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Special Forces Chapter LIV: Point of No Return
 
 

July 1993, England

The man who was pacing the front of the hospital entrance was deeply in thought, oblivious to the comings and goings around him, and to the brilliant sunshine. Hands in his pockets, he kept looking up occasionally, but didn't seem to notice anything, despite his eyes scanning the parking lot and the one-way street that led towards the entrance barriers.

Half an hour later, a taxi drew up in front of the hospital, and Vadim emerged. He was tired from worry and a night from hell, plus the suitable amount of nightmares. Jetlagged, too, but he almost welcomed the discomfort - it seemed fitting that he felt like shit, too, while Dan was in hospital. He hated hospitals, the smells, the light, and he thought, how fucking ironic, that they were worse for him than battlefields.

"Duncan."

"Vadim!" Duncan looked up, this time truly looking, and he smiled as he held out his hand. "Good to see you. How has the flight been?"

"Good." Vadim took Duncan's hand with both his and pressed it. "Good to see you. Any news?"

"Nothing since we last spoke." Duncan led the way towards the entrance. "The surgery has been successful. When I saw Dan he was still in the waking room, but he should be out now." The automatic door opened to let them through. "Just in case you might worry, they always keep the patients for a little while under observation. It's nothing abnormal."

"Aye." Vadim forced himself to relax the shoulders, gazed around in the reception area. "You think you can get me through there?" He nodded towards the woman. "As a friend of the family?"

"I have already spoken to them. They'll give you five minutes, same as I had." Duncan turned towards her, smiling brightly when she seemed to recognise him. The exchange was fairly pleasant, but firm, and they were informed that while Vadim would indeed be allowed to visit, visiting hours were over for the morning and they would have to wait for the afternoon slot.

"I guess they are not accepting bribes", murmured Vadim, trying to hide some of the bitterness. He was too tired to force his way in, damned civilization, where force or bribes achieved so much less.

"No." Duncan thanked the receptionist nevertheless, obtained the information as to the first possible visiting slot, and clapped his hand onto Vadim's shoulder. "We have four hours and, if you excuse me, but you look tired. I suggest going back to the hotel, you check into your room, we have a quick lunch and you rest before we come back. What do you think?"

"Aye." Vadim was glad for the touch, and for a moment there was nothing he wanted more than embrace this man, his partner's brother who resembled him enough to soothe him and keep him calm. It was the tiredness. The worry. He felt weak and drawn. "A shower would be good ... not sure I can sleep." Not sure I want to try.

"Come along, then. I've promised Mhairi to take good care of you, and you can imagine what that means." Playing at being light-hearted, Duncan joked, and yet - just like his brother - he was a lousy actor. Doing his best though, hiding his own concern behind a warm smile, and Vadim wanted to help him with the pretence, to get to any kind of normalcy.

"Whisky and a lot of calories?"

"You pegged her perfectly. My car's in the parking lot." They steered towards it and were soon off to the hotel. As promised, or threatened, Duncan made Vadim have a light lunch with him, and then left him to his own devices, while he went to call his wife for the latest report and to hear how their sons were doing.

Vadim didn't unpack the small suitcase, but managed to dredge up enough determination to shower and shave, and then called reception for a wake-up call later. He tried to sleep, or at least rest with his eyes closed while focusing on breathing. He drifted in and out of a leaden half-sleep until the wake-up call, and while he was getting dressed, three hours later, with plenty of time to spare, Duncan knocked on the door of Vadim's room. "Are you getting ready?"

"Yes." Vadim opened, mostly dressed, just pulling down the t-shirt. "Start to feel more human."

"Aye, won't do to look less lively than the patient, will it?" Duncan joked half-heartedly, waiting for Vadim to get ready.

Vadim slipped into his shoes. "I don't want Dan to worry ... will be hard enough as it is." Like me being away to shag another guy. Fuck.

"My brother's tough." Duncan smiled again, nodding, as if telling himself the same thing over and over again. "All of us McFadyens are." And their father had died of cancer far too young, and their mother way before that of a heart attack. "Dan will be fine."

"As my father used to say: we can deal with anything, but not with weakness." Probably another literary quote he'd never have located - and now never would, being all but unable to read. Vadim took the room key, his wallet and followed Duncan back to the car. "How are the kids?"

"Very well, they're doing fine. You really must come for a visit when ..." hesitating, "when Dan's back to being sprightly, this time with some fanciful engineering works in his knee."

"There will be the question where to heal, Duncan. The Balkans is no such place, and the farm down under isn't ready."

"Dan and you are always welcome on our farm. Don't forget that. Dan could heal while being taken care of by his family, I just don't know if we have the right medical facilities available. He'd need physiotherapy, but perhaps we could get that in Fort William."

They got to the car and Duncan waited for Vadim to get in, before driving them to the hospital, and parking in the nearly full parking lot.

Vadim was glad when the receptionist let them pass with no further problems, and not much later, he opened the door to Dan's temporary room in the observation ward.

The sight that greeted him was not all that different to another sight, in another country, a lifetime ago. Machinery and monitors, yet not as intrusive as they had been, in that other life, only one drip and a few cables and patches. Dan's eyes were closed, no tubes nor mask obscuring his face. A face that looked perversely tanned against the stark white of the bed linen, framed by hair that seemed out of place with its barely tamed.

The sight made Vadim pause, overwhelmed by the emotions, the fucking memory, and he could almost taste curry and feel starched civilian clothes again. Five years ago. He'd won and lost Dan then, lost and won himself, and how angry and cunning had the man been he had been once - fierce, loyal, brutal, no remorse, no compromise, whereas now he felt old and tired and mellow. In pain. He moved towards the bed, placed a hand against Dan's cheek, gently, as not to startle him, and touched his lips to the corner of Dan's mouth. "Hey."

The response was sluggish. Sedated, still fighting the last vestiges of the anaesthetic, Dan's eyes opened groggily, as if his eyelids were as heavy as lead. "Hey." Dan croaked, clearing his throat as he fought - and won - to keep his eyes open. Smiling a little. "What a shit ... end of a beach picnic."

Vadim grinned and pulled the chair close, sat, and took hold of Dan's hand. "Sorry I couldn't get in sooner. I took the next flight, but the bitches were giving me trouble."

"Planes? Or nurses?"

"Nurses."

