1993, The Balkans
Dan!" One of the soldiers came running across the
compound, waving to get Dan's attention, but the thick
hat with its fur-lined ear flaps that he wore was muffling
the sound. It was so cold, misting breath cut through
words and speech, freezing every thought.
Dan finally caught on when his team mate slapped his
shoulder and pointed across. "What's up?"
Calling out towards the guy. Damn, he had been looking
forward to a hot shower after his shift, a very
hot shower, and a snooze, preferably with Vadim, for
a special kind of heating up. But shit, he couldn't
just ignore the guy.
call for you."
coming." Dan nodded and waved, moving into a trot
to keep warm. Concentrating on not favouring his leg
too obviously, he couldn't be seen doing that or he'd
be asked too many obnoxious questions.
short while later he was in the post room, in one of
the semi-private phone booths. "Aye?" Expecting
his brother or perhaps Maggie.
Is that ... you?" Crackling phone line, sounding
like it would give up any minute.
Dan listened for another heartbeat, then ... "Jean?
Shit, is that you? Jean!"
fuck ... Listen ... line's shit. I can hardly ...stand
the fuck are you?" Dan nearly shouted into the
South Africa. We're out in the bush. I'll tell you later
... just ... good to hear you. I tried ... but you're
... to get hold of than the fucking ... President of
was busy with some fucking bastards who tried to fucking
kill us." Dan laughed down the phone. "It's
been bloody ages, how are you?"
good. Happily ... married. Listen ... I need to see
you, okay? Can we just ... meet at some point? I'm done
here in ... weeks, I can be wherever afterwards."
Bugger, the line was breaking up badly. "Can hardly
understand you. When are you free?"
weeks. Got that? Four weeks. I'm free then. Where should
weeks, damn, where did that get him to? Dan was frantically
trying to remember his schedule and when he was due
R&R. "Five weeks. Make it five. On R&R,
then." And Vadim? Dan couldn't remember, not quite.
"What about Italy?" The only place he could
think of and that wasn't Hungary and neither too far
away. Right across the Adriatic Sea.
Okay. What about Rome? Have a ... in Tuscany, that's
yes. Call me again when you have a fucking line that
works!" Dan laughed.
enough to ... you." Jean gave a chuckle. "Fuck
you too. I'll ... touch. Hear you soon!"
Till then." Dan was grinning like a fool when he
put the receiver down. Still whistling while making
his way back to the accommodation block and towards
was sitting near the oven, keeping warm, polishing boots
and sorting through kit. "What's up?"
wouldn't believe who just called." Pulling the
hat off his head, Dan started to peel himself out of
the many layers of clothing. "Our very own Frenchman.
And I don't mean the one with a rod up his arse."
never have expected Beauvais to call you ... could only
I know, I'm only good for a punch-up and a quick shag."
Dan put on an exaggerated expression of woe. "But
of course you're right, it's the elusive Honeymooner.
He's in South Africa, somewhere in the bush." He
was in his jumper, when sitting down to take off his
boots. Was easier that way these days but he wouldn't
admit to that. "We're going to meet in Rome in
or 'we'?" Vadim gave the boot he was working on
a critical glance against the light, then brushed it
Dan looked up, quizzically.
wondering whether you want to meet him alone."
hadn't even thought about that. Why?" Dan shrugged,
put the second boot down. "Like you and Hooch?"
not exactly like Hooch and me." Vadim kept brushing
do you mean?" Dan leaned back in his chair and
searched for a fag while wiggling his toes in the thick
are far more emotional between you and Jean. He has
a serious crush on you, Dan. No surprise that Jean is
far more attracted to you than to me."
crazy." Dan gave a short laugh. "Crush? That's
just bonkers." He lit his cigarette. "Besides,
it doesn't matter." Dan shrugged, "makes no
He wants guys. Correction: He wants you."
Don't you remember the stuff about forsaking all others?
It's different now. He's married, and that's that. End
of story. Besides, what's all that crush stuff about?
He's just a friend."
And you believe that?"
of course I do." Dan's brows had moved up to the
hairline. Blowing smoke away from Vadim.
quid says Jean doesn't believe it either."
Dan stared at Vadim as if he had talked in Mandarin.
"Fifty quid what?"
betting fifty quid that it won't be just friends."
Dan snorted, "and I'm betting a hundred that it
is." Looking for the ashtray.
I accept the challenge."
we won't get to the heart of the matter if you do come
with me, aye?"
think it depends. I could spend the time somewhere near
Rome and leave you guys alone."
sounds really weird and fucking awkward." Dan found
the ashtray, pulled it close and executed his cigarette
butt in a brutal way. "Why don't you just come
along or we forget about it altogether?"
Vadim glanced at the cigarette butt and about how Dan
ground it to pieces. "It will be good to see the
alright then." Dan grinned, back to his sure footing.
"Let's organise the trip and forget about the bullshit
of crushes and stuff." He got up, walked over to
Vadim and ran a hand over the short-shorn hair, before
stripping completely to take a shower.
stood in front of the airport building, glancing up
at the bright sky through dark shades. Bergan over his
shoulder, he was travelling light. Dressed in appropriate
spring gear, the thick jacket he had to wear back in
the Balkans was stuffed on top of the bergan. Waving
a taxi down, he managed with a few words of Italian
he'd heard or read somewhere, and a lot of gesticulating,
to get the river to take him to the hotel Jean had mentioned.
Right in the centre of Rome.
setting breathed a deteriorating grandiosity, much like
a formerly great hotel that was clinging on to the vestiges
of a much more glorious past, and the pricing was steep,
but not outrageous. Situated in a side-alley, surrounded
by red and pale red and orange houses that reflected
the light warmly, the Italian staff treated Dan with
relaxed courtesy and informed him that "Signore
Leclerc" was in the hotel restaurant.
went to his room first, getting rid of his bag and to
take a quick shower, washing off the flight. He was
back out in no time, hair still damp, dressed in fresh
clothes. He'd managed to grab a combination of sand
coloured trousers and black shirt that didn't clash
- even without Vadim's help. Making his way to the restaurant,
he was looking around for the telltale blond head.
was sitting alone at a table, just getting served coffee
in a tiny porcelain cup that couldn't hold more than
a quarter of a sip, and he tossed it down, pulling a
face of enjoyment and shock, then leaned back and pulled
a cigarette from the pack next to him at the table.
walked closer, keeping in Jean's back, while grinning
like a fool. He didn't say anything until he was close
enough to place a hand on the deeply tanned neck. "Holy
fuck, you had too much time sunning yourself."
looked around, no soldier's reaction, no tension nor
whirling around. "Dan. Fuck." He stood, turning.
"Sit down. Are you hungry? I just had something,
but ... be my guest." He was tanned, no burn visible,
hair paler than Dan remembered, which had also affected
his eyebrows and lashes.
look good." Dan grinned, ignoring the rest. "Not
like someone who's actually worked in South Africa."
Sitting down, these days sitting had taken on a different
quality. One that took the weight off his knee.
grinned. "It's not easy working down there ...
the place is too relaxed for my own good." He waved
the waiter over and nodded at Dan, encouraging him to
have you been otherwise?" Dan didn't feel like
concentrating on the menu, memorised the first thing
he recognised, and put the menu down, looking at Jean.
Shit, the guy looked good. So fucking good, all he wanted
was to drag him upstairs and tear the kit off him. "Had
a great honeymoon? Haven't heard from you in ages."
It's a dream. I'm not sure there's a more beautiful
place in the world. Long flight, but once you get there
... it's great." Jean offered Dan a cigarette from
his pack and pushed the lighter over. "Yeah, it's
all going well, I have been fairly happy ... did this
job mostly to do somebody a favour." He grinned.
"What about you?"
nothing interesting, really." Lighting his fag,
Dan sat back in the comfy chair. A bit low for a man
his size, but positively luxurious. "I gained a
two year old daughter by Vadim's ex-wife, and Vadim
almost killed me for it. Then, together with Vadim,
who was still hating my guts, found a camp that wasn't
supposed to exist, saved a town and nearly died, but
made up, blew a bridge into smithereens and sniped some
bastards, before ending up in tatters. Both of us."
He shrugged, "as I said, nothing out of the ordinary."
