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Special Forces Chapter LVIII: Guard Duty
 
 

December 1994, Burgundy, France

When Dan returned to the house, he was in a good mood. His knee was sore from walking too much, but he didn't mind, because he had new ideas, new thoughts, and where those would take him and everyone else, he didn't know. But the idea that he had was so crazy, it might even work.

It was just about dawn when he went through the back gate and crossed the garden towards the kitchen. There was light on, and he craned his neck to see who was up already. Not that it was that early, December on the continent meant short days. Knocking on the back door before he entered, he smiled when he spotted Solange. Perfect. "Good morning."

"Good morning, Dan. You're up early. Do you want a coffee?" She was standing at the espresso machine, sorting breakfast. Even on her days 'off', she was dressed elegantly in earthy warm browns, with a long skirt and a cashmere V-necked jumper, a silk scarf hiding her throat.

"That would be brilliant, as strong as possible." Dan peeled out of hat, gloves and jacket.

She nodded and placed a small white cup under the nozzle, and the machine produced dark coffee with a layer of brown foam. "I was just about to properly wake Jean. He's fallen asleep on the couch." She set the cup, milk and sugar in front of him and started another one.

"I'm afraid we must have plied him with too much vodka last night." Smiling, he stepped closer to her. Looking tired, but there was a spark of excitement in his eyes that hadn't been there for a long time. "I'd like to ask you something, Solange." Using her name, a name that rolled off the tongue so smoothly, elegantly, just like her.

She looked at him. "Of course, what is it?"

Sitting down on the table, Dan prepared his espresso with a heap of sugar. "I was wondering if you let me take Jean away for a few days. Two or three. Perhaps in a caravan."

"I could go to Paris … my agency is trying to place me for something." Solange sat down, had a sip from her coffee and looked at Dan, large dark eyes without a hint of mistrust or dislike, and she folded her hands on the table.

"No need to leave, I'd like to take him away from everyone and everything, including Ash, Vadim and this house." Dan took a sip of his coffee. It wasn't about deceiving, wasn't about sex. It truly and deeply was only about Jean. His friend. "I was wondering, has Jean ever talked about what he feels? What happened?"

"He blames himself … for not realising how bad Pascal was, for not getting professional help, for allowing him to escape …" She shook her head and cast down her eyes. "Like he's looking for something that was his fault, as if his guilt would bring him back." She shook her head again. "Almost as if … as if suffering is his way to mourn."

"I thought so." Dan murmured, finishing his espresso. Watching her for a moment, and he didn't know why, just that he wanted to reach out. Scarred left hand lightly covering hers on the table, and her thumb caught his thumb, holding him, too. "I don't know if I can help, but maybe he'll open up and talk to me, as a friend. I'd like to try, because I've been there myself, I was really down, too."

"You're his best friend, Dan." She looked up again. "You don't have to ask my permission to care for him." She smiled. "He tries to act normally, if you take … the rest away, maybe it makes a difference. I'm not sure what else we could try, I'm a very traditional kind of woman, you know, I'm not sure I could force him to do anything, including … face those feelings."

"You're his wife, of course I ask your permission." Dan smiled and squeezed her hand. "I'll try and get him to face them." Standing up he took hold of his jacket and kit. "I'll organise everything today. You just go wake up your husband." With that and a last smile he took his cane and made his way upstairs to the room.

Vadim was getting out of the shower, towelling himself, water running from his hair over his back. "You were out all night?"

"Aye." Dan flung jacket and cane onto the bed and sat down on the chair close to the corner table. He grinned, albeit tiredly. "Thinking my small thoughts takes some time if I want to get to the big ones."

Vadim ran the towel across his scalp and face. "Okay. You look like you found a solution …"

"I'm not sure if it is a solution, but it's at least a plan." Taking his boots off with a sigh of pleasure, Dan rubbed his socked feet together. "The straightforward one is this: I take Jean out in a caravan and see if I can get him to talk. Solange's happy with this and hopes it will work. Two or three days, that should be fine." Looking at Vadim, who was drying his feet now, but paying attention. "Hope you don't mind me doing that. Jean's my friend ... and it worked with me when you did it." Trailing off, Dan busied himself with his socks for a moment. "The other plan is bigger, and so fucked up, it might actually work." Flashing a grin before his face vanished inside the jumper as he flung it off.

"Put things into perspective …" Vadim nodded and started to get dressed. "What is that big plan?"

In nothing but his trousers now, Dan got up to stretch. "Remember what I told you last night? That it's not enough to have to actively seek help, because most likely, the last scraps of pride are keeping you from doing that, or perhaps you are so down you don't even realise you need help, because you can't feel anymore, and all you want is that numbness to stop."