Dan's eyes fluttered shut for just a moment, before jerking himself awake once more. Looking at Vadim, studying his face, but his thoughts remained sluggish, caught in a morass he couldn't and wouldn't wade though. Surgery. Drugs. His knee. And what the fuck it all meant. "You couldn't have done anything anyway."

"No, but still. You only ever get fucked up if I'm not around ..." Vadim leaned down to kiss Dan's hand. "Duncan's here, too, and he's taking care of everything. Don't worry, it's all taken care of." Or will be, with a few phone calls and after doing the paperwork.

"Doesn't matter." Dan's eyes slid off Vadim, randomly towards a monitor, then the glass of water on the nightstand, away from there again, closing once more.

"Rest. I'll be there as often and as much as they let me, okay?"

"Yeah ..." Dan kept his eyes closed, even though he battled falling asleep again. Knew he wasn't supposed to sleep. "I really fucking hate hospitals."

"We'll get you out as soon as possible. I promise. We'll find a good place for you to heal up."

Dan didn't answer for quite a while and the five minutes were up, when he opened his eyes at last. "Did you have fun?"

Vadim inhaled deeply. "Yeah. Hooch ... sends greetings, too. I ... I won't do that again. It's too dangerous. I don't want you to wait for me, or think I ... I wouldn't come back. Okay?"

Dan blinked sluggishly. "Didn't think you wouldn't come back." Pausing, he yawned and tried to stretch, forgetting - with the analgesics - that he'd just been operated on, and he grimaced, lying very, very still after that. "Should I have?"

"No, of course not. But I still feel like shit. I don't want you to think that. Ever."

"Don't feel like shit. Leave that to me."

"Okay." Vadim smiled, a weak smile. "I love you."

Before Dan could answer, a nurse opened the door.

"Mr Krasnorada? Visiting time is up. You may come back tomorrow, if you wish."

Vadim pressed Dan's hand firmer, then got up and touched his cheek. "I'll be back tomorrow. You get better. Sleep off the operation."

"Aye, and tell Duncan he should ask Mhairi to send down some of her millionaire shortbread. They won't let me have whisky ..."

"I will." Vadim pressed Dan's hand again, then glanced at the nurse, and, very reluctantly, let go of Dan's hand to leave the room. It hurt. It fucking hurt, every time, leaving Dan like this, and he struggled for his composure before he wanted to face Duncan again.

Duncan was sitting on one of the shabby plastic seats in the waiting area, looking up when Vadim arrived. "How is he?"

"Not as bad as I'd feared. Drowsy."

"Aye, it's the painkillers I reckon. Let's hope he'll remain comfortable."

"Let's get out of here." Vadim almost fled the hospital, feeling only slightly better when they were outside. "I'll have to make a lot of phone calls. We have contracts ... and all that. Have to call his, well, our friends ... and there's my contract. It's good I'll be busy." Vadim wasn't sure whether he made much sense, because he hadn't had time to think any of this through yet, but it would be just like back in his active duty times ... improvising, working with what he had.

"Does this mean you will have to return to the Balkans?" Duncan was driving them to the hotel.

"I hope not, but all that stuff needs to get sorted. No way I'm going back, I'd get my head blown off - I'm just not together knowing Dan is here in this state." Vadim frowned. "I'm done with soldiering. Have been for at least ... two years, but I think it was even longer."

Duncan was quiet for a good while, until he pulled into the hotel's parking lot, switching off the engine. He turned towards Vadim in his seat. "And Dan? Is he ready?"

"No. That's the problem. And we will have to find a new job ... we don't have enough to retire, at least not without the trimmings, and if we have to pay for private healthcare in New Zealand or here."

Duncan frowned. "If there is anything we can help you two with, let me know. I'd hoped Dan could use the houses he'd bought and was renting out for his retirement, what with the Highlands picking up the tourism business, but ..." too late recognising what he had said, Duncan caught himself with a visible blush and smiled to diffuse the subject.

Vadim nodded. "That's a quarter of a million we are lacking now ... and I have nothing to my name, which doesn't make it better. No way around it, we'll have to work. It's not like we don't have a few contacts."

"Never mind, as I said, you are both most welcome at any time and if there is anything else I can do, just let me know."

"I appreciate it, Duncan, but you're doing enough already."

The rest of the day was fairly subdued, and they decided that it would be best if Duncan visited his brother the following morning, because he had to drive back to Scotland the same day. It was impossible leaving the farm on its own, and he had to return, every hand was needed every day, nature did not suddenly stop existing, just because its humans were troubled.

* * *

Dan had been moved into the normal ward, and when Vadim visited that afternoon, there was nothing but flimsy fabric partitions between each patient with eight in a large room. Vadim sat down and placed a packet of shortbread on Dan's stomach. "How are you feeling?"

"Shit." Dan grimaced, "but don't tell Duncan."

"My lips are sealed." Vadim reached over to hold Dan's hand. "I'll do my best to get out of my contract ... I have to call the Baroness, discuss the options with her. She set us up in the job, maybe she knows the best way out. I won't go back to war, Dan."

"I fucking won't either." The frown in Dan's face showed lines etched into the skin. Lines of pain. "I'm a fucking cripple now."

Vadim inhaled and looked at Dan's leg for a long moment. "We were getting too old anyway." Not sure what else to say. The career-ending wound. If only he had received it, and not Dan. Although it could be argued that his broken mind was just such a career-ender, or maybe his humanity. "We'll be alright."

"How? I can't fucking work anymore." Dan tried to keep his voice down, while the intensity increased.

"Not this kind of work. Doesn't mean there's nothing else. I'll talk to the Baroness. Don't worry about the money. I'll handle that. You just get better."

"I don't want another job. I am only forty-four and this is all I've ever done and have ever been. Don't you understand that?" Dan shook his head, as if cutting himself off. "Doesn't matter. You go sort the contracts. Not that I'm useful for anything right now anyway. I'll just do this healing shit."

Vadim wasn't sure what else to say. Mind still reeling from the new situation, Dan's bitterness, he wasn't sure how to take that. "Let me know if you need anything. I'm in a hotel close by, I'll come as often as I can."

"I told you, there's nothing you can do while I'm in here. You better sort things, aye?" Dan's face had closed. "And as for what I need, I haven't got pyjamas and they don't appreciate their patients naked. And nicotine gums. I am going fucking insane without fags. They said it'll be some days before I can make it into the smoking room. Don't need anything else." For a moment glancing at his hand in Vadim's.

