1994, New Zealand
next time Dan woke, it was to dark green daylight filtered
through the tent walls, and the smell of coffee and
frying fish. He believed his senses were kidding him
with the peculiar combination of scents, and he felt
like death warmed over. Still wrapped in a mountain
of blankets and half-way rolled into a sleeping bag,
he vaguely remembered the presence of the other and
what seemed like gallons of water and tea.
bladder was full enough to protest, and he tried wriggling
his toes, since his head had decided to torture him
with the mother of all headaches. A disgusting taste
in his mouth, he reached beside him and found the water
bottle. Dan shook his head after drinking, regretting
the movement instantaneously. No matter what, he was
forced to crawl out from under the blankets. Didn't
fancy pissing himself, not even while in the clutches
of a hangover that made every other one he'd ever had
before look like a mere test run.
groaned as he got up, aching everywhere on his body,
not just the knee, and he had the terrible sensation
of not remembering what had happened. How he got there,
what had been said, if anything, and if Vadim's presence
was mere wishful thinking. Grabbing one of the blankets,
he slung it around his naked body, emerging from the
tent to stagger into the magnificence of a cool spring
morning. Disoriented at first.
glanced up, hid the smile that was threatening to creep
onto his features. Dan was so hung-over it was actually
funny. Pale, sweaty, and growing an impressive stubble
by now. He pulled one of the twigs out of the ground,
blew on the fish, pulled the skin back with the tip
of his knife and checked whether it was done. Slightly
pink, but that was alright. "Feel hungry?"
was being stared at with incredulity by a man who was
slightly swaying until he had got used to standing on
both feet again. Dan grunted something unintelligible,
took a few steps to the side, away from the camp, and
turned his back. A man's back was all the privacy he
ever needed to take a long piss. At least it wasn't
turned back round, just as Vadim was pulling the skin
off one of the fish and filleting. He pulled the bones
out and then reached into the ashes for the potatoes
in foil. Checked them with the knife, the big ones needed
more time, but the small ones were done. All the while
watched by a silent Dan who couldn't make head nor tails
out of anything. Vadim cut a deep cross into the potato,
sprinkled some salt in there, and offered Dan the plate,
sorting a fish and potatoes out for himself.
glanced up at Dan and smirked. "Try to eat something.
And get some electrolytes down, small wonder it hurts
like a bitch. The stuff you do to your body."
you." Dan muttered, looked down at his hands, still
trembling. Wouldn't hurt to dig into food. He tried
to sit down on one of the bergans that looked as if
they had been propped up for just this purpose, not
bothering to suppress the groan as his whole body protested.
"Need a wash." He reached for the plate, the
blanket wrapping somewhat in the way.
nodded. "I brought water up, it's in that bucket.
Your bag with razors and stuff is over there."
He nodded to the place where he had even set up a makeshift
shower. Plastic bag and an improvised hose. Wouldn't
be too comfy, but he had something in mind for that
setup. Dan would need to be clean. He had even wedged
a mirror between stem and branch of one of the trees.
glanced to the side while eating, took in the arrangements,
shook his head. Surely the fucker had gone crazy all
of a sudden. "What the fuck are you doing here?
And while I'm at it, where? How? Why?" Using his
fingers to tear pieces off the fish and peel open the
grinned, eating the potato with the peel, remembered
lessons about nutrition and the fact that the best part
of the potato was right under the skin. He liked the
taste, even the faint aroma from the ashes. "At
the moment, I'm playing host."
looked at Dan, judged his state from the coordination
of his fingers, from the way he responded to the heat
of the oily fish and the food. He was coming round,
but would probably need a few more hours before he could
get serious. "On a related note, we'll play the
old game, Dan. Isolation and re-focusing. Emptying all
the trash. The lies, the pain, the guilt. And when I'm
finished with you, you'll be as clean and as mellow
as a newborn kitten." And you'll be mine again.
You taught me one thing in the mountain. One week with
a man opens you up, your heart, your body, everything.
I will gut you and drain the poison out.
Fuck off, Vadim." Dan's fingers got stuck half-way
in a piece of fish. "Fuck off and go back to your
pretentious crap. Your paintings, music, interior decoration
and bloody Colonels." He lowered his eyes back
onto the plate, angry, sullen and silent once more.
Yes, exactly the kind of thing Vadim wanted to be reminded
of now. Nelson managing to corner him from half around
the world. Rio would be fun. And what if he was actually
wrong and it didn't work? Failure was not an option.
They couldn't do it, couldn't go on like this. It was
the bullet, one way or the other.
considered tying Dan up. He had been tied up. It put
the mind on edge, but the body adapted, could grow around
it, comfortable. He looked at Dan, saw the same sullen
hostility, the same remoteness, worse than when they
had been enemies. At least they had hated each other.
stood, fetched a bottled, found a tube with electrolytes,
dropped some in, closed the bottle, watched the tablets
dissolve, then walked up to Dan and dropped it in front
of him. "Lucky then that you have no idea where
you are. Or where I left the car. Or where the keys
had finished his food, looking up when boots came into
his vision, then legs, finally a bottle. "You kidnapped
me?" He took the offered liquid, his abused body
gave him no other option. "What for? Going to keep
your crippled piece of rough like an amusing pet in
the mountains?" Gulping down half of the bottle,
he wiped his lips, all the time watching the other.
stepped back. The urge to hit him square in the face
was so strong he needed to tense every muscle in his
arms up to his neck to keep from hitting Dan. Kick him.
Make him bleed. Control. He needed fucking control.
Dan had lost it. If he lost it himself, he could just
go fetch the gun. He inhaled, flexed his hands, exhaled,
You'd be deadly with your fucking legs cut off, Dan."
He sat down again, two yards away, crouched, studying
the other man, who was shaking his head before drinking
the rest of the solution. Sullen, Vadim thought. But
how to do it, how to open him up? He wasn't ready for
what he had in mind. "You should eat, and drink,
and rest. Detox. I'll do the rest."
put the bottle down, shook his head again. "What
would it matter, even if I was still as deadly? No more
wars to fight, Vadim, no more suicidal operations, no
more battlefields." He shrugged, pulled the blanket
closer. "Mad Dog is dead."
was the problem. That was the heart of it, the infested,
the rotting core. Dan mourned Mad Dog, because he had
loved him in a way that Vadim had loved his own illusion
of himself, before the prison. And he had. So very much.
"But you are alive", he murmured, and felt
weak and pathetic. "You fought all the time, and
now you have a life, and you just
and look at the past. Just
" Wait to die.
Pass the time, somehow.
just sat and listened, passive.
shook his head. It hurt. That went deep. He suddenly
understood why Dan had been like that, all the time.
He just couldn't let go. "Oh shit."
looked up at the other's exclamation, "Life? What
life do I have?" He huffed, felt the old bitterness
creeping up, an acid that had increasingly poisoned
every one of his thoughts since the surgery. A growing
numbness, until all he had felt was an emptiness that
hurt like a motherfucking knot right in his chest.
got your fancy shit, your art, the house, even the fucking
furniture. Clothes as if you'd never had a shred to
wear, and ballets, concerts, music that bores me to
fucking tears. I haven't got a clue who you are anymore,
but fuck me, you got a life. There's just no space in
it anymore for a burnt out, useless veteran who doesn't
understand what you've become nor who you are."
He shrugged as if nothing mattered, then scrambled laboriously
onto the good knee, trying to get up. Needing to walk
away, like he had done, for almost a year.
house? I did that so you could rest up after the hospital.
I wanted to have the workers out before you came in.
All I did was fucking catch up with stuff I never had
" money "time for. Just wanted
to understand what I missed." Shit, he was hurling
accusations, and he didn't want that. Not just Dan who
had to get rid of the poison. Dan, who was walking towards
the lake, refusing to listen.
clothes. It was just fucking nice to not wear
uniform anymore. It was nice to be groomed and be dazzled
by patterns, by cloth, by the smiles and easy courtesy
of bespoke tailors. Nice to wear shoes that were made
to measure and didn't hurt his feet. Nice to lean back
and have a wave of sound wash over him, see something
as pretty and useless as ballet. Nice to see the control
of those bodies, and nothing about it was about killing
or hurting. It was discipline without the fucking darkness,
control without the violence. He hadn't really changed,
he was still the man he'd always been.
he wasn't. He had been dazzled alright. Dazzled by men
that could argue fine points of some arcane weapon system
late into the night. Men who discussed the theory of
war without ever having felt a bullet impact in their
flesh. Men who knew that he had felt it, and moved apart
so he could fit between them, one of them, not by education,
not by refinement, but by experience. They were so well
dressed, so well spoken, he loved their company, loved
it because they seemed to understand war, and talked
about it, and he felt respected. For once in his life,
somebody respected him. He had nothing to hide, not
being gay, not being in love with an enemy, not being
the homeless Russian the Soviet army had spit out for
treason. It had felt so good he had tried to saturate
himself with it. So hungry for respect.
fuck all that. Fuck the farm. Fuck Nelson." Vadim
followed, reached for Dan's shoulder. "Listen to
Dan stopped, feet already touching water. Turning round
abruptly to face the other, the blanket fell of his
shoulders, which Vadim caught by instinct, baring a
body that was too bloody thin. "Why should I listen
to you? I don't fit into your world anymore, and I've
lost my own. I'm not as stupid as you seem to think,
I know I'm just a fucking embarrassment to you."
paused, tossed the blanket behind him. They'd need it
to keep warm, it could get chilly up here. Saw more
bones around Dan's shoulders than he should, and looked
into those dark eyes. Still Dan. And not him at the
same time. It raised his hackles, should have done that
a year ago, when all this had started. But he had taken
it lying down.
you've been a right cunt the last year, but that
is not how it has to be."
snarled. "You think you've been anything other
than a fucking cunt yourself?"
can change. Sort stuff out. Fucking remember why we
are here in the first place." Vadim inhaled deeply.
"And that's not just because of a bullet I took
out of my pistol in the Gulf."
How, Vadim, how, if you don't even want me anymore!"
stepped close, abruptly, and decided Dan needed to cool
down. He decided that after his hands had connected
with Dan's chest and after he had sent Dan backwards,
knowing the water was getting rapidly deeper behind
him. "You fucking chill", he hissed, as Dan
went straight into the water. "I'll show you. Wanting.
It would have been like fucking a whisky bottle, you
backwards, Dan shouted, "Fucking bastard!"
before losing balance. The water was bloody cold, "and
sex with you, fucking nancy arsewipe, would have been
like shagging a soft poof!" He just about managed
to hurl the last bit of abuse before he crashed into
the water, cursing violently all the way.
very much wanted to send a spinning hook kick into Dan's
head, but held back. Nancy. Fuck. In moments like these,
he was too close to giving it all up. That was the first
response, but he saw Dan snort water as he came back
up, and couldn't help but laugh, stepping back towards
the land just in case Dan had the supremely stupid idea
to try and make him crash into the water himself. Dan's
legs were too weak, no way he could kick his legs from
under him. "Yeah. I have my whisky
water", he muttered and remained within safe distance.
