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Special Forces Chapter LVII: Lives and Lovers
 
 

November - December 1994, New Zealand

Dan was actually dressed when they returned to civilisation. Vadim drove them back, and eventually pulled up the car before the house. Dan's Landrover sat there, and he remembered guiltily that he'd left the car on the road. He got out, walked towards the Lannie, but it looked alright, the keys were in the glove compartment. He then spotted a note at the door of the house and went to pluck it off:

"Hi guys, thought you'd miss it. I towed it over. Allan."

That was the sheep farmer that they shared the valley with. Doubtlessly, somebody had come across the car in the ditch and had rightly worked out whose it was. Despite its sheer size and wide open empty spaces, New Zealand was a village. "Allan got your car. Might want to get him a bottle of that good whisky?"

"Aye, damn." Dan rubbed his nose as he got out of the vehicle and walked towards his own one. "Seems I was bloody lucky." He flashed a rather guilty grin and patted his trusted Lannie. As much as he loved it, though, it was a pain to haul himself in. But once inside, the seating position suited his knee perfectly. "I'll get him that and a crate of lager. He's one of them, you know." Them, the lager drinkers, who - according to Dan's grousing - wouldn't know a real beer if it bit them in the arse.

He walked up to the front door then remembered he didn't have a clue where he'd stashed the key, and waited for Vadim, who fished the key out of his pockets and opened the door. "I'll get our stuff", Vadim murmured, and went back to the car. Dan watched him for a moment, at first a frown on his face, wanting to help, but then Vadim asked, while he unloaded the first batch of bags in the corridor. "Coffee? Tea? I could use something to drink."

It took Dan only a second before he caught himself and nodded. "Sure, I'll make a coffee." Even though he wasn't sure where the implements were, he thought, and grinned ruefully. It took him some time in the kitchen before he found all the bits and bobs and worked out how the coffee machine functioned. Muttering to himself about stupidity, idiocy, drinking too much bloody booze and goodness what else, when Vadim turned up in the doorframe. "How's it going, donkey?" Dan grinned, switching to teasing within a heartbeat.

"Donkey? You're the stubborn bastard, not me." Vadim grinned, a sunny, rare grin.

"I remember you calling me donkey once. Or was that pack horse? Or mule?" Dan let out a laugh, and bugger it all, things were so much easier taking the piss. New territory, still, but getting there. "So, how's it going, 'Light of My Life'?" Dan smirked toothily, while pouring two mugs with coffee. He ladled the sugar into his, pushing the other towards Vadim, who quirked an eyebrow.

"Going well, I think. We should have a shower or bath, relax a bit, then maybe head over to Allan's and tell him we found your car, maybe his wife feeds us cookies and cake, as usual?"

"As usual? She does that?"

"Yes, she does. If we give them some advance warning, she might even put together a proper dinner."

"Definitely a good idea, then. I got some whisky somewhere." Diminishing the stash without drinking it himself would be good. Sipping the strong brew, Dan leaned against the kitchen counter top. "I'd say yes to a real bath, and you could help me shave." He waggled his brows. "Been forever since I properly shaved the way you like it."

"True." Vadim's expression turned speculative. "While I kept mine up."

"I noticed." Dan grinned, "trust me, I noticed." He opened the fridge to look for something edible, but nothing tickled his fancy. "Bath straight away, or do you want to call Allan first?" Dan flashed a short, sharp grin, "in the meantime I could demolish the bedroom."

"You already demolished it. The painting got ripped." Vadim shrugged, as if it didn't mean anything, a couple thousand Kiwi dollars' worth he'd spent at an art fair in Auckland.

"Shit. I didn't mean to. Just ..." Dan shrugged by way of silent apology. "You know."

"I guess it could be repaired." Emphasis on the 'could'. Torn like that, the value would increase by a lot less, re-selling it right now would probably be pointless. "I'll run the bath, call Allan, check email, and we'll take it from there."

"What do you want me to do in the meantime?"

"Demolish the rest of the bedroom?"

Dan laughed, relieved. "I will." He took his mug, and kissed Vadim in passing, as he walked past him.

Vadim took his own mug to the Jacuzzi, ran hot water, then called Allan, who was relieved - in an understated but heartfelt Kiwi way - that they were both alright, and, sure enough, invited them over for the evening when Vadim hinted that Dan might want to say thank you in person. He then stopped the water, started the bubbles, and poured a generous amount of bath foam into the water, soon working up lots of white foam. He then went up to check on Dan. "Bath is ready, and we're invited for in two hours."

Dan looked up from his work. "Two hours? Hardly enough time for a proper shave, aye?"

"Well, that's when the lamb shanks come out of the oven."

"Damn, that sounds almost better than the prospect for sex." Dan grinned, standing in the middle of the room and waiting for Vadim to notice the changes. He'd taken the ripped painting off and had stashed some other objects into a corner, same with a couple smaller pictures. Leaving some others, more realistic ones, that he'd rearranged on the now empty hooks. The bed had been stripped and white sheets thrown over it, hiding most of the leather and thus most of its designer flair. His pillow was back on the side he'd initially taken, and so was his clock.

Vadim took hold of two of the paintings. He could store all this stuff in the guest room for the moment. "Fine. If you like this better, that's fine with me."

"I do, and we can find a bed together." Dan smiled. "I figure we could do with a balcony. What you think? I could smoke a fag without annoying you."

"You mean, have one built?"

"Aye, good idea or not?"

Vadim glanced out of the window. "Good idea. Just ... one thing. If we have to buy the furniture again and have things changed, there will have to be more conferences. Work that we need to be suited and booted for, yes?"

"Yes, I know. And don't forget the swimming pool. I guess we also need to get more gym stuff." Dan shrugged. "Shit, you know what I feel like? Like I'm about to say 'I'll be a better boy from now on, dad.'" Grinning, Dan took hold of Vadim's free hand, which closed around his fingers, as easily and as confident as if the last year hadn't happened. "I'll take this job seriously and bear in mind what you told me. I'll try to ignore arseholes of the likes of Nelson, and I won't embarrass you anymore, aye?"

Vadim's face twitched. "Nelson. Oh shit." He'd promised to call, and there was still the contract.

"That bad?" Dan frowned. "Can't you just ignore the fucker?"

"I'm trying, but he's not getting the message …He's too important to royally piss him off." Vadim frowned. "Listen, you might even end up enjoying the circus. They are less sexy than the Americans fawning over 'Mad Dog', but it can be fun. Seriously."

Dan shook his head with a wry grin. "I take your word for it, even though I'm not convinced." He let go of Vadim's hand. "Anyway, you want to check if that Nelson guy has contacted you? I'll be in the Jacuzzi, naked and willing."

Vadim grinned. "Need a hand getting in? There's plenty of bubbles."

"Worried I might drown in the bubbles?" Dan shook his head. "I'll manage, you deal with that fucker, I wait for you."

"Okay." Vadim was about to turn, then paused and faced Dan again, pulling him close for a kiss, took his time, just a gentle, perfectly normal kiss. Finally. "Be with you in no time."

He headed to the computer, logged on, watched the email downloads, then checked on his phone. Fifteen calls, all from the same number. The Colonel. Jesus H Christ, as Hooch would say. And there were several emails. Plus a reservation for a beach villa in Belize. The description read great, chartered plane, all kinds of extras booked, the sum was handsome, too, only that Vadim had never actually agreed to spend … ten days with Nelson in Belize.

He read the emails that were as cajoling and ironic as Nelson was. He did have a great, fluid style of writing, and clearly the leisure to think about his words and how to place them. He was already outlining Vadim's future job, was making plans, introduced him - in writing - to the main players so he knew what he had to think of them. It was scary in a completely new dimension, and Vadim put the phone down. He didn't actually want to call him. The man freaked him out.

Dan was stretched out in the Jacuzzi, looking up when Vadim arrived. "And?"

"Seems I'm pretty much married to the guy. He treats me like his fucking property." Vadim began to strip and got into the Jacuzzi. "If I'd known what … weirdo that is …"

"Holy fuck! What has he been doing?" Dan moved a little to the side to make space for Vadim.

"He keeps calling, books holidays - in Belize - he booked me for a conference in Rio … me, mind you, not us." Vadim shook his head when Dan's face turned thunderous. "I didn't encourage him. I never did more than … what I did. I didn't give him any reason to expect anything more." Be in touch. That was just a phrase and didn't mean 'I'm available, please try and fucking control my life', did it?

"He treats you like his fucking property?" Dan's anger was close to the surface, and as bad as that was, he felt intensely alive. "If you belong to anyone you belong to me, is that clear? I'm going to rip that fucker's throat out."

Vadim gave a laugh. "I know you would. Shit."

"I will. You said it yourself, I'm still lethal, and I'm starting to believe it."

"Yes, but I don't recommend prison." Vadim leaned back in the hot water, fully enjoying the heat and the way it drained the strength from his muscles. "I'll have to talk to him, but not right now. I need to think about it … because … something is off about him. I'm not sure he gets a 'no'."

"In that case, I'll set the Baroness' bloodhounds on him."

"You think she could give us some help with that case? I mean, he is important, he's good friends with several of the important people, that is."

"If I pegged her right, she won't refuse to help, even though I've been a shit friend." Dan took a deep breath, forced himself to relax, and Vadim reached over to place a hand on his thigh. "There must be some dirt on that bastard. No one goes through life like that without leaving some shit behind."