"Okay. I'll get you some stuff." Vadim stood, hated leaving, but he had to do things, shopping, phone calls, talking to the Baroness. He pressed Dan's hand again, murmured that he loved him, and then set out to do what needed doing.

First, he drove the rented car into the town centre and got several bags of things - clothes, pyjamas, t-shirts, jeans, a jacket, underwear. A pharmacy was next, he got nicotine gums there, and then to an electronics store, where he bought a Discman and a pile of CDs that he knew Dan liked, then a pile of magazines, chocolates - all of which he handed over next time he was allowed to visit.

When he called the Baroness and reported to her, she'd already heard and had kept herself informed, promising help regarding the contract. A day later she called the hotel room and told Vadim there would not be a problem. What he was intending to do? And whether he had thought about consultancy, something they'd mentioned before and had talked about, the last time they'd visited.

Yes, said Vadim, he was ready for that.

She would arrange everything that was necessary, but he would have to fly to Budapest to meet her, since she was currently in a particularly fragile situation that required her continuous presence. A fact that would sadly not enable her to visit Dan, but she would stay in contact via telephone, once Vadim had organised and paid for phone access for Dan's bed, something that Vadim would do the very next day.

She asked whether Vadim believed he could leave Dan alone - who might be in the good care of his family - for talks and further negotiations. Adding, that if he thought it necessary to move Dan to a private hospital, at any time, then she would see this was arranged - and neither man should worry about the costs.

Vadim mentioned that to Dan, who didn't like the idea, and the NHS doctors were reluctant to let him go just yet, stating that, in case of emergencies, this was the best place for Dan to be.

Dan was adamant, after a phone call from Her Excellency, where she explained the situation to him and the possibilities she could offer, that Vadim should visit her straight away. Pointing out that there was nothing he could do anyway, while Dan was healing up, and so Vadim then organised whatever extras were offered in the hospital, and flew over to Hungary, to meet the Baroness in person, and discuss the next steps with her. The new job would entail a lot of 'networking', meeting people, being pleasant and serious at the same time, and Vadim realized this was political to the extreme, the art of manipulation more than his experience and the mind he had - it was about whom he knew, who liked him, and who would pay a lot of money to hear his opinion, who thought him 'relevant'. She arranged a few contacts, who they met for lunch, or coffee, important men who made decisions. He wouldn't have been surprised if he had met the MI5 or MI6 agent again whom he had encountered in the club back in London, so long ago. He was now dealing with a similar type of man.

Those men treated him as if he was important, because to them he was useful, and thus he was important. Treating him with respect and interest, and engaging in discussions on a level removed beyond recognition from dust, pain, blood and gore, and the terror of battlefields. Talking about tactics and logistics, about experiences from one who had been there and who was able to transcend that knowledge into transferable levels of higher cognition. It was the officer they talked to, not the grunt, the man who'd run a sizeable operation in his time, partially under the most dire restrictions and circumstances. Above all, they applauded his resourcefulness, his ability to 'think outside the box' as they called it, and Vadim joked that outside the box meant outside the coffin.

He stayed longer than initially intended, after talking to Dan on the phone who claimed he was fine, that there was nothing that Vadim could do, that Duncan would come and visit when he could, and that nothing was really happening anyway. Dan reassured him that he was just okay without him, that the new job was be more important and Vadim should grab the opportunity when it arose. An opportunity that took Vadim away from Hungary to the US and then back to Europe, extending the initial preparatory tour of making contacts and connections until a month had passed. A month in a world he'd never been part of before. He'd enjoyed himself. Meetings in air-conditioned elegant rooms, starting to understand how the white, male, old, heterosexual posse worked, an old boys' network, with all-important cross-references. If he dropped the name of one guy, he made friends and engendered goodwill, far more than he'd anticipated. And, strangely enough, he genuinely enjoyed the meetings.


August 1993, England

Dan's progress had improved at first, with physiotherapy working on moving his artificial knee, and getting him to walk, but the pain did not diminish. After a couple of weeks, his condition started to deteriorate, with the pain increasing. Not only was every step agony, each movement was turning into such a painful experience, Dan had to force himself to comply with the exercises. Until eventually his knee swelled up more than it ever had, with shooting pains up the thigh and into the groin, and down to the foot. The NHS doctors were clueless, trying different methods of therapy, and upping the dose of painkillers, which only worsened his overall condition.

Dan had lost his appetite, gaining dark shadows under his eyes, and lines etched into his face and a tiredness and fatigue he could not shake.

He never said anything, though. Not to Vadim who called regularly, neither to the Baroness, nor to his brother, who could not visit again until a month later. Pretending to all who called, including friends like Jean, Markus and Dima, and mates such as Matt, that he was just fine. Perfectly fine. Nothing but fine, and that he was still in the hospital not because of any problems, but because it was easier that way with the physio.

When Duncan finally arrived, he almost staggered back out of the room, hardly recognising his brother. Dan had substantially lost weight, the forever-hungry man hardly taking a bite, and he looked shockingly ill. Just that: ill. Gaunt and drawn from the ever increasing pain, and a passiveness that might have come from weariness and fatigue, or from something Duncan could not put his finger on. And still Dan lied, even to his face: he was fine. Goddamned motherfucking fine, and it was just taking longer and why the hell anyone bothered anyway, since it did not matter.

Dan didn't witness how his brother shouted at the doctors and nurses, nor did he find out that Duncan was told he had to leave the premises after his outburst, and he was definitely not aware of the string of telephone calls Duncan was making, until he finally had Vadim on the line.

Duncan was standing in a phone booth outside the hospital. "Where the hell are you?" Still shaking with anger, and a not considerable amount of guilt, Duncan's knuckles were white, he was holding the receiver so tightly.

"Chicago." Vadim was alarmed, suddenly. The Baroness had this number. "En route to catch my flight back to Heathrow. What's wrong with Dan?"

"I don't fucking know." Duncan was swearing and agitated. "I just got thrown out of the hospital for yelling at the doctors. I don't know what's wrong, no one does, but my brother looks like ... like a very ill man! And the bastard has lied to us all the time." Duncan slammed a fist into the telephone book. "I am going to get him out of there. Those incompetent Sassenachs are killing Dan before they find out what is wrong with him."