Only that no distance with Dan was safe.
Dan spit towards Vadim together with a mighty arch of
water, while his eyes threw daggers at the Russian cunt.
The bastard laughed his head off. Fine. He'd get his
own back eventually. He was freezing, but he dunked
himself under again. The fresh, cold water seemed a
life saver, it did wonders to the persistent headache.
Coming back up dripping wet, water running in rivulets
out of his unruly hair, he shook his head like a dog
before stalking back towards the shore. "You,"
he pointed at Vadim, glaring, "I get you for that
when you least expect it."
said Vadim, off-handedly.
was too bloody cold to do anything about it right now,
starting to tremble, he looked for anything he could
use as a towel. The drop of body temperature in a body
that had been abused like that, not a clever option.
He could hardly keep his teeth from chattering. "Did
you nancy boy at least bring a towel in your designer
your ass to the fire." Vadim headed towards the
tent and found two towels, microfibre, nice and light.
Tossed one against Dan's chest, took the other one in
both hands and stepped behind him, when he found that
Dan had for once obeyed, and stood as close to the warming
fire as he could.
sneered at the towel, held it in his hands like a precious
jewel. "Only you could take anything that isn't
a bogstandard towel into the mountains." There
was no venom in his words, though, as he rubbed his
face and head dry. He really was bloody freezing.
concentrated on drying the shoulders, remembered how
much he had loved these shoulders, how he had rested
his head right there, smelled him. Fucking cried against
that shoulder. Shit. Vadim tensed his jaw muscles and
slowly continued to dry his arms and then his chest.
Hesitated. Hadn't been touched like that in ages. No,
wrong. Hadn't been touched. Full stop. For months.
ran the towel down the body. The curve towards the waist,
lower back, the curve of ass. One of the very first
things he had actually consciously acknowledged about
Dan. He crouched to dry the backs of his legs, then
got up again, saw Dan was managing just fine with the
coffee should be ready now." He dropped the blanket
right next to Dan, got the mugs and poured them coffee,
placed one on a flat rock on Dan's side of the fire.
"You need a shave. Walking tree."
brows rose, but he didn't argue. The smell of coffee
was too much of a lure, and hell, Vadim was right: he'd
sport a fully grown beard in another day or two. He
shrugged and started the laborious process of getting
down to the ground, managing in the end like he always
did, but without any points for elegance. He pulled
the other blanket close and wrapped it tightly around
his shoulders, then reached for the mug as if the coffee
could safe his life. "Remembered the sugar?"
But I think we'll need more calories sometime around
tomorrow." Seeing how much weight Dan had lost
was not pleasant.
nodded, sipped his coffee with an expression of pure
bliss on his face. Piping hot, overly strong and sweetened
to hell and back.
continued, "Your usual treasure of biscuits and
chocolate, more bars." Shit planning, really, he
had been too nervous, too fucking scared. He just wasn't
as cold-blooded as he had been.
huffed, "What, you telling me you didn't bring
any sweeties? Fucking useless host you are."
refused to bite this time, got up to get the shaving
kit and the water bucket, sat down within reaching distance.
Not enough to be hit with any strength of conviction,
if Dan tried to, but close enough. "I'll drive
tomorrow. I'm too tired to do the big drive today."
Sounded like an excuse, and he thought, damn it, since
when did he have to apologise for everything he did
or didn't do. Every potential mistake? "Fancy that
hope for your sake you got at least some energy bars."
Dan conveniently forgot to mention the emergency ration
in his own bergan, together with an even more vital
supply of a 500g pack of tobacco and rolling papers.
He looked pointedly at the bucket of water, muttered,
"not even hot water. Fine sort of treatment that
is. Kidnapped, starved, and now tortured." But
he didn't have the energy to be truly spiteful. Something
inside of him was too exhausted and tired of fighting,
worn away by that awful, numbing pain for which he had
grunted, took a handful of water to wet Dan's growing
beard, and foamed the stuff into his hand to lather
it on, then selected one of the razors and began to
shave. One slow, deliberate stroke near the other, whisking
the razor through the water, going for a thorough shave,
slowly uncovering the skin, fresh and clean and smooth.
Dan's eyes closed after a while, tilting his head back
to allow access to his jaw and throat, all the while
cradling the mug of coffee.
liked Dan smooth, loved his face right after the shave,
the smell and feeling. Loved to brush his cock across
his cheek when it was like this. He swallowed and looked
at the bucket, watched the foam float in patches, the
shorn off hair. He finally took the damp towel and wiped
Dan's face with it, wanted to lean in to kiss, but was
fairly sure all he'd get would be a headbutting.
he'd finished, Vadim reached for his own coffee, moving
a little away, still close, but just out of range. "I
was thinking maybe a week or ten days. The weather seems
to hold, might even get a little warmer again. I don't
want to make it too uncomfortable." What exactly?
Sleeping close to you, listening to the wind, feeling
the ground underneath. Feel you against me, at rest,
trusting, close, and fucking open.
tilted his head, said nothing, just watched Vadim for
a moment, then raised the mug to his lips once more,
concentrating on drinking. No repartee, no cries of
kidnapping and no claims of insanity on the Russian's
part. Nothing, as if he had simply run out of steam
during the shaving.
stood when he received no reply nor comment, picked
up the bucket and razor, cleaned everything, got fresh
water. Being this close to Dan had an odd effect on
him. Memories. Memories in every motion, in every word,
Dan's voice suddenly, just loud enough to be heard.
"It's been, what, eight years since the first shave?"
The memories of mountain, cave, heat and cold were still
in his bones. Imprinted into his being. "A lifetime
ago, but it sometimes feels so close, yet unattainable."
He aborted a shrug, lowered his head and eyes, concentrating
once more on the coffee.
nodded. Unattainable. Good word, nothing but the negative
of a different word, and it hurt to think about it.
A simple gesture, a way to hold a blade to the other's
throat that didn't mean what it used to mean. It was
taking care of, not taking power. How much he missed
all that. He drank his coffee, one of the things he
had got used to, coffee, still preferred the smell much
to the taste, but it was warm liquid one could hold,
and that was clearly the best aspect of it. He watched
Dan, was there, but silent. Wondered about sleep, wondered
whether he could really sleep that close to him, or
whether he'd stare at him all night, scared to blow
it and lose him completely.
still think steel against your skin is the most poetic
thing I know", he murmured. "I always think
I can feel your heart beat in my fingertips." He
didn't look at Dan, he wasn't sure whether he'd get
mocked or ridiculed or whether it might affront Dan.
When there was a little pause, he did look up.
you can feel my heartbeat, then you feel more than I
can." Dan's quiet voice, their eyes met. Another
pause, and another moment of silence. "Sometimes,
somewhere, between the operating table and coming here,
I lost myself."
nodded, eyes still meeting. He moved closer, reached
out, slowly, as if he could startle Dan, maybe into
violence, whatever, he'd take that, punches, ridicule,
hostility. Lowered his hand to rest it on Dan's lower
arm, left side, slowly relaxed his arm to rest it on
arm twitched, almost threw the other arm off, muscles
tensing, then relaxing in increments. Allowing the contact,
as alien to him by now as the memory of Mad Dog.
wanted to lean against him, against that shoulder, knew
he was supposed to be strong right now and wanted nothing
but to hold him and touch him and tell him everything
would be alright. "I'm not ashamed of you. Not
embarrassed. Not disgusted." A lie.
laughed dryly. "Bullshit." He shook his head.
hand tensed a little. "Only when you are drunk,
a little, I mean." He'd done his fair share of
drunken shit, then why? "I don't like you being
drunk, because I feel you are hiding, that you do that
to tell me I can't reach you."
huffed, let his head fall back into his neck, rolled
his shoulders and took his time before coming back up
until their eyes met once more. "I let you into
a secret, Russkie, I don't even like being drunk on
my own all that much." Wry grin, self-deprecating.
"Stopped me remembering, though. Who I was, who
you were, who we used to be." He shrugged in a
half-arsed attempt at indifference.
nodded, wrestling with that idea. Forget. Forget the
two killers who had failed at killing each other. Comrades.
Lovers. All that, and much more. He kept his hand right
there, didn't want to claim it back just yet. "Yes,
but who are you, Dan? Who the fuck are you? Without
whisky? Without battlefields."
don't know." The answer came quietly, yet without
looked him in the eye again. "You are the same
man I met in Kabul. Only older. And hurt. You never
changed. Na, not much." He grinned slightly.
you? Are you someone different? Art, music, suits and
fancy men? Or have you always been like that and I just
never noticed, too busy staying alive?" Dan shrugged
the only bit of Russia I can still have", murmured
Vadim. Fuck, that hurt, but it was true. Literature,
music, ballet. Have a bit of Russia when he couldn't
travel there. "I might have had the money to do
that, but there was nothing to buy and I did not have
the time for the finer things. Always fighting in another
war. I just want to know what it is like. The whole
art is part of what we fight for - it's what
civilians do. That stuff lasts longer than memory, longer
than wars. I wanted to try and understand and have some
of that." His father had said, that in a world
where the present was lying, the past was the safest
place. That, too, had barbed hooks, but he only understood
shook his head slightly, even though he began to understand.
when I got finally back. The
house was you, but not a you that I knew, while I
I was lost without a purpose." Dan's voice grew
quieter. "It's not so much a question of who I
am, but what the fuck I'm here for anymore. They said
I should 'find myself another hobby'. Which fucking
hobby? Killing time instead of soft targets? They said
I had to get used to this, it was just the beginning.
Would get worse, a matter of time until
could still 'do things'. What things?" Trailed
off, silenced. The final shrug as much resignation as
acceptance. No pity, not ever that. Just not that.
nodded. "I think they thought swimming, or cycling.
Activities like that." Looked down at his hand,
which looked quite comfortable on Dan's arm. "Well,
the farm, and the consulting,
and a whole country full of rainforest and mountains
or we travel. Or
or something." Mocking slightly.
tried to grin, but it ended in a fucking pathetic attempt.
Laid open and bare, truth that was fragile, cutting
too deep. "What am I going to do, Vadim. What am
I going to do?" Barely above a whisper.
smiled, finally, again, inside Dan's mind. Couldn't
afford to gloat this time, because it was too important.
"You don't have to do anything. Just trust me."
Moved closer again, hand moving up to Dan's upper arm,
could feel tension in there, then up to his shoulder,
to his neck, resting there, against Dan's throat. Shifted
his head closer, to whisper, not to kiss. "I want
to make you relax. You don't have to move. Don't do
anything. I'll take care of the rest."
you." The tension in Dan's body grew, couldn't
help it. Closeness and intimacy, they'd become aliens,
despite fourteen years. "With a bullet and a knife."