"I'll try it the civilised way first." Vadim leaned in to kiss. "And - you should call her. Just to stay in touch."

"I will. I'll actually go and call everyone. I told you. And I'll take the stick as it comes." Dan accepted and returned the kiss. "As soon as it turns day on the other side of the world ..." Murmured, Dan leaned in properly. The lovemaking that followed was tender. Starting to learn that it might not always have to be about fucking, not even about cumming, and that getting older was perhaps, at times, a good thing.

As promised, Vadim helped Dan shave, and that turned into a very different situation, where the need was back, and the lust for the other's body. When they arrived at their neighbours', they were both pleasantly exhausted. Their company was appreciated, as was Dan's whisky by way of thanks. Some young guy was also at the table, wolfing down food, and from what Allan told them, he was a very distant relative of his wife's, who was quarter Maori. Vadim still wasn't quite clear on how the New Zealand natives were organized, he only knew it had something to do with their ships and ancestry that reached past white relations.

The boy was maybe twenty, tall and muscular, but looked just like any other Kiwi; Vadim couldn't see any Maori traits in him - unlike Allan's wife, who had dark eyes and very curly hair and a darker skin tone. The kid had just returned from the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua, as he proudly stated, where he had studied Maori carvings, and he was planning to make a living from that, somehow. He seemed very intense, this tall, broad kid with the shoulder-length, wavy brown-blond hair and the light eyes. Not one Maori trait on him, yet he claimed a distant, very distant ancestor had been Maori, which, apparently, gave him all the credentials with the guy who had taught him carving. Outsiders apparently were not welcome, unless they shared at least a drop of that blood. Even if it was just a droplet, like in this case.

Intrigued, Vadim asked to see some carvings, and they all headed over to the outer farm buildings. When Allan had switched on the light, Vadim could see a slab of wood that he was working on, carving out ornate lines and patterns - he could already guess what it would look like. The kid then seemed to thaw, stroking the lines with his long, powerful fingers, speaking about traditional designs and that it took him anything between a month and three months to finish a piece like this, keeping his eyes on the wood like that was who he was talking to.

Vadim glanced at Dan, then moved closer. "What does my art budget look like?" he asked, softly, more a joke than anything else.

"I haven't got a fucking clue." Dan murmured, turning his head to smile at Vadim. "No idea about money, but I wager the art budget for this sort of art is substantial." He winked, giving Vadim's shoulder a quick squeeze.

Vadim smiled. He wasn't quite sure how to act, chances were that people were relaxed as always and knew that Dan and he were a gay couple, but he didn't want to make the kid feel uncomfortable. "Do you think you could do something for us?" he asked.

The young carver looked at him, then Dan, and nodded. "Of course. Traditional, or more modern? Or should I come over tomorrow and you tell me what you want for your house? I could draw you a couple designs."

Vadim smiled. "That works for me. I don't want to distract you from this, but this is an opportunity I can't pass on." He didn't realise immediately that the word 'opportunity' held a double meaning these days, and he shrugged and grinned, while Dan let out an ill disguised cough, and they returned to the house for desserts.

They came home quite late after an evening that Dan enjoyed more than he'd ever thought. Having just that: a life. Living.

* * *

Despite being filled with good food and being rather tired, Dan sat down that night in his study. Not to dwell alone and drown himself in booze, like he used to, but to do his round of calls. His brother first, and it was easy - easy because Duncan made it so. Dan was on the phone with him for close to an hour, and he didn't care how much it cost. Duncan asked many questions, and Dan told him everything. Told him what had happened and the truth of it all, as much as he could understand it himself. Told him about his plans and what they were both doing. Ending with the promise that they really, truly and definitely, would fly across soon and visit for a holiday.

After the phone call to his brother Dan sat for a while, smiling and shaking his head, wondering where the hell Mad Dog had vanished to. "I'm getting fucking old," he murmured to himself with a rueful grin.

Next on the list was Jean. Dialling the number and hoping that Jean was either home or that Solange knew how to reach him.

It took several rings, but the house was huge, and eventually a voice answered in French: "Yes?" Jean. Himself.

"Thank fuck." Dan took a fortifying breath. "Jean? It's Dan ..." waiting to gauge the reaction.

"Dan. Wow. Good … good to hear from you. How are you?"

A huge wave of relief washed over Dan and he relaxed back into the seat. "Living, as opposed to alive. Listen, I've been a really shit friend, haven't contacted you in a year and I'm sorry."

"You can say that again …"

Dan lit a fag, "how are you? How is Solange?"

"At the moment we're both here, she's done shooting and I'm currently … out of a job. No, that's … not strictly true, I turned one down when things got bad, and I'm not sure when I can go out there again."

"What do you mean, when things turned bad?" From relaxed to alert within a second.

"I thought I'd told you." Jean said, voice betraying a little strain. "Pascal? Released from prison? Two months ago."

"What? No, fuck, I didn't know. What the fuck happened?" Sitting up straight now, Dan took a deep drag from the cigarette. "I'm sorry, I don't know anything, I wasn't really ... with it. Shit."

"Okay … I'll start at the beginning, okay. Give me a second." Jean took a sip of something, might be wine or something stronger, it didn't sound like something to do with thirst. "Pascal … after he got back from the last job, he went to meet his girlfriend or whatever, and trouble was, she was already with some other guy. So, he walks into this bar, sees them together, puts two and two together and loses it, completely. From what I heard, he was on the guy like a rabid dog, took out several of his teeth, very nearly kills him before the rest of the bar or club can react, his ex-girlfriend screaming for help at the top of her voice, stupid bitch, and the flics arrive and get him. The police. Needless to say, they aren't MPs, and he gives them a run for their money. He's a menace to society, gets locked up for aggravated assault - only thing that helped him was that he was piss drunk when it happened."

"Fuck." Dan was shocked to the core. "That's not like Pascal." But what was? What the fuck did he know about him? He'd been making fun of the guy and he had liked him, but otherwise? "And now? How is he?"

"He's dead." Jean's voice choked. "Sorry. Give me … a moment."

"Fuck!" Dan almost shouted into the phone. Jumping up from the chair, he clutched the phone. This couldn't be. All wrong, fucking wrong.

Jean's breathing was forced now, and it took several long, anguished minutes before he could speak again. "He went to prison. Bad place, but … you know, not undeserved. It's not like the taule, where Legionnaires get straightened out. That was a bad place, I'm not even sure what happened exactly, only that he must have started with drugs. Hard stuff. Some guy works out he's ex-Legion, tells somebody else who's ex-Legion, the story somehow gets to the Legion, then back to other ex-Legion boys. To me. It's 'Jean, you got some time on your hands, he's your friend', so, I drive there with another friend and pick him up, from the prison gates. He looked … he looked like he was already dead. We put him up in a nice flat, but he's not there, he's … like a goddamned junkie, then we work out what's wrong, with the marks in his skin and the fact he's not doing anything. So … we decided to fix him. I swear that was what it was, what we'd planned, and we do it the Legion way." Jean was openly crying now.

Dan's hand was shaking as he stood in the middle of the room. The full force hitting him. Other veterans. Other soldiers. Lives destroyed, lives lost. Lost in a world that wasn't theirs and that they had no place in anymore. A place he'd found - and nearly lost - with Vadim. His family. His friends. Fuck. He'd been one of the lucky ones. Forcing himself to calm, he lowered his voice. Tenderness, for the man who was crying on the other end of the phone. "Take your time." Not asking anything else, just waiting for the rest of the story to unfold. "I'm here, Jean." I am now.

"Yeah." Jean swallowed something again, a drink, or just the pain. "So, we put him through the cold turkey stuff, we were there all the time, through all that … that … Pascal wasn't himself. He was … violent and screaming, he was like a wild animal. How much he hated us, that he wanted to die …" Jean choked up again. "As we thought the worst was over, he's all placid and good, almost … almost there, we let caution slip. We were just so goddamned relieved it was over. Next thing he does is … escape from the flat and … it's the top floor … he went through the window. He was alive when he was down there, broken … broken in too many ways. Didn't … speak when I got there, just looked like … like he was glad it was over. Died in the ambulance." Jean's voice was so broken he was almost impossible to understand, and he seemed to realize that, and paused, struggling to recover his voice. "Rumour has it the bitch told him she'd been pregnant and had killed the child … but it was a lie. She didn't. But he didn't believe me when I told him. He said why the fuck would she lie."

Dan didn't say anything for a moment, just couldn't. Pascal, it seemed like a month or so ago, when he'd been at the wedding, and they'd taken the piss out of the man. Pascal. Damn. "I am so sorry." Dan's voice was as dead as the cigarette ash on the floor. "I am so sorry I wasn't there, but I am now. Is there anything I can do? Meet you, perhaps?" To be the fucking friend that he hadn't been.

"I'd … yeah, that would be good. Won't be working for a few months, I could … meet you somewhere. I'm sure Solange would be good with that."

"Aye, any time. You go talk to Solange, and I check with Vadim what sort of jobs we have lined up. We'll make it soon, aye? I promised my brother we'd show up around Christmas or New Year, we could combine that."

"Yes. Make it soon. Just call me when you've worked something out. I'm here. The cellar and swimming pool and all that is pretty much finished, too."

"Do you want to see me alone?" A lot unsaid, and it wasn't about sex.

"Bring Vadim if you want to, that's fine. I'm good with anything. If you want to stay for Christmas, that would be great too. Just ..." Jean made an almost comical sound. "Let's just meet, okay?"