Jean looked shocked. "What happened?"
raised his brows. Typical Jean would pick out this snippet
and none of the others. "Fucking ex-wife of a fucking
bitch blackmailed me three years ago. Vadim was about
to be executed, and I needed her to convince Vadim's
father to deliver a coded message. To let him know I
was alive." Dan shrugged, made a good show of not
caring, while it looked very different inside. "I
was a convenient sperm donor." He dragged in some
smoke. "Didn't know I had a daughter until last
daughter with ... oh fuck. Not sure I should ask. Should
Jean seemed unsure what else to say, then reached over
the table and took Dan's hand. "You going to order
some food? Otherwise, we could hit a nightclub, or maybe
go up to my room?"
it a bit early for a nightclub?"
shrugged, then nodded. "Well, until we've found
a good one ..."
started to grin again, much more easy going this time.
"By the way, before you wonder, my daughter is
bloody good looking. For a kid, I guess." Dan leaned
closer and winked, "she looks like me, aye?"
she's anything like you, she'll become a ball crusher
and heart breaker."
laughed, "leave the heartbreaker out, but I don't
mind the ball crusher." A waiter appeared and Dan
extracted his hand from under Jean's, ordering what
he'd remembered from the menu. "It's been how long?"
When the waiter had left.
months and a week and a day ... or two days." Jean
smiled. "Felt longer."
almost a year." Dan shook his head. "A lot
happened, but somehow ... you haven't changed."
You're just looking about ten times better than I remember.
"Guess I turned into a wrinkly old git, though."
He flashed a grin.
pulled on his cigarette. "No. Hardly a hair different.
Nothing's changed. Just ... should have been in touch
alright, you're a married man now, and I was ... well,
kind of busy with assorted shit."
waiter brought Dan's drink, then the food, while Jean
watched him eat. "What are you planning for Rome?
I was thinking: clubbing, wine, food, relax. Been here
six hours, but I already love this city."
have no idea." Dan mopped up some balsamic vinegar
with a piece of mozzarella cheese. "Can I just
tag along? Vadim was meant to come with me, but he got
the offer for a triple glory-shift."
flashed a grin. "They were desperate for a team
leader and offered Vadim triple pay if he stayed on
a few days longer, even though he'd been booked on R&R."
nice. Is he coming later?"
he'll be here on Tuesday." Finishing off his plate,
Dan emptied the wine as well. Pointing at empty glass
and plate. "What would you say about taking your
old mate to a place that's less dry?"
I'm afraid there is no swimming pool here ..."
laughed. "That'll do. Let's go, then?" He
stood, looking down at Jean. "And how is Solange,
by the way? And before I forget it, have you heard anything
is having a shooting somewhere. A bit different from
my kind of shooting. From Thierry, nothing, but I haven't
been home a lot. You seemed to get along really well."
and next time you can go for the black eye and nearly
broken nose yourself." Dan laughed.
I thought you like to play rough
" Jean waved
the waiter over and took everything on his room bill.
"I'll get the jacket from upstairs ... want to
I'll have to grab my own as well." Dan followed
Jean up the stairs, trying hard to suppress a slight
carpet led them all the way up to the third storey,
where Jean began to fiddle with the keys, and then he
unlocked the door to room 306. "Come on in."
stepped inside, steering straight towards a chair in
a corner. "Not bad either."
grinned, closing the door, then leaned against it, back
pressed against the door, knees somewhat bent and apart,
regarding Dan for several long moments. "What are
you in the mood for?"
into town, aye?" Dan sat down, stretching out his
long legs. "Was your own suggestion." He grinned
up at Jean.
paused, then, still grinning, and moved away from the
door. "Just need a change of clothes. Hope you
don't mind?" Already baring his chest, just as
tanned as his face and neck; muscles and tendons shifting
under the smooth skin as he moved. Wearing not even
the wifebeater he'd famously worn in the Gulf.
tensed, pushing himself against the chair and swallowed.
Fuck. He wasn't saint material. "You seem to have
had too much time for sunning on your hands." Forcing
himself to look away, he was laboriously searching his
shirt for his packet of fags instead.
turned, slipping out of his trousers, bending down,
then straightening as he stepped out of them, then underwear
and socks. Naked, and tanned without a line there. He'd
had a lot of time tanning himself in the nude, too.
"Can be a good place for a vacation", he stated,
not hurrying to get dressed again.
looked up and his hand got stuck in his pocket, touching
the cigarettes but forgetting to pull them out. "Shit."
Breathed out, catching himself when he finally managed
to take his eyes off Jean once more. "Seems so.
Did you go to a Nudist beach or what?"
a secluded beach." Jean grinned. "Seems you
appreciate the view?" Moving closer.
But Dan wasn't looking. Leaning forward instead and
rubbing his bad knee. "Didn't you want to go out?"
moved even closer, his leg touching Dan's knee. "You
okay? You didn't get shot in a bad place or something?"
Again, this time with more feeling. Desperation, almost.
"You're married, Jean, you forgot that?" Looking
up and fucking hell, what he was confronted with should
require a license. Too deadly. "Married,
don't forget anything." Jean raised his hand slightly,
and sure enough, the ring still sat there. "Is
that the only reason you're not looking at me?"
... looking." Dan swallowed hard. "Damn."
Shaking his head.
crouched, placing his hands on Dan's knees. "Is
it because you met her?"
different." If it hadn't been so real and difficult,
Dan's expression of despair would have been comical.
"She's ... she's so fucking trusting, and
damn ... I like her, and it's not ..." Shrugging
with defeat. "Fuck."
tell me what you're taking away from her if you sleep
with me now, Dan." Jean tried to meet Dan's gaze.
don't know." Throat suddenly dry, Dan stared at
Jean like a snake at its charmer. "But I would
feel like a lying shit when I meet her next. You're
supposed to be hers, and she believes it." Moving
his head a fraction closer. "She has no idea ...?"
She has no idea." Jean reached for Dan's face.
"Leave any guilt to me, okay?"
what would that make me?" Dan frowned, while wanting
nothing but to lean into the touch.
You're my friend, Dan. You and Vadim share
lovers, so why are you hesitating? I don't get
I've never had sex with anyone who was married and whose
..." A twitch in his face, and then, "oh shit."
sure? Because if they are not wearing the ring, you
can't tell. Guess how many I had who, next morning,
would get the ring out of their purse and put it on?
Definitely a couple there."
not sure." Dan grimaced, "Vadim was married.
your precedent. So, what's the problem?"
lose a hundred quid?" The grimace was back, and
Dan's hands wanted to move to that glowing, tanned skin
on their own.
blinked, then laughed. "I can give you the money
back. I made a killing in South Africa."
funny." Dan pulled a face, but that damned laughter
was too infectious. "Vadim was betting fifty quid
we'd have sex and I offered him a hundred because I
didn't believe we would. Thought we'd just be friends
now." Mates. Nothing else. Carefully avoiding any
of the other things that Vadim had said. That would
be too weird.
bet against sex with me?" Jean was laughing hard
now. "Fuck. I call that self-defeating strategy."
a fucking cocky bastard, you know that?" The corners
of Dan's lips twitched, making his righteous anger seem
less convincing. "I was damn set to do the right
thing, aye? And that after not having seen you for almost
a goddamned motherfucking year!" Dan glared at
Jean, "and if you laugh any harder now, I'll have
to cut you to size, Frenchie. Married or not."
raised a hand and stepped back, fighting hard for control.
okay." Moving back just a
little more, he kept grinning. "What's the plan?
Sex now or after we come back? Or in a nice location
somewhere in the city?"
are giving me such a bloody come-on and then you ask
me if I want to wait? You must be fucking kidding me."
Dan groaned and shook his head. He should have just
forgotten all about this marriage thing. Would have
saved him a lot of trouble.
making sure." Jean stepped closer again, opening
his arms, still grinning, but Dan merely looked at him
and did exactly ... nothing. Nothing but giving himself
the time to have a really, really good look.
Only his voice betrayed how he was affected. "You
sure you don't want to get fucked?" A man had to
shook his head. "No. I'll call you if that ever
alright." A wicked grin suddenly jumped into Dan's
face. Sharp, toothy and all. "There's a phone over
there." Pointing across the room.
clearly loved it, Vadim does, too, but I don't. Not
even very curious, honest."
sure?" Dan kept grinning, even broader if possible,
as he pushed himself off the chair. Taking a couple
of steps towards Jean. "Really sure?" Another
step and ... standing so close their bodies almost touched.