His lips twitched, the ghost of a smile. They'd grown
apart, separated not by war - but by peace, and yet
some things he remembered. Always would. Mine. Yours.
Scars and caresses.
kept looking into Dan's eyes, intense enough to make
his vision blurry. "You can keep a knife."
He smiled, too, but felt the tension. Knew Dan might
not agree if he asked him straight out. "I hurt
you, you cut me. Simple rules." Less complicated
than the other set of rules.
remained in Dan's body, even when he nodded. "Aye.
I can do that." Knew he wouldn't need to, but a
knife was a prop, a lifeline.
nodded, then slowly came closer again to touch Dan's
forehead with his, closed his eyes, as if to draw strength,
when indeed all he could feel was Dan's presence, Dan
with him, not somewhere else, doing whatever. The world
had become smaller and that was reassuring.
moment of irritation, uncertainty, but Dan's forehead
remained against Vadim's. Trying to remember the familiarity
that had become unfamiliar, until he relaxed slightly.
took the mug out of Dan's hand and got up, offering
a hand only to not break contact for too long. Dan was
already naked, good, excellent start. He nodded towards
the tent. "That's where the blankets are."
grip on Vadim's wrist was strong, his weight behind
it, as he pulled himself up. Hands that could still
kill with ease. If only he believed in it. He stood,
caught the blanket that fell off his shoulders, raised
his brows, said nothing. His fingers circled sinews
and bone, before letting go and turning towards the
tent. "You want the blankets outside or me in?"
wanted to reach out again, to touch him again. Glanced
around. He was pretty sure there was nobody else anywhere
near, but he liked the tent for the very fact there
was nothing distracting about it, no sounds, no wind,
nothing. Much like a cave, he thought, smiling. Damn,
they'd never really got out of the caves. "Get
inside. For the moment."
nodded, unsure, but went along, because he had no other
option. Had come to a dead end and a stop sign, hidden
in every bottle.
followed, relishing in the luxury that they were indeed
alone, and no danger he could think of, nothing worse
than mosquitoes in this place. He motioned Dan to lie
down, stayed close, crouched, regarding the other, read
the body like he hadn't done for ages.
Dan had settled, Vadim leaned in, put his lips against
Dan's sternum, felt him breathe as his hands moved to
his flanks, slow, deliberate stroking. Loved the dark
nipples, the curves of flesh, especially when there
was this underlying tension. Knew he never won much
with dealing with the nipples, compared to him, Dan
didn't even seem to feel much there. It was nice enough,
but nothing that Dan really craved. Thought for a moment
whether it could work, or would, but he had got him
quiet voice was strangely brittle. "What's this
going to be, an attempt at taming?"
didn't answer, moved down the body, relishing in the
taut stomach, a touch on the thin side, felt the heart
pound against the flesh, then moved towards those scars
that looked like some creature had ripped Dan open.
Massive, impossible scars, by no means pretty, just
impressive, something that made Vadim feel awe when
the touched them. Moved away, and licked the stretched
skin between two of the scars, breathing through his
nose to make the wet trace tingle.
Dan's fist suddenly clenched, breathing noisily through
his nose. He lifted his head to look down, grabbed some
extra blankets, stuffed them under his neck, to have
everything in his vision. Fist lying at his side, opening
and closing like a pulsing artery. "Where
is the knife?" Had to clear his throat. Lost. Confused.
Wanting. Bitter. Hurting and aching for more. Contact.
Touch, inside and out, of mind and body, yet rejecting
the attempt with every fibre, like a rule he had to
follow, established a year ago with the words 'no, Mr
McFadyen, but you will never go on active duty again.'
His body, it had never failed him, no matter how battered,
broken and torn. Until a year ago. What if it failed
reached to the side and pulled the bergan closer. "In
there somewhere", he murmured against the scars,
rubbed his face against Dan's stomach, felt how the
muscles shifted against his skin, loved how Dan's body
responded without Dan even noticing. The one thing he
understood better than Dan, always had, and wasn't that
ironic, now. "Relax", he murmured. "Nothing
you can do about it anyway." Fuck that knife.
fist eased its tension only to grab hold of the bergan,
a white-knuckled grip, needing an anchor, and he found
the knife, fist closing around the handle.
Vadim traced the line of muscle from groin to hip, licked
it, used his teeth to trace that line, teeth taking
a bit of muscle and just testing it, no biting, but
not just teasing, either. Moved across the stomach,
knees between Dan's, just so he had a better angle,
and did the same, licking and teeth, and taking his
time, on the other side. No rushing, it wasn't about
lust or winning, just pleasure.
body was brimming with stress, couldn't ease it, impossible
to relax, and when Vadim looked into Dan's face, he
saw tension. Lots of it. He moved up again, returning
to the sternum, nuzzling it. Something that wasn't dangerous.
Placed his lips around the right nipple, rolled it gently
between his teeth, took the sting out with licking it,
then circled it with his tongue, his free hand stroking
Dan's side. "Just relax. I can do this all day."
if I can't." Dan pressed out, head lifted,
faces close. His breathing shallow, chest restricted,
cursing himself for his fucking stupidity.
looked up, brought his face close again. "You don't
have to", he murmured in Russian. "First,
we have time, second, all I want to do is make you relax."
Touched his face, the touch of sweat on the freshly
shaved skin. "If you can't, I'll still do this.
All fucking day and all fucking night." Wanted
to kiss him, the lips that seemed just as tense, just
as vulnerable. "Your body is more than
Cock. Fucking. Many more possibilities, many more good
nodded, felt relieved and pathetic at the same time.
More than that. Was he? More than that
than what? Cock. Cripple.
want to make you feel good." Vadim murmured, "That's
it. No danger." Turned over to the other nipple,
caught it between his teeth, opened his jaws to scrape
them against the pec, did that again, loved the taste
and the feeling. "You never understood how fucking
sexy you are
. Tough luck. I did."
" Dan gasped out, watched Vadim, head propped
up and looking. Shuddered, a rare reaction to the play
with his nipples. Perhaps the tension had brought nerves
on edge, and maybe he was more than ... that after all.
"You're a fucking perv," fists easing their
tension in increments, trying to give himself over,
"finding a useless ragbag of scars sexy."
but you wear them so well", murmured Vadim, returning
to the nipple, sucking on it, indicating what he planned
to do, later, further down. Slow, intense, gentle, and
teasing. "And I still wear mine." Moved his
head up to suck and lick that round scar, the one from
their first kiss. Of course that kiss had to leave a
bullet scar. It seemed so logical. Always loved that
skin, dark as it was, so easily bronzed in the sun.
couldn't keep the tension in his fist, had to let go
of the knife, the lips and teeth on the scar acted like
a local anaesthetic. His arm fell limp, while his jaws
tensed and his breathing became ragged. Fucking scars.
Fucking memories, each and every of them connected to
Vadim. "I can read you ... on my body." Forced
out between locked teeth.
smiled. "That one? Oh, that one is special. It
says I love you." He winked at Dan, only way to
say that sentence was with humour, to not earn a kick
in the balls right now. "Let's see
those are special, too." He began to move down
again, traced the middle scar with his lips, just kisses,
almost chaste. "Those say you're alive."
shivered. Alive. The word had taken on a whole
new meaning over the past year. He'd been existing,
side by side with Vadim, but more separated and hopeless
than he'd ever been before. Alive but not living.
about the scar
in my face." He managed to
force out, couldn't find the words, no better nor easier
way to ask and even plead. Do you want me. Do you honestly
still want me?
looked up, eyes narrowed for a moment, wondered, wondered
whether he had read him wrong, had been wrong in thinking
Dan would punch him if he tried that. And these days,
he didn't just shrug off punches. His age, too. Looked
at the scar, weathered away as it was, one line in that
face, part of Dan like his nose. For somebody who spent
insane amounts of time and money on being as good-looking
as he could still manage, he had never bothered much
about the other's scars. "That scar
Moved up until he was breath to breath with Dan, tilted
his head to study the scar, the line he had not created,
time had not brought. A story he didn't know. Found
the beginning of it at Dan's temple, kissed it, moved,
kissed the end of it, part of him waiting for the punch.
He'd risk it. "That scar says I'll carve its twin
on the other side if you punch me now."
" Dan opened his mouth, but Vadim flashed
teeth and attacked Dan's lips, open-mouthed, taste of
Dan's sweat still on them as he met those lips. Nothing
merciful about that kiss, he kept the jaws open with
a thumb and kissed Dan like he was trying to drink his
soul, ignoring the sounds of protest, because there
was no fight. Fuck you, you're mine, thought Vadim,
about to lose it himself, lose control, irony and composure.
head tilted backwards, allowing access, deeper, baring
his throat, his whole self. A self that he couldn't
recognise anymore, that had lost its path and meaning.
He tried to say something, but that, too, had lost all
sense, and only a grunt came out.
parted, breathing accelerated, then grinned at him,
trailing down the kisses, down to the chest, running
his face against Dan's chest, hands already moving deeper.
hesitated, his hand once more clutching the knife, until
Vadim took Dan's hips to help him, and to position him,
and only then did Dan let go and allowed himself to
be handled, until he lay flat on his stomach.
want payback for all the lost nights?" Dan's voice
sounded bitter, and so very much unlike the feisty man,
then opened his legs, without any prompting. He'd be
good for that still, and if that's what he'd get, he'd
take it. Better than nothing.
paused, hit by the sentence like by a punch. Dan still
delivered the most intense pain of all. As if he'd fuck
him. Maybe. It had occurred to him, but not in the state
or mood that Dan was in. "There are no lost nights."
Vadim kissed the small of Dan's back.
were. Plenty." Not much more than a murmur, the
words were almost swallowed by the ground. "I don't
" Don't what?
reached for the Vaseline tub in the bergan, unscrewed
the lid, scooped a good measure with his fingers, warming
the grease. "Just relax."
answer, then, and Dan knew that his question was answered.
He was someone to fuck. And what was he going to do
about it? Use the knife and defend himself? Perhaps,
if he could be bothered, but he just didn't have the
energy nor strength - and perhaps
was something. An echo of past longing.
to work the grease into Dan's ass, Vadim felt queasy
about it - like he was getting Dan ready to be fucked
when he was actually planning something completely different,
but Dan didn't know it, just spread his legs further
and closed his eyes. Head pressed deeply into the blanket
and the ground.
needs didn't matter, Vadim thought. Not that there was
much of a need right now, just memories, just the feeling
of knowing, familiarity, trust, and hope. Keeping the
darkness away. He slowly worked two fingers into Dan,
carefully adding more grease and opening him up, leisurely
, soon adding a third finger, when the tension in Dan's
back suddenly jumped up, before he wilfully relaxed.