"Okay, we will. I get back to you tomorrow, I send you a mail when I've figured out what Vadim has planned work-wise. You go and talk to your good lady." Dan was still standing in the middle of the room, eyes closed. "Take care, Jean." His voice had turned soft, "I mean it. You take care of yourself and of Solange, and allow her to take care of you, too. I'll be there soon. Promised."
"Thank you. Thank you, Dan. Good … good hearing your voice. Call me, whenever, I'm here."

Vadim was there with two steaming mugs of tea when Dan opened his eyes again and switched the phone off. "Bad news?"

Dan just nodded. Reaching for the mug, he curled his hand around the heat. "Pascal is dead. Suicide." He shuddered violently, spilling some of the tea. "Fuck." Toneless.

"Fuck." Vadim closed the distance, set the tea down, hands on Dan's shoulders.

Dan looked up, glad when Vadim took the mug out of his hand. "Jean's in a bad way. Really bad, never heard him that shaken. I'm worried, Vadim. Because I ... damn." Leaning is head against Vadim's shoulder, and Vadim embraced him, held him, just that. "I need to see him, and Duncan. Any chance we can get across over Christmas and New Year?"

"Let's drive into Palmy tomorrow and see what flights they have. I wouldn't mind seeing Duncan, and Jean, too. And their families."

"What about work? Anything booked? I haven't got a clue."

"I'm not going to Rio, and that's really the main one before Christmas. The whole thing starts again in January, and if you want more time in Europe, I can do the talks and you take care of our friends."

"Aye." Dan lifted his head and smiled. "We'll do that. We could fly across as soon as possible. The way Jean sounded, the sooner we head off, the better. We'll book tomorrow, aye? And I do some more emails and phone calls."

"You do that …and I'll go to bed, because it's been a long day for me. You might find me lubed up and on my belly."

"And you might find me falling asleep." Dan flashed a tired grin.

Vadim was grinning as he leaned in for a kiss. "Give them greetings."

"I'll be with you as soon as I can, just can't stop now. Have to try ... have to talk to people." Kissing back, Dan finally settled in the chair once more, leg raised and resting. Tea nearby, he started to call. Meticulously keeping track of time zones, he went through the list. The baroness, after all, because how could he not call her. Talking to her for a while, he said a lot more than he'd ever meant to. She had that effect, and since he'd once cried in her presence, there was nothing he did not trust her with. Talking about the past year, Vadim, the house, his daughter, his life, his friends and the loss. Nelson, too, and she promised she would look into this. He knew he could count on her, the way her voice had hardened into crystal sharpness. He knew he could count on her, the way her voice had hardened into crystal sharpness, and despite the distance they trusted each other. It was over an hour when he put the phone down again, yawning, but he wasn't done yet, would at least have to leave messages if he couldn't get into contact.

Reluctant to send email, he worked through the list of phone numbers, contacting Markus, and with Markus Dima, talking for a while, and he ended up smiling. Especially when Markus mentioned something off-hand, that got Dan to think. A thought was slowly forming in his mind that might become the basis of an idea. An idea about people, friends, veterans, mates, safety and understanding.

Calling Matt, the kid had him laugh within a few minutes, and Dan decided not to tell him anything about the darkness of the last year. Sticking to the excuses, and enjoying the banter. Light-hearted, each word made him feel better, and part of a network, with an understanding that only the same irreverence born out of a similar job could bring. Sometime later, when Dan was about to sign off, he asked Matt to tell Hooch he should call Vadim.

Getting hold of Beauvais was the trickiest bit. But he felt it was paramount that he tried. For Jean, to keep him safe - unlike Pascal. It took almost an hour of internet searches and phoning from one place to another, when he finally, on a crackling line, had the Capitan on the phone.

"Yes?" The line sounded like it could go any minute. "Speaking?"

"Dan McFadyen here, best man at Jean's wedding. You remember me?" Stupid question, but fuck he couldn't assume anything. Least of all that Beauvais wanted to remember him.

"I do." A small pause, maybe slightly guarded, like the man was. "And you remember me. I hope you are good? Healthy?"

"I'm okay." Yes, he was. "Out of the job, had to get an artificial knee, but I'm alright. That's not why I call." The line was bad enough that he didn't have time for beating around the bush. "I'm calling about Jean. I'm worried about him. Pascal is dead. Awful story. Jean tried to help, but failed. I've been out of touch for a year I ..." frowning, "was not a good friend. The legion is the family, aye? Can you help? Have an eye on him somehow, have someone contact him. Vadim and I will be flying across as soon as possible, but it's not the same."

"Calm down." Beauvais spoke that like an order, then remained silent while thinking.

"I'm fucking …" Dan hissed his retort, but swallowed the rest of what he wanted to say. That tone brought his hackles up, but he wanted the man to do something, and thus he shut up.

"He's at home? I'll make some phone calls. I can't be there, I'm in Chad, it's busy, but I can find a former Legionnaire or two to keep an eye on the boy." Sounding almost fatherly.

"Aye, he's at home."

"Good. I'll tell them where to find him. Shame about Pascal, he was a good one. No wonder Jean takes it hard."

"So much for the safety net." Dan snorted, suddenly bitter, but what the fuck had he expected? His own reaction was tainted, and he knew it. Because he'd almost been there. Almost.

"We do what we can. If he'd sought help, people would have tried to help. Was it suicide?"

"Aye. Threw himself out of a window." The bile was rising in Dan's throat. "Was still alive when Jean got to him."

"That's bad news", Beauvais sounded thoughtful. "I'll take it from here. Thank you for calling. Somebody will be with Jean very shortly, I think I can find someone Jean knows, that might help."

"Thank you. It's appreciated. Jean means a lot to me." Adding, a heartbeat later, "as a friend."

"I know. He's my friend, too. Different story, but … nonetheless."

Dan took in a breath, "Beauvais, if you ever need anything," no hesitation this time, "call us." He proceeded to give the number. "Until then." He switched the phone off, deeply in thought. It wasn't enough. Not enough to have to actively seek help. There was the pride, and pride was often all that still mattered. He knew that too damn well.

But right now that was all he could do, and if he didn't get any sleep he would be useless for anyone. Popping a pill on his way to the bathroom, just to ease the discomfort, he was soon showered and padding quietly into the bedroom. Trying not to disturb Vadim, who lay in bed, on his belly, naked, covered up to his waist, face hidden away in the cushions.

Dan sat down on the bed, on 'his' side, which had never become nor really been his, and looked down. Vadim lay almost in the middle, proof to his own absence in the bed, but he would change that. Leaning down, he placed a light and careful kiss on the bit of face that he could reach, before trying to get under the covers and to fit onto that narrow strip of bed that was free. He didn't mind, on the contrary. Smiling to himself when he squeezed in, touching Vadim almost all the way. His hand came to rest on the bare back, with scars and smooth skin under his fingertips, and he knew that it could have been different. Hair's breadth for him. No more.

Vadim shifted, half-turned, looked at him, eyes blurred with sleep, and smiled, then turned around to make room and offer his back for spooning, soon drifting away completely.

Dan held him close and switched off the light. He was one of the lucky ones, and he almost hadn't realised it.

* * *

The next day, they drove into Palmy to check for tickets and do some food shopping, before Dan called Jean to set dates, then the travel agent to go ahead with the booking.

The young carver arrived in the afternoon, in time for tea, while Dan was in the garage, working out on the exercise bike. The young man had brought a folder with patterns he had drawn or copied. He had a great appreciation for Szandor's sword that sat on its stand, and Vadim watched him - after his permission - take it and examine the work and the balance. Vadim had decided he liked the young guy, even if he made him tread carefully about the fact that he and Dan shared a house and were clearly - well, clearly to anybody but the most innocent onlooker - an item.

"So, what do you want?" asked the carver after some chit-chat and after Vadim had looked at all the patterns, intrigued by the spirals and the ancestor figures and the magic of making something so artful and attractive out of a slab of wood.

"One of those panels", Vadim said.

"Which room?" The carver was getting up, expecting to be brought there.

Vadim paused for a second. "Bedroom."

"Show me."

Vadim inhaled, but assumed that it was important, somehow. He led the young guy up the stairs and opened the door. "We're getting rid of the paintings, and it's going to hang there. I thought." Pointing to where the large acrylic painting had been.

The carver nodded, doubtlessly seeing the fact that two people slept in that bed. "Modern or more traditional?"

Vadim shrugged. "I have no idea."

"Anything you liked?"

"The … figure with the face tattoo."

"The war chief?" The carver smiled. "You were a soldier, once."

"Yes. Dan, too."

"That would make it two war chiefs. In one panel." The carver nodded to himself, walked back downstairs, back to his folder, where he pulled a pencil from his pocket and a worn piece of paper, quickly sketching the bare minimum - a panel, more or less square, with two humanoid figures taking the centre, spirals just hinted at around them. The kid worked, fully concentrated for a little, until the figures seemed entwined, like in a dance, or a fight. Or indeed, Vadim thought, sex. He glanced at the carver, who looked back at him.

"Like this?"

Vadim inhaled. "That looks good." He wasn't sure what to say, what to ask.

"These are from two different tribes, you'll be able to see that from the tattoos in their faces, when I'm done. They are both armed with great spiritual power. See the clubs?"

Vadim nodded, then smiled. "You do know what you're doing, yes?"

"What? That you're takatapui?"