"Killing him. Fuck." Vadim didn't doubt for an instant, and again, he felt that sickening feeling. He hadn't been there. Instead had met 'security consultants' that worked for America's weapon smiths - huge corporations that lived in glittering skyscrapers. He had at least managed to very politely decline the offer of two weeks' holiday on one CFO's Texan farm. "I'll call the Baroness. She offered a private clinic. We move him out of there - with or without his consent. I'll make the call right away."

"Good, and make her call him, because, I'm afraid, in this country you will need the patient's consent and if that stubborn blockhead is not going to want to do anything about his state, then someone else has to make him do it." Duncan was breathing hard. "I don't know why he has been lying, but I am going to find out. I should have been here, forget the farm, I should have noticed. I am his brother!"

"And I'm the guy who plans to grow old with him, Duncan." Vadim had already opened the calfskin suitcase and taken out his phone book. A glance found the folder that held all the business cards he'd collected over the last few weeks. Fifty, maybe sixty names on which to build another career. His third. Or fourth? "I'll keep you in the loop. Calm down. I'll be back tomorrow, and then I'll do my damned best that he gets proper treatment. I'm not worrying about the cost … I have the feeling we'll do better than ever if this is taking off." Maybe not yachts, Texan farms and private golf courses, but they'd be rubbing shoulders with these guys and their trophy wives, sure enough.

"I don't worry about the cost, I only worry about my brother. You understand that?"

"I do. Fuck, I do." Vadim rubbed his face. "Thank you for calling me ..."

"Who else. Vadim, you are Dan's partner." Taking a deep breath, "I see you tomorrow. I will try to get back into the hospital for now."

Duncan hung up and stepped outside, staying in the humid summer air for a long time until he had calmed enough and gathered himself. Once more the level headed man who would apologise for his behaviour to the hospital staff, no matter if he believed they deserved an apology or not, just to placate them enough to see his brother again. Which he did that same afternoon, talking to him for a long time, but Dan kept slipping away, falling asleep, and Duncan ended up sitting quietly beside the bed, worrying with each breath.

Vadim called the Baroness on her private line, gave her a quick update on what was happening over in England, and the briefest of summaries while some guy from the hotel was already collecting his suitcase. The taxi for the airport was waiting outside - but he looked and lived like a businessman, and they'd never rush him. "I'll call again after I land in Heathrow", he said, then called Dan's number, who barely roused when the phone rang and Duncan picked up instead.

"It's getting taken care of. She'll call right away."

"I'll make sure that he is awake. He's got trouble keeping his eyes open, it's like something is eating him up from the inside." Duncan put the phone down without waiting for an answer, proceeding to shake Dan awake instead. He had just about managed, and Dan looked at him bleary-eyed, when the phone rang again.

"For you." Duncan pushed the receiver into Dan's hand.

There was nothing for a long time, nothing but a voice on the other end, which spoke very precisely and with an authority that Duncan could sense even though he did not understand the words.

"Yes, Ma'm." Dan finally answered, then nothing again until finally, "yes, Ma'm, I'll sign." A few short moments later and Dan hung up, looking at Duncan.

"Cavalry, eh?"

"What do you mean?"

"That you brought in the fucking cavalry."

"Seemed I had to."

"I'm fine."

"No, you are not, and you know you are bullshitting yourself." The cussing got Dan's attention. "You are clearly in pain, no matter what you claim, your knee is swollen like a balloon and you look damn sick." Duncan shook his head, leaning over his brother. "Have you looked at yourself lately?"

"No. Why should I? No particular chance for some entertainment in this place, is there?"

"Dan, you should be walking around by now. Not lying here. I don't care the doctors say that the x-rays show no anomalies. I don't care about blood works or anything. You will get to another hospital to get properly checked out, do you understand me?"

Dan stared at his brother and a ghost of a grin unexpectedly crossed his face. "Never considered you to be a bully boy."

"I learned from the best." Duncan rose both his brows. "After all, my very own brother was in the SAS."

"Touché."

"Thought so. Oh, and Vadim will be here tomorrow, I just talked to him."

"Will he?"

"Aye."

"What for?"

"Dan!" Duncan stood up, shaking his head. "I don't know what's up with you apart from the obvious, but it'll be okay soon. Right?"

"Right." Dan shrugged, settling back in the pillows and closing his eyes. The conversation was over for him, leaving Duncan on his own.

* * *

Everything finally went according to plan, thanks to Her Excellency's inimitable organisation skills and her unmistakable authority, and when Vadim landed the next day, getting into a taxi from the airport, Dan had already been transferred to a private hospital with excellent reputation. He had been through extensive tests of every nature imaginable, and was lying in a single room, in an environment nothing like any of the NHS hospitals. Friendly paint on the walls, art prints, private bathroom with fake marble, and all the trappings of a hospital discreetly masked while still being efficient - with an outstanding staff-patient ratio.

Vadim had got the address and number from the Baroness, and merely checked into a hotel close by for a shave, shower, and a change of clothes. He thought Dan wouldn't appreciate him in the business suit, and he went with the designer jeans and t-shirt instead. He was soon on the road again, this time to the private clinic. He'd managed to nap a little on the plane, so he was reasonably fresh. He didn't notice Duncan in the cafeteria area, and it didn't take much convincing that he wanted to see Mr McFadyen - he supposed the Baroness might have made clear that he was to be admitted to the patient.

Still, it was a shock to see Dan - this time he looked almost as bad as back in Kashmir. Dan was asleep, and despite the relative cheerfulness of the pale yellow bedding, he looked gaunt.

"What are they doing to you, Lapushka", Vadim murmured and sat down, setting the bag of gifts down on the nightstand. Leaning back, he stretched out his legs, and studied Dan, who was surrounded by more creature comforts than last time but looking far worse, which seemed like a paradox.

No one disturbed them, and Dan slept on for a while longer. The room was silent except for faint noises from beyond the door and Dan's regular breathing. A shift in that pattern indicated that he was waking, long moments before he stirred. "Hey ..." groggy, Dan slowly opened his eyes.

Vadim leaned forward and took Dan's hand. "Hey, sleepy. Just got back from the Windy City. Brought you some stuff." He lifted the bag and sat it down on Dan's bed.

"Not going to do much with it for a while." Dan pulled his hand back out of Vadim's to reach for the glass of water on the nightstand. His other arm had a couple of IVs in elbow and back of hand.

Vadim helped him with that glass and let Dan have his fill. Always thirsty. "It's just some music and a better CD player … and some sweets. I didn't have time to do much proper shopping."