"Absolutely, totally and completely sure?"
A sudden, small movement, enough to push against Jean,
towards the bed.
nodded, emphatically, and got on the bed, stretching
out. "If I see you get lube I'll be out the door
" he warned, still grinning and motioning
Dan to get closer.
thought you'd locked it."
it's still open. But closed. No room service at this
his teeth in the mother of all grins, Dan suddenly moved,
fast, and was on the bed in the next second, straddling
Jean. Looking down, the grin vanished, as if a light
had been switched off. Suddenly serious. "Really
thought it was over when you married." Quieter,
face down, hands on either side of Jean's head.
lifted his upper body to meet Dan, kissing him on the
lips. "No way. You got Vadim and I got Solange,
but no way."
..." one last time, heartfelt, and Dan was all
over Jean. Lowered to kiss, balancing on his thighs,
both hands finally connecting with that glorious, tanned
skin. Touching, open-mouthed kissing, the hunger increased
with each moment. Hadn't realised how much he'd missed
this. Missed Jean.
pulled him close, pushed one knee between Dan's legs,
and returned the kiss, then managed to roll over, getting
Dan below, hardly breaking the kiss or the touches,
starting to undress him.
never stopped touching Jean, too hungry. He'd held back
and now the lust was there in full force, but Jean smiled
at him, running his fingers over Dan's face, through
his hair. Taking it slow where Dan, once skin touched
skin, wanted to cum, surprised at the slowness, but
he went with it. Jean's body clearly needing Dan, but
he was held back by something, as if he didn't want
to rush it, instead caressing and kissing, while Dan
eventually closed his eyes and the urgency went away.
Yet the lust and arousal remained as Jean kept shifting
weight and positions, sometimes on top, sometimes lying
face to face on their sides.
opened his eyes when they lay pressed together. Breaking
the kiss, he looked straight into blue eyes, blurry
from being so close. "You missed me?" Murmured.
going mental", Jean answered. "Tried everything
to make it easier, but hell
it just wouldn't
lifted his hand, caressing the face before him, felt
a strange tender ache where he'd never felt it before.
"I'm just too irresistible, aye?" Barely more
than a whisper, as his hips rocked closer, creating
friction against their trapped cocks.
that resisting thing." Jean
smiled, moaning, moving against Dan, too, breath going
faster. "You're just
A short, breathless laugh, Dan took hold of Jean's hip,
to increase the intensity.
Who else?" Jean rolled his eyes, but was holding
Dan tight, breath turning to panting. "Who the
..." with a swift movement, Dan rolled them over,
until he came on top. Thrusting his hips down, using
strength and need. "Guess you ... didn't have anyone
... else?" Down again, twisting his hips, making
Jean arch and groan, move against him as much as he
Breathless, Dan sped up, the friction intoxicating.
Not getting there, not by a long stretch, but relishing
every moment of heat, strength and lust.
eyes opened, he bared his teeth in a half-grin. "A
drunk, you know?"
... damn good excuse."
certainly thought so
mirrored Jean's grin, suddenly lifted to sit, straddling
Jean once more, scooting up the body. Jean's cock touched
his cleft, and the grin was still there when Dan looked
down, breathlessly murmuring, "if you had lube
and you didn't run away ... you could fuck me."
Condoms, there, too. Yeah, I planned this." Jean
nodded over to the nightstand.
Dan let out a laugh, leaning across to get the items.
"And I thought I'd be sweeping you off your feet
with that." The condom was rolled over Jean's cock,
swiftly, lube, cool, coating and plenty, when Dan raised
one brow, flashed a grin, lifted and turned around.
Back facing Jean. He leant forward, presenting his arse,
neatly shaved, and spread his knees further. Pushing
his lubed finger through the ring, loosening his muscle,
Jean muttered, staring, the need growing frantic. He
tried to wiggle free to get back onto his knees and
fuck Dan in that position. "You tease
Dan half-turned and swatted Jean's hands away, adding
a slap on the chest when he still tried to move. "That's
my show." Using his thighs to keep Jean from turning,
he lowered down once more, adding a second finger. Pushing
in, with a mix of recklessness and lust. Dan rested
his forehead on Jean's shins, and used his second hand
to stroke Jean's sheathed cock leisurely, while fucking
groaned. "Mercy? Please? I was just
it slow because I missed you
no need to torture
want to be those fingers?" Dan's husky laughter
was all too audible. "What about a third? I could
do with yours ... your cock can come later."
" Jean reached up, took some of the lube
and warmed it briefly, legs still immobilized by Dan's
strength and weight. He pushed two fingers into Dan's
ass, mimicking the way Dan had fucked himself, same
speed, then working from there, shifting as he added
a third one, which caught Dan by surprise. Head pressed
down, arse lifted high, knees opening and sliding away
from trapping Jean's legs, allowing more access as his
eyes closed and his arms spread. Hands sliding along
the bed sheets, Jean's cock neglected, fingers twisting
into the fabric when the third finger was deeply embedded.
He moaned, suddenly wanting more, needing more. Needing
to be filled. Stretched. Centred. It had been a while.
fucked him with three fingers, moving them against each
other, trying to find the spot and sticking with it,
teasing Dan with near-misses and then rewarding him
with more intense stimulation, causing Dan to shudder,
and to zone out further and further.
that are much better real than
wanking", Jean murmured, when Dan pushed back,
demanding. "Like this
" Jean's free
hand moved towards Dan's cock, slowly pumping him in
time with the movements from his other hand, trying
to get Dan off by fingerfucking, the other hand just
assisting with it, not driving. "Not something
I could imagine
in such detail."
was too far gone to comment, or to even realise what
was going on, except for a groaned out "more!"
as he craned his head back into his neck, panting. Muscles
coiling beneath smoothly tanned and scarred skin, body
sped up, had to use more force, shifted the angle, giving
Dan more, more brutal, faster, pumping his cock hard,
himself reckless with need, using the strength of his
shoulder and arm to give Dan more. He wished he had
a dildo or something, maybe something larger, longer
than fingers, but maybe
next time. He grinned
at that thought.
a groan Dan's body shuddered, tried to push back and
into those fingers. On the edge, mind gone, body still
demanding more, but his voice hardly functioned. "More!"
Barely audible amongst the sounds he was making and
the loud breaths.
barely managed to move enough to add a fourth finger,
moving on instinct rather than what he thought Dan wanted,
but at the same time felt that desperate need and wanted
to give Dan whatever he desired.
did it, it was enough to send Dan over the edge. Filled,
stretched, taken again, and centred with that hand on
his cock. Yet everything different, another man, and
still the same, and he came with a shout, lifting off
Jean's legs, to crash back down, shuddering.
lay back, running both hands across Dan's heated flushed
skin, stroking and caressing, allowing him to calm,
and most of all take his fill and enjoy the fact that
Dan was finally here, with him, and what a difference
Dan moved, until he lay side by side with Jean. "Sorry."
Quietly, with a grin that was too sated and relaxed.
what?" Jean turned to face him, smiling. "Sorry
you enjoyed yourself?"
...." Dan smiled, giving his face an entirely innocent
look, despite twisted scar and all. "Sorry for
not having got you off yet."
fine, don't worry." Jean moved to kiss him. "Bullshit,
don't think that's your priority
we have all
night, as long as you have
going anywhere, unless you want to wine and dine me."
grinned, his hand blindly reaching for Jean's cock,
still sheathed. "You can fuck me, if you want."
It would be uncomfortable, but he didn't care right
you suck me off
if you have enough breath left?"
you promise to take me out to some pasta and red wine?
Of course!" Dan winked, got up with some exaggerated
groans and protests of creaky joints, and onto his knees.
Flat palms lightly pressing onto Jean's abs. "Lay
back and think of La Nation." With that he lowered
his head, rolled the condom back off and threw it behind
him, before taking the first taste with his tongue,
non-verbally protesting about the rubber taste.
thinking of you", Jean groaned, watching
him, hypnotized - another thing that was much better
than the memory or his imagination. Fingers going down
to caress Dan's shoulders, when Dan began in earnest.