The word didn't sound nasty, and Vadim shrugged, not quite sure. He'd come across that before, that some Maori used words of their own language when they talked about concepts that English either didn't have or that required more importance and gravity than English had. "Takatapui?"

"Queer. Not … heterosexual." The carver said it like it was perfectly natural.

"Yes. That's us." Vadim didn't see any flinching, and thought, how extraordinary. He didn't get any vibes from the young guy that he was similarly inclined, but he'd just said this word that didn't seem negative at all.

The carver worked on the background, not looking up. "Who were your ancestors? Your family?"

"I don't speak much to my family."

The carver looked up, studied him, and Vadim was now far more willing to see a shadow of Maori traits in him. Maybe the slant of the eyes, the cut of the nose. Or his general height and width. And Vadim thought, that this guy was looking back to hundreds of years of history, ranging from which ship had brought his ancestors here, back to a time as primitive and primal, and as honourable, maybe, as fierce, to today, where his people were called lazy bastards that took the social benefits and were too stupid to hold down proper work. This guy knew about dishonour, and kept every droplet of Maori blood alive even though he could easily fit in with the colonists.

"I'll think of something", the carver said. "Most will be traditional, but I'll try and find a new take on it. Okay?"

"How long will it take?"

"I'll work on it over spring and summer. Allan said I can stay with them - he has a good place for a workshop, I just get a decent sized kauri slab and get it ready."

"Okay." Vadim had another look at the sketch, and it seemed there were other figures in the background of one of the figures, while the other half seemed filled with waves and spirals. He couldn't wait to see the finished piece. "And … charge what it's worth, okay? No discounts."

The carver smiled and shrugged. "You'll see it when it's done. We'll talk about the money then. But a reference would be great, maybe you know some other people that like 'ethnic crafts'." He said that without bitterness, a kind of amused pride instead that made Vadim like him even more.

In the end, he was really glad that the painting had been ripped.


29th November, New Zealand

Dan was half asleep despite the sunlight that filtered through the thin curtains. Arm thrown over his eyes, he was taking up most of the bed. He'd went to sleep late, having searched the net for far more interesting places than he used to frequent, and had barely noticed that Vadim got up.

Vadim had prepared breakfast - the full English - and trusted in the smells to travel upwards before he came up with a tablet where the food was piled, orange juice and coffee. And there was a long, ominous box he had under his arm, wrapped up like a birthday present. Because, yes, he hadn't forgotten.

Dan, arm still across is eyes, was sniffling like a rabbit when Vadim stepped into the bedroom. "I'm not dreaming this, am I?" He sounded mostly awake by now, daring to blink at Vadim with one eye. "Death-defying fry-up?"

"Coronary special." Vadim grinned and set it down on the bed.

"Holy shit, how did I deserve that?" Fully awake, Dan flung his arm off and scooted up the bed, grinning at Vadim, who placed the box onto the bed as well. "And this arrived just in time, too."

"Hm? What for?"

"I'll let you guess."

"For giving world class blow-jobs, which you've missed enough to give me a present for?" Dan pulled the tray closer and revelled in the long-lost sensation of being famished. "And fuck, if I had known you are such a good cook I'd have kept you for myself in a cave somewhere." Grinning from ear to ear while tucking into the first bite of bacon and egg, followed by cholesterol-laden fried bread.

"Don't worry, I won't be opening a restaurant anytime soon." Vadim sat down, watching Dan. "I'll let you eat first, but then you open the present."

"Aye, I get it, a present." Stuffing himself with sausage and thickly buttered toast, Dan was about to wash it all down with black coffee, when he suddenly stalled. Looking at Vadim, wide-eyed. He tried to say something, but had to chew and swallow first. "You mean ..."

"You mysteriously aged one year over night. No idea how that happened."

"Holy fuck." Putting the cutlery down, Dan looked from the present to Vadim and back again. "How the hell did you manage to remember that? I sure as fuck didn't." But the grouching barely hid the genuine surprise and deeply pleased grin that tried to break through.

"It's just three sets of two-digit numbers, Dan. Doesn't make me a rocket scientist." He wasn't sure Dan still remembered his date, though. But that didn't matter. He'd just gently remind him when the 15th of August approached.

"Sorry, I'm shit at that. Dates, anniversaries, special days ... you got to remind me of Christmas, at times." Dan put the tray aside, still half-full, and reached for the present. "Let me do the maths ..." fumbling with the paper, "shit, I'm forty-five!" Looking impressively shocked, Dan started to rip the paper off, but stopped mid-way. "That means .... damn. You already are forty-five, aren't you?"

"Yes. Will you still continue dating me?"

"Guess it's too late to decide otherwise, aye?" Dan cocked his head, suddenly serious. "I missed your birthday ..."

"I ignored it last time."

"Okay, I won't ignore it next time."

Vadim motioned towards the long box. "Come on."

"Aright, alright." A long, narrow, dark green box came to view, which didn't give any clues. Prying it open, Dan shook out the contents, and with a faint sound something slipped out of it. Long, elegant, and positively decadent. Finest, polished wood and exquisite silver, which topped the graceful cane. Dan stared at it while turning it slowly in his hands.

"I took the measurements from your old cane and faxed it over to the UK. They had a specialist there."

"It's ..." testament to what I am now, "… beautiful." Turning it once again, Dan let his fingers stroke over the smoothly polished wood. Perfect, so perfect. How could anything for a cripple be so goddamned perfect. "It's ..." unlike me.

"Just something to support the weight a bit if and when you have to stand for a while." Vadim looked at the cane and smiled. It had turned out exactly as they'd promised. "Could just as well make it a bit nicer, hm?"

"Yeah, fuck." Still stroking, cool silver and warm wood, "must have cost a fortune." Dan was torn between a hell of a lot of emotions. He smiled, an entirely overwhelmed expression in his face, "you sure it's not too sophisticated for me?"

Vadim shook his head. "No. It's simple enough to work with whatever you're wearing. Nobody sees it's silver, unlike they look closely, and …" He shrugged. "It goes with the suits and with whatever else. The beauty is in the simple things here. And since you keep saying you're a simple man …"

"Does that mean I'm beautiful?" Dan found the banter again, always the safest avenue, and winked.

Vadim laughed. "Yes. That means exactly that." He leaned over to kiss Dan on the lips, who was grinning like a fool. "Happy birthday."

"To you, too, just bloody belated." Patting the space beside him, Dan put the cane down and picked up the food again, before it got cold.

"Still appreciated." Vadim sat down on the bed, stretching his legs.

"Any more surprises for today?" Diminishing the bacon, eggs, sausages and bread once more. "Or is what you've decided with the sculptor not all that secret?"

"He's working on a design for a panel that goes on the wall. It's … strange", Vadim murmured.

"Strange? How?" Mopping up some of the egg yolk with a piece of bread.

"He asked about my ancestors." Vadim shrugged. "Strange. Asking about family like that."

"And?" Finishing off his plate, Dan had the rest of the coffee and orange juice and put the tray to the side. "Who are your ancestors?"

"Intellectuals. I'd have to ask my father about anything beyond my grandfather." Vadim shrugged. "We're not in touch."

"Would you like to be?" Letting the question hang in the air, Dan knew enough to suspect the answer. Arm moving around Vadim's waist and pull him closer.

Vadim shook his head. "Why should I hurt him more? We're not compatible. It's not working, Dan. I tried. He tried."

"Okay, but I don't get that hurting thing." Slipping a hand underneath Vadim's shirt, Dan was doing his best of wandering up and across. "You are who you are. You're not hurting him by who you are, on the contrary, he's hurting you by not getting it, that you're not his. That you're your own guy." He shrugged, adding a second hand, which worked on the buttons.

"I'm forty-five … I don't need a father anymore. Probably never needed him", Vadim murmured darkly. "Sounds bad, but … I always stuck to 'father types' that were stronger than he ever was." And how did I get rewarded?

"Like the spetsnaz Colonel?" One brow raised, Dan rolled over and on top of Vadim's thighs. "Or the doctor?" Pushing the shirt apart.

Vadim looked up. "Yes. Figures of authority. I know the Colonel was a bastard, but I respected him in ways that I never respected my father. No, fear. Respect and fear. The Doctor … I guess you could say he fits the type, too, but in a very understated English way." He grinned. "But I can see you have something else on your mind …"

"Only if you are interested." Dan lifted his head. "I might not be a father figure, but I'm still the best cocksucker in both hemispheres, and it is my birthday, after all."

Vadim laughed. "You are just the right age. Honest. Not too young, not fatherly, just right for me." He bent forward and reached for Dan's cock and balls, stroking them. "All yours …"

It didn't take more than a grin before Dan leaned down and with gusto and greed, proceeded to spend a long and utterly skilled time on tasting, licking, sucking and taking in Vadim's cock. Because it was his, perhaps not his alone, but his. And the affirmation couldn't happen often nor intense enough. Vadim in turn dropped all thoughts, all banter, and fully took anything Dan gave him, the pleasure, the game of need and desire that was playful these days, they knew each other so well and it was a lot like coming home, being home, as long as Dan was like this and not the bitter stranger he'd resented for so long.

They spent the day on the farm, with a quality that was special and kept reminding Dan that it was actually his birthday. A fact that was emphasised at night, when his brother called, and the Baroness, as well as - of all people - Matt, who let out a barrage of age-related banter, before handing the phone over to Hooch, who drawled out a few words, before Dan held the phone towards Vadim's face.

Vadim glanced at him. "Yes?"