Bone after bone and muscle after muscle.
could have ask what Vadim was doing, planning, but it
didn't matter. Simply didn't. Was good to feel, feel
anything at all, and the time Vadim took, the care,
as if he was still worth something.
ran his free hand across Dan's back, smiling slightly
when he felt a reaction, an increase in awareness, maybe,
hoping he'd get Dan to focus. Slowly working, keeping
the fourth finger close to the hand, strong fingers
forcing, coaxing their way in, not much, just enough
to make progress, like he'd done only a few times -
Dan wasn't often in the mood for this. But sometimes
it wasn't about moods. But survival. Reaching. More
grease, then Vadim added the thumb, and the tension
in Dan's body jumped up once more. Hips lifting, his
breath catching, he shuddered, and finally understood.
The tough bit was the row of knuckles, and that could
take forever. A forever that no one would take for anyone
who meant anything less than everything. "Russkie?"
Vadim paused, staying where he was, attentive, listening,
watching, gauging reactions.
less than I love you, Vadim thought, and inhaled sharply.
"It worked once. Why not again." Why not indeed.
pile of corpses. Dead Mujas. Rotting, stinking, festering
flesh. Why not. It made sense. More sense than anything
had made since he had lost his knee, his livelihood,
and with it his manhood. "Aye
breathed out, and relaxed in increments, until his body
opened up to the very core.
long time passed, until Vadim managed to get past the
knuckles, hand closing naturally, smooth and tight and
hot, and he allowed Dan's body to accept the treatment.
He remained still, silent, listening to Dan's breathing,
which became erratic, and followed every twitch of muscle,
visible or invisible. Only then did he begin to move,
carefully, working with the body, which became pliable,
rather than against it, even though he was stronger
at present, heavier and Dan was helpless, but he hadn't
thought in such categories for a long, long time. Vadim
ran his fingers across Dan's flanks, then leaned in
to kiss the skin. "Calm. I'm here."
fingers trembled against the ground, no sense of time.
Ensconced in the safety of darkness behind closed eyes,
and yet he was fighting a fight that had nothing to
do with Vadim. Focused, feeling, more feeling and more
sensations than he had allowed himself to remember.
Before the time. Before he'd become useless.
There was a pain inside, which rose and moved, fluttered
against his chest, and it took his breath. Took his
mind and reduced it to the one sensation: his body being
opened up and taken, once more focused completely, while
everything else was crashing in around him, and the
pain grew and grew, until he could taste it, and it
tasted like failure and loss and suicide.
remained focused, calm himself, desire the last thing
he was thinking about or feeling right now. It was all
about Dan, and whether he could find that connection
again. Moving, turning his hand, ever so slightly, opening
the fist a little, then closing it, minuscule movements,
as too much, too intense, could probably be painful.
He had no idea. Dan had never done this to him.
much, yet never enough, not even after hours. A sound
was finally torn out of Dan's chest, lost and utterly
desperate, unlike any sound he'd ever made. Not in the
mountains - half-insane, not even torn apart by a bomb
- almost dying.
closed his eyes, knowing something had changed, something
major, important, this was unlike Dan, and all he could
hope was that it would be the start of all that pain
coming out. Blood. Flesh and blood. He moved again to
kiss, wanted to hold and caress, and did it with the
sex instead. Slow, considerate motions, more intense
now that he remembered what Dan liked, what kind of
twists, what kind of movements.
reacted, and something opened inside, letting him feel
the pain and fear, the self-loathing for which he had
no name. Tapping into the darkness and depression, to
tear open the deepest hurt: being useless, old, belonging
to the scrap heap and having lost all sense, reason,
focus and task. Reaching inside, deep, deeper than words
ever could. Touching - to drain the puss.
and listening, Vadim was wide open to Dan's responses,
a body that reacted as if separated from the mind -
while the mind was given the strength to allow the pain
to surface. Vadim took his time, determined to allow
Dan to find the way back, shed whatever had come between
them, at the same time feeling an intense tenderness
that had, itself, been buried under his own stuff, until
Dan had felt only like the guy he shared a house with.
opened his legs further, pushed his chest and head down,
almost on his knees, open, wide open, allowing, expecting,
demanding the intrusion that anchored him. Once more.
Deeper. The sob that was torn out of him shook his whole
body. Shuddering violently, only the hand inside his
body still anchored him, when another sob poured out.
Sounds of utter devastation, sounds he wasn't aware
of, as the pain rose to the surface, spilling open and
he wept like a lost child.
stroked Dan's back, never relenting, never withdrawing,
moving ever so slightly, trying to be there,
even though he assumed, judging by his own struggles,
that Dan might not fully realize him, his presence,
just going through his own inner world. And Dan, who
had always been so uncomplicated, probably had a worse
time than he had. Ill-equipped to deal with these notions.
that saw Dan weak, and yet strong, because he was still
struggling, still fighting on, as the hurt and fear
of a whole year poured out of him. His cock still hard,
but never moving beyond that stage. The arousal did
not wane, as if the one had nothing to do with the other
- no matter how long it took, and the night had been
shielding them in darkness during the last hours, while
the silence of the mountains cocooned them both. The
sobs finally began to quieten and die down, and yet
Dan's body was still in the same state.
then did Vadim withdraw his hand, just as slowly and
gently as everything else, and he turned Dan by the
hips, nudging him to lie down, lie flat on his back.
Shifting his own weight, he moved between Dan's legs
and took the hard cock between his lips. Gently, again,
no greed, just tenderness, caring.
was past noticing, and he shuddered once more, bereft
of the anchor which had centred his mind, but his body
had different ideas, reacting to the touch. Too many
months without connection, and without the physical
manifestation of a love he'd believed lost. Now that
his mind had stopped thinking, his body took over once
more, like it had done all his life. Breath quickening,
his cock hardened under the tender administrations,
and he was taken away, further towards the edge.
glanced up briefly, studying Dan's face, then concentrated
on Dan's cock. Hadn't done this in a while, not to Dan,
not for Dan, but it still felt completely natural, he'd
never love doing this, but that wasn't the point. The
point was to bring release, relief, and he concentrated
on sucking and licking, not going anywhere fast, just
continued stimulation for a while, before he finally
took the cock deep into his throat, moving fast.
body reacted almost immediately. Arching up with a hoarse
groan, face still wet, hands in fists, he tensed once,
twice. Sounds were torn out of his chest, when he pushed
himself towards the accepting throat. He came with a
shout that had nothing to do with the mind, but all
with the body and the man.
swallowed, took Dan's hand when he was arched up, pressing
it, and then continued to lick and suck, cleaning him
up, until he finally rested his hand on Dan's hip, breathing
faster, but smiling, caressing the scars, while Dan
remained out for a long time. He had almost fallen asleep
with his breath evened out and his face slack and peaceful.
More calm and relaxed than it had been for months after
only moved enough to pull up the sleeping bag and make
sure that Dan wouldn't be cold now. He cleaned his hand,
reached for a bottle of water, drinking, then lay down
beside Dan, watching him breathe.
Barely audible, after what seemed like an eternity.
here", Vadim murmured, smiling. "You okay?"
" Drowsy, eyes still closed. "You
still want me?" Not a question, despite
the inflexion of his tired voice.
moved up to look closely into Dan's face, then kissed
his lips, even though Dan never opened his eyes. "I
do. And I ... love you. Okay?"
who am I?" Barely more than breathed out.
Everybody." Vadim moved up, touching Dan's legs,
hips, chest, shoulder.
Dan's head fell to the side, the vaguest of smiles ghosting
across his lips.
for me." Vadim smiled, too. "But you did ask
lifted his hand sluggishly, wiping across his closed
eyes, to get rid of the itch of those salty tears. His
hand remained across his face. Too much effort to lift
it. "Even though I am not Mad Dog anymore, not
care. I take you as you are. SAS, mercenary, consultant,
pensioner. Whatever. As long as ... this doesn't happen
again. Because it fucking hurts."
opened his eyes, a great feat of willpower do to so.
"Yeah." Moving no muscle except eyes and lips.
"Like standing in front of a closed door?"
No accusation in it.
inhaled deeply. "Still. Good it came to that."
Even if Nelson had become more trouble than he was worth.
a strange, nearly invisible smile, Dan's eyes closed
again. "I have to do some thinking now
your time." Vadim closed his eyes, breathing deeply.
"I'll doze a bit." The whole thing had been
much harder - and easier - than he'd thought. But he
got the feeling he'd managed to break through. Even
if it would be tough to repair all that, but they'd
been through worse.
" Dan shuddered, a gentle movement all through
his body, as he fell asleep. Mind finally shutting down,
his body succumbed to the abuse of months. Asleep -
deeper than in ages - within the next second.
Dan woke with a full bladder, it was already dawn. The
first sensation was that of warmth - shared warmth -
and it had become so unknown, that he lay there for
a moment, just feeding from the sensation of feeling
a body beside him and against his own. When he stretched
he felt the deep seated ache, and he grimaced, biting
down a sound, as he shuffled to sit up and peel himself
out of the blankets. The ache was nothing, on the contrary.
He'd felt it before, had been stretched and filled and
taken, and the only true feeling that lingered was that
of no longer being alone. Connection. Worth.
was chilly and damp, so he carefully took a blanket
with him, wrapped around his shoulders, trying not to
wake Vadim, whose face looked relaxed in his sleep,
with the hand curled in a loose fist beside his head.
Crawling out of the tent, a glorious dawn greeted him,
and it felt strange to do such a profane task as to
piss. But needs must, and he was just a profane man,
into the powdery colours of rising light, he stood and
relieved himself. Mind blank, and the pain was gone.
Replaced by a blank slate that waited to be filled.
emerged from the tent not much later, when Dan had finished
his business, dressed in his jeans, T-shirt in his hands,
and yawned, then stretched. He watched Dan closely and
smiled, still somewhat sleep dazed. "Was a long
night", he murmured.
Dan nodded, offered a vague smile, before turning his
face back towards the rapidly approaching dawn. "Is
the towel dry?"
think so." Vadim put the T-shirt on, then headed
back to get Dan the towel, slipping into his shoes on
the way back. He handed Dan the towel. "Any plans?"
arse is full of Vaseline and itches." Dan's brows
rose with dry humour. "The plan's to jump into
that cold water and wash it off."
laughed wryly. "Okay. I'll make coffee." He
headed back to the fireplace and rummaged through the
bergan to find what food he'd brought. Not much. But
he could always venture out, drive for a little and
get some provisions.
left the towel over a branch, put the blanket down,
and walked straight into the water. The water was a
shock to the system, but he walked on, as if the cold
could wash the puss away that had been drained. The
guilt, loathing, anger and resentment. He stayed only
a few minutes, washing best he could and quickly, before
coming out with chattering teeth and goosebumps all
over. Drying himself in record time, vigorously rubbing
at skin and hair, until he could slip the blanket back
over his shoulders.
sweets?" He was beside Vadim the next moment.
placed some more dried wood onto the fire. "Not
nearly enough to last us", he murmured and smiled.