Using every skill and every trick in the book of a self-professed
cocksucker who loved nothing more but the taste, the
scent, the feel of the hard flesh invading his throat,
while his tongue and teeth played with the shaft, crown
and slit, then all the way back down again. In ever
increasing intensity, and never with less than utmost
body tensed, gradually, every muscle coming out in stark
relief as he began to lose it. Not wanting any control,
instead moaning and groaning just as loud as he pleased,
getting so desperate he almost burst into laughter,
realizing how fucking needy he was and that Dan was
merciless at teasing him. The pressure becoming laughter,
which didn't prevent him from getting incredibly close,
until Dan managed to reach behind himself, enough lube
still behind his legs to coat a finger, and when he
sucked down hard, all the way to the base, he pushed
the slick finger deep into Jean's arse, his throat constricting
around the intrusion.
came with a suppressed shout, finger and throat, the
kind of stimulation that didn't leave him a chance.
Relieved when the pressure went off, shuddering and
squirming, then he relaxed. Enjoying the come down,
which he shared with Dan lying close, arm thrown across
Jean's chest, breathing in the scent of sex and male.
Jean murmured eventually.
Dan chuckled, but rolled off the bed and onto his feet.
Knee buckling for a split second, before he had himself
under control and forced some balance. "Guess you
want me to light it, too?" Sitting back down, he
flicked the Zippo, grinning.
service." Jean took the cigarette between his lips,
where it hung precariously, until he got enough control
to move closer to the lighter. "Not sure I have
the energy left to go clubbing. Give me a little."
not really the right age group for clubbing anyway."
Dan flashed a grin, lit both their fags and settled
back after a quick clean-up with the sheets. "Just
take me out to a restaurant, ply me with pasta and wine,
then stick your fist up my arse and I'm anybody's."
fist?" Jean coughed in surprise. "Shit.
And I was getting worried about the stretch."
there are some things that you don't know about me,
after all." Dan stretched out, leisurely smoking
his fag. "Once upon a time ..." he trailed
freaked out by the size of a cock, and you
done that about a handful of times in my life."
Dan shrugged, "and it takes a bloody long time.
So, you wouldn't have got far."
Jean couldn't help but laugh, still moving to cuddle
and stroke and kiss. "Sorry, nice pun
yeah, you just take the piss and see where it gets you."
Dan grinned. "But apart from that, tell me about
those guys that 'happened' when you were drunk."
I paid them. It was
easier?" Jean kept looking
at Dan. "No strings. Just
wanted to try
whether it works with just men. Not
nobody I have any kind of connection with. It does.
I wanted to work out how 'gay' I am. Guess the proof
of the pudding is the eating."
does that bother you?" Dan blew the smoke to the
got off." Jean grinned. "That's the main goal,
right? I mean, they were rent guys."
gay thing, you idiot." Dan laughed, "since
you've enjoyed the pudding ..."
that's not breaking news for you, is it?" Jean
made an 'innocent' face. "Just wanted to know whether
I can have sex with a guy that's not you. I can. That
" He stopped himself, frowned. "Means
it means I can get off with other guys. But I
was laughing harder, the concentrated frown tickled
his fancy. "I would have thought you'd realised
that when you fucked Vadim and Beauvais."
them. But you were in the room, too, so that's different."
the cigarette out, Dan propped himself up on his elbow,
laughter turning into a smile. "Solange ..."
But then he shut up, figuring it would be a damn stupid
thing to mention the once-male.
Reaching out to let his hand slide from Jean's shoulder
to his neck, resting there. "Just a fleeting thought,
of no consequence." Leaning forward, he captured
Jean's lips with his, murmuring, "of far less consequence
than this right now."
grinned, returning the kiss, playful as he always was.
"Don't feel guilty. Just don't think about it."
whispered, when he parted his lips, "got to get
my hundred quid's worth ..."
gave another laugh, until the kissing stopped that,
turning tender and heartfelt, slow, deliberate, taste
mingling. They were sated enough to do nothing but touch
and kiss, almost lazily moving and re-acquainting with
each other's body and taste for a long time, until eventually,
Dan rolled onto his back, head turned to grin at Jean.
"What about that wining and dining?"
I'll take you to the L'Archetto - it's near a touristy
spot, but a friend recommended it highly. Said the pasta
is great, pizza less so. Let's get ready. But I need
a shower first."
headed straight to the showers, then came out naked,
but mostly dry. He got into casual but stylish jeans
and a tight, expensive t-shirt that traced the lines
of his upper body well. Stuffing the wallet into his
pocket, he looked at Dan, who'd just come out of the
bathroom, still towelling his hair. "Ready when
almost did a double-take as he grinned from ear to ear.
"Are you out on the pull? Or looking for some more
think I'm dressed to pull?" Jean laughed. "Try
live with a model and try to not get given lots of branded
clothes. Good luck."
a couple of sizes too small?" Dan smirked, before
getting back into his old clothes.
the current fashion, apparently."
stood, lifted his arms, as if presenting himself. "Do
you want me to change? Beside you, I must look like
something the cat dragged in, but I guess I should be
used to that by now."
you're fine. Want that pasta or not? It's a fairly intimate
little place, no place to show off. Too small."
Dan plucked the shades from his pocket and was good
to go. "You really are certain about not looking
for company, though?" Still grinning broadly as
they descended the stairs towards the hotel lobby.
turned his head. "Addicted to threesomes, are we?"
really." Dan simultaneously slipped his shades
on and stepped into the blinding sun, "but I have
to take my chances while I can."
a yes?" Jean grinned. "No idea how you go
about finding male hookers around here. I suppose the
hotel staff could help, if we need it."
headed outside and led Dan towards the Fontana di Trevi,
as he explained, where locals and tourists were both
sitting, talking, taking photographs. Pointing towards
a small alley close to it, and then to an unassuming,
even shabby front that could have belonged to the dingiest
of bars. They were surprised to find a small, whitewashed
restaurant inside. The few tables upstairs were occupied,
but there was a cellar, too, and down there it was cool
and pleasant, with an Italian waiter just now making
fun of a gaggle of Japanese tourists.
tell me," Dan asked when they had been seated,
shades now on the table top, "how long are you
going to stay in South Africa? And anything lined up
after that?" He was stretching out his leg, as
inconspicuously as possible rubbing his knee to ease
a couple months, two, three
depending how things
go. I got nothing lined up, so I could spend the winter
working on my little house. Lots of stuff needs doing,
it's a never-ending work in progress. Sometimes I wonder
why I started it at all."
nodded, "I feel your pain, even though the farm
is progressing nicely, according to the latest photos
we got. Really have to fly over again to check on things."
He shrugged, "but with the Balkans being everything
but rosy so far, Kiwiland was the least of my worries."
I'm staying away from it. Too close to home, in too
many ways." Jean plucked the menu up from a plastic
stand and flicked it open. "Plenty of spaghetti
look at that, spaghetti with vodka cream sauce.
Fuck. And I thought it was all about tomatoes
have whatever has the most cream and cheese in. Can't
have me keel over with exhaustion aye? I'm already close
try the vodka one. I'm curious."
waiter spoke rudimentary English, almost comically rudimental,
and the food was indeed excellent - huge portions that
went rather cheap in the end, even including wine it
was hard to spend a fortune in this place, with a great
chocolate cake for Dan and strong coffee for both of
them. Afterwards, they wandered the streets of Rome,
stopped at an ice-cream parlour near the Pantheon that
offered at least seventy different flavours, then, by
following a long circle route, they got back to the
hotel, where they somehow ended up in Jean's room.
next three days were spent exploring Rome the way Dan
liked: restaurants, cafes, bars, lots of spring sunshine
and very little cultural exploits, except for the people
with whom they interacted. No museums and not many ruins,
and Dan enjoyed himself tremendously with Jean as company.