"Hooch." That was all Dan said, before buggering off and into the kitchen, to wolf down the leftovers of the rather generous amount of strawberry tarts.

"Vadim?" Hooch's voice, unmistakably.

Vadim glanced after Dan. "Hi. How … how are you guys?"

"Good. Here for a few days. Better than camp." A pause, the sound of shuffling, Hooch moving to another room. "How are you, buddy?"

"Yeah, we … Dan and I just worked some things out. I'm okay. He's … he's pretty good, too. The knee screwed him up a bit, but I think he's finding his balance back."

"Good, Matt told me he tried to contact Dan." A pause, another sound, before Hooch stilled, then. "Any chance to meet?"

Vadim swallowed. He wanted the man, still. It was easier ignoring that when Hooch wasn't there, when Dan filled up his life, his needs … Hooch. Fuck. He'd promised he'd not do that again, promised not to fall for anybody else. It wasn't just sex, it was a real thing, a connection, a feeling, a need, something deep and fairly strong. Dan didn't love Jean, but he … he … "I'll have to ask Dan. We're … we're heading to Europe in a little, have to check what the plan is."

Another pause, before Hooch's voice was heard again. "Listen, buddy, I understand ..." Leaving the words standing between them. "Dan's more important. Things really alright with him? You got your priorities."

Vadim closed his eyes. This hurt. Unexpected how much it hurt. He closed the door, dropped his voice to a murmur. "You're too … too deep inside me, Bozic. I can't … I can't love two men." There. Out. "I'm sorry."

"Fuck." Just that, nothing for a long time, except for the sound of rustling, shuffling, and then a cigarette being lit. "I didn't ..." Hooch never finished the sentence. Changed it instead to "how do you know my name?"

"Your passport. Your jacket. Sorry. Old habits." Vadim breathed deeply. "Won't tell anybody. Your secrets are safe with me."

"And yours?"

"You know my name, Hooch."

"Yeah, but is it a secret?" The sound of smoke being exhaled, "what you feel. Is it?"

"I think Dan … knows, or guesses. I … it's between the three of us, now. That's it."

"Dan ..." never spoken the affirmation that Dan knew. Hooch's voice softened, "but what do I do with it, Vadim?"

Vadim closed his eyes. Yeah. Pushing that onto the other man. What could Hooch do with it? Answer: 'I don't' and hurt him, maybe lie? Say: 'I do' and make the situation even more impossible? Selfish, stupid, short-sighted, huge mistake. He felt a shudder rise from somewhere in his body, guilt, shame, pain, a deep horror that had only been sleeping. He couldn't lose Dan, he couldn't hurt Dan, yet he wanted this man, loved this man, could easily fall completely for him. Mad, stupid lust, friendship, and screw up everything he had, everything he wanted. "I don't … I don't know. I've never been in this situation … I have no idea what to do." He'd been there, pretty close to 'there' anyway, when telling Katya he was leaving. Hurting one person he loved for another.

Again the sound of inhaling, then exhaling, slow and steady, a long pause. "I don't." Softly, carefully, and with a rare tenderness.

"Yeah. We're friends." It hurt, yes, on some level he'd known, but that didn't change his feelings. "It's good … it's good you don't. I mean it. It's … it's easier."

"For whom?" Exhaling, then a rustling sound as Hooch extinguished his cigarette.

"Both?" Vadim was listening to everything, every breath, every small sound that betrayed anything.

"Or three?" Fingers moving along the receiver.

"Bastard", Vadim muttered. "Easier for all of us, then."

"And ... you want to meet me, or want me to fuck off?"

"What I want and … what I can do … is two different things …" Vadim rubbed his face. "I want to meet you. And I … can't meet you, because …" of Dan.

"The point is, what you really want. Not what you can't. And not what you should. What do you want." Pausing, "who do you want."

"That's not the point … If I'd always do what I wanted …" Vadim groaned. "I want you. I fucking do. But I'll get old with this guy, and Dan … it hurts him. That's the bottom line. I can't, Hooch."

"You love Dan. I don't claim I know about love, but you love him, right?"

"I love him. And that means I can't hurt him. It's not about me, or you, it's about him." Vadim swallowed, shook his head, forced himself to breathe. Fuck, this was a complete pain. Just remembering Hooch's grins or the way he grew peaceful when he'd been thoroughly abused and hurt … Hooch wrestling and fucking him. "We're friends." Just my feelings are in the way, and Dan's feelings, too.

"Okay." After a moment. "Won't meet then. I understand." Slight pause, ominous to Vadim's mind, who half expected a "Fuck you, too", now, because that was what their whole connection was, wasn't it? The sex, maybe the ease, but what was there that went beyond … what they'd had. Then, Hooch said: "but we stay in touch. Alright, buddy?"

"Yes. We do. Take care … and be safe." He felt like a liar, knowing Hooch wasn't safe when he was getting his fix elsewhere.

"I do my best." There was a smile in Hooch's voice, before the line went dead.

Vadim switched the handset off and leaned against the wall. It hurt. He hadn't been in touch because he'd have left Dan at a drop of a hat. He'd been that close, and if Hooch had offered … anything, an alternative, regular sex, being close, he wouldn't have been able to resist. Good thing, he'd been busy the last months, always claimed to be busy so he didn't have to think about it. Still, it hurt. His heart felt raw, like scraped, skinned, seared, it hurt. Not having the thing he wanted, not being loved by the man he loved, having to say no for the sake of something bigger and more important. He opened the door and walked back down to replace the handset.

Dan stood in the doorway from living room to hallway, looking at him with a slight smile on his face. Illuminated from the back, clear-cut silhouette of sharp angles and chiselled features, framed by wild, greying hair. Still dark, still stunning, yet lined.

Vadim smiled. "I'm not meeting him. We'll be friends."

Dan still didn't say anything, just nodded, the smile still there, then turned and walked through the living room and onto the patio, all the way through the French windows. Looking out over the old orchard and the mountains when Vadim got to his side, reaching over to take Dan's hand. Worth it. A thousand times. Any sacrifice, from the small ones to the big ones, and Dan turned his head, looking fully at him, while the smile grew. He didn't need to say anything, didn't have to voice the "I love you." It was there, unsaid, yet outspoken.

Fourteen years. They didn't come cheap.


1st December 1994, United States of America

When he unlocked the door, the first thing Matt saw was the flashing red light of the answering machine. Dropping the gym bag, he picked it up, listening to the recording for no more than a couple of seconds, before he handed the receiver over to Hooch. "For you."

Hooch raised his brows, then listened, frowned, while Matt stood for another second, before turning and heading to the bathroom. They'd been to the gym, with Hooch using the one in Matt's camp, and they were both drenched in sweat. The story of Hooch being the ex-boyfriend of Matt's sister, who had dumped him but the two men stayed friends, had been swallowed hook line and sinker, and nobody queried the visits.

When Matt came back out of the bathroom, still damp from the shower, he knew immediately that something was wrong.

"Shit." Hooch frowned.

"What?" As if he didn't know.

"Job."

"When?"

"Immediately."

"Where to this time?"

Hooch gave a small smile and shrugged. Some things were so classified, it didn't matter that Matt wasn't a civilian. "Sunny."

Matt nodded, tried a grin, didn't quite succeed, then pulled in a deep breath, letting it out to mask a sigh. "How long?"

"Twenty-four hours."

"Well ..." Fingers on the towel around his hips, Matt stepped closer. "They're organising your flight?"

Hooch nodded.

"What time?"

"Eight hundred hours."

"Plenty of time." Matt started to grin and Hooch rose a single brow.

"I think I never fucked you." Stepping closer, Matt's fingers loosened the towel.

Hooch's brow was joined by the second one, both raising higher. "Yeah."

"Been a while."

The corner of Hooch's lips twitched. "Yeah?"

"Three years?"

"Yeah."

Matt grinned. "Think it's time."

"Yeah ..." the smirk that grew out of proportion on Hooch's face was only cut short when a naked Matt pushed him against the front door. Hooch let it happen, and let a lot of other things happen after that.

It was good, damned good. It would have to get him through another hellhole.


6th December 1994, in the sky somewhere close to Europe

Dan was yawning when he woke again. He'd managed to snooze for a couple of hours. Glad they had the money - even though it was prohibitively expensive - to fly a class that offered enough space for his legs. He'd be in utter agony by now if he would have had to sit with his knees bent. Rubbing his eyes, he stuck his head out from under the blanket and looked across to the neighbouring seat, studying Vadim's face, half turned away, in three-quarter profile.

There was a steep line between Vadim's eyebrows, and his sleep might have been mistaken for deep thought with eyes closed. He lay there, one shoulder covered by the blanket, the other bare except for his shirt.

Dan pushed himself up and across, to be able to lay his head lightly on the bare shoulder. Just being close, touching.

Vadim inhaled deeply, half sigh, and turned his head. "Hey. Good morning."

"Or night, midday, evening, who the fuck knows." Dan grinned tiredly, lifting his head to take a better look. "I think it won't be long, a few hours or so?"

"Guess so." The stewardesses began to make preparations for breakfast, and Vadim got up, still dazed and wanting the flight to be over. "How are you feeling?"

"Alright, just apprehensive and bloody stiff." Dan sat up straight, then peeled himself out of the reclining seat to try stretch his leg and stand for a while. "I just don't know what to expect with Jean."

Vadim stretched and sat up, rubbing his face. "I wouldn't know. I've never seen him out of his balance ..."