"That must have been a bugger, aye?"

"Well, with so many meetings in the day, the last thing I wanted was see more people or make more decisions than what channel to watch in the hotel bed."

"Aye, you told me it was going well. Looks you'll have a business, then?" Dan handed the glass over, empty now, and Vadim refilled it and put it back on the nightstand, closer to Dan this time. "I'll be back under the knife."

"Shit. I mean … to fix what went wrong last time? Fucking butchers. If I'd known, I'd have moved you out there right after that first operation."

"No, it's an infection. Don't know if that's the first lot's fault, but the joint has to come out. I get a new one. They do some scary shit like sandblasting the bones where they are infected. You know, the stumps." A mien of disgust ghosted across Dan's face before it was replaced once again with the expression of nothing - and tiredness. "They said it should be alright after that. Eventually." He shrugged, "guess I should be thankful there's an ER close by, in case these ones here fuck stuff up, aye?"

Vadim reached up to touch Dan's cheek. "Infection. That explains a lot. Fuck. If I wasn't so worried I'd get really angry that you just didn't tell me. But I guess that's you … like a fucking donkey … always your way, or no fucking way at all."

"You sound like Duncan." Dan grimaced and shrugged at the same time. "I don't want to talk about it, okay? I just want to get this fucking surgery done and over with. They said in the best possible case it'll be a couple of bloody months before I can properly walk. That is if they catch the infection completely."

"Okay. We'll just have to have patience, then."

"It's pointless for you to be here all the time, though. Nothing you can do." An echo of everything he'd been repeating before. "You should do up the house or something. Or more of that new work of yours."

"Yeah … the farm needs some attention, too, but the last call I got sounded pretty good … Electricity, glazing, the heating … all making progress." Vadim leaned close. "I missed you. You'd have been bored stiff meeting those guys, but travelling alone is simply not the same …"

Dan looked at him, a question in the forefront of his mind, but he couldn't ask it. "Guess you'll just have to get used to it." Attempting a smile that never quite reached his eyes, to take the sting out.

Vadim inhaled, shaking his head. "Don't worry about it. I'll set everything up. It's just a lot of flying around and humouring the money boys."

"Aye, you'll be good at that." Dan added after a moment, "Major Krasnorada."

Vadim glanced up, raising his eyebrows questioningly. Impossible to say whether it was banter or … it didn't ring true for banter. "The Americans sure like the rank, even though I can't legally use it …"

"Doesn't matter, you never were anything else." Dan blinked sluggishly, rapidly fading once more.

"Not sure that's a compliment", Vadim murmured under his breath. "In any case, sleep a bit, I'll be back later. I'm still on Chicago time." He stood and kissed Dan's lips. "I'll be back after a nap."

"Okay." Dan closed his eyes, the bag with gifts still untouched. "See you later."

* * *

When Vadim went outside, Duncan was waiting for him, smiling slightly. The worry was all too visible, though.

"Did he tell you surgery is scheduled for tomorrow?"

"No." Vadim glanced over his shoulder, back to Dan's room. Frowning darkly. He felt anger rise, but put it down to being tired and jetlagged that Dan rubbed him entirely the wrong way. "What time?"

"Seven-thirty." Duncan shook his head. "He's a stubborn old mule, aye?"

Vadim gave a small laugh. "Yes. You think I can see him before they take him into the theatre? I guess I'll have to ask staff. People here are nicer than what you get when you don't pay. Capitalism, eh?" He shook his head.

"Aye, I am sure that's fine. They don't seem to have strict visiting hours. Shall I have a word with them?"

"That would be good. Now … Dan's sleeping, can I take you to dinner?"

"Best idea I have heard in a while." Duncan smiled. "Mhairi keeps telling me I have to make sure Dan eats well to 'put the meat back onto his bones'. Bless her."

"And she's right …" Vadim took Duncan out to dinner, finding a good restaurant, and spending the early evening with good food and conversation, catching up, and Vadim felt very at ease with Duncan, which was understandable, with the similarities. It was good to spend time with somebody he'd known before, he could let his guard down a little, wasn't buying or selling in this instance, just food and drink and chatter.

* * *

That night, Dan lay awake. Despite all the medication, the exhaustion and the weariness of a body having fought an infection for so long. Lying in the dark and staring at the faint light that came from behind the curtains. He was frightened. More frightened than ever before in his life, and he had no one to tell. Because he couldn't. Nothing to say, because fear was not supposed to be in his vocabulary - not in a situation like this. Passive. Used up. Useless.

* * *

Vadim had gone early to bed, got up early, body obedient because it was important, more important than being tired, then took a taxi back to the hospital, and visited Dan. But Dan remained withdrawn, tired, defensive, and Vadim swallowed most of what he'd wanted to say, tried to project confidence instead, and being there. Dan was just stretched, he was - understandably - in pain. Nobody was their best in that state.

During the operation, he went to have breakfast, read - well, tried to read - the paper, but the situation in Iraq seemed to get worse rather than better. Clinton was clearly not having any of the towelheads' bullshit. Vadim remembered conversations about Clinton and Bush senior, from guys who'd shaken their hands - and sold them bigger and better guns. A bigger nightstick for the world cop, the only remaining superpower. The men he'd met had discarded any talk about eternal world peace, just because the former Soviet superpower was withdrawing troops from its previous European real estate didn't mean that the weapons manufacturers wouldn't make any money anymore - quite the contrary.

Duncan came in an hour later, he'd seen his brother the night before and knew that the surgery would take several hours. They waited together, sharing the load of worry, while there was nothing they could do, with everything lying in the skilled hands of the surgeons.

Finally, around mid-day they called Duncan in, and, as the brother, gave him the good news that all had gone well and Mr McFadyen was in the waking room, under observation. He would be allowed a short visit later.

But when they went to visit, Dan was even more tired than before, drowsy and clearly in pain, despite the medication, and all he wanted was to sleep.

That didn't get much better, even though he was healing well this time and three days later, when Duncan had to leave for home, Dan had gained colour, but no words. Still withdrawn, and sullen. Having lost the mischievous gleam that had always been his own. Duncan chalked it up to the harrowing experience of the last months and left for Scotland with promises to be back as soon as possible, and the promise from Vadim that he would take care.

* * *

While Dan healed and his body fought the infection successfully, he never changed. Doing what he was told by the doctors, nurses and physiotherapists, otherwise watching TV or listening to music while staring at the wall or out of the window. Never calling anyone, and giving monosyllabic answers when someone called, and not being anymore open with Vadim either.

