packed his bergan with a few necessities, including
- as always - his basic survival kit and his favourite
knife, adding a stash of sandwiches and a couple of
water bottles. A life on the line had taught him to
be always prepared and never assume anything. He left
the bergan in the vehicle and avoided Vadim in the room,
pretending to head out with his team, only to sneak
back in under the cover of darkness. Exchanging a few
quiet words with the guards and making sure he didn't
cross Vadim's path, he hid in the Lannie, with clear
view of most of the camp.
waited. Watching the dorms for signs of Vadim, while
staying hidden in the shadows. Wrapped up in his heaviest
winter gear, he had to be patient once more.
face was closed like a steel door, frowning darkly,
hiding agitation as he headed out, carrying only a light
pack. Away, towards where he'd hid Dima. He rushed,
travelling as fast as possibly, worry and anger and
most of all the feeling of time ticking away.
followed, the lights of his vehicle off, picking his
way in the darkness with nothing but the moonlight.
Counting on Vadim's state of mind to lessen the man's
alertness. He parked a distance away while Vadim went
through the shelled building again, searching every
little place where somebody could hide, eventually picked
up two AKs and a bag of ammo, checked both rifles, but
they were in working order. Checking for footprints,
for anything that would allow him to track Dima, but
there was nothing, the ground was too frozen for boot
prints, and not enough snow to help him.
still couldn't let it go, checked again, but eventually,
he sat down, looking defeated, tired, and immensely
worried. Dan had left his vehicle, moved closer to the
building, and was watching while staying hidden. Breath
misting in the freezing cold, he had to be careful,
but seeing Vadim's face, the way he looked worried,
not angry, he was glad he had taken the risk. Perhaps
Vadim wasn't a completely unhinged madman. Not yet.
picked up the rifle again and headed up the hills, into
the valley behind. Towards the 'farm', and Dan followed
once more, had legged it back to the Lannie when Vadim
started the engine, and was picking a neckbreaking path
through the darkness.
Vadim's Landrover pulled up in front of a secluded farm
building. Frost had silvered the grass, and the dead
guard dog with its entrails spilled out. Vadim pulled
his gloves up and took the AK off his shoulder to enter
the main building.
following in a distance, left his vehicle far enough
away that his engine could not be heard. Making his
way quietly towards the building. He'd seen Vadim enter,
and he'd also noticed the weapons, while he couldn't
make out the make in the darkness, he had no doubt it
wasn't British issue, and no way in hell had Vadim signed
a chit for any of them.
carefully pushed the door open, but no sound from inside,
Vadim was either waiting for him, or he had already
moved through, but he counted on his instinct. That
instinct told him the other man had no idea he was being
carnage. The kitchen held two dead men, only winter
and the fact that the building hadn't been heated had
slowed down decomposition, but the stench of blood was
everywhere. These men had died a messy death, one after
the other, the method of killing was knife, deep, horrible
wounds in vital organs, precise, cold-blooded stab wounds
that betrayed the savage strength of somebody bent to
wreak the most destruction. The jobs had been finished
by cutting their throats to let them bleed out like
pigs, to make sure nobody could save them.
was the same image everywhere, carnage all over the
building, when Dan crept through the rooms, never catching
sight of Vadim. Up in the bedrooms, some had been murdered
in their sleep. All of them dressed like chetniks, AKs
and ammo all over the place, the bodies looked like
from the set of a horror film, only it was far too real.
Dan hadn't seen and done what he did, he'd be sick,
but as it was, his stomach churned, but more from the
shock that this was the work of his
madman had done this. Someone unhinged and completely
out of control, and that was Vadim? So much for his
pressed himself against the wall, right on top of the
stairs at the landing, when he heard a sound downstairs.
Vadim called, in Russian. "Are you here?"
He was standing in the kitchen, hoping that Dima had
made his way back, even if - and he admitted that -
it didn't make much sense. But if he'd been Dima, and
needed assistance, food, water, maybe a phone, he'd
come back here, probably lay low for a day or two, and
then head out again. But no answer.
was debating with himself, was it safe enough - without
a weapon - to make it downstairs? Deciding against it.
He strained to hear any movement from below, but all
he could make out was one faint sound beneath a boot.
Vadim was still as good as he had been in Afghanistan,
but so was he, and he braced himself with a deep breath
in the icy cold.
that make you feel any better, Vadim?" He called
out, into the darkness.
No. Dan. Of course Dan. Vadim moved towards the door,
didn't want to confront Dan, bad enough that Dan had
managed to follow him here, and doubtlessly seen what
he'd done. Dan didn't have the stomach for this kind
of thing, didn't, for once, do what had to be done to
make even a small difference in this fucked-up country.
Better? Worse. Didn't matter. Dima wasn't here, but
he needed to find him. Maybe the other place. Maybe
they'd brought Dima there. If the chetniks were still
around, that would mean killing. He left the house,
made sure he couldn't be seen from any of the windows,
then sprinted towards the Landrover. He'd have to shake
Dan off. He didn't have time for this.
Dan ran down the stairs, almost tripping over, and only
managed to catch himself in the last moment. Legging
it back to his vehicle, he could see Vadim racing off
in the distance, and forced himself to do what the fuck
he needed them to do. He reached the Lannie in record
time, revving the engine, light on this time, he sped
after Vadim. Driving as much like a madman as the other.
He was not going to let him get away, no way. Not this
time. He should have done something earlier. Damned
pride, and thrice damned hurt, but perhaps he could
have prevented this pointless carnage in a place full
of murder, rape and pain. It made Vadim no better than
any of the others - because he had no orders to kill.
drove fast, shaken on his seat when the car bucked across
the frozen ground. What the fuck did Dan want from him?
Why here? Why now? He steadily climbed the next mountain,
next valley, he knew there was another place where a
bunch of chetniks ran their operations from, this one
near a pass and just too conveniently placed close to
a road. He couldn't just drive in if he wanted to get
them all. Remembering for a moment how he'd almost shot
Dima when he'd found that other farm. Dan. Fuck. He
didn't want to talk, not now, not about that shit, he
wanted to focus on what he could change and could deal
Dan wouldn't let up, he was following Vadim into territory
he only knew from the maps. Racing through the night,
he frowned when Vadim took the path towards the valley,
but he had to catch Vadim, get some sense into him and
stop this goddamned madness.
drove the car into a protected bit, not too far off
the road, but deep enough to not be spotted, and jumped
out, grabbing his weapons, ammo, and pack, while Dan
arrived not too much later. Keeping his vehicle further
away, on the other side and beneath a crop of trees.
Vadim headed up, on foot, trying to reach the mountain
top above the cluster of buildings. He'd need to scout
the place, but the plan was to kill them before first
light. All of them. Unless they had Dima.
Dan had other plans, and he jumped out of the car, leaving
the bergan behind, as he ran after Vadim. Groaning with
each step up the mountain, each jarring of his knees,
but he wasn't far behind.
turned while running, saw Dan fight up the mountain,
and lengthened his stride, speeding up, lungs painfully
filled with every breath due to the cold. It felt like
needles in his chest, but he went on, making it to the
top and the much steeper descent on the other side.
was breathless, and his knees hurt like absolute fuck,
but he got to the top with all the determination he'd
ever possessed. "You stupid fuck!" He forced
out, nearly nauseous with the exertion. "What the
fuck do you think you're doing?"
suddenly turned, breath misting around him, near the
highest point of the mountain. A shocking mistake in
Afghanistan, but here, the trees around him hid his
silhouette, and he snarled. "What does it look
grimaced, hands clenched into fists in the thick gloves,
"like a fucking madman on a killing rampage. Without
orders!" Crossing the last few steps, he
was shaking with anger, "like a murderer! Because
you're no fucking better than them!"
orders!" shouted Vadim. "Fuck your bloody
fucking orders! Ordering me to fucking take this lying
down what's happening here? No fucking way!"
a fucking disgrace to any soldier!" Dan was shaking
his fist, livid with rage by now. It all came out, everything
that had built up in the last weeks. "You take
this personal then, arsehole? Didn't stop you
committing the same shit in Afghanistan, did it? Didn't
seem to take it personal then."
felt that impact, right to the core. Disgrace. He'd
heard that so often, and he'd disbelieved it, until
one day he'd accepted it because he couldn't fight it
off any longer. It was easier to give in, he'd been
worn out, and every effort to deny this - that he had
given in - only pushed the bullet deeper. Dan snarling
into his face, the accusations - that they had done
the same thing, but no, this war was uglier, out of
proportion, a seething, festering, self-destructive
hatred that had nothing to do with the boneheadedness
of the Pashtuns. He closed the distance to push Dan
away, hands impacting against Dan's broad chest. "Fuck
distorted with anger, Dan fought the hands off, merely
half-stumbling before he found his balance again. "No,
fuck you, Russkie. Who the fuck suddenly turned
you into the Avenger?" Pushing his own hands against
Vadim's chest, bodyweight behind it. "Or is it
because you wanted to kill me but didn't quite
have the guts for it?"
the only fucking thing I can do to change anything",
hissed Vadim, voice sounding strangled with anger and
other emotions, and he moved half a step further up.
"Anything at-fucking-all. Do you think I want to
sit on my hands and just wait it out? Like everybody
you think I want to, arsehole?" Dan pushed again,
a violent shove, all his anger, frustration and hurt
behind the movement. "You think you're something
special, and you think that none of the other
guys isn't going fucking insane with this? Who the fuck
do you think you are? Wielder of life and fucking death?"
He suddenly meant something very different, and Dan's
hand clenched into a fist. "Do you?" Yelling
at Vadim, "do you decide on life and death?"
The fist flew towards Vadim's jaw.
evaded the blow with a sideways motion, hadn't expected
that it would come in so hard, had been a while since
Dan had seriously tried to fuck him up. He grabbed Dan's
parka while he fell, pulling him with him, hitting the
ground, and an elbow-punch found its way into Dan's
chest. Holding onto him was like fighting a bucking
horse, powerful kicks and punches while they rolled
and slid down the stony, frosty slope, punching and
kicking and cursing.
particularly violent kick from Dan, after Vadim's fist
had caught his jaw and his teeth rattled in his skull,
and they tilted forward, sliding, bodies entwined, as
they lost balance completely, toppling, rolling, one
over the other, down a steep slope, slippery with loose
stones that accelerated around them, noisily crashing
downwards. They scrabbled with arms and legs, trying
to stop the fall, until they hit a plateau, coming down
hard, when their bodies crashed onto the rock, Dan on
top of Vadim.
disoriented for a moment, hurting in every place, Dan
managed to look around before Vadim got his bearings,
neither of them moving. They hung over a steep drop,
below a deep valley, and
Dan got out, spitting blood, as he stared down.
coughed, several stones had impacted on his ribs on
the way down, and he was just glad it had stopped, even
though Dan still had the front of his parka clutched
in his fists. Appetite for the fight dulled by the pain,
and Dan's sudden incredulous expression. "What?"