"True." Dan sighed, stretched from head to toe and walked a few steps to and fro, before sitting back down to talk without being overheard by everybody. "Anyway, guess I just have to wait and see, aye?" He took in a slow, deep breath, keenly feeling the urge for a cigarette.

Vadim reached out and took Dan's shoulder. "Take as much time with him as you need. I can even get that lady of his out of the house."

"You think that would be a good idea?"

"Maybe. You might have to fuck him to remind him of a few things ..."

"What?" Dan nearly jumped out of his seat. Nicotine withdrawal and an uncharacteristic directness from Vadim were a combination that was hard to stomach. "Ha ha, Russkie, don't give me a heart attack." Dan shook his head, "besides, Jean's precious arse is a no-no, and even my charms won't change that."

"He has no idea what he's missing." Vadim grinned, a playful glee that betrayed he'd been coarse to shock Dan awake.

"You bastard." Dan murmured with a grin.

"Well, sex should be a nice distraction."

"I don't think he'll be in the mood ... and, damn, I'm not going there this time for sex, aye? Just to be a friend. That's what Jean needs if I'm not mistaken. That's what I needed, too. You just happened to be my lover as well."

"You're his lover, too, Dan. And it might be exactly what he needs." Vadim shrugged. "Take his mind off it."

"I wouldn't call myself his lover. It's a bit ... much."

Vadim seemed thoughtful at that. How weird, with the sex and the friendship ... granted, Jean wasn't as important as he was, but he was, technically and literally, Dan's lover. It had been going on for years, they were friends, they got off together. "I just wonder how much of a crush he did have on Pascal."

"Hm?" Dan looked up, a puzzled expression on his face. "You think so? Well he did make some weird comments, back in the Gulf ..." Mulling it over. "Damn, that would make things even harder, wouldn't it?"

Vadim shrugged. "I don't know, but I think so. That was just something I've been thinking about. What if. But you know him better than I do."

"I'm not sure that I do. We haven't been doing much of that talking thing. He's always been smooth, easy-going, fun." Dan shrugged, "I admit it, you've accused Jean of being shallow, and I guess that's what we've both been."

Vadim inhaled deeply. "He's hiding. Jean is a creation of himself. He has no past, no roots, no nothing. His Russian is from Moscow, I ... think I could pinpoint him, but he's acting as if he'd never been anything else. I find it hard to respect a man who doesn't look himself in the face." He looked closely at Dan.

"While I believe he has a damn good reason for it and just accept it."

"I might simply be envious of the ease he does things with. Plus, he's not fucked up like me, ten years younger, and ... I guess a great kisser."

Dan rolled his eyes. "Oh no, not that one. You sound like me when I worry about Hooch."

"You don't have to worry about him anymore."

"Why?"

"There won't be any more sex. We'll stick to being 'friends'."

"Shit." Dan frowned, "why?"

"Too close to the bone."

"Because of me? Because of my worries?"

"Both. Because he's too close to the bone and because you worry, and you ... I guess you were right to worry, too."

"But in that case ... not having sex won't make the fact go away that you are in love with him." Dan kept his face fairly expressionless. "Do you think you can love more than one person? I always thought that having sex with lots of men is okay, but that love can only be for one."

Vadim shook his head. "I love you, Dan. Nobody else. It's too easy to fall for him, so I won't. No sex. He's not like the guys we had together, that's just physical."

"And what is Jean, then? He's not just physical to me, he's my friend. Or do you think I would otherwise fly across the globe to visit him when he's in a shit place?" Dan was genuinely puzzled.

Vadim nodded. "Maybe you are just different. But ... if Solange wasn't there and he was gay ..." Pausing to give the old joke a little room and Dan didn't fail to grin, "and interested ... what would happen?"

"Nothing." The answer came quickly. He was utterly convinced of it and didn't need to think about the how and why. "You wear my scars and I wear yours. How could anyone ever be a threat?"

Vadim looked into Dan's eyes and knew that stopping sex with Hooch had been the right decision, because Dan completely believed what he was saying. Jean didn't rank anywhere near. He nodded, glanced up to the approaching stewardess. "Breakfast ..."

"Yeah." Dan smiled, pushing the seat upright. "Time to get some scran down our necks." The conversation had ended, and he was happy about it. No resentment, no residues of lingering disbelief, nothing.

They had their breakfast as they continued to fly across Europe, getting closer to France. Eventually, they approached Paris Charles de Gaulle and touched down. Dead tired on their feet and completely thrown by the change in season - cold, dreary and wintery instead of spring to early summer - they booked into an airport hotel to get some proper sleep in, before heading on with their hire car. A 4x4, because the seats were straight and more comfortable for Dan. The next morning they set off to continue their journey to Burgundy.

They arrived late lunchtime, and the 'castle' came into view amongst the grey clouds and the backdrop of stormy weather with threats of more rain or sleet.

There were three cars out there, a white convertible with leather seats, a heavier-going 4x4, and a beaten up brownish Volvo that had seen better days. When they got out of the car and towards the door, it was a stranger that opened, mid-thirties, sun-bleached hair, weathered face, pockmarked but seemingly friendly. "Yeah?"

"Is Jean around?" Dan offered a smile. "Or Solange? They are expecting us. Dan and Vadim."

"Ah, yes." The man, who had to have been Jean's comrade at some point, opened the door further. "Come on in. They are both there. And another guy, from the village."

Vadim took the bags and followed, only to find the ex-comrade take the bags from him. "I'll bring them upstairs, the room's been prepared. Jean says you know the place."

"Aye, we do. We were here for the wedding." Dan looked around, "where are they, living room or kitchen?"

"Living room. Fireplace. Want some drinks? I was getting something."

"Cheers, whisky if you got some." Dan nodded, then headed straight towards the living room, remembering the night Vadim had fallen asleep in front of the fireplace, while he'd 'fought' with Beauvais. He waited for Vadim, smiled at him, before they stepped through the door into the room.

Jean was leaning back, holding a glass of wine, legs up on the sofa, looking relaxed, but pale, even in the light from the fireplace. Solange was sitting there, too, and glanced up with a smile, while Jean was listening to a young guy who was breathtaking - strong, earthy, dark wavy hair, and he was talking animatedly in French, as if trying to convince Jean of something. At that moment, Jean looked up, too and looked at Dan, and a sense of relief washed over his face. He put down the wine glass and got up.

"Hey ..." Dan smiled, eyes first on Solange, then on Jean, as he stepped into the middle of the room. It had been too long, and what shit way to meet again. "Good to see you."

"Dan." Jean didn't seem to know what to do with his hands all of a sudden, and he looked at Vadim and gave him a smile, too. "You guys look well-rested. Well, apart from the flight, I guess. How ... how you been? Oh, this is, ah... Frederic, he's a vintner. Brought us this wine. Want some?"

"Aye." Dan grinned and suddenly it all came back. The ease of knowing where to go and what to do and he nodded to Frederic, and cast a brilliant smile at Solange. "Would you excuse me while I am terribly rude and take Jean outside before properly saying hello?" He even indicated a bow to Solange, "with your permission? I have to show Jean something."

Solange smiled. "If I get to keep Vadim?"

Vadim gave a soft laugh. "Yes, why not."

Dan smiled at Vadim, and there was an understanding that no one else in the room could grasp. Clapping his hand on Jean's shoulder in a matey gesture, he guided him towards the door. "We'll be right back." Steering him outside, he murmured. "Where to?"

"The ... small house in the garden." The place where they'd celebrated the stag night. Jean led the way, the door wasn't locked, and it seemed to have become a place for guests, just in case they ran out of space in the main building. Jean flicked the heating on. "Thanks for ... coming."

"Aye." Dan didn't know what else to say, didn't think he needed to, really, because all he could do was be there. "I wanted to properly say 'hi'."

Jean nodded, gave a smile, was 'acting normal', but there was considerable strain and exhaustion visible. "Sorry, I'm not at my ... best at the moment." Pressing his lips together, he shook his head and moved closer, towards Dan, within touching distance. "Had a rough time."

"I know. Fuck, I do. I really do." Leaning the cane against the wall, Dan stepped closer, opened his arms, bodies touching. "Can't say I can change it, make it better." Arms going around Jean, holding tight and strong. "But I can be here, aye?" Softly.

Jean nodded and gave a small sound, shuddering, face buried in Dan's shoulder and neck. "The cops seemed to think ... I killed him, but they can't prove shit. They've been all over ... his friends ... said it ... had to be a Legion connection, somewhere, so some ... showed up here and asked question. Whether I'd kidnapped and imprisoned him. And why."

"Shit." Heartfelt, while holding Jean close. "What did they come up with?"

"They got it ... spot on. They knew it was me and ... a friend. But they can't prove it. Said I'd feel better if I'd turn myself in." Jean shuddered violently. "Doesn't bring him back, does it?"

"You did nothing." Dan frowned, pulling his head back to look at Jean, who kept his face hidden. "It was not your fault. You tried all you could, all you knew, and fuck ..." Dan had to pause for a second, "it was suicide, Jean, suicide. Something I was fucking close to, too." Feeling how Jean clutched him closer, like a drowning man at that confession. "Something that can happen ... like ... " trailing off, Dan shook his head, "something that no one can stop."

"It was fucking Pascal. Suicide? I don't get it. I don't want to get it. Fuck. I'd have done anything ..."