"Yes."

Dan nodded and gave a small smile. "What if it didn't even have to come to that stage? What if there were a network, across the world, for ex-Special Forces soldiers? Discreet, international, with a few rules that include no more enemies once you're out, if you have to sort things with a punch-up, do it amongst mates, and a place where all that shit we can never tell about, least of all to a civilian, is the most normal thing, because we all know and have all done it? Where 'killing in the name of' is just what we did, not what defines us?"

"To keep an eye on each other?" Vadim moved to Dan, standing close. "You can start with the people we do know. And those know others … somebody would have to run this, though."

"You told me I needed to find myself a hobby." Dan tilted his head, grinning. "You'd think running this 'Special Forces Association' would give me some purpose, aye?" Placing a hand onto Vadim's shoulder. Damn, that felt good. Warm skin and muscle under his fingers.

"Good hunting ground, too. Ogling the super-fit and super-mean?" Vadim gave a laugh.

"Don't be silly," Dan grinned, "it'll be difficult enough to get potential members to accept that this thing is run by a gay guy and that his partner is there as well." His other hand went into the back of Vadim's neck. "And I guess that will be one of the rules: nationality, race, sexuality don't matter. If you can't solve disagreements with a simple punch-up, you're out." Taking the final step closer until their bodies touched. "I don't actually know if there are any female special forces anywhere in the world?"

"I heard female Israeli paratroopers are hard."

"Not quite like me." Dan winked. "Still, no-sex could be a rule as well." He grimaced, "or we just sod that one."

Vadim laughed and placed an arm around Dan's waist. "You'd get kicked out for breaking that rule, Dan. So better sod it." He kissed Dan on the lips, running his hand through Dan's hair. "Hmmm. Bed, or breakfast?"

"Bed, if you take me unshowered ...?"

"I'll take you any way I can have you."

"In that case, I am all yours." Dan took a step back towards the bed, taking Vadim with him. He managed to get onto the bed and on his back without any accidents, and was grinning when Vadim peeled his trousers off. Still grinning when he spread his arms, his legs, lifted his knees and flashed his teeth in a kick-ass smirk, demanding 'to be taken'. But Vadim was feeling mellow and started with thoroughly rimming him, until Dan's relaxed attitude had turned to zoned-out need, and only then fucked him just as thoroughly, taking his time, but giving no quarter. They'd be late for breakfast, but they had clear priorities. Priorities which left Dan so sated, he fell asleep almost straight after his orgasm. Lying sprawled across the bed, and nothing could rouse him. Not even the prospect of food, and Vadim had to go downstairs on his own.

* * *

When Dan finally got up, he went out into town in their hire car, and organised everything he'd need for the next few days. It was easy, he wasn't going to go off into the wilderness, after all. The rest was spent as a lazy day, the high point of which was a 'pool party' in the cellar 'spa area', and the high point of that was Ash stripping off, baring a tattooed, powerful body, which Vadim appreciated for a while. Then more alcohol and food and chilling in front of the fireplace, ending the day on a mellow note.

Ash went off to bed first, Solange had already started her beauty sleep, and Vadim was comfortably ensconced on the couch, gazing at the fire. With everyone else up to their beds, Dan went over to sit beside Jean on the opposite couch. "I'm going to take you away."

Jean looked at him. "Really? Where to?"

"We found some nice places when we were out with Beauvais." Leaning forward to refill his glass. "Doesn't really matter, though, because I'll put you into a camper van and we'll head off tomorrow morning." He grinned. "Three days with little old me will be survivable, aye?"

"Hmm." Jean glanced at Vadim. "Will you make sure Ash's keeping his fingers off Solange?"

"You think he's interested?"

"Just …" Jean trailed off, frowning. "Just be careful."

"I don't think you need to worry. Ash said he'll be off to Corsica, and he's a mate. Besides, Vadim is here and when Vadim goes into protector mode, Ash won't get closer than ten feet." Dan glanced over at Vadim, "Am I right, Russkie?"

"Oh yeah. I think he needs to worry more." Vadim grinned. "I'll make sure everything's going just fine."

"Means you won't be coming?"

"No. I think you and Dan could use spending some time together."

"Okay."

Dan smiled at Jean. "Right, and that means you should get your arse into bed, because we're heading off early tomorrow. By the way, Solange is happy with us heading off for a wee while."

"Seems like it's decided then." Jean got to his feet, tired and alcohol-dazed. "Anything I should pack?"

"Clothes? Razor? I've got the rest. We'll be picking up supplies in the local supermarket tomorrow. I've bought them today, and the camper comes equipped with everything else. So ... just bring yourself, preferably without a hangover." Dan grinned, shooing Jean off, who nodded at that and waved good night.