Ending - predictably, together in bed or any other convenient
place, such as a dark alley late at night, which was
Jean's idea. Taking advantage as much and as often,
and as intense, as they could. As Dan kept pointing
out, he had to get his hundred quid's worth, a comment
that never failed to make Jean laugh.
was in one of his sunniest moods, obviously happy and
content with his life, his work, his home, his adventures,
and most of all his wife. There seemingly was no darkness
about the blond legionnaire, careless, young, and sometimes
ridiculously exuberant, which was quite different to
spending time with Vadim.
both went to the airport on the fourth day, and Dan
greeted Vadim with a face-splitting grin and a bundle
of pound notes, which he held out without a word. Exactly
took the money, glanced at Jean, who started to laugh,
and then back at Dan. "Safe bet. That was almost
too easy." And that was that.
damn, guess I should have known." Dan shrugged,
pushed his shades into position and pulled Vadim into
an embrace which could be construed as an intimate friendship
one. Vey Italian, and very intense. The embrace of Jean
and Vadim less intense, but still tight, friendly, with
Jean murmuring something into Vadim's ear that made
him smile, unexpectedly.
took Vadim back to the hotel, where Dan had made a point
of tidying up the double room he'd been occupying on
his own, making space for Vadim's kit, and they even
managed to get out and about - sightseeing, this time
with some added culture, before indulging in pasta and
wine, and ending up - equally predictably - together
in bed. According to Dan it would have been unfair if
Jean was left out, who would have had to sulk in his
room, alone, and they had to make sure he was thoroughly
tired out by the time he left to head back to his own
bed. Which he was, even though it turned out to be -
probably just as predictably - Dan who was the most
thoroughly fucked, sucked, stroked, used and tended-to
one. A fact he mock-submitted to, and ended up sprawled
across the bed, fast asleep, before Jean had even left.
then, another weird kiss happened, again of Jean's devising,
and Vadim couldn't help but thoroughly enjoy it, this
display of tenderness and trust. With Dan asleep, that
was just something between them. "Why?" murmured
grinned, tiredly. "Just so. Stop thinking about
it." Kissing him again, and then getting out of
the bed, dressing in his t-shirt and shorts, rest of
his clothes over one arm, when he left. Vadim didn't
hold him back - Jean didn't seem to expect him to.
next morning, Jean's flight left for France.
stayed a couple of days longer, with Dan happily doing
his rounds in the local outside swimming pool and gym,
an awfully exclusive place which he used thoroughly
in those hours while Vadim was indulging heavily in
'the cultural crap' as Dan called it mockingly. And
while Vadim explored the thousands of years of history
and beauty, Dan sunned himself and worked out, until
they met in the early afternoon in a cafe, both content
with their day's exploits, and both sated, with different
decided to travel through the country after that, to
spend their nearly three weeks of R&R in Tuscany
and surrounding areas. Before they headed off the next
morning with a rented car, Dan was sitting in their
room on one of the two chairs, the telephone on the
table. Smoking a cigarette, he was deeply in thoughts.
returned from the bathroom after a spot of shaving and
grooming, towel wrapped around his hips. "What's
wrong, just wondering." Dan looked up, stubbing
the cigarette out in the ashtray. "Do you think
I should phone Duncan?"
why not. I'm sure he'd like a regular catch-up."
he's been asking me when we come for a visit. Told him
on next R&R most likely." Running a hand through
his wild hair, Dan stretched out his legs, eyes on Vadim.
"I just wonder ... should I tell him about Kisa?
In a way I think he's got a right to know. He helped
me set up the trust - without asking questions - and
she is, after all, his niece. On the other hand, he'll
never see her, so where is the point?"
you going for the all-out story or a sanitised version?
It's a blood relation, but ... not easy." Vadim
leaned against the wall.
one will get the all-out story." Dan frowned, "just
as little or as much as no one will ever get our
do you want? What's your gut feeling?"
am not sure, even though somehow I think that he'd want
to know. Remember when he asked me to tell him about
my life and then he asked us to tell him about ours?
I think he wants to know who I am, who we are."
nodded. "Then tell him. It'll explain the trust,
and much else. Depending on how he takes it, you can
add more. Having a child in a country far away. That
shouldn't shock him too much."
don't want to lie either, though. Any idea how I can
come up with a sanitised version that is still the truth?"
about - it just happened? You were ... both ... mourning.
Afterwards, you felt guilty or something, both you and
her, and that has spoilt the whole thing and turned
don't feel guilty." Dan shook his head, the frown
deepening. "That's the last thing I want him to
think." Running the hand through his hair again,
about ... she met some other guy who doesn't like you
or want you around?"
heaved a sigh. "Don't know, doesn't feel right
either. Maybe I just pick up the phone and wing it?"
that." Vadim smiled and stepped closer, placing
a hand on Dan's shoulder, gently massaging the tight
then." Dan moved his head for a moment, so that
he touched Vadim, before reaching for the phone. "Here
sat down on the bed, watching, being there, hoping that
his presence wouldn't make things more difficult. "Give
him greetings, and to his wife and kids."
Dan smiled at him, then dialled the number and waited
for the ring tone. Partly hoping that no one was home,
and mostly cursing himself for those cowardly thoughts.
His brother had to know, but how was he going to tell
him ... he'd just have to go with the flow.
It was Mhairi's voice on the phone.
Mhairi," Dan smiled at the phone, concentrating.
"How are you?" Exchanging a few pleasantries
and telling her where they were, how nice Rome was,
that they should visit, too, and that Vadim was sending
his best wishes, looking forward to the next visit when
they were on R&R again, and so on and so forth.
Eventually, after a few minutes, during which she gave
a quick update on the family, including the boys, Dan
asked if he could talk to Duncan and she laughed, because
she had expected him to ask anyway, pleasantly surprised
that he had chatted with her for a while. She sent her
best wishes back to Vadim and went off to get Duncan.
that wasn't so bad for starters." Dan murmured
towards Vadim, hand over the receiver.
grinned. "No, sounded pretty natural."
Dan could say anything else, his brother picked up the
phone. "What a rare honour!" Duncan laughed
into the phone, mocking, "what do you want me to
do for you?"
protesting, Dan grinned, "just because I phone
you doesn't mean I have a job for you to do. What happened
to me, your brother, phoning you, to say 'hello'?"
happened? The fact that you never do that?"
could hear the amusement in his brother's voice. "Damn,
do I have to say 'gotcha', now?"
depends on if you want me to do something or not."
don't actually." Dan fished for a cigarette, glancing
at Vadim, before concentrating once more on the conversation.
"But do you remember the last job I asked you to
of the many ..." Duncan groused, before he added,
"the trust? Aye, why? You never told me what it
was for ..."
you never asked." Dan quickly slipped in.
figured you'd tell me if you felt you should."
thanks for that." Smiling, Dan lit the fag. "That's
why I should tell you what it was for, or rather for
on." Duncan seemed to settle in, while Dan glanced
at Vadim again. He took a deep breath, trying to figure
out how best to breach the subject and decided to just
barge ahead. He wasn't born for diplomacy and would
just fuck things up if he tried.
for my daughter." Dropping the bomb.
daughter. Your niece."
incredulity in Duncan's voice almost made Dan laughed,
but he bit his lip. While it felt hysterically funny
it wasn't funny at all.
niece. Kisa. She is two and a half years old."
Ignoring the sounds Duncan was making, Dan kept ploughing
on. "She is the child of Vadim's ex-wife and ...
well, obviously, me." Dan cringed, even forgetting
to smoke his cigarette. Looking across at Vadim as if
searching for help, when the sounds from Duncan became
Kisa. Two and a half. Lives in Hungary. Born to one
Katya Krasnorada. Your niece." Dan took another
deep breath, averted his eyes from Vadim and added,
with a vibrating intensity in his voice. "I was
the sperm donor."
hell, Duncan, can you say anything other than 'what'?"
Came the voice from the other end of the phone. "I
can't. Holy shit." Swearing, it always caught Dan
out when his brother did that. Reserved for special
occasions, and no doubt this was one of them. "But
Dan sighed. "That I am."
what do you mean with 'sperm donor'? Artificial insemination?
And for the ex-wife of your partner?" The incredulity
in Duncan's voice was growing again. 'Partner' was the
most natural part of the whole thing, it seemed, the
only bit where he didn't appear to stumble in disbelief.
know." Dan groaned.
fuck's sake, Duncan," Dan raised his voice, "anymore
'what' and I am going to bloody well scream!"
bloody well join you then, won't I? Because your
whole bloody story makes no bloody sense,
does it? Or what would it sound to you if I told you
anything that farfetched?"
tell you to fuck off and spin your fairy tales somewhere
else?" Dan deflated, shoulder sagging and he exhaled,
looking forlorn at the cigarette that had burnt down
to the filter, forgotten between his fingers.
a younger brother, Dan felt, Duncan clearly had the
upper hand right now, if not always - and with ease.