Twisting his head to be able to peer down to what Dan
was staring at.
move." They were so close to the drop, a wrong
movement could throw them over the edge, and the loose
stones were still rolling down the rock face and towards
the valley. "Look!" Dan pointed to what had
to be a camp. And a prisoner camp at that. A goddamned
fucking camp where there shouldn't be one. Rows of metal
shacks, hardly more than cages, search lights, guards,
and what seemed like corrals. "Where the fuck are
we?" Dan's voice was breathless, as he held onto
Vadim and the ground.
twisted his neck and then reached into his pocket, freeing
the folded-up map, checking the area, squinting to make
out the words. "Just north of here", he murmured,
indicating a spot. "The pass is here, that's the
road, that's the car."
carefully rolled off Vadim, trying to keep his balance.
"This is not supposed to be here." Holding
his jaw, the bastard had got him at least a couple of
times, and the pain blossomed. "They are emptying
out Manjaca, and in Omarska
" Dan never finished
the sentence, when a search light suddenly moved up
the side of the hill, blinding him, as it hit them full
said Vadim, and Dan was already getting to his feet.
Somebody was probably already on the way, and possibly
a bunch of snipers to boot. They weren't all incompetents,
and Vadim moved away from the brink, feeling his body
protest after the punches, his own fingers hurting,
face, chest, fuck, he wasn't twenty anymore when he'd
have hardly felt this.
priority was to evade the light. Second was to get the
fuck back into the 'safe zone', which meant back to
camp. Nothing was truly safe in this fucking country.
Vadim moved, ducked, climbed up to the peak, the rifle
unwieldy across his back, then broke into a run, but
he glanced to his shoulder before he did, checking on
Dan, who was not far behind him. Comrade, above all,
right now. "To the car."
grunted an affirmative, knew it was all about being
as fast as they could be. Detected. Detected while having
detected what shouldn't be there. He had a fair idea
how much their lives were worth right now, and he forced
his body to comply. Once more, always another time,
beaten-up body or not. Racing down the hill, stumbling
a couple of times, when roots were in the way and the
moon didn't get through the trees, but every time, despite
the jarring pain, he went on, tried to run even faster,
Vadim in front of him.
were almost at the foot of the hill when a telltale
sound cut through the air and an almighty explosion
threw them both onto their backs. Vadim closer, the
impact even harder, when the RPG hammered into Vadim's
vehicle, leaving them scrabbling in the frozen forest
dirt. The trees and leaves the only thing that had sheltered
them from the worst of the blast. "Shit!"
Dan yelled, deaf from the explosion, crawling on all
fours towards Vadim, who just raised his head, looking
angry more than shocked. Dan was yelling at him, but
Vadim couldn't hear a thing.
Dan shouted, fishing his own car key out of his pocket,
pushing it into Vadim's gloved hand as he gestured down
the road, towards his Landrover. "You're faster!"
And he was already up again, his body complying to a
mind that would never give up. Never.
glanced at the key in his hand, then jumped to his feet,
hearing only the blood rush in his ears and the odd
ring that told him his eardrums had filed a complaint.
No way to hear shots now, or pursuers. He ran towards
Dan's vehicle, briefly wondered how he'd explain that
he'd 'lost' a car 'out there', jumped into the Landrover
and started the machine, while Dan was close behind,
running as fast as he could.
pushed the AK over towards Dan when he tore the passenger
door open and threw himself inside. "Go! Go!"
Dan yelled, and he took the automatic, turned on his
seat to allow for maximum coverage of any pursuers.
pedal met bottom. Vadim tore the car around, the wheels
finding purchase on the frozen ground, loose stones
flying everywhere when the Lannie jumped forward and
broke through some undergrowth onto the frozen road.
A wild turn, tyres gripping asphalt, Vadim saw, just
in time, a convoy of two jeeps move towards them. Pursuers?
He couldn't risk it. The car screeched into a bootlegger
turn, away from the quickest way back to the camp, and
into the opposite direction.
next moment bullets hit the Landrover, and Dan ducked,
cursing under his breath, at the same time yanking the
window down. He hung far out of it, aiming at their
pursuers, firing at the windshields, then at the lights.
He hit one of them, and the vehicle veered to the side
but kept going, while the second one gained ground.
leaned over to risk a glance down the mountain, where
the road snaked up, but he didn't believe in that kind
of stunt. They'd tumble down the mountain and then nothing.
Too steep. He'd just have to drive really well. Accelerating
like a madman with a death wish - the irony didn't escape
him - he threw the car into the next turn, throwing
Dan almost out of the seat and making aiming impossible.
He raced up the mountain, deeper into enemy country,
chasing around the narrow turns, hoping Dan would get
a clear shot before they'd be too far gone, then, suddenly,
the road forked, and Vadim took the one that didn't
go straight into the enemy's stronghold - towards the
next valley. He kept his head down while driving, glanced
at Dan to see how he was faring.
had managed to crawl between the seats and into the
back, bracing himself against the side wall. His hearing
was coming back and he yelled over the noise of the
vehicle, "you know where the fuck you're going?"
But then, the sharp next turn, and it almost doubled
them up with their pursuers. Aiming in the car that
jumped like crazy over the road was near impossible,
but he fired a round of shots and shouted in triumph
when the second car veered off and vanished with screeching
tyres and howling brakes down the steep side of the
mountain, while the other one gained ground again.
heard Dan shout, but couldn't make out the words, assumed
it was some form of encouragement because he really
didn't want to hear any bad news, especially as the
other driver was determined and not half bad at driving
himself. They could only stay on the road for the moment,
covering ground as fast as possible, and Vadim could
imagine that the others felt they were winning - they
had them in their territory and knew where the road
was going. He'd only had a brief look at the map, but
his best bet was that if they followed it, they would
eventually meet another road that would take them towards
the camp. "We have to go straight through",
Vadim shouted, still mostly deaf.
had smashed the side window in the rear of the hard-top
with his rifle butt, pieces of security glass flying
everywhere. He didn't hear Vadim's answer, hanging half
out of the window. His only chance to get those bastards,
who kept criss-crossing behind them. The bullets were
flying, but every time Vadim went around a bend in the
hell-raising speed, he had a few seconds of clear firing
from the side. Smashing a bullet round into the vehicle,
he pulled back in, shouting while digging more ammo
out of Vadim's pack, "Whatever you're doing, I
need a damn sharp bend to the right!"
nodded, narrowing his eyes to try and see the road before
he went past it, and, indeed, a sharp right turn came
up that made the tail of the car almost spin off the
road. Vadim released the handbrake in the exact right
moment and again kicked the pedal down. "At least
we're back in the right direction", he shouted.
didn't hear, was hanging out of the window with half
of his body, legs hooked in the metal bars of the opposite
seat. Firing a long broadside at the vehicle, he yelled
in triumph when the damned bastards suddenly spun with
screeching tyres, then raced forward, directionless,
and into the rock face. Even Vadim saw the fireball
when it exploded. "Fuck them!" Dan crawled
back into the car, then pulled himself forward, until
he was between the front seats. "How far to the
miles is a guess." A huge distance in this territory.
Vadim didn't slow down, instead used the time of grace
that they had to increase their head start. He drove
on in silence for a few minutes, while Dan busied himself
with the weapons and kit. The car went up another mountain,
and he stopped it, then stepped out to look around,
while Dan finished sorting his bergan and Vadim's pack,
having taken stock of their combined kit.
narrowing his eyes. "Shit."
Dan climbed out of the vehicle into the freezing cold.
There was movement down there, quite clearly on the
road below, cars driving with no headlights, Vadim could
hear it now. "Roadblock."
Where's the map?" But Dan was already climbing
back into the car, reaching for the torch in the glove
compartment, studying the roads on the map. "Congratulations.
There are no other roads back down."
We either continue on foot, or ..." Vadim's eyes
narrowed in thought. "We take them head on."
play decoy?" Dan's eyes narrowed as well, as he
shielded the light of the torch away from the road.
road winds downhill, but towards them, it's pretty much
straight. We could use it to distract them. Try and
capture one of their cars, and just continue."
nodded, "we got the AK, a pistol, and a couple
knives. Seemed you carried enough ammo for an ambush.
I got water, some food, and survival kit. I'm loading
everything into the bergan and your shoulder pack, ready
if we have to go on foot. You rig the car?" Unspoken,
which one of them had more experience in what.
problem." Vadim sat down again, cutting some rope
to fix the car's steering wheel and gas pedal and prepared
everything, then nodded to Dan. "Okay. Let's drive
this to where they can see us, crash it into the roadblock,
and then flank them in the confusion. Maybe we can get
one of their cars, otherwise we just leg it."
Dan was already strapped up. Every bit that was useful
stripped out of the car, including the blanket that
was kept in each of the camp's Landrovers, and the shovel
that he'd fixed across the bergan. Rifle left for Vadim,
he had pocketed the pistol and some of the ammo, and
they had a knife each. He'd never part with his favourite
one anyway. "Ready." Handing Vadim's pack,
ammo and the AK over. Unspoken understanding once more,
and no time nor space for the anger that had brought
them there. He got into the car and braced himself,
glancing at Vadim. "Jumping out of the car ten
yards before impact?"
gave him a long glance. "Yes. Don't break anything."
you, too." Dan huffed with no malice.
mean it." Vadim started the engine and checked
that he'd stowed away his kit properly on his body,
then started to roll, headlights on, now, to attract
their attention - and hopefully blinding the bastards
when he was heading straight at them. "Leg it towards
that hill, unless we can get one of their cars. It's
fifty clicks, that's not much."
Dan looked straight on. "If I'm too slow, you got
a second map in your kit."
shuddered, jaw muscles tightening. "Say that again
and I break something in your body."
contradicting yourself. You just told me not to break
stared ahead, one hand on the dashboard, the other on
the door handle, bracing himself. "Whatever the
fuck happens, if I don't make it, I want you to get
out and tell them about the shit here. You got it?"
Dan finally glanced at the side, they had no more than
a few mere seconds, the movement in front of them was
getting frantic. "We'll make it. If not, the other
one carries on. Deal?"
nodded, didn't trust his voice to speak, instead started
the car, first down the winding roads, then straight
onto the road towards the next mountain, and towards
the roadblock. He fixed the rope to the steering wheel,
placed the heavy stone on the pedal, then began the
countdown. The headlights tore the silhouettes of chetniks
out of the dark, and he could see them aim and fire,
as he switched the headlights to highest intensity,
hopefully blinding them, and opened the door to hit
the ground. It fucking hurt, the frozen ground was unforgiving,
and his kit bruised him in several places, but he had
no other chance but to get to his feet as soon as he
could, moving on while the Landrover crashed into the
cars that served as roadblock, and the men behind fired
while forced to jump out of the way. Vadim ran, two
hundred yards to cover, running as fast as he could,
then dove in between the trees where the forest began
to thicken, AK out and ready to shoot if anybody followed
them. Waiting for Dan.