Vadim didn't like to admit it, even to himself, but dealing with Dan was near impossible. There was only so much confidence and strength he could show, when nothing ever came back. He was looking for excuses, why he had to get going again, why he couldn't just wait for months in that hotel, visiting at least once a day. The farm. He would have to oversee the farm getting finished, would have to remain in touch with his new contacts, because in the world of business, regular catch-ups showed and confirmed interest and importance.

So, he attended an event in London, and another one in Barcelona, returning to Dan every time and for several days, then finally told him that he'd fly out to Palmerston North to make sure the house was making progress. He was hoping Dan could recover there, in New Zealand, but they'd need furniture and he wanted to arrange for their stuff to get shipped over from storage as well.

Dan didn't react much to that, and Vadim put it down to him being tired and recovering. But he was relieved when he could leave and was looking forward to getting the house up to specs, not having to pretend and not having to struggle to get closer to Dan - something that was impossible, as Dan was simply not allowing him closer anymore.


November 1993, New Zealand

Three months had passed since the second surgery, when Dan was finally able to endure the long flight to New Zealand. He'd spent a couple of them in a rehab centre, despite Duncan's determination to have his brother close, to but Dan had refused. Claiming a host of unfeasible excuses why it was impossible. In the end, Duncan conceded and he and Mhairi visited a couple of times, but it was difficult to interact with Dan, because he hardly talked and preferred to sit in the nearby pub, downing a few pints in a corner. Alone. On his own, except for the regular phone calls from Vadim that never lasted more than a few short minutes. The silences tended to stretch for too long and they'd become uncomfortable.

Dan shut out everyone, and in the end hardly anyone called and even Jean's attempts at conversation had petered out. He was somewhere, he'd said last time, and something about Pascal, but Dan hadn't listened and hadn't cared. He wasn't aware of anyone's worry, shut in his world, a world that didn't become any bigger when he was pushed out of the plane in a wheel chair. Preferential treatment of a kind that he loathed, but it was easier that way.

He was standing, though, on his own feet and a couple of crutches, when he came out of the gates in Palmerston North, hobbling into spring. Lighting a fag the moment he was outside of the building.

Vadim stood in the first row of the parking lot, maybe five metres away from the door. He recognized him immediately, of course, even against the glare of the sun, and he took off his sun glasses. Dan. Finally. He left the door open and headed towards him. "Welcome back", he said, nodded to the young Kiwi who'd been carrying Dan's suitcase, and took it from him. "How was the flight? I always find the last leg really difficult."

"Yeah, especially the leg." Dan rolled his eyes but smiled a little, and still made Vadim wince. Shit choice of words. And the retort took any other words from him, made him self-conscious and ill-at-ease. Like he was with their phone calls.

Dan was still pale, but no longer gaunt nor ill-looking. Thin, and having lost a lot of his muscle definition, but he'd been diligently following the physio, merely because it was less hassle to do what he'd been told, rather than to think. His hair was short, it was easier to keep it clean that way, since taking a shower had been a major undertaking and getting into a bathtub was right out. "Been a while, aye?" His voice was quiet, and despite an initial urge, he didn't try to touch Vadim.

"Months and months." Vadim tossed the suitcase into the back of the Landrover, then opened the door for Dan. "Don't worry, you can rest once we're there. Bed's made, everything's ready and waiting." His project. The house. It had kept him busy, and he had got on well with the workers, well enough to go out drinking with them a few times, which helped when he needed to get stuff done. The 'Palmies' as he called them were a friendly lot, and they clearly preferred somebody who could hold his own in a pub to a guy wearing suits and cufflinks. Vadim carefully kept the two lives apart.

He drove out of Palmerston North, back to the farm, while Dan remained silent most of the time, occasionally glancing across. The hills green, dotted with sheep, a few cattle, some horses, down into the valley where their 'farm' was. Everything was new. The bridge over the little but vigorous streamlet, the gravel, and then the house, top to bottom. Not a piece of wood that hadn't been checked, the whole second floor was all new, the foundations had been fixed, the electricity, cable, they even had a small generator, in case something went wrong. New Zealanders believed in being self-sufficient - small wonder, living at the end of the world as they did.

"Impressive." The first word for a long time, while Dan pushed the passenger door open, struggling with the crutches to get out.

Vadim went around the car and took out Dan's suitcase. "Let me know if you want anything changed." The three steps that led up to the house proper had a flat ramp at the side. Vadim had expected the worst. And it had been convenient when the heavy furniture arrived.

"I can do fucking steps, you know." Dan commented with a side glance, as he finally managed to get himself out, walking walked towards the front door. He was still heavily dependent on the crutches, but he had less of a limp than a need for balance. It would take several more months, they'd told him, before he could think of walking without them. It was a labour to get up the steps, though, but he was determined, and made it to the door.

Vadim was glad he didn't have to meet Dan's gaze as he could concentrate on opening the door. The limping, the vitriol, the acid. Each one bad in its own way. Had he really looked forward to this for so long? Worked his ass off to finance this, worked long hours to fix the house, done every tiny bit, every decision, what wood to use for the floor, what furniture went where, patterns, colours, each and every fucking decision because everything had been supposed to be perfect when Dan finally - finally! - arrived. In his house. Their house. He opened the door, let Dan walk in first and followed with the suitcase. "The bedroom is downstairs, though … if you want to change that, we can have the guest room downstairs and our bedroom upstairs. Whatever you like better."

But Dan wasn't listening. He stood in the entrance hall, staring straight ahead, then slowly around himself. Walking on and into the vast living room, his eyes fixed onto the massive paintings. Huge swirls of colours and ... whatever the fuck else. Things he could not identify and made no sense to him. He turned, still not acknowledging Vadim, made his way to the next room, the kitchen. Then to another, the downstairs loo and so on, until he stood at the foot of the stairs. Nothing was like he'd imagined it. Nothing like he'd wanted it. It was ... Vadim's house. He knew it that very second, but he also realised what amount of work had gone into it. For whom, though, for him? Nothing ... nothing was him. It all was Vadim. Perhaps that was the way it should be. All Vadim.

"It's ... different." Dan finally managed to get out. "You put a hell lot of effort in."