"Listen to me." Dan pulled back again, "do you listen to me?" Shaking Jean. Once, twice, until Jean finally looked at him with a pained expression. "It happened. You were too late. You were too fucking late. You did anything you possibly could, but you have no idea what might have gone on inside Pascal. None. We don't understand the ones closest to us, even the ones we love, the ones we sleep beside every single fucking night, how the hell did you believe you could know what was going on inside Pascal?"

Jean nodded, but he was so visibly in pain that the rational mind clearly was not in charge. Wordless, fingers digging into Dan's arms, shoulders. "So ... fucking senseless", he said, toneless, face distorting again.

"Aye. It was." Holding close again, pulling Jean against him, whose fingers dug deep into muscle, like a feral animal. "It was."

Jean stayed there, face once more against Dan's neck. He was vibrating with pain, rock-hard muscles that somehow absorbed most of the agony. "Don't ... don't leave ... not like this, okay? Dan?"

"I won't. I won't ever. You get that? Not ever." A vow, with more meaning than perhaps even Jean could understand. "I'll be here, right here, no matter where, but always for you and always your friend, no matter what." Waiting and holding, while soothing those muscles. Trying to coax them, to relent the pain and bend instead of break, but perhaps it wasn't time yet. Jean exhaled, a pained sigh, and he pushed back to kiss Dan on the lips, still in that embrace, now face against face, about to say something, but he seemed not to know what it was.

Dan simply opened is lips, allowed anything to happen that Jean wanted. A receptacle, trying to absorb some of the pain. Jean took Dan's head in his hands, kissed him more deeply, but pulled away again. "Too ... suspicious", he murmured.

"Okay." Dan smiled. "Let's get back then. Maybe later?"

Jean inhaled. "Yeah. I'm ... I don't know what to think. Not sure what I'm feeling ..." He glanced back towards the direction of the house. "And Frederic keeps working on getting that vineyard. I ... don't feel like I can make any kind of decision. I hardly get what he says."

"Why don't you forget about all this shit for a while? Tell him to come back later, it's a really bad time right now, and give up all decision making for a while? Give us a couple of weeks, we have time, just stall everything." Dan smiled.

Jean nodded. "Okay. Guess I ... liked his nice brown eyes too much."

"Frederic? Doesn't surprise me."

"Good-looking, eh?"

"Aye."

Jean shrugged, giving a tired grin. "I'll tell him to leave. You have a few weeks? That ... sounds good. Fuck, I ... missed you."

"I'm back now, even if it's on the other side of the world."

"That would be nice. Solange ... she's really flustered, too, doesn't want to work while I'm here."

"We're here now, we'll take care of you." Dan pulled a gentle grin. "We won't let you do anything stupid."

Jean nodded and took Dan's shoulder, pressing it. "Go back? Before Vadim has scared the vintner off. How's he doing?"

"Vadim? Alright." Dan smiled. "He's really been getting into the conference circus shit. Loves the stuff." Dan led the way. "It's good, because if he didn't, we wouldn't be able to afford our expenses."

"Good to hear." Jean again touched Dan's shoulder, a similar ease and familiarity as he'd always had, but it was covering up the things that were really going on. He returned to his couch, close to Solange, and some nibbles and drinks had found their way to the table. Frederic had been talking to Solange, the Legionnaire had been talking to Vadim, carefully, guarded, but friendly enough.

All Dan wanted, though, was talk to Jean. Really talk. Couldn't be helped right now, though, and he sat down next to Vadim, after properly greeting Solange, and had a couple of glasses of wine. He sat close, but wasn't obvious, for whose sake even Dan didn't know. Perhaps the Legionnaire's and ultimately Jean's. He was tired, the journey still in his bones, but when the Legionnaire got up to go to the kitchen and get some ice and vodka, Dan followed.

The Legionnaire was standing with his back to Dan, front towards the fridge, looking around, easy and confident like a man with few cares in the world.

"Hi." Dan had made enough noise not to startle the man, who gave him a glance and a friendly raise of the eyebrow, took the vodka out of the fridge and gathered some water glasses.

"Hi. You're Scots, right?"

"Aye, and you? Can't quite place your accent." Dan smiled, took the glasses to help carrying.

"Newcastle." The man grinned. "Been around, guess the accent's nearly gone."

Dan broke into a fully-blown grin. "Looks like you're as much of a 'peasant', as I am." He winked. "I was Royal Scots, then SAS. I assume you're legion?"

"Yes, regular forces, but I wanted more action."

"Can't get more than in La Legion." Dan grinned. "Still in?"

"Oh yeah, I'm just on R&R, have three weeks to kill and thought why not visit Jean in his little house. So, you're Regiment? Nice one, mate." The man paused for a second when grabbing the bottle. "Ash."

"Dan, and I'm retired now." Giving a wry grin. "Ice?"

"Sure."

"No hands free." Dan shrugged with another grin, but went over to the freezer anyway, setting the glasses back down. "Afraid my balance is shot to shit, you better carry some of the glasses." Digging into the freezer, he found the bag with ice cubes, adding a handful each to a glass. "I assume you are acquainted with Capitan Beauvais ...?"

"Oh yes. He called me ... we go way back, what, five years? Before I signed up for another stint." Ash grinned. "He's a motherfucker, but not a bad one. You're a friend of his?"

"Wouldn't quite call it friend, but aye, we met at Jean's wedding. Good man, just a bit of a rod up his arse." Dan grinned, "he wasn't too impressed when I told him that. I had a black eye for days, thank fuck his jaw wasn't any better."

Ash laughed. "SAS must have been good for something. Getting one in on him must have been bad for his ego."

"He gave as good as he got, and he did catch me by surprise, so all was well." Dan bared all his teeth. The memory of quite how Beauvais 'got one in', was seriously classified. "Anyway, I called him about Jean, and it's good to see you here. I'm damn worried. The job might not do the shit to us, but being out of the job can."

"Anything for a mate." Ash shrugged, like it was no big deal to sacrifice his R&R to keep an eye on Jean. "Wish I could help more."

"Aye, I know. But I'll do my best, too. Have a heart-to-heart, stuff like that. Perhaps you might want some days in the neighbourhood to actually get some R&R on R&R?"

"Sure. The Capitan said I was just holding out until you guys arrive. I can piss off back to Corsica, too. No problem."

"Whatever you prefer. But we're ready to take over if you're happy with that." Picking up the rest of the glasses. "Time to hit the vodka?"

"Yeah. Freezing my nipple off." Ash gave a laugh and shifted the ice-cold bottle just a bit.

Laughing, Dan made his way out of the kitchen door and back into the living room. Handing out the vodka, with Frederic saying his goodbyes, and only the four of them remaining, once Solange had bid them good night. Four men, all soldiers, at one time.

Jean poured himself a generous amount of vodka, drinking quite fast, with Ash almost matching him. Drinking games, getting pissed, that seemed very much what he'd expected and what he could deal with, while Vadim mostly watched, drinking in measured sips. Talk was about anything and everything, stupid pranks from army days, but Jean didn't talk about Pascal, instead, it was about the Legion, Kuwait, the desert. They danced around the subject, but it wasn't an elegant dance, more a deadly one, and equally awkward.

Eventually, neither Dan nor Vadim could stay awake any longer, and they made their way upstairs. At least knowing that Jean wasn't alone, with Ash still there. It was barely half an hour later when they were both asleep.

* * *

Vadim noticed the movement first, somebody was in the room, somebody who locked the door behind him. All he could make out was a silhouette of a naked man, and it could have been either Ash or Jean, and the thought it might be Ash was captivating, because the man had a body to die for, from what he'd seen, at least, and he didn't come with any of the baggage.

The man moved close to the bed, and Vadim half-turned onto his back. Suddenly, the other body was on top of him, and he recognized Jean by smell and taste as he kissed him, but it wasn't raging passion, more one of those intimate, gentle, good kisses that Jean could dish out, as he moved over, rolled, and ended up between him and Dan, facing Dan, on his side. Vadim's hand moved towards Jean's groin, and sure enough, despite all the alcohol, Jean was half-hard. Well, quarter-hard, there was certainly life in that cock.

"Hm ...?" Drowsy, Dan had been in deep sleep, and was only now catching on that the movement wasn't just Vadim turning in his sleep, nor that the body that pressed against him was the one he'd been holding when he'd fallen asleep. "What the ..."

"Can't sleep", Jean murmured, reminding Vadim very much of a kid climbing in to mommy and daddy because of nightmares or something similar. He made some space, but had to lie very close and on his side or he'd fall out of bed. Dan had shuffled up all the way and claimed all the space. Which, of course, pressed him into Jean's ass, and Vadim felt himself harden. He stroked the other's body, flank, towards his cock, balls, rolling them in his hand. Sure enough, Jean reacted. He was drunk, but still functional.

"What do you want?" Murmured, Dan's hands soon joined Vadim's, exploring the body he'd got to know well throughout the last four years.

Jean pressed up to Dan, Vadim's hand was more insistent, more aggressive, taking his cock hard and pumping him until he moaned. Vadim moved his cock between Jean's ass checks, which made the ex-Legionnaire stiffen. "Just ..." Jean groaned as Vadim's thumb went across the tip of his cock. Losing words.