Dan didn't arrive, not for a long time. Instead there
were shouts, bullets being fired, a round or two of
automatic fire, and voices yelling something Vadim could
not understand. Then a scream, and cursing, while the
firing started up again, and voices yelling with no
logic nor order.
the firing stopped, then the sound of engines revving
up and racing off.
waited, he couldn't make out anything, so he forced
himself to stay down and wait. Dan's words stayed with
him. One carries on. He blinked, realising his vision
was blurred, not that he could see much, but his body
felt locked, every joint frozen with worry and fear,
stomach churning. He'd give everything to get up and
check the area, but he listened and waited, but there
were no sounds, no more shots. Slowly, he got to his
feet, and walked back. He couldn't just leave Dan.
had reached the area half-way, when a voice called out
to him. Hushed, breathless, but audible in the silence
of the freezing night. "You bastard. I knew you
wouldn't do what I told you."
turned towards the voice, just staring in the direction.
"You'd have done the same."
think so, eh?" It was obvious from the disembodied
voice that Dan was jogging towards Vadim, whose silhouette
was dimly visible in the moonlight, reflected by patches
of frozen snow. Dan was getting closer in the typical
slow-jog of anyone who was used to tabbing for endless
miles with prohibiting weights on their back, just that
by now, when he was getting close enough to be seen,
his gait distinctly favoured one leg. "I didn't
get out too well." Closer, still, until his face
was near, one side smeared with something dark, could
be dirt, could be blood, but he didn't seem to be in
pain. "Had to take one of their vehicles to get
them off my track, didn't fancy turning into a sieve."
He suddenly flashed a grin, looking as feral as Vadim
ever had, after the killing. "Fucking cunts made
me run half of the way back, but they should be busy
for a little while."
fell in stride with Dan, heading for the hill. At least
nothing was broken. "We're in the right direction.
Just up that mountain, and there's some kind of settlement
behind there, where we should be able to find cover,
and I'll look at your head. Don't like head wounds."
just a damned scratch. Looks worse than it is."
Dan was huffing with each step, in through the nose,
out through the mouth. He was fit, could run forever,
if only his goddamned knees weren't playing up. Still,
he kept up, because he simply had to. Mind over matter.
"Didn't land on my head, after all."
matter, I'll still have a look."
get on my nerves, Russkie." Dan grumped, then shut
up, preserving his breath.
fell into an easy trot that he'd be able to maintain
even up the mountain, staying on a dirt track, because
he had no idea whether the area had been mined, but
he chose to not tell Dan of his worries, because, truth
be told, they'd be fucked if it was and it didn't matter
if it wasn't. Up the mountain, always right at Dan's
shoulder, making sure Dan could keep up. No question.
He'd never leave him behind, just like any comrade.
got to the highest point and Vadim frowned. "Bad
news. There's not a single light on down there."
that means I should take over orientation." Dan
shrugged, no accusation. "Unless you're right and
there used to be a village." Getting the
map out, Dan shielded the light of the torch from view,
as he studied the area. "Shit."
- there was or Shit - we're lost?"
there was." Dan looked up, "you'll never be
lost with me around." Completely serious. "I
made it across the mountains in the middle of the Afghan
winter to get a hand job from you. I'll find my fucking
way across Yugoslavia."
grinned. "True. Finding all those caves was damn
good training ..."
looked up for a moment, deadly intense, before he studied
the map once more, shaking his head. "Can only
mean one thing: it's been 'cleansed'. Suggest we get
down there, hoping there'll be some ruins left to hide
in, and no mass graves without burying." The frown
between his brows proof to the gravity of his words.
"They might not expect us down there, and they
might not bother searching a place that's been destroyed."
He shrugged, "worked in Afghanistan, and there's
no way we can make it through the forest and across
the next set of mountains in the darkness. At least
not without having checked them first."
We'd get out of the freezing wind for a few hours, too."
Vadim looked around. "Check directions?"
with his gloved hand in his belt kit, Dan produced a
compass, studying map and tool for a moment, before
he nodded. "Straight down, preferably without ankle
stepping onto a mine." Vadim shrugged, then straightened.
"Fuck. Let's get moving."
that, best you walk in front of me, aye?" Dan produced
a fierce grin, before turning and starting to walk.
The terrain was uneven, rocky, whenever they had to
get through patches of forest it became softer, but
equally treacherous. Now and then checking the compass,
its face lighting up in the darkness, and he slightly
adjusted the route. It was steep, though, and Dan's
face set into a stoic mask after an hour of walking
down, yet he never let up in speed.
did walk in front, letting Dan walk in his steps, fair
was fair, even though Dan protested that he had just
been taking the piss. Vadim forced himself not to think
about it. Nor of the copious amounts of 'mine jokes'
that Dima had been able to tell. Dima. Just where the
fuck was the man? He moved on, adjusting his pace to
Dan's, and covering a fair bit of distance in good time.
Dan stopped again, listening into the silence, slowly
turning his head as the sound of an owl hooting in the
distance was heard. He finally shook his head, adjusted
the woollen hat after another check of compass and map
and pointed forward, slightly to the right. Just in
case anyone was still in the village and just in case
they were wrong about it being destroyed, they couldn't
afford any noise, least of all voices.
walked on, more carefully now, hardly a sound, and the
minutes stretched out in the darkness. Vadim moved forward,
setting his feet carefully as they moved in a circle,
protected. What the little light showed, however, made
the situation awfully clear: several buildings had collapsed,
some dark shadows were actually charred remains of roofs
or beams, or smoke that had darkened the area above
the windows. Vadim knelt down, watching. No light, no
movement. Just dead silence.
remained standing, leaning against a tree, his shadow
merging with the trunk in the darkness. Nothing, and
yet they couldn't be careful enough. He got Vadim's
attention by making a small sound when he moved his
foot, then nodded to him and made a gesture, indicating
he was going to walk around the edge of the opening
to get to the other side. Sliding the pistol into his
hand, the sound of the safety taken off the only thing
audible in the night, as he made his way along.
nodded and watched for any kind of movement that wasn't
Dan, for any pair of eyes, the glint of a sight, anything.
He assumed the place was literally dead, but he wouldn't
bet his life on it.
ten minutes later, Dan's voice was heard. Quiet, no
names, indicating the coast was clear. He appeared from
between a house and a burnt-down ruin, standing in the
faint moonlight. A shadow amongst shadows.
Quietly, when Vadim came closer. "We can both take
a guess what happened to the inhabitants." The
frown was back, and with it the stoic expression in
his face, which had turned into a mask that didn't show
any feelings, not even anger. "Best find a place
to hole up for the night, aye?"
nodded, didn't want to think that he might have been
able to stop the men who'd done this and who would very
likely go unpunished. "Ideally somewhere under
a roof", he murmured. "Maybe there's food
left. No idea how long we'll be on our feet, but I didn't
bring any MREs."
got sandwiches and water. Some chocolate bars."
Moving to the side, Dan went to check out the building
to his right that seemed stable enough. It overlooked
most of the open space and had windows to all sides.
No dead corners, no blind traps. The windows were all
broken, more or less, but at least he building gave
some shelter from the icy wind. "Wouldn't touch
any food, though, we have no idea how long it's been
they might have added some rat poison, just in case."
Vadim shook his head and looked resigned. Because the
other option was to get murderously angry. They moved
carefully, watching, listening, pausing.
need for the precautions, though, once they shone the
torch around, it became clear the building had been
ransacked. The furniture was smashed into pieces, duvets
scattered and torn, scraps of fabric, torn books, papers,
everywhere. "Damn unlucky." Dan murmured,
"could do with a fire for warmth, but no fucking
made a huffing sound. "You think I'm a fucking
novice, or what?"
looked around. It wasn't quite as bad as outside, but
the houses that weren't burned were likely all in this
state. "You get cosy upstairs, I check out the
way, safer downstairs. I'll see if I can set up a shelter."
Dan was taking the bergan off his back, began pulling
out material that could be used for some kind of makeshift
shelter, which would help them conserve as much body
heat as possible. "I'll take the first guard, by
the way." He stated, as Vadim was about to leave.
turned. "I won't argue", he answered, then
vanished into the carcass of a settlement, checking
houses and moving carefully. However, nobody seemed
to have set up booby-traps, likely because they didn't
assume anybody would come back, and that, in turn, was
testament to the fate of the inhabitants. It was still
eerie that there was no blood, no sign of violence apart
from the smashed up houses, like there'd been a short,
nasty rampage, and then they had moved on. Maybe the
inhabitants were in that camp, or lying in a ditch somewhere.
didn't find much - the whole settlement was thoroughly
looted, and he didn't enter the burnt-out houses, which
made this a short tour of maybe half an hour. When he
came back, he was sure that they were the only living
souls in that place and also that they couldn't stay
here for very long. Just enough until light, gather
strength, maybe sleep a little, and then move on.
looked up at the noise, pistol at the ready, but he
lowered it immediately when he realised it was Vadim.
He had built a shelter in one corner from pieces of
broken furniture, using torn-up bed linen to insulate
from the cold. The blanket was out as well, lying at
the ready, with the shredded pieces of duvets on the
floor, having found strips of curtains to lay over them.
All in all a 'cosy' place, which would help conserve
as much warmth as possible. The food had been parcelled
out into portions, and the water bottle was waiting
as well. At least water wasn't a rare commodity.
waited until Vadim had stepped inside before holding
his hand out for the AK. If he was going to be on duty
for the first couple of hours, he needed to be ready.
"Have some food, water, rest."
handed the AK it over. "There's nothing left. No
bodies, either." He sat down, hunched to preserve
body heat. "Strange. I keep thinking, this country
must have been beautiful", he murmured. "Before
it decided to tear out its own guts." He took a
deep draught of the water, had part of his ration, then
lay down, watching Dan, who said nothing.
popped something into his mouth which he'd had in his
bare hand, then washed the pills down with water. They'd
take a while to kick in, there wouldn't be any point
in trying to sleep now. "Fucking dying for a fag."
He muttered, had checked his stash, less than a packet.
inhaled deeply, tried half a smile, still somewhat amused
at the pun of words. A running gag. He checked his watch.
"Wake me in three."
bastard. Meant to give you two, but I'm feeling generous
tonight." Dan lifted the blanket from his bergan,
which he'd settled into the corner, and sat down himself,
leaning against his pack. Lifting the blanket, he indicated
the space right next to him. "Don't be an idiot
and lose body heat. It's fucking cold, I could do with
moved over to lie down right next to Dan, no questions
asked. Remembered the icy, crisp air up in the mountains,
the utter clarity. His body creating warmth on Dan's
side, Dan warming his side. The closest they'd been
for what felt like months. He began to relax, much easier
to cling to that warmth and know he'd be secure. Whatever
Dan had done. Whatever bitterness and anger still lurked.
It was about surviving, soldiering, and he hoped not
the blanket in around them, Dan watched Vadim fall asleep.
Hadn't seen him that close for several weeks, and it
fucking hurt, because he wanted to touch that face,
feel the stubble beneath his fingers, how the jaw line
went slack, and how the face turned from concentrated
frown to something almost relaxed, but never quite.
Not now, not here. Not since
best not go there.