"Yeah." Vadim swallowed the emotion. Disappointment. Not understanding. His mind's eye had played out this scene differently - ranging from serene to laughing and happy, but this was an anticlimax that he felt like a sucker punch. Okay. Okay. He'd just have to accept that. Dan was tired. But there was the creeping dread that it wasn't that. That living together would be just like the phone calls had been. He'd assumed Dan just didn't like to speak on the phone, or didn't want to communicate with anybody else in the room, a nurse, a visitor, a doctor. But he knew that he'd been closing his eyes against the simple truth that he was fooling himself. It wouldn't be different. Would their lives now really become like those phone calls, but 24/7? "If you want anything changed …" but he didn't finish the sentence.

"No, no, it's okay. As I said, you really put a lot of effort in. Didn't realise you had so much taste. Should have known, you always knew what to make me wear." Dan tried a smile, pointing to another room. "What's that one?"

"The bedroom. The guest bedroom is upstairs."

"Downstairs?" The frown was back between Dan's eyes. Steeple and severe, together with the lines etched into his face from pain and illness, it made him seem older than he had ever appeared. Harsher. Harder. "You think I'm too much of a cripple to get up the stairs?"

"It's …" more convenient, Vadim wanted to say, but the accusation in those words got him by surprise. Again. Every reaction of Dan so far had caught him by surprise. Curious, that. He shrugged. "Not carved in stone. You can have it wherever you want." Vadim took a step back. The 'tour of the house' was turning into a nightmare, and he wanted it to be over with. Actually, the thing he most wanted was to take the car and go on an extended, four hour drive or so to clear his mind and let Dan do the tour of the house alone. But how to get out of the situation? 'Shit, I forgot to get milk, I'll just head out to Palmy?' That would only win him an hour.

Dan said nothing, just walked on and opened the door to the bedroom. Stepping inside he almost recoiled physically. What greeted him was a room he couldn't have imagined, even if he had tried. Sure, it was manly, if there was such a thing, certainly not cluttered, but the bed was a monstrosity made from leather and so goddamned stylish it belonged to someone who wasn't even remotely related to him. Yes. Exactly. To someone like Vadim. Stylish, elegant, with class. Unlike him, but then he was out of a job without any hope to ever be back in it. He was done. Service over. Usefulness had ended.

The painting above the bed made him stare in disbelief. Huge, blue and red shapes, and ... just that. Colours. Shapes. He didn't have a clue what the fuck they meant and it was motherfucking ugly. But didn't matter. It was Vadim's taste. Vadim's house. Vadim's effort.

Dan felt like a visitor, entirely out of place, and that was the only feeling he'd become accustomed to over the last months. Out of place and out of purpose.

"Where ... on which side do you sleep?" He finally managed to get out.

"At the moment, all over the place. I start left and wake up right." Vadim shrugged, hands in his pockets, leaning against the door frame, working on excuses why he very urgently had to drive to Palmerston. "Do you want to unpack the suitcase, or have a shower and a nap? The jacuzzi is at the back of the house, just down the corridor, then left. There's also an outdoor shower, we used that when working on the house. Very practical if you don't want to stomp the dirt through the house."

"Okay." Dan nodded.

Which didn't answer Vadim's question, but he didn't want to repeat himself. Dan was not even paying proper attention, unless there was something that set him off. Welcome home, Dan. I only waited for you for six months or so.

"What's upstairs apart from the guest bedroom?"

"Two studies, the guest bedroom, big bathroom, and some storage space. There's a small gym in the garage, too."

Dan nodded. "I'll look at the upstairs later. Going for a shower." Jacuzzi was out, too difficult to climb in. "Been a long flight." And he was far more spaced out on painkillers than he was willing to admit. He turned before Vadim could say anything else, heading through the living room and towards the back of the house.

Vadim didn't turn his head to look at him, instead closed his eyes and leaned the head against the door frame. Bad start, or just simply bad? He wasn't sure. And why was he just taking that? Because it had surprised him. He shouldn't give Dan any more openings, or riposte right away, not remaining caught out on the wrong footing. No way. And when had it been last that he'd thought along those lines in regards to Dan? There was also the matter of Dan's birthday, soon, but right now, he didn't have any desire to plan for that or find presents. It felt stale and painful. He headed back into the kitchen, to fix a salad. Keep himself busy, even if it was just cooking or being aware of the other man in the house. And dreading what the next hour, day, night - night - would bring.

* * *

The next hours were spent within the same stilted atmosphere. Dan did not talk, lay silently on one of the black leather couches in the living room, smoking, and trying to stay awake, while drinking whisky that he'd bought duty free. A packet of pills beside him on the table, he'd never inspected the upstairs, despite his earlier claims.

Vadim had eaten the salad standing in the kitchen, he'd asked whether Dan was hungry and all he'd got was a non-committal murmur. He was out of his depth, had no idea how to connect or what to say. Conversation topics had run out already - months back, probably even before the second surgery, and Vadim had no idea with what to fill the time. How. How to live with somebody with whom he had nothing to talk about. Nothing in common. Not anymore.

Vadim heard Dan get up off the couch, struggling with the crutches, long before he turned up in the kitchen door. Standing straight, but his weight was clearly supported.

"Guess I should try to sleep. Jetlag and all that shit."

Vadim gave a nod. "Sure. Take your time. Always takes me a while to get used to the time shift. And the different seasons. You'll have your birthday in spring, not in autumn."

"Yeah, shit, never celebrated it. No need to start now." Birthday, what for? New years? New beginnings? All Dan could see was an end. An end to all he'd ever been, ever done, ever been good at, and ever wanted. An end to himself.

"Okay." And never mind my birthday, thought Vadim, and shrugged again. That had been in August, and Dan had had other things on his mind, too. Another topic down.

"Anyway, I take the side closer to the door, aye?" With that Dan turned and made his way to the bedroom. A bedroom that wasn't his. Let alone theirs. It was ... Vadim's. A Vadim he hardly recognised, or perhaps he just couldn't recognise himself anymore.

"Sure", Vadim said to Dan's back. Whatever. Sure. Fuck you. He shook his head and decided he really needed a run. "I'll go off for some exercise, shouldn't be more than two hours." Run where Dan couldn't follow him. It was cruel, most likely, but running would help - would put him back together, stop the thought, smoothe everything out.

Dan stopped, in the middle of the hallway, but he did not turn. "Sure. Enjoy." That was all, and he walked through the door.