"I'll head down the mountain again and get some
stuff. Didn't have much time to pack." He stood
and stretched and got his jacket. "I could probably
tie you up, but I imagine you're not the most unwilling
prisoner I've ever had." Raising an eyebrow, as
if in question.
huffed. "Never been your prisoner. Not going to
start a habit now." He sat down near the fire,
a laborious process. "I think I'm hungry."
Didn't quite know if he was, it had been months since
he'd truly been hungry.
a ration and some bits ... nuts." Vadim gestured
at the bergan near the fire. "Should last you two
hours. I shouldn't be longer than that."
But don't worry, no suits or furniture." Vadim
smiled, and gave a little wave, then headed down the
mountain, to the car, then towards one of the small,
idyllic cities and there to one of the outdoor stores
and the nearby supermarket.
didn't move much in all that time. Drank the coffee
that Vadim had left, went onto the rest of the water
bottle, and ate whatever food was there. Strange to
actually feel hungry, something he hadn't realised he'd
missed. The alcohol and emptiness had numbed even that.
was lying with his back on the blanket in a patch of
sun, a packet of cigarettes beside him, when Vadim returned.
He didn't even twitch at the sounds, keeping his eyes
closed, as if he'd lost all of his instincts. Still
naked, the new scars on his knee anything but pretty.
But what did they matter, only another one on an already
set the bags down, then the bergan that was stuffed
full with beverages. "That should last us for a
while", he said and crouched down. "Sweets,
meat, outdoor food, dried, smoked ... I even got a kettle
and a pan."
going to cook for me? Mother Goose style?" Cracking
one eye open, a fleeting hint of Dan's old irreverent
humour appeared for a moment.
glanced up, then shrugged. "Depends what you're
offering in return."
on what you want from me."
of the same." Vadim began to set up the pan, eggs,
bacon, cheese, all dug out of the bergan, and already
started to cook.
arse is not going to keep up with that." Pushing
himself up on his elbow, Dan watched Vadim, every movement,
each simple and focused task.
Maybe some substitute? Or maybe I'm just talking about
sharing warmth?" Vadim cut the bacon into the pan
and melted the fat over the fire, then broke the eggs
into the pan and added several chunks of cheese.
you don't know what you're talking about, how can I?"
Dan shook his head, then let himself roll once more
onto his back. One arm shielding his eyes against the
sun, the other boneless beside him. Silent while the
eggs cooked and the bacon sizzled.
you taking the offer?" Suddenly.
looked up, knew in an instant what offer Dan was talking
about. "Only if it's over between us", he
really think it could ever be, unless one of us was
dead?" Him, most likely. He'd been dead for months.
..." Vadim paused. He hadn't been sure. For months.
"I want it to work, Dan. If I have to go, I will.
But I don't want to. I ... am not sure I can function
without you. Or live."
function or live. Or are we back to the needing? The
carer?" Dan trailed off, silent once more. He slowly
let the arm fall from his face, turning, until he looked
at Vadim. "You still want me?" So much implied
in the few words. Do you still want me even though I
am no longer myself? No longer strong? No longer functional?
nodded, in silence, felt his guts knot and twist inside.
Of course. It was a different kind of wanting, though,
but that was fine. Gentler, more considerate, more caring.
not very enthusiastic."
drifted apart for so long. It's like ... it takes time.
It's been a year, Dan. So much ... darkness." He
frowned and took the pan off the fire, scraping the
eggs into two bowls, handing one to Dan.
nodded, took the bowl and didn't say anything for a
long time, well after he'd started tucking into the
bacon and eggs. "That's not actually the question."
Choosing, chewing and swallowing another mouthful. "Question
is if you want him. More than you want me." Looking
up from his food. "It's really that simple. You
choose what you want. That's all."
freaks me out."
laughed, a dry, huffed sound that died quickly. "So
you haven't lost your taste for knives, blood and danger.
It just comes without the blades and in a suit, these
grinned, shaking his head. "I'm serious, Dan. He
freaks me out. Keeps calling, that ... contract. That
was unsolicited. I didn't tell him I was looking for
a job. Nothing I did encouraged that."
brows rose, but he said nothing otherwise, finished
off his food instead. He had rolled back down before
he spoke. "Guess the fact you stayed far away from
your 'business partner' was telling."
he was staying away from me, too."
turned onto his side. "I just hate the fucking
wannabe arseholes in that job. Bunch of tossers, just
like my worst COs."
Vadim sighed. "I don't want to point the finger.
We both made mistakes. We both fucked it up. Nelson
just took advantage of it, and ... it was nice to be
nodded slowly. "Yeah, I get that." Trailing
off once more, he closed his eyes, as he tried to find
the words. "Don't know what happened to me. Seems
myself." My job. My self esteem.
My reason for being. My everything. Except you, but
then I lost you, too.
I should have seen it sooner, but I didn't. I'm sorry."
nodded once more. "You were busy and I was away.
All those months in hospital and rehab, hospital again
and final fucking weeks in rehab, at the other side
of the world." He reached for his fags, "not
Not good at all." Vadim began to eat his own portion,
thinking about everything, but truth was, all he wanted
was get back to normal, live like they had before everything
had come down around them. "What do you want me
don't know." Dan lit the fag, then moved to sit.
"I don't even know what I should do."
Inhaling deeply, he watched the smoke curl from his
nostrils, up into the air. "Perhaps we could start
with letting me have a say in what the house looks like."
We start with the house." Vadim was eating, quickly
finishing the food and then drinking half a bottle of
water. "I guess you hate it?"
everything. Just some of the pictures, looks like poncy
shit to me. And I fucking hate the bedroom. That's no
proper bed. It's all so
just too much. Everything's
just too much. It's like someone had transplanted a
Scottish peasant into a Florida villa." He tilted
his head, "sorry. I like it simple. I bought the
farm for the view of the mountains and the old apple
looked somewhat shocked, especially at the last bit,
then nodded. "What about this: you tell me which
pieces you hate and I get rid of them. I guess I could
find a buyer for that."
Dan backtracked. "Not everything. Would be unfair.
You keep your favourite stuff, but the bedroom
he trailed off, watching the smoke once more. "You
want it to be our bedroom? Then we should furnish
it together. You show me catalogues, I tell you what's
shit and what isn't." A miniature grin broke through.
"Just get rid of that picture, I fucking hate it."
ripped." Vadim shrugged.
sorry." Dan was watching him. "I don't feel
like the place is my home. Always felt like a guest
in your house."
Let's do everything to make you feel like this is your
place, too. Especially", Vadim grinned, "the
bedroom. Looks like we'll be using it more often, soon."
Stubbing out the cigarette. "That would be good."
Dan rolled once more onto his back. Arms and legs relaxed,
lying sprawled on top of the blanket, bare skin soaking
up the mild sunshine.
prepared some more coffee, then went to wash out the
pan, and lay down near the fire, staring into the blue
sky, thinking, calming, allowing the mind to drift.
Just spending time with no purpose but be near Dan,
who had fallen asleep after a while, gently snoring.
Lying partly on his front, face cushioned on his forearm,
legs sprawled. Vadim moved over, lay down beside him,
touching and warming, and feeling calmer and more at
peace than in a long time.
was asleep for a couple of hours, hardly shifting throughout
all the time, except for rolling over onto his side,
facing Vadim. Subconsciously moving closer to the human
warmth, that provided heat in addition to the sun on
his bare skin. Surfacing from his slumber, he was awake
from one heartbeat to the next, like he used to, back
when his life depended on split decisions. But this
time he wasn't faced with an enemy. Not when the face
in front of him was more familiar than his own and was
still the most attractive one he had ever seen. He smiled,
a minute reaction. 'Attractive', he hadn't thought in
those terms for an eternity.
noticed the shift and opened his eyes, regarding Dan
from touching distance, close enough to blur his features
slightly. He gave a smile. "Any discoveries?"
look like you're looking for something. Here."
Vadim pointed at his face. "Just wondered whether
you've found it."
No." Dan pulled his arm from under himself, resting
his head on his biceps. He was about to say something,
looked dubious for a moment, then returned the gaze.
Dan's face, tanned, weathered now, lines - he'd seen
it gradually change, and it was still Dan, always him,
the eyes hadn't changed much, not the way his face moved
through different expressions. "Okay. I was just
thinking you might have."
shrugged one-shouldered. "Remember, I don't think.
I'm the peasant. It's you who's the thinking man."
Reaching out to touch the jaw, running along to the
your thoughts are just not as long as mine." Vadim
leaned in to kiss the inside of Dan's arm, tilting his
head to get more of the touch.
They go from here to my body." And yours. "No
further." The hand stalled, fingertips resting
on Vadim's jaw. Reacquainting themselves. "And
as for my body, we got money for a pool?"
you want a large one, I'd think we need to get some
more jobs in." Vadim smiled and kissed Dan's wrist.
said I should swim." 'They', the doctors, physios,
massage and rehab specialists. 'They'. An unknown entity
that stood for his downfall. "And cycle. Guess
I should invest in an exercise bike." Turning his
wrist slowly, fingers keeping in contact with the jaw
all the time. "How many jobs for a pool with view
of the apple trees and the mountains?"
how much we want to spend as pensioners, Dan. How much
interest we get, where and how we invest. If you do
want a number, I think a few more years should set us
up alright. If we're careful, and if we work hard."
a few years? And then nothing? I'm fucking forty-five.
Scrapheap, but not pensioner yet." Dan's hand slipped
off Vadim's jaw.
can do the consulting stuff for longer and let it slowly
peter out. At the moment, we're answering a need."
Vadim lay back on his back, but took the hand with him.
"What's so bad about a life of leisure?"
purpose. Worst thing imaginable."
thought about it. "Find a purpose. A hobby, people
... You have family, friends
For Dan the chapter was closed for now, and he pulled
his hand out of Vadim's grasp, slowly getting up. "I'm
off for a swim."
nodded. "Enjoy the water." He turned to watch
Dan head into the lake, didn't want to join him, wanted
to lie there and think. He'd never really needed a purpose
in life - beyond Dan, at least, and once he'd had Dan,
everything else just seemed to fit in with his life.
He enjoyed the job, but he'd enjoy just as much to be
at home and rest, take life slower. Much slower, eventually
growing old. He looked forward to it. In a way, he looked
forward to resting, and even to death. It would be good
to rest, to enter a deep stillness and calm, and even
be wiped out. He'd seen many things, done many things,
he'd just take it when it came. Dan, he thought, wasn't
quite there yet.
was shivering when he finally came back. Muscles worked,
body warm, but skin cold. Dripping wet and covered in
goosebumps, his 'manhood' had clearly seen more glorious
moments. "Bloody cold. Got the towel?"
grinned. "I'll get it." Heading back into
the tent, he found two towels and handed them to Dan.