But he said nothing.
that's why I think you should start from scratch again."
Duncan continued, "or would a simple interrogation
so." Dan looked at Vadim, facial expression pained
and he shrugged.
then. When did it all happen?"
bit over three years ago."
And don't come back to me with that 'sperm donor' thing.
I do remember, from what you and Vadim told me, that
three years ago Vadim was imprisoned. Your story doesn't
it's the truth. Just not ... in the way you imagine."
tell me. Tell me how I should imagine gaining a niece
without knowing about it, from a brother who is gay."
because I'm gay doesn't mean I don't function."
Quickly adding, "with women."
get that, now tell me how it really was. Or I'll hound
you with that question until your last days."
have a sadistic streak, Duncan, you know that?"
one to know one."
looked up, visibly jerked. "Ouch."
pause, before Duncan conceded, voice softer than before,
"I'm sorry, Dan, I'm just ... it's hard to digest,
aye? Give me a chance, give us a chance, we're
your family and thus hers, too. I think we deserve to
know the how and why, don't you?"
Dan answered quietly, eyes on Vadim. Looking, intensely,
when he took a fortifying breath. "I tell you the
how and why, then."
stood, placed a hand on Dan's shoulder, but just for
a moment. He didn't want to hear it. If Dan remained
this brutally honest, he really didn't. He headed into
the bathroom and closed the door to get dressed. A little
later, without stopping to listen, he left the hotel
went to Hungary to see Vadim's ex-wife. I needed her
to convince Vadim's father to deliver a coded message.
Before ... before the execution." Dan was looking
out of the window but didn't see anything. Not even
the brilliant sunshine. "Vadim didn't even know
that I was still alive. I figured they would have told
him they got me, killed me, anything, really, to break
him." Which they did, in the end, but except for
a shudder, invisible to his brother at the other end
of the phone, Dan didn't allow himself to let anything
on. "Thing is, though, Vadim's ex-wife ... well,
guess you could say she blames me for everything. The
fact that Vadim was imprisoned in the first place, and
probably for her well-laid plans not working out. I
messed it all up, didn't I?" Dan trailed off, pausing
long enough for his brother to interject.
she tell you that?"
And somehow, with a part of me, I can't blame her. The
other part ... three years ago, knowing that Vadim would
be executed, I wasn't in a state to deal with her ..."
interrupted immediately, "... did she want me as
a sperm donor? Not sure." He shrugged, "revenge?
Taking something from me that Vadim would never have?
I have no idea. It was all too twisted to make sense
to me back then. I guess she just wanted another child.
She told me that an artificial insemination had failed,
I guess I was simply convenient."
don't understand how she got you to comply, though."
Duncan's voice was soft and Dan sensed the warmth, without
noticing it consciously.
That simple." When Duncan gasped, Dan continued,
"remember, I needed her to do something for me.
Convince Vadim's father to give him the coded message
when they allowed him to visit his son before ..."
the execution. He'd said it too many times, and he couldn't
say it another one. The dread was coming back up, like
bile, like something rotten that he'd eaten and that
would never quite digest. Remembering what it had felt
like, the utter desperation and the pain. It was all
over now. All over ... and yet every time Vadim screamed
in the night it got him right back there. But he refused
to acknowledge it.
been silent for too long, and Duncan asked quietly,
"and in return she wanted you to donate for a child?"
Just ... it wasn't a sample."
took a moment for Duncan to settle in, but when he seemed
to understand what his brother was implying, a softly
exhaled, "oh God, Dan!" came through the phone.
told you, I can function with women." Dan murmured,
shaking his head. "I didn't know that it was successful
until a few months ago. She sent me photos and a letter,
telling me I had a daughter." He paused, adding,
"funny, that, because she'd told me I wasn't allowed
to contact her if it was successful, and that she'd
claim I'd raped her, if I did."
my Holy God!" Duncan exclaimed, and before Dan
could react, Duncan's voice became intense, and so full
of feeling, Dan wasn't sure how to decipher it. Anger?
Sorrow? Understanding? "Dan, I wish you were here
and not just at the other end of a phone. I really would
like to see you, talk to you, ply you with whisky and
for Mhairi to feed you with her cooking. And give you
a goddamned big hug!"
smiled, touched by the sentiment. "It's alright,
even though I can always do with the whisky and the
food." And the rest, if he was honest. "I'm
... we were in the Balkans when the photos arrived.
Vadim ... I'd never told him."
goodness, and how did he react?" The emotion was
audible through the phone.
Dan smiled wryly, to no one. "Let's just say, it
was a rough time." Some things, he figured, should
remain classified. There was no need for his brother
alright, now. He understands that I didn't ..."
did what? "Betray him." What a silly little
word for such a heartbreaking pain. "We even went
to Hungary together, and he had a word with his ex-wife.
He delivered the trust that you set up for me. Oh, and
I saw Kisa, but of course she had no idea who I was."
is she like?"
Dan smiled. "Looks a lot better than I do."
easy." Duncan chuckled warmly.
bastard." Thankful for the light-hearted diversion,
she is a few years younger than you, aye?"
has no scars. I know, I know."
didn't mean that." The warmth seemed to have become
part of Duncan's voice now.
know." Dan answered, softly.
you going to fight?" Duncan asked after a pause.
see your daughter."
Dan shook his head, looking at his scarred hand. "I
was thinking about that, and talked to Vadim. What good
would it do? The whole thing is a great big mess, and
you don't know that woman, she's ... fearsome?"
The sound at the other end indicated that Duncan thought
something very different about her. Very much less flattering.
"She'd fight back, and while I might have a chance,
would I really want to fight the notion that I raped
her?" Too close, and he had to push the thought
away. "Besides, don't you think that the one who'd
suffer most in a legal and emotional battle like this
would be Kisa?"
Duncan conceded, "I guess you are right."
am, and you know it." Dan smiled ruefully. "Besides,
what would I tell her who I am? An uncle? A stranger
who happened to look like her? A sperm donor? You know
as much as I do, that I am not like you. I'm not father
material, and least of all with the job we do."
didn't say anything for a while, just the faint sound
of the grandfather clock ticking away in the hallway,
where the phone stood, and his barely audible breathing.
"But you would like to?" At last, hardly more
than a soft murmur.
didn't ask what that was. He knew it, knew what Duncan
meant and remained unspoken. Hanging his head, he closed
his eyes, remembering the little girl that had laughed
as she ran into her much older brother. The photos of
the kid with the impish smile, and the miracle that
that was his daughter. The one thing that would
never be spoiled, and the one thing that was everything
but destruction. "Aye." At last, softly, while
exhaling a breath he hadn't realised he was holding.
"I would. But it's better that way."
I ever told you that you are a damn fine man and that
I am proud to have you as my brother?" Duncan's
voice carried all his feelings. Despite distance and
phone, Dan could just see his smile.
... don't know?" Forced to clear his throat, Dan
quickly wiped his eyes and cleared his throat once more.
Trying to get rid of the big lump in his throat. "But
it only proves that you are insane." Steering into
the safety zone of banter.
alright, then, because you're no better."
guess you have a point." Taking another deep breath,
Dan smiled, running a hand through his hair. He felt
as if something inside had lifted, and by sharing, the
load had become lighter.
pictures ..." Duncan asked, "you think you
could send us a copy? We might never meet her, but it
would be good to see a photo of our niece, at least."
I'll make a photocopy, there must be a shop around here.
It's Rome, after all." Not realising he had admitted
to carrying them around, and Duncan did not comment,
think we should tell our sons that they have a cousin?"
sure, to be honest, it's not likely they'll ever meet
her, and how would you explain the whole story?"
guess you are right, I'll only tell Mhairi, then. And,
I'm looking forward to the pictures. I really am."
make sure they go out to you before we head back to
you." Duncan's smile was audible. "Dan, you
take care of yourself, will you?"