He tore his eyes away, allowed himself a cigarette instead,
and held onto the rifle in his gloved hands. Memories
of the Gulf, of sharing a tiny cave with wounded soldiers,
of heat and dust, and of seeing Vadim, knowing that
very moment that whatever happened, there was no way
he could ever get the other out of his body and mind.
so he sat, waited in the silent night, occasionally
checking his watch to stay awake, and letting his mind
wander once more. Across the decades, across the countries
and across the wars. His family, his friends, the sex
he'd shared and the love he'd known. Lust and laughter,
anger and jealousy, and a thousand other things, and
he smiled in the end. If they got him this time, at
least he had lived and he regretted nothing.
a little more than three hours, dawn still far away,
he woke Vadim with a gentle touch to his shoulder. "Hey,
Russkie, time for me to turn into Sleeping Beauty."
stretched, tensed and stretched to wake up fully, and
with regret shifted position, losing some of the warmth.
He took the rifle and watched Dan settle in, suppressing
a yawn. "Feel much better now", he murmured.
hope the same goes for me." No sooner, though,
had Dan burrowed into the vacated space, still warm
from Vadim's body, that he began to drift off. He hadn't
realised how tired he'd been, and kept underestimating
the effect of those pain killers. He was asleep a couple
of minutes later, but not before shifting closer, not
realising what he was doing, and wrapping one arm around
Vadim. Just like he would have done if
shifted the AK a little, freed his hand from the weapon,
took the glove off for a moment and placed his hand
on Dan's wild hair, careful to keep the touch light
and not disturb him unnecessarily. What did it matter
what had happened? They were out in this war, alone,
and whatever had happened had stayed behind. They'd
still be caught by it, once they were back in camp,
but not here, not right now. And how fucking insane
that it mattered at all.
slept, undisturbed, until dawn was breaking, almost
four hours later. Never stirring, not making a sound.
Vadim moved his hand under the blanket to touch Dan's
shoulder, and leaned in. "Good morning. We should
Dan sounded and looked bleary, disoriented, but no longer
than perhaps a second, and he forced himself awake,
realising the situation.
"Shit." Mumbled. "What time is it?"
half past seven. Figured we could use the sleep with
fuck. Exactly what I wanted to do in my old age."
Dan rolled his eyes and stretched quickly, sitting up
the next moment. He reached for his bergan to get to
the water. His stomach made a loud noise and he grimaced,
eating half a chocolate bar before washing it all down
and holding the bottle out to Vadim.
took a couple of sips, then waved it off. "I'll
pack. You wake up properly."
need a dump." Dan got up, left Vadim who was already
packing up the blanket, and stepped out of the building,
taking a few pieces of scrap fabric with him. The ice
cold air that hit him almost took his breath, but he
moved on and across, towards one of the burnt-down ruins.
He took barely a step inside, just enough to get out
of the wind and the worst of the icy dampness, and swiftly
went about his business. No2 first, then onto No1 once
he'd cleaned up, and while he was pissing into a corner,
he suddenly heard the sound of a vehicle in the distance.
He froze, cursed his bladder, prostrate and whatever
else that kept him from just stopping the flow, and
couldn't help it, had to run out of the building, still
pissing, but at least it stopped before he reached the
other building. Tucking himself in, in record time.
"Vadim!" Called out quietly. "Fuck, visitors!"
appeared in the doorway, bergan shouldered, AK ready,
indicating with a gesture he'd understood. Trying to
locate from where the sound came, and how to get away
best. It was fairly likely that the chetniks had decided
to check out possible places for them to hide once the
first light had broken, and here they were. Question
was, hide or fight?
slipped into the building, saw Vadim had taken over
the bergan this time, and he nodded, getting the shoulder
pack instead. Indicating to the windows, the broken
glass enabled them to hear the vehicle. Crouching down
beside one of them, Dan had the pistol ready, whispering
to Vadim. "Chances to hide? Fuck all. And we need
nodded and moved towards another window, then caught
a glimpse of the car. He raised his hand, hid the thumb.
Four men. All armed, all likely carrying some food and
water, for a snack during the hunt. The car was even
more interesting. He returned to Dan, crouched. "We
should set a trap", he murmured close to Dan's
ear. "Any ideas? I'm tempted to just shoot them
once they get close enough."
sure who and what they are, though?" Eyes peeled
on the vehicle outside, which had stopped, its doors
opening. "Check for badges with a cross and the
four 'C's' or a Serbian eagle." No more than a
toneless murmur into Vadim's ear.
nodded. Not that Bosniaks didn't kill by accident. This
fucking country had no uniforms, no rights and no wrongs.
He moved again, closer, to get a good look at the men.
Seemed like they were taking an interest in the mostly
unscathed buildings, too. Just their luck.
men were outside, talking, and while Dan strained to
listen, he couldn't make out any of the words. Not that
he spoke the language, but he'd picked up enough expressions
to get by, the language similar enough to Russian. It
didn't take more than a couple of minutes of talking
and gesturing, before the fourth man went back into
the 4x4 and the other three split up. When one of them
walked past the window, the badge was visible, and Dan
nodded to Vadim. Using sign language to indicate he
was going to follow the one to the left. He only had
a pistol and a knife, but if he used the firearms, he'd
give the game away. The other two moved into roughly
the same direction. Pointing to his pistol Dan shook
his head, then let the knife slip into his hand and
nodded. Another swift glance, then crawling along the
wall and towards the door.
nodded, too, indicated he'd head out to the back, making
sure nobody outside could see any motion. It would be
a matter of time - and only short - until somebody checked
out 'their' hiding hole, so he had to be quick. He dove
out through a window, kept in cover, then, peering around
a corner, saw one of the men enter a building. He ran
after him, saw the man check out the building, and Vadim
waited outside for him to return. When he did, a punch
to the throat shut him up, and Vadim grabbed his head
and broke his neck while dragging him inside. He stood
there, breathing heavily. He remembered it had been
easier, once. Or maybe his technique was fucked.
had followed the second man's movements, until he came
close to the door. He watched the guy, his rag-tag mix
of kit, mostly military, and the badge, told him what
he needed to know. Simple. This time. Good and bad and
black and white and what did it all matter. He had to
take a life, like he'd done far too many times before.
Had to do it to survive. Again. Afghan, Russian, Serb.
Nothing was more important than his own life. That simple.
Dan moved silently forward, grabbed the man from behind,
and cut his throat. The body in his arms twitched and
gurgled, while drowning in his own blood, but no other
sounds. Like another man, a long time ago. Just that
this time the blood was staining his clothes, before
he could put the body down, pulling the man just inside
moved to the next building, carefully stalking the third
guy, who was checking out one of the ruins, and threw
a stone through one of the broken windows. And, sure
enough, the amateur soldier peered through the window.
Vadim reached for the man's rifle and pushed it violently
back and up, making him stumble back and release the
rifle. Turning it in his hands, Vadim fired three successive
shots, allowing the weapon to buck in his hands and
the bullets to travel upwards, the final one tearing
a good chunk out of the man's forehead.
was outside, cleaning his hands on a patch of frozen
grass not far away, when the rounds tore through the
silence. Looking up, then hurried across to where the
sounds came from, trusting Vadim had dealt with the
checked the body and stuffed what he could use into
his own pockets, feeling the occasional shudder pass
through the body that was still dying, then left the
building, moving back towards Dan and the jeep, meeting
Dan asked, eyes quickly skimming over Vadim, checking
gave a wordless 'all clear' hand signal, glancing around
while thinking about the next steps. "We need to
get moving", he murmured under his breath. "You
Answering with a nod. "Got to hide them and strip
what's useful." Dan glanced to where Vadim had
come from. "Start with yours?" His hands were
sticky, but he'd have to make do until they got to some
water. "Damned bastard was more inconvenient
while moving towards the corpses. Never finishing the
the last one, they travelled light", Vadim murmured,
thinking, for a moment, what was damn inconvenient,
but then swallowed it and pushed the banter away. They
were still running for their lives and should keep focused.
Jokes helped deal with the pressure, but he'd hate being
taken out by a sniper because he'd preferred to crack
a joke than look for the sun glinting off the scope.
reached a corpse and bent down to take hold underneath
the shoulders. "Seems as good a place to hide them
as any." Gesturing with his chin to a building
that still stood but was full of debris inside. "What's
the rifle like? Any extra ammo?"
seem in good working order, enough ammo, unless you
blast away like the Americans." Vadim gave a grin,
helping to carry the corpse into the building.
Dan flashed a fierce grin of his own. "Mine had
a shitty piece, as far as I could see, but haven't stripped
him yet. Bastard is soaked and got me as well."
He dumped the corpse and stretched. "Where's number
other one's in the building over there. Should be not
exactly obvious. Where's your guy?"
at the building. I pulled him inside."
That should be enough 'doing the honours'." Vadim
straightened, prodded the dead man's shoulder with the
tip of his boot. "Bastards should be missed within
the day. And I assume there'll be plenty guys looking
for them. Let's cover some ground. Pick up the AK on
the way, too."
and the guy who dropped them here could be back any
minute." Dan made his way to the other building,
where the corpse was partly hidden in the rubble. The
rifle was on the ground, close to the door, and so was
the ammo. Slinging the weapon across his back, Dan stashed
the ammo in his stained jacket, and some in his belt
kit. "The pack's back in the first building, let's
grab it and see what mine carried."
Vadim went through his pockets, but everything was in
order, just that near-compulsive last check when he
was about to leave a location and move towards the next.
"You take the lead, I cover."
swiftly out of the building without another word, Dan
hurried across the open space, but no sound disturbed
the silence, nothing shattered the false peace. Only
death and destruction seemed to bring such stillness,
where no humans dwelled. He was soon back in the original
building, while Vadim covered the door, and fleeced
the corpse, whose coat was soaked with blood, but had
kept the clothing beneath from getting stained. Dan
grinned when he found some old fashioned webbing beneath
the coat, and gestured to Vadim to help him strip the
garment off so he could get to it. Pockets yielded nothing
except for a map, but the webbing was a treasure trove.
Whistling tonelessly when he found a stick of C4 and
a handful of detonators, Dan slung the webbing across
his back, then the AK once more, stashing the ammo in
the more convenient pouches. "I take the shoulder
bag and you the bergan?"
nodded and glanced at the body. "The things people
carry." Frowning, he took the bergan and adjusted
the straps to distribute the weight properly.
like me right now. I look like a fucking donkey."
Dan flashed a grin, which made him dangerous and tinged
with a hint of insanity. Dark skin, stubbled face, wild
hair, together with the blood stains on his jacket.
most feral donkey in history." Vadim grinned back.
"Let's leg it."
the gloves back on, Dan pulled the chetnik's map out,
as well as his own, comparing both of them, until he
was confident that they did not differ. Using the compass,
he pointed to the east. "There's a main road, but
with a dirt track beside it. It leads roughly into the
right direction. I suggest we take it, stay as much
out of view as we can, while making time."
took the map and checked it, too. "I'd kill for
a car", he murmured. "Should be able to cover
the exposed area before noon, there's still some trees
so we can do this. Once we're back in the hills, we
should be safe enough."