"How was the water? As cold as it looks?"
As cold as that." Pointedly looking at his cock
that had shrivelled into nothing. "Was thinking.
Short thoughts." Drying off, "but even those
need time." He offered a small smile. "What
sweets did you get?"
pointed at the bags. "See for yourself. Something
for every taste, I'd wager."
peanut butter energy bars?" A flash of a grin broke
through the otherwise mostly passive face, before turning
to look for the bag. He stooped down without bending
his knees, and it was obvious he was compensating, but
perhaps he was getting used to it.
nicer than that. I went to the bakery and got a whole
lot of those sugary cakes and cookies, all wrapped up
in nice little boxes." Vadim watched him, then
headed over to get some of the plates from the camping
shit!" Dan was too occupied with unpacking the
goods to notice Vadim had walked off. "You really
did get strawberry tats?" Opening up one of the
boxes, there they were. In all their round glory, filled
with thick cream, and transparent red sweetness covering
the fresh strawberries. He turned to search for Vadim
and spotted him with the plates. "Guess not all's
lost between us, eh?"
turned and grinned. "Well, if the Baroness managed
to bribe you with those ..."
on what you want to bribe me for." Another smile,
a rare occurrence lately, before Dan took a hearty bite,
and the pleasure was written all over his face.
know, just get back into your good graces." Vadim
set the plates down and sat near the fire, regarding
Dan, watching him eat. He wasn't hungry himself - he'd
eaten something in a takeaway place in the city, fish
and chips, actually, which kept his stomach occupied
with the greasy coating.
into my good graces or you getting into my good graces?"
Chewing, Dan eyed the low seat near the fire and chose
to remain standing. Easier that way.
getting back into your good graces." Vadim reached
for a water bottle and drank.
" Dan opened his mouth for the last big bite
and spent the next seconds chewing. "And what do
I have to do to get back into yours?"
drinking so much, open up to me, and be my partner instead
of this guy I kind of share a house with."
swallowed more than just the cake and he looked at Vadim,
brows knitting for a moment. "I already told you,
I don't actually like drinking on my own. But it kept
me from thinking what a fucking joke I'd become."
not a joke. You'll never will be a joke, Dan."
huffed. "You said I'd still be lethal with my legs
cut off. You really think that?"
how the fuck do you mean that?"
I said it. It's the mind, Dan. Mind over matter. You
kill with your mind, not your body." Vadim shook
his head. "I sound like a cheap Bruce Lee rip-off.
But I mean it."
his head with an amused huff, second strawberry tart
in tow, plus a selection of chocolate biscuits, Dan
made it over to the fire. Picking up the blanket on
his way by hooking his toes into, he managed to get
down on the ground without any accidents, and wrapped
his naked body partially into the blanket, the rest
warmed by fire and sun. "Regarding the opening
up to you I have to say 'you, too'. I wasn't the only
one who didn't talk." Dan shrugged, started on
a chocolate biscuit. "And the partner
the biscuit was gone with the next bite, "that
goes for you, too, aye?"
course. It's a mutual thing, this relationship. Takes
means you'll make some time in your fancy life to do
stuff with me?"
If it's more than getting drunk, yes. But you haven't
been doing much lately."
because I didn't know what." Vadim's words didn't
sting, strangely. Dan knew he was right. "I wasn't
even hungry anymore." Biting a piece off another
biscuit with determined gusto.
would be good to see you hungry again."
you're seeing it now." Dan managed a brief grin
while chewing. He took his time before he swallowed,
reaching for some water. "You realise I haven't
seen you naked for months?"
paused, then nodded. "I don't exactly prance around
the house naked ... much. There's always the way from
the bath to the sauna, though." Smiling.
been in the sauna yet." Dan shrugged, wiped his
lips after a good mouthful of water. He was slowly starting
to feel human again. At long last the hangover was gone.
"But for being naked, what about now?"
I do. All the crap's somewhere else when you're naked
stood and began to undress, watched intently. It wasn't
exactly warm, not freezing, either. Shirt, shoes, socks,
jeans, underwear, all on a pile, as he stood there,
just as naked as Dan was under his blanket. "I've
lost a lot of definition", he murmured.
you didn't." Dan looked him up and down. A little
soft in the sides, perhaps, but that was all he could
see and he knew that body damn well. "Not to my
eyes." Lifting the corner of the blanket, an inviting
moved closer and got under the blanket, skin to skin.
Fuck. He'd missed that. Just being close.
want a biscuit?" Dan was holding the parcel out
to him with one hand, the other arm wrapped around Vadim's
back. Shit, that was good. So familiar and yet so unknown
for too long, it hurt. In all the good ways.
grinned. "No, I'm okay. I guess I could do with
something else, though. Something else I've wanted for
far too long."
blowjob?" Dan turned his head, and there was no
doubt, the familiar, old, irreverent grin was peeking
or even getting fucked." Vadim smiled. "Guess
your ass is out for a while."
not sure yet." Dan tilted his head, reaching for
another biscuit. "The fucking, that is." Munching
his way thoughtfully through the chocolate covered crunchiness.
Start again, slow. Slow. Testing the ground with every
step, whether there was a basis to stand on or not.
It was probably the safest way to do it - only that
things between him and Dan had never been safe, had
always been all out. All out war, all out love, all
out sex. "That's fine. Not ... sure I'm quite there
don't you think I need a reminder?
Been a while. Not even others."
nodded. "Absolutely. Won't say no."
not a lot of enthusiasm, Russkie." Dan flashed
a rare grin.
keep saying that." Vadim shook his head, smiling.
"Make me enthusiastic? I'm worrying too much."
what? Can't imagine it's as bad as my own worry?"
thing. Worries about you worrying. It's a bit awkward."
you worry about me worrying that I won't perform?"
Dan shook his head slightly with a vague grin. "Holy
shit, that's complicated."
didn't answer, turned his head to kiss Dan's neck instead,
his throat, running his hand over Dan's chest towards
that's less complicated than I thought." Dan murmured,
turning his head until he was face to face. He hadn't
kissed Vadim in months. Not deliberate, not truly, and
he couldn't even grasp anymore how he'd stayed away
from it. Moving, now, lips against lips and he parted
his, inviting and exploring in return.
smiled a little, opening up, kissing more deeply, focusing
on the taste of the sugar and an echo of strawberries
and chocolate, feeling his body respond to the kiss,
the skilful tongue, Dan's closeness.
hands began to wander all over Vadim's body, until the
blanket fell off, but he didn't notice. Lifting his
head after a long while, he murmured, "and how
are we going to do this? Any ideas? Kneeling's right
faster, Vadim lay down, stretched out on the ground,
pulling Dan with him. "On the side ... just lie
down right next to me. I could ... blow you, too."
Dan flashed a grin, "and here I was, thinking I
could only focus on one thing." Voice husky,
and he moved already. Hastily spreading the blanket
on the ground, before lying down, waiting for Vadim
to join him.
grinned, getting into position for his cock to be close
to Dan's face, and he was faced with the same prospect,
moving only to kiss and touch Dan's thighs and stomach.
"Doesn't have to be simultaneous ..."
not." Dan's lips were close to Vadim's cock, close
enough that his vision was blurred. He inhaled deeply,
greedily, when the scent hit his nostrils, creating
a stab of desire he hadn't felt in months. "Shit."
Breathed out, as he moved close enough for his tongue
to taste and lick, and for his lips to kiss and suck.
"I fucking missed this." Steadying Vadim's
hips, he concentrated on nothing but the cock. Eyes
closed, letting himself go, not thinking, just remembering
and wanting - allowing himself to want and thus to give.
shuddered, closed his eyes, taking hold of Dan's hips
to steady himself. Good. Much better than good. The
sheer length of time since Dan had done this, it added
to the intensity, and he was soon panting, trying to
keep himself from pushing, thrusting deeper into Dan's
mouth. He wanted Dan to find his own rhythm, do it as
he wanted to do it, but damn, it was getting harder
by the second, while Dan appeared to be oblivious -
deliberate or not.
took his time, almost like he had done, half a lifetime
ago, back in Kabul, when he had taught himself how to
give head with a knife at Vadim's balls. Remembering
the taste and sounds, the sensations beneath his fingers,
lips, and tongue, and remembering, most of all, how
much he wanted this. How much he loved sucking a cock.
Not any cock, this cock, Vadim's.
pulled back when Vadim's thighs trembled beneath his
hands and remained barely poised at the head, lips circling
lightly. He smiled, tongue flicking across the slit,
and then an almighty grin spread across his face before
he pushed himself down, concentrating, breathing with
wide nostrils, as he remembered it all at once - deep
throating Vadim without an ounce of holding back. Just
like ever: reckless. Skilled. And entirely steeped in
jerked, unable to hold back, pushing in, moving because
the alternative was going insane. Tensing up as the
pressure mounted, whole body getting there, clinging
to Dan's hip, muffling strangled sounds with his face
pressed against Dan's thigh, moving, then stilling as
pulled back just enough to breathe, Vadim's cock still
in his mouth. Swallowing the last drops, he moved to
clean the spent cock, then rested his cheek against
the flesh. "Seems there's something I'm still fucking
great at." He grinned from ear to ear, more relaxed
than he remembered.
swallowed dryly, unable to speak, orgasm still making
him shudder. Holding onto Dan's hips for a little longer,
he remembered his promise. Moving to take Dan's cock,
he played with it just because he was still too breathless
to take it in deep, then allowed it to slip free so
he could suck on his balls, hands moving to Dan's ass,
kneading it in time with his motions, all the while
listening to Dan's breath. How it quickened, and how
he let out small sounds that could almost be classified
hands convulsively flexed and relaxed on Vadim's thighs
and hips, as he lay with his face pressed against the
now flaccid cock. The musky scent of male and sex and
cum a heady mixture. No time, now, for worrying, his
body had other plans, it simply remembered who he'd
been and how he'd always reacted to Vadim. And not just
Vadim, to many others. Sex, he'd loved it, had craved
it, and it suddenly came back, reminding him with a
vengeance how fucking good it felt to climb towards
an orgasm, and to lose himself.
smiled at Dan's reaction, then decided he'd got him
where he wanted him, and took the cock with one swift
motion. He was out of practice, his throat constricted
a bit, but he wasn't slowed down, too determined to
do it, and his body quickly remembered how to do it.
let out a sound over which he'd had no control, shuddering
violently. His hands tightly gripped Vadim's buttocks
and thighs, and his hips jerked forwards, unable to
reign himself in. Not that he wanted to, he was helpless
and this time he relinquished power willingly. The orgasm
came suddenly after a steady climb, lust increasing
until he'd lost all sense except for the throat tightly
around his cock, and he came with a shout.
swallowed, swallowing just because it felt damned nice
for the other, as he knew, giving Dan time before he
pulled back just enough so he could breathe again, then
licked and sucked the cock. Gentle now, more deliberate,
before allowing it to slip out, head fell back, and
he rested. But after a few moments, he shifted and turned,
lying down beside Dan, reaching out to hold him. "Okay?"