Dan let out a huff of soft laughter, "you are my
little brother, don't forget that. So stop treating
me as if you were my dad."
habit. What with the boys and the animals ..."
enough!" Duncan laughed, then trailed off, to finish,
voice warm, "take care, brother. I am looking forward
to your next R&R."
smiled a little when he put the phone down. Sitting
in the chair for a long, long time, without moving.
the door opened, and Vadim arrived, carrying a white
plastic bag. "What about 'gelato'?" he asked,
almost comic in trying to mimic the Italian sounds,
and it made Dan grin. He put the bag down and opened
it, revealing two huge cups with ice-cream. "I
got several different flavours." Finding the plastic
spoons in the bag. "Did it go well?"
Nodding, Dan rolled is shoulders and stretched his legs.
He'd been sitting in that chair for too long. Still,
dessert was more important. "Very well. He asked
if they could get a copy of the photos. We need to find
a shop before heading off."
hotel should have a photocopier."
smiled a little, leaning across to look at the haul.
"Did you get chocolate and vanilla?"
strawberry. I think. They don't translate the flavours
my saviour, then." Leaning back, with the large
tub of ice-cream on his knees, Dan smiled at Vadim.
"I didn't ask you beforehand, but are you alright
with Duncan knowing?"
okay." Vadim carefully unwrapped his tub. "Family
is important, especially on your side. Duncan has a
right to know. I just ... didn't want to hear it."
I understand that." Tucking into his ice cream,
Dan made a face of ecstasy. "I'm quite glad that
you didn't, in fact." Talking around a mouthful
of cold goodness.
I thought it would be awkward." Vadim tried to
work out what a white, creamy flavour was, then eventually
decided it had to be coconut.
least you don't hit me anymore, aye?" Dan winked
before shovelling another large mouthful in.
you want me to." Vadim grinned. "But I guess
not Hooch." Dan let out a laugh and had to catch
a couple of drops of ice-cream. Should have kept his
mouth shut. Literally. "Speaking of whom, have
you heard from him lately?"
he's busy. Don't forget he's still in active service.
Not sure either he's the type to call or send long letters."
Vadim shrugged. "Not that I'd mind, though. I like
..." Melting then swallowing a particularly rich
mouthful of chocolate flavour, Dan tilted his head.
"A lot, aye?"
know." Going for the vanilla this time, Dan let
it melt on his tongue before continuing. "And I'm
damn lucky you like me just that bit more, and that
there's also Matt."
a strange feeling", Vadim murmured, setting the
tub aside. "Not nearly as intense as with you.
I can't even define it."
got a crush on him, because he gives you something else
that I don't, and because he is bloody sexy, and because
he is very much your type, what with the dark hair and
eyes and the dangerous aura," rolling his own eyes
to prove his point, "and you miss him." Dan
smiled, looked at Vadim, "that's how I would define
it." Before putting another scoop of ice cream
into his mouth.
gave a long, drawn-out sigh. "You started it. I
wouldn't have fucked with him if you hadn't pushed me
Don't blame me, Russkie. You wanted him, you just didn't
know how to accept that." Dan shrugged, put the
almost empty tub down as well. "If you hadn't gone
for it back in the Gulf, you would have always wondered
what it would have been like and if only ..."
How strange that I'm with you and there's still a fucking
ache for another guy? Is that similar to your Jean-thing?
Only that he's not at all like me."
Dan frowned a little and shook his head. "No, if
I don't see him I don't see him, but if I do then it's
great. I'm not in love with him."
lucky, just enjoying these guys and doing that in a
friends-only manner. It's ... all fine for me, the strangers,
Jean, Beauvais ... but Hooch. He's different, and it'll
be best if he sticks to Matt. Because ... our thing
Dan stared at Vadim, eyes dark and wide. "You really
are in love with him."
don't know. I honestly don't. Much of the time, my emotions
are ... flat. And dark. I don't know, Dan. I only know
that it ... could have been, if it wasn't for you, if
I weren't so fucking broken, and if he was ready for
... more. And all three together ... make anything else
pretty much impossible, you know?"
Dan was visibly shaken, and he got off the chair, pacing
the room, just to expend his energy, to do something.
"I was an idiot, then."
I shouldn't have said anything." Vadim shook his
head. "Understand that I can't live without you.
You ... keep me on course. You're getting me through
all this. You're there when ... all I want is to ...
end those nightmares." Managed not to speak of
suicide. "When I can't go on. You're there. You've
always been there, Dan. Hooch ... won't break that.
How could he, anyway?"
that's what I am about? Keeping you together?"
Dan turned to face Vadim, and he was pale under the
tan. "Keeping you alive? What the fuck happened
to the touches in the cave, to the vows and the cutting,
to the one fucking big thing that isn't about need and
doing but about being? What the fuck happened to the
love?" He shook his head, agitated, and damn, this
was painful all of a sudden. "I don't want to be
needed. I want to be loved, for fuck's sake."
jumbled, a chaos that was whirling all around him, getting
worse, constricting his vision and breath, leaving him
nauseous, a mere passenger of his own body, his own
mind. Vadim began to sweat, tried to focus, closed his
eyes for a moment, but couldn't stand not seeing.
Konstantinov, he thought, would be so proud. Fucking
him up, his mind, his emotions, and even getting to
the point where the foul touch could reach the thing
between Dan and him. He shouldn't have said any of that,
should have diverted away from Hooch, not answered any
of the questions - only that these things had been under
the surface, silent and mighty, like rocks in a river.
Worst of all, he didn't have an answer. He couldn't
distinguish anymore between need and love. Like the
doctor had warned him. Was this the moment? When everything
came apart? Vadim shuddered, feeling the bile rise.
The sudden, almighty fear to lose Dan. Not lose him
to sunny Jean, but to his own darkness. Konstantinov
would finally manage to kill him. "They ... I ..."
I died. They died. Did they?
what, Vadim? What?" Hands in fists behind
his back, Dan felt like shaking, anything to express
the horror that was creeping up inside. That he'd been
wrong. That he'd been making a fool of himself; that
he hadn't wanted to see what was so unspeakably dreadful,
and it made him sick to the bone.
... losing my mind", Vadim said. "I'm ...
losing myself, and there's ... nothing I can do about
it." He turned, had to leave, because he knew what
would come next - the vomiting, the sweating, the crying,
and he had to get away, try and not let it happen. Keep
... his pride? His integrity. His sanity.
reached out, his hand clamped around Vadim's wrist.
"No, you are not leaving. You are not doing
this shit to me, you get it? Just fucking not."
Fingers closing merciless around cartilage and bone.
"If you are losing your mind, then you are bloody
well going to do something about it, or why the fuck
did we go see Dr Williams before we went to the Balkans?"
myself that I'm not going insane", Vadim pressed
out, fighting the instinct to fight, fighting the instinct
to vomit and curl up. "He said ... that might happen.
Exactly this. I can't. I can't allow that to happen.
I can't lose you."
you need me or because you want me?" Raising his
voice, Dan held the wrist so tightly, he was close to
breaking it, causing Vadim to struggle to take the pressure
off, but it was half-hearted, weak. "I am not your
carer, Vadim. That's just fucking sick. I am your lover.
I need ... both. I know, I hate it myself, I feel so
fucking weak and useless and desperate, feel absolutely
pathetic." Vadim met his eyes, the blue blurred
and dark. "How much I hate myself for that ..."
you got to do something about it. You got to see Dr
Williams. Fuck the Balkans, the job, forget it. You
got to do something about this shit, you can't walk
around hating yourself, because if you hate yourself
there is no fucking way you can love me. And you don't,
or do you? I don't think you do. Not like you used to."
Dan's eyes were almost black. "Or you would have
never reacted the way you did, back in camp. Beating
the shit out of me. And Hooch, fuck, falling
in love with him." Dan shook his head violently,
"you are fooling yourself. You don't need both,
you need the carer. You can have the lover in someone
else now. Can't you?"