Vadim watched him leave. "Take as much time as you need. Just call if it takes longer."

Dan got off the couch once Jean was gone, holding his hand out to Vadim. "You really think Ash's having an eye on Solange? I rather figure Jean's paranoid right now."

"I think Ash is an honourable guy who might be interested but wouldn't shag the wife of a comrade."

"Exactly." Dan took hold of Vadim's hand. "Time to head off to the land of nod. I better make sure that I really am awake and ready to go at the crack of dawn. Thank fuck dawn's not that early."

"Yes, I'm still jetlagged, too. This part of the world is on the wrong time." Vadim stood, and yawned. "Just wake me before you leave …"

"Promised." They just about managed to get out of their clothes and into bed, and the moment their heads hit the pillows, they were both pretty much asleep.

* * *

With the grey morning light not quite shining through the windows yet, Dan was leaning over Vadim the next morning. Fully dressed, a couple of coffees already down his neck, the camper van keys in his hand, cane under his arm. "Bye-bye, sleeping beauty." He grinned.

Vadim glanced up, head halfway buried in the pillow. "Enjoy the holiday", he murmured.

"It's not so much about enjoying." Dan murmured, leaning further down to place a kiss onto Vadim. "I'll call you tonight." With that he was ready and out of the door, to make his way down to the kitchen, where Jean was waiting for him, bleary-eyed, over another coffee. "Good to go?"

Jean pointed at a packed backpack and a jacket sitting next to him. "I'm not recovering from vodka like I used to … Yeah, good to go."

Dan grinned, with less sympathy than amusement. "Tell me about it, when Vadim picked me up I vomited out of the car and was ill for two days."

They got into the camper van and Dan drove off. Pretty quiet for the first hour, just driving along the countryside, looking for nothing in particular. Dan finally broke the silence. "When you're done snoozing, want to find a café for a late breakfast or want to park somewhere and I cook the only thing that I can?"

"Breakfast." Jean turned his head. "Maybe we even find something more substantial than croissant and coffee."

"Okay, I'll have a look at the next village, if you don't trust my cooking skills." Dan indicated a sign to the right. "Wise decision, actually."

They were lucky, they not only found parking in the small place, but also a cafe, for their caffeine fix, a butcher and a bakery, and all together they got a breakfast that was hot and while not healthy, certainly designed to wake the dead and to kill the living. Dan drove off to park a little bit away, out of sight and in a small road that led into a forest, where they sat down in the camper to eat. Dan didn't say much, had his coffee, ate his food and smoked a fag, after offering one to Jean.

Jean wiped the crumbs off his front and legs. "Better." He reached for a cigarette and let Dan light it for him, then leaned back to exhale the smoke and look at the sky. "Don't know. I have no idea how that happened."

"Which one of the many things that have happened?" Exhaling, Dan watched the smoke disappear.

"How I could lose him like that. Prison? Drugs?"

"You were not his minder. You were his friend, and friends can take care but not control."

Jean exhaled smoke. "But I should have. I'm the only one who could have. I should have seen it coming."

"How?"

"I knew him. He trusted me."

"You knew him and that means that you knew every little thing that was going on in his head? You believe you knew absolutely everything including what might have triggered the violent reaction in the first place? You knew him so well that you could have stopped the things happening in prison?"

"No, but …" Jean shook his head. "I got through that anger … when I left the Legion, I was fucked-up. Told you, I almost killed Solange …" He shook his head. "Should have known it was the same for Pascal, but no, he wasn't that mild-mannered, not that gentle, not the butt of the joke. He had just as much … shit inside him as I had."

"But he'd already been out of the Legion for a while, isn't that right?"

"Yeah."

"How could you have known?"

"From experience. It took me a while to get anywhere with myself after the Legion. Any excuse for a fight, and good old Jean was right in the middle of it."

"And that experience should have told you that years after leaving the Legion and years after the problems that you had, Pascal would suddenly flip? That's bullshit, Jean, and you know it. You're not superman."

Jean rubbed his face. "Means it had to happen?" Jean looked at Dan, eyes wide with an angry, desperate, hurt expression. "You think he really wanted all that? Wanted to kill himself?"

"No, that's bullshit as well. It means that maybe, if things had been different, and if he hadn't met the woman he did, and if he hadn't gone out that night, and if he hadn't been drinking, and if the goddamned star constellation hadn't been the way the moon was shining that goddamned night, then ... then maybe it hadn't happened. What I mean is, that what happened was a tragedy, and if many things had been different, it could have been avoided, but you, Jean, in all those circumstances, you couldn't have prevented what happened. You did what you could, to your best abilities, you took over responsibility, but you couldn't have prevented it. It is not your responsibility that Pascal is dead." Extinguishing the cigarette, Dan leant close. "It is not your fault. You are not guilty."