Dan smiled, "never been better." He closed
his eyes, shifting closer, until their bodies gave warmth
to the other. "Perhaps some things never do change,
smiled against Dan's neck. "Guess not. You're still
far better at this than I am."
laughed, and he suddenly realised that it had been ages
since he'd laughed with that much genuine feeling. "I
don't complain." Glancing around, but he couldn't
see his fags and he couldn't be bothered.
the master, no question about it." Vadim lay back,
looking at Dan, marvelling at how his face had opened,
relaxed. Closer to the old Dan.
could still practice?" Dan winked. "If you
ply me with food I might rediscover more than just my
hunger for sweets."
that wasn't hungry, I don't know what is." Vadim
stretched, suppressing a yawn. "But yeah, we can
practice more. Much more."
right now I need a fag and then another snooze. You've
worn me out." Dan smiled, rolling onto his back.
"And if you cook something for me tonight, you
never know what might happen." He flashed a grin
and despite his demand for a cigarette he never reached
for them, just closed his eyes.
huffed laughter, got to his feet, and found his clothes.
Dan was never cold, but he was. He added some more wood
to the fire, then found another blanket for Dan, allowing
him to rest and sleep. And he did cook. He could never
know what might happen, after all.
slept until it was time for the food, and fell soon
asleep again, once it had turned dark, with an amazing
sky promising a rather cold night. Vadim had to rouse
him to get him into the tent and tucked in, and when
Vadim finally joined him as well, Dan turned towards
him, wrapping arms and legs around him in his sleep,
as if he were clinging to the presence, for more than
just warmth. Vadim ran his fingertips over Dan's back
and shoulder blades, breathing in the scent of Dan's
hair, feeling his breath, and thinking that the good
things were always simple like this.
was barely dawn, when Dan was up and outside. Still
naked, clothes didn't feel right, as if they represented
all the shit they'd left outside. He was wrapped in
a blanket, busying himself with boiling water for a
strong coffee, while smoking a fag from his stash.
eventually emerged, dressed in outdoor trousers, to
wash himself at the lake and to shave, something Dan
had done well before the first proper light. "How
are you feeling?"
Dan nodded, pouring some of the strong concoction with
its wonderful aroma into the second tin mug, handing
it to Vadim, who took a careful sip. "Been thinking."
Dan offered a smile, before sipping from his own brew,
generously laced with sugar. "I want to go to Afghanistan."
mean, the real place?" Vadim looked up, alarmed,
but he'd sworn that he'd do whatever it took to get
Dan back from where he'd vanished to. "Not a metaphor,
not a memory, you mean the physical, real place?"
Dan nodded. "I want to see the mountains again.
You coming with me?" Proving himself that he could.
Fucked knee or not. Just one last time.
we see them from the other side? India? Pakistan?"
might have been drunk, but I wasn't out of it. The Najibullah
government fell in 1992, aye?" Conveniently ignoring
that a group of Pashtuns had developed enough strength
to capture Kandahar and impose the Shariah law on parts
of the country already. "So no more communist bullshit
is the least of Afghanistan's problems. It's when the
savages come out of the mountains that things get bad
in the country." Never mind Dan had helped train
snorted, shaking his head. "Shit, eh?" Looking
at Vadim for a moment in a display of weary self-mockery.
you think it's safe for us to go there ... because I'm
not sure I can take up arms again and fight my way out
if the place goes to hell in a hand basket."
I guess you are right." Dan sighed, sipping some
more of his coffee. Wasn't it fucking ironic that he
was the one who got those bloody Mujas organised? But
back then, he'd been obeying orders. "Not sure
about Pakistan either. I remember distinctly the crap
going on there last year. I'd have thought you wouldn't
forget the Mog and its clusterfuck. What with Hooch
and all." Hooch, a strangely sore point, because
it reminded Dan of his friends, and having lost touch.
Having lost touch with anyone, in fact. Even the Baroness.
saw anything but the hospital."
a yes, then." Vadim smiled. "Kashmir is beautiful.
If you're in the mind to enjoy it."
long as I get into the mountains." Dan finished
his coffee, fishing for a fag as the first light of
the morning illuminated his face. Still striking, but
weathered. "Fuck the knee, I'll make it up there."
Up was easy, down was the problem, but he'd be fucked
if he didn't make it. "I had worse, aye?"
much Hindu Kush as you can want. Himalayas are fairly
close, too. And India is definitely nicer than any of
the mental asylums surrounding it."
laughed, the first deep belly-laugh in an eternity.
"You could say that." Pouring himself some
more of the coffee. "A propos clusterfuck, have
you heard from Hooch?" No matter how thin the ice
and how difficult the subject, it was a new day and
he'd had to brave some of the shit.
He called, and we had a chat." Remembering how
he had wanted to relax Hooch by hitting him, inflicting
pain, pain that would have helped Hooch deal with whatever
had happened in the Mog. But he hadn't, it would have
been too tempting, too dangerous. Vadim had heard it
between the lines, though, the fact that the place had
been shit, and Hooch in the middle of it. If he'd guessed
right and read the reports correctly, Hooch had been
a hero in that impossible place, saving lives, saving
comrades, and losing comrades.
" Dan nodded, concentrated on his coffee
and the fag. "And Matt?" Dan looked up, flicking
the butt into the fire.
... Matt takes care of Hooch. I think he secured himself
a Delta, our little Jarhead."
made Dan chuckle, and he shook his head. "I'm afraid
I was a fucking bad friend. Matt called and even wrote,
but I never returned anything." He shrugged one-shouldered,
avoiding Vadim's eyes as he turned towards the fire,
poking at the embers with a stick. "Have you heard
called a few times, but bad timing. He seems to be doing
okay, but I haven't heard anything from him for a long
they called in regular intervals. They are doing just
fine. Markus has taken over a delegation in Africa,
and they are now official, so Dima went with him."
nodded slowly, poking at the embers again until sparks
flew up. "I really was a shit friend, aye? And
let's not even mention being a shit brother
And lover. Spoken into the fire, he didn't look at Vadim.
they are friends, they'll be okay with it. Maybe get
in touch. See how they are doing?"
I should do that. Should definitely call Duncan when
I get back. Should call Maggie, too. She's been rather
insistent lately, even threatening to come here."
A smile ghosted across his face.
that. Call her first."
will. Better than have her stand on our doorstep, aye?"
Dan managed a brave smile. Throwing the stick into the
fire, he turned towards Vadim. "And you? How have
you been? Have you been in touch with
hesitating, "your family? Have you heard anything
about Kisa? Your father? Your children?" And have
you found anyone to have sex with, instead? But Dan
did not ask that, couldn't.
father's still alive", Vadim murmured. "Katya's
doing well, and so is Kisa. And my kids. We are in touch
now. Not often, but I guess ... that's still plenty.
I just ..." He shrugged. "I just waited it
out, I guess. Waited for something to happen. Feeling
bitter, and lonely, a lot of the time."
did I." Dan nodded slowly. "And I thought
you enjoyed being a civilian. While I hated it."
Dan held a hand out to Vadim. Not sure if he expected
it to be taken, but Vadim came closer and took his hand
with both his, and Dan looked at him. "I hurt like
fuck, and I don't mean the knee. Didn't understand what
was happening, how I could just lose everything I'd
ever been, because of that fucking body simply not complying
still enjoy it."
my body?" Dan offered a crooked grin.
and being a civilian. Both. We've slowed down, Dan.
That's fine. Didn't we kill enough?"
" Evasive, Dan glanced towards the fire again.
"But I've been a soldier all my life. What am I
now, Vadim? I feel like shit amongst those suited bigwigs
at the conferences. I don't speak their lingo and I
feel like they look down at me as if I were scum."
don't think they do. Maybe some. Like ... Nelson, but
the others? They respect you. For your experience ...
the things you've done, the things you know. Officers
are always bastards. Don't forget that."
I guess that's true." Squeezing Vadim's hand, Dan
let go of it slowly. "You think it'd kill me to
take another swim?" Getting up, he shed the blanket
and stretched. His body illuminated in the glow of the
morning sun. Nothing that could be hidden, and nothing
to hide. Scars, skin, muscles and not enough meat, but
the perfect lines were still there.
shook his head. "Can't see how it would. I could
always catch you before you drown. I'm pretty fast."
alright, then." Dan flashed a grin and went off,
towards the ice cold water, and with a yelp he immersed
himself. Not much later, after Dan had tired himself
out until he was freezing, they were lying in the tent,
naked, for a morning nap. Dan behind Vadim, like they
used to do. Bodies generating heat, Dan had warmed up,
while Vadim idly stroked the hair on Dan's arm that
was lying across his waist. It felt good having him
so close, felt good to feel Dan's breath rise and fall
like this. They lay like this for a long time, until
their breathing evened out and in sync, until finally,
Dan spoke in a low voice, barely above a murmur.
wish I hadn't lied."
Vadim opened his eyes, looked at the bergan stowed away,
then closed his eyes again. Nothing to see. "About
I told you there was nothing you could do. When I sent
you away, and told you it didn't matter if you were
there or not."
I think, in that moment, you did mean it. But sounds
like it has changed?"
shook his head, a small movement in the back of Vadim's
neck. "I was fucking frightened." His voice
had dropped even more. "But I couldn't say it.
Couldn't admit to it, bad enough I felt as if I'd stopped
being a man because my body stopped functioning."
reached behind to touch Dan's flank, stroking it. He
wanted to turn around and hold Dan, but he thought maybe
it was easier to talk not looking at each other. "It
didn't make a difference to me, it never did."
... that I was frightened or that I'm fucked up and
not anymore the man you knew?"
you're different. There is something
that makes every person what they are. The core. I'm
still, somewhere, the guy you met in that awful place.
The man who has committed all those crimes. But I'm
different. So are you. But the core
same, and once you get to know that core, changes don't
screw up the love. You could have turned out a farmer
like Duncan. I'd have still fallen for you."
not taking the piss, are you?" Dan smiled, a measure
of confidence creeping back into his low voice. "If
I had been a farmer I wouldn't have matched you, wouldn't
have been equal. You sure you would have fallen in love
might have gone differently", Vadim murmured. "Meeting
would have been difficult, for once. But your strength
not just the strength to beat the shit out
of a man and to truss him up like a turkey or to put
a gun into a guy's mouth
you do match me. You
have so much guts, Dan. You'd have shown me my limits,
in any fashion, in any possible way. I might have been
older, calmer, but I could have fallen for a man who's
not a soldier. Easily. I fell for a masseur when I was
young. Soldiers were just
the easiest, because
they were there. Even Szandor. He was a fencer. Camp.