"Hold you?" Dan finished the sentence. Pressed close, only enough space between his body and Jean's for Vadim's hand to continue stroking, ever more insistent. Dan angled his head a fraction and captured Jean's lips, swallowing a moan, as he coaxed those lips apart. His tongue followed, and Jean kissed him, tongue and lips, opening wide. Hands roaming wherever he could reach, the touches were firm and reassuring, adding to the lust that Vadim brought. Vadim pulled Jean's hips back a little, paused just long enough to find some of the lube that he'd unpacked, and Jean shuddered hard as he applied it to Jean's crack. He knew Jean wouldn't resist much if he'd fuck him now, he knew he had him right there, where he'd had Platon and Vanya, both needy enough to allow him to do anything. Vadim would have killed to fuck Jean, Jean on hands and knees on top of Dan, their cocks rubbing with every of his thrusts, fucking both men at the same time. He teased Jean's hole, who jerked like he'd never been touched there before.

That jerk brought Dan's head up, and he broke the kiss. It took him a moment to catch on, and he lifted his head enough to look at Vadim, cradling Jean's face and head in the crook of his neck. "No." Murmured, the shake of his head minimal. "No."

Vadim bared his teeth, desire told him one thing, Dan another. He let go, just pushed his cock between Jean's cheeks, sliding there, wrong angle, but still nice, but didn't get enough friction like that. Jean held onto Dan, kissing his neck, throat, shoulder, as Vadim shifted again to place his cock between Jean's legs, pumping him with every thrust.

Dan returned to kissing, demanding and giving Jean the edge, while Vadim's stroking had become almost brutal, but Jean needed that extra to get off. The booze had dulled his senses. Jean came first, against Dan's body, and Vadim again changed the angle, fucking Jean's closed legs with a savage need that rocked Jean with every thrust, until, he, too, came with a loud groan and bit Jean in the shoulder for added need, and part frustration because he'd much preferred that tight ass.

Dan, against all odds and unlike himself, had not cum, and had no need to. Holding Jean tight, bodies pressed close, he was kissing Jean's lips, face, neck, until he trailed off. Breathing. Caressing the sweat-damp skin.

Jean kept kissing, but the alcohol made him drowsy, and he slowly drifted off, cuddling up and still in a mess. Vadim stroked the sweaty ass, but grinned when he noticed there was hardly a reaction in him. "How do we get him into the right bed?"

"The question is rather," Dan whispered, "what the fuck were you thinking?" Caressing Jean's hair with an oddly protective gesture. "Oh, and don't forget to clean him up first." Dan rolled his eyes.

Vadim gave a short laugh. "You don't want to know what I was thinking ..."

"I do, actually."

"Tomorrow." Vadim got up, headed into the bathroom and soaked part of a towel with warm water, cleaning himself and then Jean, who was, by now, blissfully asleep.

"And what about me?" Dan had rolled onto his back. Sticky with Jean's cum.

Vadim wiped him down, too, then kissed him, deeply. "Not interested at all?" he asked.

"Too worried." His words surprised even Dan himself. "That's not Jean, and you, Russkie, you would have taken advantage of that." And yes, he was pissed off about that. "Don't you see he's fucked up?"

"I think a good shag won't make it worse. Probably better. Very likely better." Vadim glanced at the sleeping man. "He came into our bed, and whatever his intentions, that wasn't completely innocent."

"No, but you don't know that he really doesn't want to get fucked."

"Yeah, like he's straight."

Dan sat up and ran a hand through his wild hair. "If anyone ..." looking up, his expression was almost angry. "You're just fucking greedy."

Vadim laughed. "Maybe." It wasn't all sun and light what he was feeling for Jean. In a way, it was payback, he wanted to get Jean to lose it, to want to get fucked, wanted to humiliate him and fuck him raw. Plus, Jean had fucked him, so it seemed only fair. And thirdly, Jean wouldn't have fought back. But yes, he'd wanted a brutal, intense fuck from the guy, and nothing much else.

"Maybe? You don't give a shit, do you?" Dan frowned, standing up.

"Maybe as in ... good luck."

"So much for friendship."

"How do we get him into the right bed? Move him to the couch and act as if he'd fallen asleep there?"

"You really piss me off right now, Russkie." Dan was pulling on his dressing gown. "Anyway, we can hardly put him back into Solange's bed."

"No, she'd get the shock of her life." Vadim stood, too, rolled his shoulders. "I'll carry him, you open the doors." He pulled Jean closer, who softly protested, then loaded him onto his shoulders in a fireman's grip. "I swear he got heavier", Vadim murmured. Or he was getting older. He straightened with the load.

Dan shrugged, opened the door and led the way to the living room and the white leather couches. The fire was still burning in the fire place, albeit low, and there were blankets close.

Vadim lowered Jean onto the couch closest to the fire, got a pillow under his head and pulled one of the blankets up to cover him with that. Jean looked more peaceful, more vulnerable now, and he felt almost sorry for the fierce urge to hurt him. He'd never really understand how Jean managed to set him on edge like that - he guessed it was envy and jealousy.

"Right, he's taken care off. Let's go to bed."

"Aye. I'll be up shortly." Looking at Vadim, Dan clearly expected him to leave.

Vadim shrugged and headed back upstairs.

Staying beside the couch for a while, Dan finally sat down, looking into the fire. One hand on Jean's blanket-clad body, the other toying with a poker. "I'm sorry." He finally murmured, turning towards Jean. Leaning down, he placed a light kiss onto the face, and murmured once more, "so fucking sorry. At least it isn't too late ..." Jean's hand moved, touching Dan's cheek, but nothing more, he was probably not even aware of it.

At last Dan got up and made his way back upstairs. Silently cursing the stairs. He shrugged out of the dressing gown once he had closed the door.

Vadim glanced up and lifted the blanket for Dan to crawl under, which he did, silently. Lying on his back and staring at the ceiling.

Vadim was now awake, too. Feeling the silence, possibly brooding, anger. "He'll be okay. He's going through a rough patch, but he'll be okay."

"I just don't get it." Dan turned his head to look at Vadim. "I really don't. The man's fucked up. Drunk. Not himself. And you want to fuck him? Because he's not going to say no? Bloody hell, Vadim, that's low." Dan shook his head. "I know you had your differences in the past, all the way since the Gulf, but would you do the same if it were Hooch and not Jean?"

"Hooch could take it", Vadim murmured. "So that's not really the same thing. I didn't think about it. And I didn't do it."

"Aye, Hooch could take it. I bet Hooch can take anything. And if Hooch's mate threw himself out of a window, that wouldn't affect him, aye? Because Hooch is different. Hooch isn't such a soft shite as Jean, no?" Dan realised he was getting into a rage and shook his head, taking a deep breath. "Fuck. I'm rattled. Have you got any idea how close I must have been to offing myself? Because I don't have a clue."

"We've all had people die. Hooch's team mate had been killed when we met in Berlin." Vadim reached over and touched Dan's chest. "There was a kid … a driver, he got shot in the throat in an ambush. Nothing anybody could have done. Platon. Good boy."

"They were both killed in action." Dan frowned. "And that makes you think less of Jean, somehow? Enough to figure, hey, he's out of it, so let's fuck the guy? You didn't do it to me in the cave ... would you do it now, because I turned out to be a weakling? Because I couldn't deal with having lost who I was? Is that why you were embarrassed?"

Vadim pulled his hand back. "Guess I shouldn't have come." He got up, reached for his briefs, pulled them on.

"And your solution is to run away and sulk?" Sitting up as well, Dan reached for his own trousers. Vadim wasn't going to get away this time.

"War fucks people up, Dan. It's nothing new. It's what we sign up for when we do this job. Comrades die, lives get lost, people break. It's natural. It's the price we pay for killing."

"And the price for doing the job is to get fucked up? That's not good enough." Dan frowned. "No, not good enough at all."

Vadim shook his head. "That's why the Legion keeps an eye on its people. There are veteran organizations. Even the Afghanets have organized." He was getting angry himself, a low-level resentment that drove him away.

"And what did they do for you? Huh?" Dan stood, "besides, what good do they do if you actively have to seek help? What about pride? What about not realising you need help? What if not seeking help is the last and only thing that remains? Because if you did, then you'd really prove that you've become weak and useless?"

"Dan, please, I'm tired and jetlagged and I don't want to discuss all this right now. I want to fucking sleep."

Dan was about to say something, but didn't, just shook his head and buttoned the trousers, reaching for his jumper.

Vadim groaned, felt that he'd get chased wherever he'd go to find some rest, because Dan just wouldn't let it go. He pulled a T-shirt on. "I'll sleep on the other couch." He grabbed his pillow and headed towards the door. "Won't touch him."

"No, stay here." Dan sat back down to pull on socks and tie his shoes. "I need to think. I need to ..." go into the mountains. "I'll be outside."

"Right. I'll just get something to drink, then." Vadim headed into the kitchen.

Dan watched him leave. Sometimes he wanted to kick Vadim, or punch his face until he actually listened, or behaved like ... aye, what? He wasn't sure, but felt that Vadim continued to be a slippery fish. Evading wherever possible. He shrugged in the end and put on his thickest parka, gloves, hat and all, and even took the cane, just in case. Cigarettes stashed in his pockets, he slowly made his way down the stairs.

The cold and damp outside hit him like a thick blanket, and he inhaled deeply. He didn't know this place all that well, but he hadn't been an ace at orienteering for nothing, and France was a piece of cake compared to the Afghan mountains. That comparison made him laugh, and he set off into the night. Deep in thought while letting the darkness, the silence and the solitariness soothe and guide his thinking. Short thoughts, like he'd once said, but many short thoughts could create a great long whole.

 
 
Special Forces Chapter LVII: Lives and Lovers
 
 
Warning for Readers

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

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

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

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

 

 
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Published 2 January 2009