At least we got some sleep and are kitted out better
than before." Dan walked fast, but he didn't fall
into a sustainable trot before they hit the more stable
terrain of the dirt track. They should be able to hear
any incoming vehicle early enough to throw themselves
into the ditch.
same day, in the late evening, a vehicle was making
its way along the fortifications of the camp. Driving
slowly, like someone who had nothing to hide and all
the time in the world. It didn't stop at the gates,
though, instead moved on, until it came to a halt not
too far away. Right next to the overgrown bunker.
man who jumped out of the large 4x4 was short, wiry,
wrapped in heavy winter gear with a woollen hat hiding
his ears and nearly half of his face. A glowing cigarette
hung from between thin lips in a face that sported more
of a stubble than a man should who was dressed in such
heard the car approach and looked up, fixing his gaze
firmly on the door. He pushed the blanket apart that
he'd wrapped around himself, and stood, unwilling to
be 'found' sitting on the ground in a corner. The door
was open, but he'd only left the bunker to shit and
piss, and nothing else, spending the time reading, thinking,
sleeping, and simply waiting.
The man muttered, loud enough to be heard inside, when
he stumbled over a few loose bricks amongst the dead
brambles. Puffing smoke, he was looking around, spotted
the entrance, and instead of walking straight through,
he moved to the side. "Dan sent me." He called
out, his English heavily accented with French. "You
in there?" Making his way towards the door and
pushing it cautiously open, he never allowed himself
to be a target.
moved towards the door and pulled it fully open, staying
mostly shielded by the door. "Come on in. My home
is your home." He paused and grinned. "Metaphorically
through after a careful glance, the man stepped inside.
Casting a swift look around, then nodding at Dima. "Maurice."
Inhaling deeply, he threw the butt to the floor while
smoke curled out of his nostrils. "Dima?"
Pulling the hat from his shaved head. Dark hair, dark
eyes, a complexion as dark as Dan's, but entirely different.
Aquiline nose and sharp cheekbones in a haggard face.
So 'French' he made any proverb ring true.
meeting you. You're my date, then." Dima gave a
nod as Maurice raised one brow, then lit another cigarette
as Dima walked back to the kit Dan had brought him.
"You're here to get me out, yes?" He began
collecting what he could use, trained to leave no traces,
stowing everything away. "Because I'm dying for
something hot to drink."
Dan asked me to." Maurice watched him and put his
hat back on, the cigarette hanging between his lips.
"Strange request." He shrugged, then stepped
half-way through the door. "You're a medic, he
said. And that you're good."
packed the kit together, checked again that he hadn't
left anything behind, nothing, not the foil pack of
the condom, nor a food wrapper, and glanced up. "Special
Forces medic", he said. "And you?"
Oui. That's what he said." Maurice stepped aside
and let Dima through, walking behind him. "I'm
the doctor for the French security detail at the embassy
in Belgrade." Leading Dima outside and to the vehicle.
job", commented Dima. "I assume that means
proper pay and heating?"
huffed with dry amusement. The smoke, as always, curling
in front of his face, "how well do you know Belgrade?
The embassy is a massive art deco building. You would
think we have heating."
like heaven." Dima walked beside the Frenchman,
studying him closely as if he was preparing to recognize
the man for the rest of his life - one of those strange
little habits that, in total, made it hard to move in
polite society. "And access to proper resources?"
do you mean?" Holding the door open, Maurice waited
for Dima to get inside the vehicle.
got in, leaning over and opened the door on the other
side. "What I mean is - embassy duty means you
have all the medical equipment you need. Colour me envious.
Most of my career, I had to improvise."
did I." Maurice shrugged, climbed in and threw
the cigarette butt to the ground, starting the car at
the same time. "It's cosy to have all the kit these
days, but being out of the field can get boring."
Glancing to the side, "you look as if you were
still in it."
am. That means, I was." Dima turned to face Maurice.
"What's going to happen now? Any idea?"
sure." Maurice shrugged, driving towards the dirt
track that would take them onto the road to Belgrade.
"I take you to the embassy, sign you in as a long-lost
ami of mine, feed you proper French coffee, croissants,
and wine, and then you'll show me how good you actually
are. After that we see if there's anything that can
be done for a Russian in Serbia with medical skills."
laughed. "First the wine, then the work? Okay."
But he grew more serious, suddenly. "Where's Dan?
Is he back in that camp of his? Any way to get in touch
with him?" Get in touch was a euphemism
if he'd ever heard one. Damn him, he'd liked too much
what Dan had done to his body, and apart from that very
obvious thing, he liked the man and wouldn't mind having
that wine and coffee together with him.
Maurice had paid less attention than before, navigating
a particularly tricky and icy part of the road. "Haven't
seen Dan since yesterday, I guess you can contact him
tomorrow, he should be in camp." The weather was
turning worse and the clouds hung low and heavy, promising
more snow. "You've known him for long?"
were both in Afghanistan", Dima said, leaning back
in his seat. "He was fucking my superior officer.
That's the only connection. The world is a small, strange
place. And he found me and freed me from the place I
was held a few days ago."
what?" Maurice turned his head so sharply,
the vehicle slipped for a second, before he had it back
means you're not one of his friends in that sense."Dima
sense?" Concentrating on the road this time, Maurice
was taking them through the night. Mostly silent, except
for the sound of shelling in the distance.
Dan scored himself a Spetsnaz captain, later major,
good-looking bastard, if you go for tall, blond, and
aloof. And I'd thought I was perceptive."
felt a moment of hesitation, outing Dan to his friend
was not a nice thing to do, but he'd thought Maurice
knew, and it was too late to back-pedal. "Thank
god I'm not bound by any confidentiality", he murmured.
"Because I just fucked that one up."
he is." Maurice flashed a nicotine stained grin,
before reaching for his packet of Gauloises. In an afterthought,
holding it out to Dima, who took a cigarette and the
lighter, too, lighting his own and then Maurice's before
returning the zippo. "Didn't tell me, but I never
asked. Not the usual conversation when getting drunk
in a bar." Maurice sped up when the road was getting
better. "Anyway, why in the devil's name are you
in the situation you're in?"
can only give you the official story ... I was sent
here to help the Serbs and got kidnapped by somebody,
then tied up and hidden away, where Dan found and freed
me. It's embarrassing to end up as somebody's prisoner
in my line of work. I wasn't even an active combatant
better not be, or I won't be able to help you."
The lights of Belgrade were coming into view in the
distance. "If you've been involved in any of the
shit, you're out. So you were better not involved
in it, and just happen to be a victim caught up in it."
Emphasising each word.
was." Dima lied without hesitation, holding onto
the story as promised.
since you are obviously a victim, there might be some
interest of the Serbian brotherhood in their Russian
brothers to form a nice cosy brotherhood of brothers."
I found Yugoslavia incredibly cosy so far." Dima
laughed and inhaled the smoke deeply. "Fucked up
war, fucked-up country. What's your story? How did the
French get involved in this? You are not a mercenary."
Used to be in the legion." Moving down the road
towards the town, Maurice elegantly avoided the first
part of the question. "Just doing my job for France."
He shrugged and fell silent.
The men without past. I understand." Dima fell
silent as well, gazing out of the window. Still oddly
thankful for the company and the fact he'd be able to
drink something hot, the cold had crawled under his
skin. If he was lucky, there was even a hot bath on
the radar. Pure luxury.
luxury it was, when they reached the embassy. Its splendour
above and beyond anything else in that city, surpassing
most others. Maurice told Dima to stay in the vehicle,
while he filled in some forms and then asked Dima to
come out, who's photo was taken for a guest file. They
were finally done and the vehicle rolled through the
gates and towards a car park, next to the building.
afraid you'll have to sleep in my apartment." Maurice
parked the posh 4x4 and got out, waiting for Dima to
catch up. "The sofa's not too bad, though, have
fallen asleep on it quite a few times."
I'll be fine. Don't worry. I've slept in some really
bad places, and this ... this doesn't look like one
of them." Gazing up, taking in the complete shift
- an altogether different world. "Nice one. The
French do it with style."
can call us a lot of things, but you can't accuse us
of not having style." Maurice grinned, lighting
yet another cigarette. Hardly five minutes between each.
He led Dima through a side door that went up a staircase
and towards a separate apartment. Spacious by all means,
with a fire place in the main room, and a small kitchenette,
with two doors leading off to bedroom and bathroom.
want to freshen up?" Maurice threw his hat over
a stand in the miniature hallway, then peeled his gloves
off. "You look like you need it. I brew us a coffee
in the meantime." Glancing at Dima while shrugging
out of his thick jacket. "Or hot coffee first and
bath afterwards?" Out of the winter boots as well,
the man was as wiry out of the kit as he had looked
at first glance. Dressed in black outdoor trousers and
dark flannel shirt, the open collar revealed a glimpse
of a smooth chest, while the stubble in his face was
either artful or perpetual; Dima felt a stab of desire
looking at him, might have been the isolation that had
him focussed on sex, but the Frenchman was certainly
interesting. Only how? Or even, whether?
that's a difficult question", Dima said, setting
down the bergan and taking off the jacket. "Can't
smell too good. That way's the bathroom?" Pointing
at one of the doors. "I could use a shave, too."
He ran a hand over his cheeks and chin.
for my benefit, you don't need to." Maurice nodded
towards the bathroom. "Kit's in there. Disposable
razors, the lot. Towel is fresh." He was in the
kitchenette, fiddling with a coffee grinder while the
obligatory cigarette hang from between his lips.
I'll have a soak first." Dima headed into the bathroom,
stripping the boots, vest, belt, trousers, underwear,
every thread and every single piece of equipment off,
even though it wasn't much compared to active duty.
He found a bathrobe that he assumed was Maurice's and
put that on, while the water ran hot and clear into
the tub, steaming up the mirrors. A quick check unearthed
razors and a well-stocked medicine cabinet that revealed
that Maurice knew his painkillers and was a perfectionist
in terms of kit to have around. Not a single 'use by'
date run past, they were all good and ready to work
their magic. The bathtub was filling up nicely, but
he probably had some time for the coffee first. Padding
outside, Dima headed for the kitchen.
scent of freshly brewed coffee was overwhelming, even
above the cigarette smell. Maurice was perched on a
bar stool in the kitchenette, reading a paper at the
breakfast bar, then looking up. "You're not my
size." He commented laconically, before pointing
to the pot of strong coffee. "Sugar? Milk?"
both." Dima sat down, prepared the coffee with
a good shot of milk and two spoons of sugar when Maurice
pushed over the condiments. "Yeah, the robe is
a bit tight in the shoulders." He grinned. "What's
in the news?" Taking a deep sip and closing his
eyes with pleasure. The Frenchman made a perfect coffee,
very strong, the kind of coffee that had been invented
old." Maurice pushed the front-page towards Dima,
before picking up his filter-less Gauloise and lighting
another one. "Nothing a bottle of good Bordeaux
won't make more interesting." With his mug empty,
he stood up to reach for a bottle of wine out of a stash
under the cupboards. "You didn't tell me how Dan
came across you?" he prompted while working on
guys who kidnapped me held me in a shelled school, and
he happened to pick through the ruins and found me.
I guess he might have seen them leave the building or
found traces." Another deep sip, and a disgusted
look at the news. "Yeah, same old. It's pointless
to even try and understand this mess." Dima listened,
and the running bathtub sounded pretty full. "I
better get into the tub ... you may bring the wine."
really? Guess I should be flattered." Maurice rolled
his eyes, but poured a couple of glasses anyway.
the coffee with him, Dima went back into the bathroom,
hung the robe over the heater, turned off the water,
checked it with a foot and deemed it fucking damn hot,
but just right to exorcise that chill from his bones.