Aristocratic. I could have fallen for him easily."
Mentioning that he really liked Duncan would have been
a bad idea, now, and he gave a small, amused snort.
Duncan was a lot like Dan. Like he'd imagine a Dan that
hadn't been trained to kill. Could he have fallen for
a guy like that? Absolutely.
hand on Vadim's abs moved upwards a little, lightly
stroking across a pec. Just revelling in the feel of
warmth and smoothness. "I was always strong"
murmured, "always matched you. Always held my own
ground. The only fear I ever had was the one that kept
any soldier alive. But lying there ... waiting for the
surgery that meant the end of everything I'd always
been, I wanted to run away. Scream, or cry, or shit
myself with that goddamned motherfucking fear. Fear
that ... that I wasn't your equal anymore. That I couldn't
keep up with the likes of ..." hesitating, "Hooch."
shook his head. "Similar to, I guess, what I felt
when you do things with Jean. The Frenchman tries everything
to diffuse the situation, but he does show me that you
could have had better guys. People who are still sane,
who don't scream. And in tastes, Jean is much closer
to you, too."
as intellectual as you, aye?" Amusement coloured
Dan's voice, and the former accusation had turned into
something much calmer, gentler, perhaps even laced with
Not by a long stretch
He's not stupid, just
Vulgar, Vadim thought, and gave another snort. Vulgar.
And since when had he taken on all the upper-class standards
that he, strictly, didn't deserve, either?
like me?" Dan's lips touched the back of Vadim's
neck. "But I never realised how ..." pausing,
gathering his thoughts while his hand continued to stroke
and touch, in the most tender way. "Never realised
how much you might have been hurt, or worried, ... you
know. Others. Until I found out how fucking painful
it is to fear losing you."
never wanted anybody else after I'd found you. After
I understood what it is we have. Didn't want any other
man. Sure, it was sexy enough
but I'd never have
gone out of my way to find somebody else. I wasn't interested.
Took me a while to work out you did it differently.
And then took me a while to get my head around it myself.
But I fall easily, Dan, and Hooch was easy to feel something
the small movement made Dan's forehead bump gently against
the short shorn hair of the back of Vadim's head. "I
can understand that, even though I don't fall for anyone.
For me it's just you, or nothing." Hand travelling
from pec to back, caressing the skin, fingers re-acquainting
themselves with lines and angles he'd known and read
like Braille. "You told me once that you needed
me. To ... to keep you together. While I wasn't there,
the whole last year, how ... I mean, do you still need
me, or can you love me now?"
can do it alone, apparently." Vadim moved back,
closer to Dan. "I didn't fall apart. Didn't go
" He shrugged. "I am still
as fucked up, broken and scarred as you are. Just differently."
think together we make something like a whole?"
Dan splayed his fingers on Vadim's chest, holding him
close, body pressed against body, and it felt so damn
good. "Don't care how stupid it sounds, but with
both of us fucked up, you think we are complementary?"
But I love you."
smiled, burying is face against the back of Vadim's
neck. "And I love you, a fucking lot. Without you,
I'd be dead."
me too." Vadim reached over to touch him again,
keep touching him. "We deserve each other. The
good and the bad. We just do."
movements, almost negligible, as Dan rocked gently against
Vadim's body. Not thinking, just feeling, and it was
all good, and so long missed. "Will you ..."
breathing, just that, just feeling, "will you help
you want, Dan."
me find myself. An adjusted self." Not new, not
Vadim half-turned now, moved for a kiss, tenderly, hands
wandering over Dan's body, carefully, like he didn't
want to scare Dan when he moved too quickly. "Besides,
if you feel weaker than I am, you can always
level the playing field."
do you mean?" Pushing himself up on his elbow,
Dan kissed once more, before concentrating on watching
his hand that roamed across the abs and further down.
Touching, finding, until it covered Vadim's cock, and
he almost didn't notice how his own responded.
" Vadim smiled, desire rising, his lips
now on Dan's throat, kissing and sucking while moving
his hips closer to Dan's cock. "Take my strength.
Tie me up. Chain me. Force me with your will."
shit." Breathed out, Dan clearly did notice his
cock now, and the sudden surge of lust at those words.
"I ..." want to do that. "I would want
that." His breathing quickened at the same time
as his cock hardened. No memory of his failure, no echo
of his fear, not even a thought that he might not function..
Feeling his lust as his hand closed around Vadim's cock,
and proving his own.
grinned. "Good. Because I want that, too",
breathed into Dan's ear. Hooch wasn't the man to do
that to him, he knew that. It was Dan. Dan who would
control him, any way he could, any way he could imagine,
even, and his own need increased. "Do whatever
you want. I'll take it."
don't want you to 'take' it. I want you to feel me."
Pressing as close as he could into Vadim's arse, with
a twist of his hips his cock slipped between the buttocks
and Dan let out a soft groan.
do." Vadim reached for the bergan, the lube had
to be somewhere. He found it, squirted some into his
hand. "Give me
a second." He pulled
away just enough to get his hand between his cheeks,
lubed up fingers finding the way, opening the ring,
then reaching for Dan's cock, slicking that up, too,
and Dan didn't have to think, didn't want to think.
Just watched, felt, and finally took Vadim's hand and
moved it away, replacing it with his own.
didn't say anything when he closed his eyes and remained
poised, nor when he pushed forward in small increments,
and neither when he let out a breath, noisy, deep, breaching
the muscle. He stilled, waiting, and just feeling so
fucking much, while Vadim curved his back to get more
of it. "How long ..." At last, breathless,
when he pulled back a little again and pushed once more,
deeper, but oh so slowly.
closed his eyes, felt a shudder rise in his body, the
concentration, the focus, the need. Very different from
any other man. He thought that part had been over, that
he didn't need so fucking much anymore, well,
that had been a mistake. "Too long."
Just that, because words were too much effort and didn't
convey enough, and it was his body that mattered. No,
not his, both their bodies, and when Dan pulled back
once more and pushed slowly, torturously slowly, but
without letting up, until his cock was deeply embedded,
they found themselves once again in the most intense
position. Bodies moulded, arms holding, hands touching
and stroking, two bodies as one. Time didn't matter,
just the lust that grew slowly and steadily, as they
rocked together, Dan's hand on Vadim's cock matching
the rhythm of his minimal thrusts.
driving Vadim insane, like it always did, and he struggled
against the moans and the need to plead with Dan; he
wanted to allow Dan to do all at his own speed, at his
own leisure, but fuck, it was difficult when he grew
really desperate and tried to push back as much as the
little space allowed. That was all the incentive Dan
needed, and everything he had waited for. He changed
the angle, pushed Vadim's leg into a more angled bent,
and increased the speed of his hand and his hips. Not
as much stamina and strength as he used to, and he was
breathless, heart hammering, but he concentrated on
Vadim, wanting and needing to bring him off first, the
ultimate goal to give lust and receive in return, and
to feel once more the sensation of Vadim clenching around
him. Needing him to cum, more than to fulfil his own
with loud, needy groans, Vadim's body shifted and tensed,
fully responsive, squirming with need and desire, the
stage where it wasn't tenderness that mattered, or care,
just mindless need, as primal as hunger. Vadim clenched,
pressed back against him, all muscles coiled and tight,
cumming with a choked, desperate, relieved sound, and
Dan finally let go. Unleashing the strength he still
had, and he followed Vadim, only a few thrusts later,
with an almost blinding orgasm, a rush of need and so
many goddamned emotions, it was hard to contain them,
hard to just shudder and hold Vadim, and breathe frantically
- and not to cry. Because that would have been too much,
still too much, and too overwhelming. "Missed you."
Just that, again and again. "Fucking missed you."
reached over, stretched out his legs, but didn't want
to move much more, as he wanted to keep Dan inside him,
touching his skin, flank, then found the hand and entwined
here. And I'm yours. Fuck.
clung to him, and when the mantra finally subsided,
he was breathing, concentrating hard on just the breathing,
or he'd lose it, would give in and lose himself to his
emotions, and he just couldn't let go right now. Too
much to deal with.
closed his eyes, resting just a bit, feeling a shift
in Dan's body that told him he had nodded off, despite
the increasing heat in the tent that soaked up the sun,
then gently moved away to clean up - both him and Dan,
before he opened the tent flaps and lay back down, on
his back, staring into the strip of blue sky, content,
relieved beyond words. It looked alright. They were
pulling through. They'd manoeuvred the beast away from
next day, Dan began to get back into his usual routine
- that of not being a morning person and sleeping until
the sun hit the tent. He was woken by the smell of a
freshly brewed coffee and the first thing he saw was
Vadim's face as he held the mug out to him. He couldn't
remember when he had last grinned that widely that it
threatened to split his face, and if he had ever seen
anything so fucking wonderful, as Vadim's face, Vadim's
body, Vadim's presence and ... Vadim. It felt as if
he had started to live again.
remained naked during all of the days they were staying
there, as if dressing was just too much bother and too
much a reminder that there was a world outside. Thinking
a lot, but they were 'short thoughts', but they were
beginning to make sense, forming into a plan. He'd call
everyone he knew, trying to explain, and apologising
for having vanished off the radar, turning into a piss-poor
friend. He'd talk, and he'd listen, and he'd find out
who was still there and who wouldn't bother anymore.
He'd arrange to see the Baroness and his brother, perhaps,
and most of all, he'd stick his nose into the job and
figure out if there was any way to enjoy at least some
a lot, Dan spent most of his time in a patch of sunshine,
much like a cat, then talking when he was awake. Explaining
his plans and ideas and asking for advice, which Vadim
gave freely and thoughtfully. Deciding his body needed
a lot of work if he was to regain as much strength as
he could, they sat and devised a routine, with a plan
of what machines to buy for the small gym to exercise
the legs without putting strain on the knees, and to
train his upper body.
lot of thinking, a lot of swimming, a lot of eating
since Dan's appetite had returned, and a lot of sleeping
- and the rest, the rest was getting to know each other
once more. Reacquainting themselves with the terrains
of their bodies. Tasting, touching and taking, and being
taken in return. Spending time kissing, and spending
even more holding. And fucking. As Dan claimed, sex
counted as medicine. When Vadim finally fucked him,
Dan almost lost it again, barely holding together his
emotions, and as they lay and breathed into the come
down, he began to laugh. Because it had all been a motherfucking
nightmare and the solution was so simple, right there
and under their noses. It had just been hidden: love.
and square. Just love.