No, Dan." Vadim felt frantic, feared Dan would
hit him and tell him to fuck off and leave. He had no
idea what was going on, only that it was huge and terrible,
and that he couldn't deal with it. "Don't. Fucking
love you, don't you fucking see that?" Dan was
desperate, grabbing hold of the second wrist, shaking
Vadim. "But how can I do that if you can't love
me? If you need me instead of love me? If you fall in
love with someone else, while expecting me to keep you
together? How the fuck is that going to work? It fucking
hurts, you understand? And I don't know what the fuck
to do about it, because I can't just switch off and
stop loving you. It doesn't work like that. It'll never
happen, you get me? I tried that shit, several times
already, but there's no fucking way I'll ever not
love you and that fucking hurts like fucking shit when
you're someone I don't recognise anymore!" He was
almost shouting by now.
allowed himself to be shaken, he'd have taken any amount
of abuse, hitting, kicking, more angry shouting, wrestling
his demons at the same time, trying to not completely
lose it. "I know ... I'm not ... that. What I was.
I'm ... my own ... pathetic shadow."
you're not. You are still there, but if you tell yourself
that often enough it'll come true. And if you really
believe it, then do something about it, do you
hear me?" Close now, so close, Vadim's face was
blurred before Dan's eyes. Wrists in the vice grip,
as if he'd never again let go, as if he'd need to anchor
himself, Vadim, keep him from moving even further away.
"Or is this what you want? Me, keeping you together,
like a goddamned motherfucking amateur shrink, because
it's more convenient? Because I will always be around?
And because someone like Hooch can't or won't do it?
Because you two haven't got the past that we share and
you don't wear his scar and he's just not as convenient
as I am?"
The sound was so desperate it was closer to a roar.
The accusations. Speaking things that hurt, worse than
being kicked around on the floor of a barren cell. As
bad as having his mind vivisected, because this was
Dan who did it, not an enemy, but right now,
the distinction paled. Right now, Dan was an aggressor,
physically, mentally, and emotionally. Wrenching his
guts. Vadim moved into the attacking body, managed to
hit Dan's chest with both elbows to free his hands,
the attack desperate and surprising enough, it got Dan
off balance, stumbling backwards. Vadim feeling stress
so severe he could feel the veins throb in his brain,
painfully. Sweating like he'd run a marathon.
hit the chair in his back, almost toppled over when
the chair clattered to the floor, and he twisted his
knee in the process, howling in pain. "You will
not hit me again!" Dan shouted, seeing red,
nearly out of his mind with emotions so extreme and
deep, it was like being skinned alive. "You will
never hit me again!" Propelling forwards,
shouldering into Vadim, who, by skill alone, took only
half the attack, turning, twisting out of the way, finally
free, finally could move, and that was what he had to
do, desperate to get out of the way. Shadow of his former
self. The old Vadim would have stood and fought. But
he couldn't. With only a few steps, he was at the door,
very nearly shouldered into it, managed to open it and
was through, breaking into a full-out run towards the
took after him, but had crashed into the bedstead, lost
a few seconds, before he followed Vadim, running as
fast as he could, but getting down the stairs with his
fucked-up knee was a killer, and he kept losing more
and more precious seconds, while Vadim gained in distance.
He got through the main entrance, ignoring the bewildered
stares of patrons, when Vadim was already out on the
street, too far for him to catch, not with that knee
that was throbbing like a beast. Shouting at the top
of his lungs, in his most impressive, earth-shattering
Drill Sergeant voice: "I order you to stop, Vadim
the shout behind him, Vadim slowed, turned, safe distance,
seeing Dan there, his thoughts still a jumble. He didn't
want to fight. Didn't want to hit Dan, didn't just want
to accept getting beaten up. Now, ordered. Go back and
get hit? Accused? Forced? Vadim was breathing hard,
but he stopped. He had no fucking idea where to run,
anyway. He'd left his wallet and his passport in the
were staring at them, but Dan ignored everyone and everything
else, except for Vadim. Fighting hard to get himself
under control, the adrenaline was making his heart hammer
against his ribs. Forcing himself to calm down, with
all the strength of his willpower unclenching the fists
and opening his hands, palms up. Starting to walk, slowly,
he limped towards Vadim, never taking his eyes off him,
never increasing his speed.
stood there, eyes blurring again, lowering his head.
Carer. Lover. Was it really that much of a difference?
Dan called the shots, he had no idea what to do without
Dan. Sooner or later, he'd come back anyway. Why not
take whatever Dan gave him for keeping him alive and
very nearly sane. Vadim forced tears back, blinking,
standing there and fighting the profound despair that
just took him in every sense. The darkness had him fully.
Immobilised him, immobilised any other feeling.
need your help, here." Dan forced himself to keep
his voice low and smooth. Forced himself to once again,
again, ignore what he was feeling. To once again
realise it was not about him, and never would be. All
about Vadim, and that would never change. If that was
his fate, what chance did he have to rebel against it?
"I need you to tell me that you will never hit
me again, aye? And I need you to tell me that you won't
run, because I can't follow." Standing close, still
ignoring anyone else on that busy street. Not touching,
though. "And I need you to tell me the truth. I
need you to tell me if there is any love left in you."
course." Vadim's voice was unsteady, breaking on
every syllable. "I'd have killed myself if there
Dan nodded, swallowing. "Come with me?"
Vadim followed, head down, eyes on the ground, couldn't
see anything, didn't want to, too trapped in the chaos
got them back into the hotel and into their room. Hardly
acknowledging anyone, just a nod to the concierge. He
didn't know what to think, let alone what to feel. Once
he'd managed to negotiate the stairs he sat heavily
down on the bed. He needed his painkillers, but couldn't
be bothered to search his soap bag for them. "Have
you got the route for tomorrow?"
Tomorrow. Vadim stood there, dumbfounded, for at least
a minute. Then nodded. "Right under the travel
guide." He reached up to wipe his face, not surprised
that it came back drenching wet. What now? Dan wouldn't
ask for the route and hit him afterwards, that made
no sense. The fight was over? Was it? He felt weakened
and nauseous, and his clothes were wet. But he couldn't
even think the word shower, he was nailed to the spot.
Dan forced himself to smile, feeling like an automaton.
He was so lost, he had no idea where he was going right
now. Knew the route, but not his life, and least of
all Vadim. "I have a look in a minute." Hiding
his hand, because it was trembling. "Want to take
a bath? I could do with one."
Eager to clutch any straw, whatever Dan offered him.
"I'll start it. A moment, okay?" He turned,
feeling stiff and wooden, entered the bathroom that
still smelled of shaving cream, closed the door, managed
to get to the toilet, then threw up so violently that
it was painful. His guts, everything, his whole body
rebelling against the stress. Sweaty palms clutching
the rim of the toilet. He didn't hear how the door quietly
opened, nor when Dan came inside, hardly noticing the
sound of running water, then a shuffle, laborious movements,
until Dan was beside him, on the tiled floor, pressing
a cold, wet towel against his forehead, which was a
godsent. Dan's other hand, fingers spread, between his
shoulder blades. Dan said nothing, just sat on his hip,
forehead resting against Vadim's shoulder, as Vadim's
body retched a few more times, but not much coming out
but saliva and bile. Breathing heavily, Vadim closed
his eyes, waiting for the nausea to come back so he
could prepare for it. His throat hurt, his stomach hurt,
and bile and ice-cream was a horrible combination.
hand in his back moved in small, gentle circles. Massaging,
while the other wiped his forehead, went down to his
neck, cooling there, finally back to his forehead. Warmer
now, but still refreshing. The presence beside Vadim
one of infinite patience. Just there. Steady. Undemanding.
Just existing. Right there and beside him, touching.
managed to relax. "Get off the cold tiles ... your
knee." He reached back, touching Dan's side. "I'm
so fucking ... sorry. I don't deserve you. I don't."
bullshit." Dan lifted his head, the hand still
massaging. "I think we deserve each other very
much." Quietly, he offered a small smile. Exhausted,
deflated, and a thousand things more that he couldn't
even name. And lost. Very much lost.
turned, he felt it was safe to no longer face the toilet,
well, he'd just risk it, and opened his arms, pulling
Dan into an embrace. Didn't even know where to begin
to understand what had just happened. Still hurting,
but too exhausted, too fatalistic, to do anything but
sat like this for a long, long, time. Until the air
grew cold and the stone tiles icy, and until Dan's body
protested with stiffness and increasing aches. Sitting,
in silence, just holding, and unable to make sense,
when the only thing that made sense was the touch.