Much later that night, when Vadim finally joined Dan in the bedroom, Dan was still awake, merely lightly dozing. He'd had enough whisky to dull his senses, but never enough to knock himself out, and he'd got used to that much medication, that it wouldn't dull his mind enough to sleep. Not now, not with the jetlag. Not in a stranger's bed in a stranger's room in a stranger's house.

It was Vadim who tried to instigate sex, and Dan reacted, as if this was something he ought to want, and that he should have missed. The kisses were awkward, the deep feeling lost or merely hidden beneath all the pain and sorrow and all the fear - all the unspoken words that were kept inside, eating away at the soul. But that was nothing compared to the true extent of the disaster, when Dan could not perform. Did not function, could hardly 'get it up', and could not cum. Failed. Emasculated. Unable to perform. No man anymore.

And despite Vadim's insistence that this was a passing fluke, that Dan was overly tired and the medication had to have played havoc with his system, Dan said nothing, just believed what he knew and what he felt in every fibre of his being: he finally belonged to the scrap heap.

Vadim pulled back, then, struggled with his own desires, but with Dan … troubled like that, and that awkward silence where something entirely else should have been. He decided to give Dan time, let Dan make the next move, when Dan was ready, healed up enough, when Dan had settled in.

But the feeling, the voice he heard in his mind, said different things. They were done, it was over, together with the wars and adventure. The pain had given way to a worse, deeper, darker pain. Over. Not even the failsafes worked, not even the visceral connection that had carried them, always, from a time where they'd hated each other. Hate, love, shame. And now indifference and isolation. Chained to a man; imprisoned.


November 1993 - November 1994

Dan never made the next move. Not the following night, not the one after, neither the one after that. Not even the next week nor the following month. And Vadim got the message, lay on his side of the bed and eventually made sure he only went to bed after another serious bout of exercise, a lot of running, usually taking care of any wayward need under the shower, with no faces, no memories, no fantasies attached to the purely physical friction. A need that approached embarrassment, their sex life was dead and remained dead, and there was nobody else - Palmy had nothing like a gay scene he could make out. Wellington was different, but Wellington was several hours' drive away.

Dan did the physio, exercised exactly as he had been told, but that was all. It was difficult to get him to eat, he mostly didn't feel hungry, and he only managed to keep some of the weight he needed by his liking for sweets, and the booze that he drank. More often than not forgetting to take his medication, most of all the supplements he was supposed to be taking since the bomb had torn him apart.

Vadim did his best with the cooking, with running the farm, the house, their lives while Dan was still healing. He'd promised he'd never leave Dan, and if that meant he'd be his valet and cook, well, that was part of the parcel. Not that he had many other options, not that he wasn't resigned to the fact that he couldn't just leave Dan. He owed him, his life, his sanity, and a quarter of a million pounds. The farm was in Dan's name, too, and leaving Dan meant to leave the life he'd worked towards. He'd promised and sworn he'd never leave him, forever. And Hooch … had Matt. He didn't want to interfere with that, and he just knew if he met Hooch, everything else would break. Vadim pressed his lips together when his thoughts returned to that. Had sworn, promised, never meant to leave. If they couldn't be lovers anymore, they could be partners. Business partners, sharing a house.

Dan didn't even react much when another letter arrived from Hungary, with even fewer words, but with a new set of photos. A couple from Kisa's third birthday, another few of her with friends. They always only showed Kisa, though, never anyone else from the family. Dan stashed them away in the study that he soon took over, ordering and installing technical gadgets that allowed him to spend his time watching the news channels, and getting onto the internet. Something he started out with, because it seemed the only thing of interest, and despite the slow modem that would not even always connect, he quickly got addicted to being online. Newsgroups, forums, email contacts. All connected to war zones, crisis areas, battles and fights. Military and PMCs alike, rebels and oppositions.

A habit and an almost unhealthy interest in that which he had once been and could not be anymore, which served him well, though, when he joined Vadim in the tours of the conferences. By that time he had managed to reduce the crutches he needed to one, and the limp was getting less pronounced, but still clearly visible. He hated the job. Loathed the conferences, despised the men who made him feel as if he was an inferior being, who clearly didn't belong into those circles: an impostor in a tailored suit, and with a body that was everything but functional.

Yet he was good, and as much as he hated the work, he was sought after for his insights and expertise, particularly regarding the training and fighting he'd done in Afghanistan. A good speaker in any round table discussion - as long as he was sober, which happened increasingly less, which embarrassed Vadim to the bone, but he couldn't just kick Dan out of that new partnership. First, they needed the money, second, it kept Dan busy. He wasn't quite ready to try and arrange some events where he didn't have to drag Dan along.

When autumn in New Zealand was almost over and the land was heading into winter, Dan mostly spent his days and nights in one of the pubs in Palmy. He got on well with the locals, even though he didn't communicate much with them either. Still, a man after their heart. Rugged and hands-on, just that he did not believe anymore that his hands could do anything useful. He didn't talk about his past, didn't want to be reminded. Dodged phone calls from old mates and good friends, pretending to be fine, sticking to email where he could. Sporadic and lying. Fine, he was fine. He lived, aye? He existed.

It was in winter when he took to sleeping in the large leather chair in his study, full of beer and liquor, with the door locked. Just so he was away from what he'd lost. Away from Vadim, away from the man who had meant everything for so many years of his life - but then he'd had a life. All he had now was being alive.

Vadim spent the winter working. He'd subscribed to academic journals and had entered exchanges with those who wrote them, sometimes trying his hand at a piece of analysis himself. The careful, methodical work suited him, even if his lack of concentration and ability to read for long stretches slowed him down considerably. He used the winter to catch up with the pile of journals and letters that had arrived during spring and summer, planned the next round of meetings, and exercising like a man possessed to dull all other emotions. He couldn't allow himself to slip, had to remain busy, had to do things or he'd just find a good length of rope.

When spring arrived once more, Dan had finally discarded the last crutch and had learned to walk without it. Visibly favouring the leg, but he managed stairs and everything else that he had to. Managed the old and battered Landrover he'd bought, and managed to exist. Co-exist. With that stranger he'd once loved, but he'd lost himself and he did not recognise Vadim either.

Two strangers, both hurting, and one of them trying to pretend he was already gone.

 
 
Special Forces Chapter LV: An Eye for an Eye
 
 
Warning for Readers

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

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

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

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

 

 
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Published 21 November 2008