He slowly eased himself in, only pausing when the hot
water had reached his balls, but then eased himself
in fully and leaned back with a grateful sigh. He'd
just submerged when there was a knock on the door that
he'd left ajar.
Dima didn't move, just floated in the hot water, feeling
his heart pulse with the dilution of the capillaries
under the skin. He'd be red as a lobster when he got
out, but the chill was leaving him, which was the whole
point. Didn't cover himself, that was pointless too,
if this guy had been a legionnaire he'd seen cocks and
balls and everything more than often enough. Especially
as a medic.
wine, Sir." Maurice made an exaggerated bow and
handed the glass of wine to Dima. "Is there anything
else your lordship requires?" Flashing a grin as
he sipped his own wine.
you", murmured Dima. "Start to feel human
again." He took another sip, enjoying a different
kind of warmth from a different angle, the relaxation
and heat made him feel positively cosy. Even his fingers
didn't act up. "I don't want to keep you away from
work, if you have to do something else."
half past eleven on a Wednesday night. Unless I get
a phone call or the pager goes off, I'm a man without
a life. You're the best entertainment available, right
now. Even the satellite telly is a pile of cow dung."
Sitting down on the loo seat, Maurice took a mouthful
of wine. "What are you hoping to happen?"
Dima grinned. "For me, personally? I want to find
a way out of this hellhole, get a life, a job, make
it to old age, when, for a change, medical professionals
have to look after me, no longer me doing that.
Not quite sure how to get there, but I take every day
as they come." He finished the glass, put it down
on the rim of the tub and reached for shower gel to
wash himself, while Maurice grunted something, which
sounded like agreement, took the empty glass and got
up to refill both their glasses.
suddenly realised that other people didn't figure in
his plans. No partner. No settling down with a family
as other people did after the service. There were still
opportunities for sex, which was the main thing, but
to spend the rest of his life alone? He washed his hair
first, ducked under the water, and then used handfuls
of shower gel to get the grime off his skin, watching
the water in the tub take on a greyish colour.
hungry?" Maurice called out from the kitchenette.
could use a bite." Dima pulled the plug, then pushed
himself out of the water, wiped it from his body with
his hands, angled for the bathrobe, and stepped out
in the same motion. "What's on offer?"
stood in the doorframe, with the refilled glasses in
his hand, holding one out to Dima. He looked down to
where a puddle was forming around Dima's feet, then
back up again, raising one brow, but never said a word
about the mess. "It's late, but the kitchen will
still make sandwiches. Unless you want to brave my cooking
skills. I got steaks, cheese, baguette."
wouldn't mind something warm", Dima reached for
a towel and dried his neck, head, and legs, while the
warmth had finally arrived in his body, and he felt
relaxed and safe. There would be no late alarms, no
sudden need to patch somebody up, no midnight raids.
It was a small miracle, really, but he knew he'd miss
all that if the peace lasted for too long. Conditioned
like Pavlov's dog. And why did that dog never get a
name? "It's hard to ruin steaks ..."
you what, you make them." Maurice flashed a rare
grin, pushed the wine into Dima's hand once he had dried
himself, and sauntered back to the kitchenette. "If
you want anything on your feet, there are socks or flip-flops
right behind the bedroom door." Calling out while
gesticulating to the other door, before lighting another
fag and raiding his fridge.
point." Dima went the indicated way, opened the
door and glanced around the room. Typically male bedroom,
kept neat, but with no frills, large proper bed, and
he assumed that Maurice didn't find it hard to make
use of the second pillow - Maurice's charms even worked
on him. A steel rack on the wall held a cross-country
bike. Made sense, the corridor was a bit narrow for
that. He slipped the flip flops on and headed back to
the kitchen. "Nice bike."
Maurice turned his head while cutting the baguette,
cigarette as usual in the corner of his mouth. "I'm
Explained Maurice's good legs and his wiry appearance.
He looked like he had a lot of stamina, and kept fit
after leaving the Legion. Dima checked the pan, and
the nice dark red lumps of meat sat on a plate, bleeding
gently. He remembered how he'd trained some cuts and
especially some suturing on food like chicken breast
and banana peels, and grinned. "Right. How do you
brows shot up and his teeth went on show in a long,
slow grin, before Dima added, deadpan, and enjoying
it, "the meat?"
Everything else is murder of a perfectly fine piece
I'll give it time to close the pores, at least."
Dima grabbed a bottle of oil from the shelf, then let
the pan get hot, checking every now and then with his
hand hovering above, and massaged some of the oil into
the steaks, before dropping them in the hot pan, turning
after half a minute, and turning again, until both sides
had had about three minutes of heat. He took the pan
off the hob to allow the meat to relax, while he cut
up the baguette, taking the occasional sip of the wine.
When the steaks had started bleeding again, he served
them on two plates that Maurice had set next to the
cooker, salt and black pepper grinders getting into
like you live alone", Dima stated, as they sat
down to eat, the plate of cut-up baguette between them.
Butter dish beside, and a wooden plate with a veritable
selection of cheeses that Maurice had summoned from
somewhere in the kitchen. "That because of the
place, or are you like me? Never had the time to bother
much with civilians?"
shrugged, while buttering a couple of slices of baguette
with a thick layer. "I'm an anti-social bastard."
Cutting into his steak, satisfied at the way the blood
ran out of the meat, nodding at Dima with a very economic
thumbs-up. "Always have been, always will be. Relationships
are too much hassle."
the job", Dima agreed, cutting his own meat, amused
at the fact that both of them liked their meat pretty
much still moving. Psychos. He devoured half the steak,
then slowed down, because he didn't have to rush anywhere,
and tried all the cheeses, ending up with a fairly salty
one with blue veins that was just perfect with the meat.
The bread tasted a bit flat on its own, but was good
to clean the plate with.
meanwhile, meticulously cleared his plate in an almost
compulsive way. Piece of meat, neatly cut, piece of
bread, starting at one end of the oval baguette slices,
then piece of cheese, starting at the top of the cheese
board and working his way clockwise along. Always in
the same order, each bite washed down with red wine,
which kept flowing freely between the two. His wine
rack was stocked up well.
is the plan for tomorrow?" Dima asked.
wanted to call Dan. Otherwise, you can't leave the embassy,
not yet. We're lucky they let you in without questions.
I knew the guards would be dozy tonight, and since I
happen to bring overnight guests somewhat regularly
grinned. "I keep getting into nicer prisons."
that's what you want to see this as? Feel free, but
don't forget you're in France right now, and with what
kind of papers? Don't think you could have walked through
the front door."
was chained to a boiler for a few days, that screws
up perceptions." Dima shook his head, amused, and
smiling at Maurice to take the sting out in comparing
his hospitality with Vadim's. Each of his successive
jailers had been nicer, and wouldn't it be ironic if
he could get sex from this guy as well? He emptied his
wine glass, watching Maurice eat and drink, and remembered
Dan, that damn nice sex, and was vaguely worried to
not be in touch with Dan. He'd looked so unhappy and
worried and plain disturbed. He should keep an eye on
him. That kind of pressure could only blow up badly.
wasn't one for small talk, and they finished their meal
in companionable silence, until they were both done
and the wine had mellowed each man.
to watch a film or head to bed?" Maurice broke
the silence, the last bottle had only been started,
a film, finish the wine, and then bed." Dima could
feel the alcohol build up, and stood. "Ah, damn.
I don't really have any clean clothes ... forgot to
bring my suitcase."
find you something. You're broader than I am, but I
got sports kit that should fit." Maurice stood
up as well, clearing the table, the third or fourth
cigarette between his lips, since he'd stopped eating.
"Do you need anything tonight? Best look for it
when I'm sober."
I'm alright. I can sleep naked." Dima grinned.
"Better than sleeping in one's boots and all that."
pointed with his chin towards the living room area,
"the videos are over there. Pick one that you fancy.
I've seen them all."
film shelf in the living room was sorted by genre, and
in each one by title, in descending alphabetical order.
Dima saw a lot of French films, but he wasn't sure he
was in the mood for artsy shots and deeply philosophical
themes. A good selection of action flicks, plenty of
British comedy, and there was a rich collection of porn.
Amused that the Frenchman didn't hide those, he checked
out the covers. They featured women and men, threesomes
seemed to be the common denominator, several guys on
one woman the most common configuration in that one.
Dima figured that Maurice likely had bonded the old-fashioned
way, sharing a whore with half his platoon. He'd done
that himself, half-drunk, being cheered on by comrades.
A fairly gay thing to do, if he'd apply those terms.
He shook his head - porn was probably not what Maurice
was willing to watch, even though that remained an interesting
option. If he'd make the first move, though, he'd have
to do it in a way that Maurice wouldn't kick him out
next morning. He chose Casablanca, then looked at the
running time and thought it would be too damn long,
no way he'd be awake for that long. Back on the shelf
with Casablanca, and he found something in the British
comedy department. Monty Python. That should be safe.
something?" Maurice called over, the cigarette
smoke preceding the man, as he came into the living
area. Bottle under his arm, freshly cleaned glasses
in his hands.
selection." Dima was grinning, and stood, handing
him the cassette.
category?" Maurice's brows went up again, looking
at the video, while moving his full hands into Dima's
view. "You either take your glass or pop in the
of them." Dima took the glasses off Maurice and
placed them on the table, watching him switch on the
TV and the video recorder. "Good taste."
on getting the tape into the recorder, Maurice looked
up from his kneeling position. "And that's why
I really can't be bothered getting it messed up by a
'relationship'. I take the sex when I get it, but there's
no 'call you tomorrow' in the morning." He shrugged,
blew smoke out of the corner of his mouth, and watched
the video come to life. Taking the remote, he settled
onto the large couch, which easily accommodated a fully
grown man for sleeping.
here. Just doesn't fit into my life." Never mind
the fact that it was still illegal and there were a
thousand ways to make his life harder if people guessed
what he was doing with his hormones. "I don't get
attached." And part of that was because Dima never
wanted to get into the situation again where the guy
who was bleeding out under his hands had, just the night
before, come against him, so alive and panting, but
for completely different reasons. Losing it while keeping
somebody - anybody - alive, was no option. As long as
he saw them as walking meat, he was safe and professional.
bedding is underneath, by the way. Won't take a minute
to set up."
Dima settled on the couch and poured them both more
film chosen was 'the holy grail' and even Maurice grinned
and finally laughed, when the French threw a cow over
the battlements to fend off King Arthur. Once again,
he hardly talked, except for the occasional grunt, asking
non-verbally if Dima wanted a refill, and towards the
end of the film he was half asleep on the sofa. Empty
glass in his hand, and the obligatory cigarette burning
slowly in the corner of his mouth, before he remembered
to stub it out. Dima every now and then glanced over,
but apart from 'accidental' when he took the wine, nothing
really happened. Still enough to make him wonder. It
was like they'd both signalled their intentions, how
they handled sex - very casual -, that nothing would
mean anything the next morning - which was more than
welcome -, and Dima felt he'd made his interest clear.
Short of straightforward touching him, there was no
way he could escalate further.
yawned when the end credits rolled down the screen.
"Got to be up in
" checking his watch,
"five hours. Good thing I don't sleep much."
His speech was hardly slurred.
can set up the bed by myself, you go get some shut-eye.
Any chance I can work some tomorrow, too, or do I need
some kind of security clearance?"
got to check all that, and find out how we get you a
working permission. Dan told me what you do and what
might be possible, and I promised I'd look into it.
Shouldn't be a problem - Russian in Serbia - while not
quite brothers, it's still friendly nation."
stood and stretched, the shirt riding above his navel
as he did. As smooth as his chest, no glory trail to
be see, and Dima felt the urge to kiss there and bite,
pull him closer, but did nothing, just stared at the
bared flesh. "I'll take the bathroom, then."
Maurice nodded, got bottle and glasses to clear the
table, and switched TV and recorder off on the way.
"Before I forget, any idea if Dan's got day or
guess day shift, he was on day shifts when he visited
me, but that might have changed."
see, you just got to try in the morning, then."
And - have a good night, see you tomorrow." Dima
got off the sofa and, sure enough, found the bedding
in a plastic bag stored underneath. He began to set
up the bed, while the sound of water running was heard
from the bathroom. Dima used one of the cushions as
pillow, then shed the bathrobe and slipped under the
clean, fresh blanket, surrounded by a dark room, the
LED lights of TV, video recorder and other technical
equipment casting a minimum light into the room. He
listened for Maurice moving about in the flat, until
he went into the bedroom. He remembered that navel,
the smooth flesh, stark contrast to Dan's enormous scars,
and, thinking of Dan, he remembered how he'd been fucked,
how he'd lost control and just enjoyed it. His hand
went down under the blanket to stroke himself; not quite
Dan's lips, but he thought of that image, how he'd taken
him in one deep, hungry swallow, and he closed his eyes
to fix that image there. Remembered how he'd brought
him off and how he'd been in the morning, just that
sensation, stretched and touched, skill and passion.
Shit, he'd never thought he'd envy anybody, and he forced
his mind to focus on the task at hand, using images,
part from far away and long gone, others fresher and
new. Stroking harder.
need a hand?" Maurice's dry voice was suddenly
heard from the doorway, and when Dima opened his eyes,
he saw him stand in the darkness. Nothing but a shadow,
the red glow of the cigarette between his lips.
cursed in Russian, his heart had jumped into his throat,
he hadn't heard Maurice open the door. "Got ...
two, but ..." He grimaced. "Wouldn't mind
... yours." Or was he mocking him? No. He was fairly
sure Maurice was interested. Too fucking casual about
it. Seemed his frequent guests included men.
red glow moved away from the lips and into the hand,
as Maurice stepped closer, stubbing the fag out in the
ashtray on the table. "If you think we're all 'opportunity-gay'
in the legion, you're probably damn right." His
voice had dropped, making the heavy French accent roll
smoothly. He was naked, his lean and wiry body illuminated
by the LEDs.
pretty much ... properly gay." Another exchange
that was setting down the rules, the lines that could
or couldn't be crossed. "Maybe opportunity-heterosexual."
Dima gave a short laugh.
grinned, teeth visible in the darkness, pulled the duvet
off Dima and let it drop to the floor, before he sat
down on the edge of the sofa, leaning over him. That
close, Dima could see that Maurice was smooth almost
everywhere. He wasn't a swimmer for nothing. He wanted
to touch him, a sudden hunger that was made worse by
the situation, that meeting of almost-strangers in a
dark room, with both wanting the same thing.
a hand, or
reached up to touch Maurice's chest, slid down towards
his abs, enjoying the smooth skin and the warmth of
another human being. Alive, undamaged, easy and not
complicated at all. "What do you like?" Wondering
where the hell it would lead, he'd like to fuck this
smooth body, but he'd suck him, too, or just rub against
him, a hand was good, just that closeness, some manner
of communication that meant something for the moment,
and nothing next morning.
shrugged, still just leaning over Dima, not touching
at all. "I'm pissed enough to say 'anything', because
I've done everything, and I have no preferences. I'm
an opportunist, and you seem to be an opportunity."
certainly that." Dima pushed himself up to pull
Maurice closer, and whispered in his ear - even though
they were alone and there was no need to whisper. "Can
I fuck you?" He cleared his throat and ran his
hands down Maurice's body, touching his cock, his balls,
the smooth flesh turning him on more.
you're good? Oui." Came the pragmatic answer without
hesitation. "Are you good?"
laughed. "Would I tell you if I was bad ...?"
Maurice flashed a grin while reaching over and across
Dima, bodies almost touching. "But if you are I'll
kick your ass." He opened the drawer in the narrow
table that stood beside the sofa. Finding a tube and
a packet in the dark.
enough." Dima continued to touch the other, that
lean, strong body, and murmured, "You could sit
on me. Leaves you the work, but that's hard to screw
thing I'm fit." Maurice scooted up. The sofa was
broad enough for him to straddle Dima. He didn't say
anything, unscrewed the lube and squeezed it into his
hand. Leaning over Dima, his hand moving backwards,
lubing himself up, and Dima watched, just keeping his
erection with slow, leisurely strokes. Maurice opened
the condom and rolled it down over Dima's cock, which
made him inhale - weird, Maurice remained as casual
as if he was dealing with a patient, even when Dima
stroked him, playing with the other's cock, almost as
casual, while Maurice slicked up Dima's cock with generous
amounts of lube.
upwards, Maurice stopped when he was poised over Dima's
cock. "Guess it's up to me to make it good now."
You can kick your own ass if it's not good for you ..."
out a throaty chuckle, Maurice took a deep breath, and,
while guiding the cock with one hand and steadying himself
with the other, he lowered himself down. Slowly, so
slowly that his muscular thighs were rock hard.
tensed, heat and pressure, his lips opened as he could
only feel what happened, entering a dark silhouette
of a man, a man he hardly knew, but that was what he
usually got in terms of sex. Apart from the fucking,
which was relatively rare. He remained totally still
while Maurice took him in, using his strength and weight
to impale himself, and the slow, focused movement made
Dima groan slightly, touching those tensed thighs, that
vibrated with control. "Fuck, yes", he murmured
you don't complain." Maurice breathed out, sounding
somewhat forced, as he rocked slightly. Small movements,
until he was all the way down, sitting on Dima, with
not a millimetre to spare. Clenching his muscles, tightening
the already impossibly tight heat, as he rocked again.
... fucked, or sex?" Dima breathed, focusing on
remaining still, stroking the other's body instead,
thighs, flanks, chest, nipples, trying to work out what
Maurice liked, whether firm or gentle, teasing or rough.
anything bigger than a finger up my ass." Maurice
let out a rusty, breathless laugh when he suddenly moved
up, slowing down before the cock almost left him, and
then slammed himself back down, with far too much speed
and a groan of pain and unmistakably lust, taking Dima
completely by surprise. Suddenly breathless, lust climbing
when Maurice forced out "Merde!", straightened
up to change the angle, before he moved up again and
did the same once more, then leaned forward, once more
changing angle and speed. "Twist my nipples."
He murmured, nearly face to face, hunched over Dima's
body, and Dima reached up, taking hold of his nipples,
twisting and pulling on them, feeling the man respond.
"I like it rough when I do this."
... problem", Dima murmured, bucking up, never
mind his response sounded stupid in his own ears, of
course it was no problem, only that Maurice was fully
in control of the speed. Using his legs for leverage,
he thrust up, in time with stimulating the other's nipples.
took full advantage of having complete control. Fucking
himself with increasing speed, bordering on viciousness,
at the same time intent on getting Dima off. Never touching
his own cock, and slapping Dima's hand away when he
tried to stroke him, Maurice was using his control that
expertly, and with so much greed, Dima had no chance,
but to follow the ride that would take him over the
edge all too soon.
tried to meet Maurice's motions with equal force, but
Maurice had all mechanical advantages, angle, position,
there was little Dima could really do, and he tensed
up after an especially fast motion, cumming with loud
groans, holding onto Maurice's hips and thrusting inside
him. The orgasm searing through him and out of him,
reducing him to a panting, boneless mess, feeling the
sweat on his body, at his temples, roll down and soak
into the blanket underneath.
moved off, the moment Dima had stopped thrusting. Scooted
up Dima's body, until his legs were spread wide, with
knees on each side of a shoulder, his cock at Dima's
lips, expecting him to take it and to let Maurice fuck
his mouth in retaliation for having had his ass.
had hardly any time to think, Maurice set the speed
and he didn't argue any of it, instead opened his lips,
the briefest of thoughts about hygiene and health, and
all that, but truth was, he liked giving head, dangerous
or not, and right now he didn't care. Instead placed
both hands in the small of Maurice's back and pulled
him closer, opened his lips for the cock to pass through,
the heat and taste, precum a definite indicator of how
much Maurice had enjoyed himself so far, and he took
him deep, tightened his lips, sucking on the other's
cock as best he could while still breathless, struggling
a bit, but he didn't have to suck the Frenchman for
long. Maurice was so far gone already, he tensed and
cursed in French under his breath, all at the same time,
as he came with his hands in fists and his body rigid
with sculpted muscle, as his cum shot down Dima's throat.
swallowed in reflex, and he held on to the other man,
stroking him while sucking the last drops out of him,
part of him recoiling at the thought of all these STDs,
Maurice's promiscuous sex life, but dirty sex was just
plain better, and he hoped the surgeon was clean. Not
that it made a difference now. He lay back, allowing
the cock to slip out, breathless, satisfied, but his
skin crawling with unease. Fuck. "Unexpected",
he murmured and cleared his throat.
leaned over, still breathless, reaching for one of the
many packets of fags that were lying around in the flat.
He stayed on Dima as he lit not one, but two fags, just
lowered to sit on Dima's groin, the condom still hanging
off the spent cock. "You worried?" Offering
one of the cigarettes. "I can show you my last
test results. I'm a surgeon not a suicidal idiot."
laughed, somewhat embarrassed, and hesitated to take
a deep draught from the cigarette. "Hadn't ...
thought you were. Just that knowing about all this shit
can really screw up my enjoyment of cocksucking. Don't
like to suck on plastic, though."
shrugged, "I don't like cocksucking. Full stop.
Don't like licking pussies either. Told you, I'm an
alright ..." Dima reached down to pluck the condom
off and tied a knot in there, trying to remember whether
there was anything close to the sofa where he could
dump it. "Shit. You have any idea where I can put
dump it, I'll get rid of it in a minute." Maurice
inhaled deeply, the smoke hardly visible in the dark.
dropped it, running his hands lazily over the other
man's body, enjoying the peace and quiet, the heat,
the closeness, and noticed that Maurice just rested,
without touching him much. That, too, was alright. Some
men were affectionate, others withdrawn, others turned
around and went straight to sleep. He, personally, liked
to explore bodies some more, stroking and feeling, but
he also knew the old rule that whatever happened, it
didn't mean a thing the next morning. He wouldn't get
invited into the bed and comradeship was the only thing
he could expect here. Which was fine. The lines were
drawn, the rules set down, they had both agreed to them.
finished his cigarette, and when both were done, he
slowly got up and stretched, glancing at the clock on
the video recorder. "Hardly worth going to sleep."
He leaned forward and placed a kiss onto Dima's mouth.
More than the pecks on the cheek of both their cultures,
and less than passion, but it nevertheless felt affectionate
Dima." Maurice murmured, "let me know when
you need a hand again."
you." Dima grinned, tiredly. "Because I'm
we swap places next time."
if you're any good ..."
laughed hoarsely and got off the sofa. Picking up the
condom from the floor, he padded towards the bedroom
via the kitchenette, and the sound of the rubbish bin
being opened was the last thing that was heard before
the bedroom door closed behind him.
lay in the dark a bit longer, then reached down to find
the duvet, turned onto his side and closed his eyes.
Life was, actually, pretty good, and Maurice wouldn't
screw him over - it was good to have allies like him,
and Dan, of course. Relaxing more deeply with every
breath, he soon drifted off.
next morning came too soon, but Maurice tried to be
as quiet a possible, as he brewed a coffee that could
wake the dead. Sitting down at the breakfast nook with
his favourite French newspaper, chain-smoking and drinking
his coffee black, which counted as breakfast. He was
dressed in shorts, showered.
woke, had a quick shower, and wore the bathrobe again.
A superficial glance at the paper told him it was French,
and that meant he could only get the gist of it. "Good
Maurice glanced up, nodded, then buried his nose in
the papers again. Even less chatty in the mornings than
added milk and sugar to a mug, and filled it up with
some coffee. "When are you off to work? Anything
interesting in there?
ten minutes, and only if you are interested in French
politics." Maurice hardly looked up, then finished
his third cup of coffee.
enough." Dima sat down and stared into his coffee,
not a 'rise and shine' person himself, but he'd woken
up and he wasn't the type to lounge about in bed much
longer after waking. That was a bad habit.
got up and pushed the paper towards Dima, before heading
wordlessly into the bedroom. He came back out in under
five minutes, dressed and with the obligatory cigarette
in his mouth. "Here's my pager number." He
put a piece of paper in front of Dima's nose. "If
anything's up, page me and I'll phone." He pointed
to the cordless telephone in the living area. "Highly
unlikely anyone other than I phones through the day."
He pointed to the second number, "that's Dan's
camp, it's the main number of the guard room. It functions
as a switch board." Pointing to the third number,
"and that's the embassy's main number, just in
Thanks. And what are you up to?"
shrugged. "I'm out some of the day, organising
medical support. The Red Cross is short on surgeon teams
and I got drafted in to help." He didn't look unhappy
about it, on the contrary.
gave a sigh. "If I'm lucky, they could use me to
mop up the blood at least?" It made him itchy to
just wait and just spend time, when there was work to
do. Words like 'short on surgeons' were magic and stronger
need a working permit first, no matter what. If you
leave the embassy now, chances are I can't get you back
in. They're used to me bringing guests, but they never
stay more than a night. And they never return."
Maurice tipped the ash from his fag into one of the
many ashtrays. "There are clothes in the bedroom,
help yourself. The sports kit is in the left-hand side
of the wardrobe, but something else might fit as well.
I don't have secrets." He flashed a grin and inhaled,
before clapping Dima's shoulder and making his way to
luck." Dima waited for the door to shut behind
Maurice, then began to dig around for clothes, eventually
finding a warm woollen jumper than fit him, slightly
frayed around the edges, and he found the sports kit,
most of all the bottoms. After he'd located the washing
machine, he tossed his camo kit in there, had some baguette
and cheese for breakfast, topped with another coffee.
then called the number of the camp. He got through to
the guard room, and when asking to speak Dan McFadyen,
he was put on hold. For a rather long time.
is speaking?" A different voice came finally on.
Starov." This didn't bode well. "I am a friend."
am afraid Mr McFadyen is not available. Where can we
reach you when he becomes available?"
gave him the phone number of the embassy, and added
he was staying with "Mr Maurice", because,
again, he had no idea what the Frenchman's last name
was. "Maybe Mr Krasnorada is available instead?"
Vadim would know where Dan was. Most likely.
line went quiet again, but at least it didn't take as
long as before. "I am afraid Mr Krasnorada is not
available either. Can you tell us the nature of your
felt as if they were holding him on the line while not
giving out any information. That could mean a lot of
things, including that he couldn't just call them, that
nobody put anybody through who wasn't family, but did
that make sense? "No. They are friends, and I want
to know whether they are okay." Dima began to pace.
understand." Another pause, voices in the background.
"When did you last seen either Mr McFadyen or Mr
shit. "A few weeks ago." The last thing he
wanted was to have these guys on his ass because he
was the last one to have seen both. "So you have
no idea where they are?"
about-turn was evident. "I see. I am afraid I cannot
tell you about the whereabouts of either employee, except
that they are not available right now." The case
was closed, or there was another reason why the person
refused to elaborate. "Good bye."
fuck you, too", said Dima, laconically, and put
the receiver down. Fuck. Dan and Vadim were out there,
somewhere. What if Vadim was hunting again and off to
kill another band of chetniks, and Dan was tracking
him? That was the solution, no other reason why both
were gone. But what could he do, short of heading there
too and searching the area for both of them?
called Maurice's pager, felt the surgeon probably might
have an angle to get more information.
phone rang about three minutes later. "What's wrong?
I'm in the middle of a meeting."
got the feeling Dan and Vadim are both gone."
Just one word and the sound of inhaling deeply. "How
do you know?"
quickly summarized the non-conversation with the camp.
"Well, they asked me when I'd seen them last. They
wouldn't ask that if they knew. Do you have access to
the place? Or can you get it?"
You got anything to go from?"
anything. I know where Vadim was active ... and Dan
was tracking him. And I know what Vadim's doing, and
it's ... not legal, by any stretch of the imagination.
It's probably the right thing to do, but it's entirely
wrong at the same time. Shit. He's fucked up, and I
don't want to get him in trouble."
they are both out and no one knows where they are, then
I guess your Vadim is in a hell of a lot more trouble
than anything you could get him into." Maurice
paused, the sound of smoking heard on the other end.
"I'll drive to the camp when I am out of the meeting.
Should be another hour or so. D'accord?"
Keep me updated." And yes, I think Vadim is in
trouble, Dima thought to himself. "Thanks. Bye."
Nervous now, mostly because he had nothing to do but
wait for his clothes to wash and dry, which didn't really
occupy his mind. Instead, he cleared away his bed stuff
and sat down in front of the TV. Finding CNN, he watched
that for a while, staying right next to the phone.
hours passed and still no phone call. Two and a half
hours later there was the sound of the key scraping
in the lock and the door opening. "Dima?"
It was Maurice.
Dima stood, the tumble dryer still had his camo - or
rather, Dan's camo - and would probably take a while
longer. "Do you have anything?"
nodded, closing the door. "They don't have a clue
where they are." Throwing his keys onto the breakfast
bar, he frowned. "Wouldn't say that I lied, but
let's just say I got them to tell me what was up. Neither
has returned to duty this morning, and they haven't
been seen by anyone since last night, when Vadim returned
from shift. As for Dan, he hasn't been seen since he
came back from visiting me in the afternoon. That means
no one has any idea where they've been for a whole night
and all of today." Lighting a cigarette, his frown
deepened. "I also got out of them that there has
been an influx of movement beyond the 'safe zone', but
they don't know why."
like they both went straight into 'enemy country' and
stirred the hornet's nest while standing right in the
middle of it. Shit. And we have no way to locate them.
I'm not worried for Vadim, he's good at operating behind
enemy lines. He's good. Dan must be good, too. But why
the fuck do they risk that? What for?"
I haven't got a clue. You tell me. I've been
seeing Dan quite a few times in the bar. Drinking, chatting,
occasionally playing chess. I wasn't even aware he was
gay. I really don't know him that well." Maurice
shrugged. "Had never heard of Vadim. You
tell me why the hell they would go into enemy territory.
Dan didn't strike me as a reckless idiot."
the story is pretty short. Dan and Vadim are ... a couple.
Of sorts. Have been together for ages and all that.
Vadim was my superior officer in Afghanistan. He's Spetsnaz.
Unfortunately, he's also moving around and ... taking
justice into his own hands. I can only imagine Dan followed
him to hold him back."
sorts?" Maurice shook his head. "What that's
supposed to mean? Dan certainly never mentioned Vadim."
me, he mentioned him all the time, but things haven't
been going well between them, lately. From what I could
was shrugging out of his jacket, "so you think
Vadim went off on a rampage, trying to do single-handedly
what the entire UN isn't allowed to do, and Dan followed,
he tried to sort their relationship?"
Vadim's doing what he thinks is right. And he has a
fairly convincing case, unless you're sane and a civilian
and believe in justice by trial."
shook his head, "what is he, a self appointed judge
and jury? Anyway, if they got caught there wouldn't
be any additional movement, so that means they must
still be on the run
I just don't understand why
they aren't returning to the camp. Unless
they're cut off - and just try to outrun the chetniks
and find a way to break through the lines. Shit."
that case, where would one start to look? And last but
not least, what on earth are we going to do? Except
wait, because let's face it, there is nothing we - nor
anyone else - can do. Certainly not legally, and anything
else is suicide."
I knew where I could start looking ..." Dima shook
his head. Re-join the chetniks that were hunting Vadim
and Dan was out of the question, too dangerous that
they didn't believe him if he told them some lies, and
too dangerous that Vadim or Dan would kill him. "Vadim's
a comrade." And Dan was a friend. Of sorts.
was in the legion for too many years not to understand,
and I believe we have both seen too many men die, but
if you went out there, the chances are, you'd die, too,
and that would help no one." Maurice reached for
another cigarette when the first one had burnt down.
"Are you willing, though, to tell them when you
last saw Dan and Vadim, and what your suspicions are?"
... took me prisoner and kept me in a boiler room in
some building for a few days. He tried to keep me from
getting into trouble. Must have been five or six days
ago. Last time I saw him was three days ago, just before
Dan found me and took me to the bunker. If I tell them
where and how I met them, that would put me in a bad
position. They'd assume I'm a chetnik."
nodded. "Merde." Muttered, inhaling deeply.
"You're out, then. Guess I have to lie. Don't know
about Vadim, but saw Dan yesterday afternoon, he could
have told me about his troubles."
bet is that Dan is where Vadim is. Or at least close."
that is somewhere we haven't got a clue about, but is
probably right in the middle of enemy territory."
Maurice picked the jacket up again and shrugged back
into it. "From what I can tell about Dan, he survived
in Afghanistan. If anyone's going to get out of there,
it's him." Picking the keys up as well, along with
woollen hat and gloves. "And what about Vadim?"
major. He's good. Fucked up, but good. But you can bait
bears if you use plenty of dogs ..."
if the bears are experienced enough." Jacket zipped
up, Maurice nodded to Dima. "I'm off to the camp
again. Will see what I can do by telling them all 'I'
know. The best bet for you is to stay here, I'll be
back as soon as possible."
Dima forced himself to relax and calm, but he'd have
given a lot to be able to do something. Anything. "I'll
nodded and was out of the door.