"The police thinks that I am."

"The police thinks you threw Pascal out of the window?"

"They think I did something to him. But most of all, that I kidnapped him and held him prisoner, and that while running away, Pascal killed himself. Maybe that he killed himself to escape me." Jean's voice was level, dry, monotonous. "Could have helped him to put down roots … like I did, wife, house, all that can help with some of those crazy thoughts."

"And how would you have done that? Would you have found a woman for him, bought a house for him and put him inside? It doesn't work like that." Dan stood up, to expend some of the energy. "We are not responsible for others, we cannot be. Not even for the ones we love."

"He was like a brother, Dan." Voice soft, eyes blurring.

"Aye." Dan said quietly. Hand on Jean's shoulder, he squeezed, then reached to pull him up and take him across to the bunk beds to sit down. "But sometimes, brothers can't help brothers, and not even lovers can't help lovers ..." Sitting down and taking Jean with him, Jean embraced him, held him, pulling him with him as he lay down, face against Dan's chest, breathing deeply.

"Stay here?"

"Aye, as long as you need me to." Dan held Jean close, stroking the blond hair. Nothing wrong with holding someone who was hurting, nothing at all. "Won't go anywhere."

Jean cuddled close, breathing against his chest, gradually relaxing a bit. "It's good having you", he murmured.

"I'm sorry I wasn't there for you earlier. Had a shit time myself." Turning his head to place a kiss wherever he could reach, one landed on Jean's hair.

"Just … if you ever need help. Tell me. I'll do whatever." Jean shifted, rolled Dan over onto his back and looked down at him. "Don't piss off like he did. Okay, you have Vadim, but ... still."

"I won't piss off, I promise. I learned my lesson." Smiling up at Jean. "You're already doing a damn lot, you're my friend. That's more than most ex-soldiers have, especially special forces."

Jean gave a small smile. "Not completely selflessly, though." The smile became a smirk and he kissed Dan on the lips, tenderly, tongue following, fingers splayed on Dan's face and temple.

Dan broke the kiss after a moment, "you're not hearing me complain." Before pulling Jean back down. Hand at the back of his neck, feeling the strength beneath his fingers, and he shifted slightly, arranging his legs so that their groins pressed against each other, legs angled and thighs rubbing. Jean threw himself enthusiastically into the love-making, making Dan breathless with his recklessly sexy kisses, almost purring under the touches, taking it slow and intense, no reservation, whether he rubbed against him or opened his fly to kiss and lick Dan's cock. Sucking him before long, and touching himself, but not to get himself off, but, the way he did it, to show himself off and arouse Dan, who was blown away. Almost helpless under Jean's hands, lips, and body, and at some stage, he was so breathless and close to orgasm, he started to plead, unashamed, which was enough to get Jean off. When Jean finally made him cum, Dan was pressing him close, erratically shuddering.

Jean grinned tiredly, face seemed sated and relaxed. "No, not selfless at all." Kissing Dan, who was grinning like a fool, while Jean lay half on top, half on his side. "But you're okay now?"

"Yeah ... very okay." Not quite understanding the question, Dan was out in post orgasmic bliss. Not even realising his legs were trapped in the trousers around his ankles and his boots were still on. The top, thankfully, had been pulled off at some stage. "You?"

Jean nodded. "Getting there." He grinned at Dan's state of semi-dress and leaned back. "You got a cigarette?"

"Yeah, over there." Pointing to the table, Dan made no attempts at getting up. "If you get them, bring them here, take my damned boots off, and clean me up, I'll give you a blow job next time that you'll never forget." He grinned.

Jean laughed. "'Kay." He got up, shed the rest of his own clothes and returned with a towel and cigarettes, lighting one and starting it, before he stuck it between Dan's lips, and then cleaned him up.

"I could get used to that service, you know." Talking around his fag, Dan watched Jean take his boots, socks and trousers off. "Just hoping we won't encounter a flic who wonders why we are parked here." Grinning sharply, Dan patted the space beside him, when Jean was done.

Jean joined him, lighting his own cigarette. "Don't care. I got nothing to hide."

"Nor have I. Guess it would be difficult anyway, being naked, aye?" He rolled his eyes and grinned.

Jean huffed and studied Dan's body. "I quite like you naked."

"I figured that. Can't say you're too bad to look at either." Lifting his right leg, Dan pointed at his knees and the fresh collection of scars. Not pretty, but functional. "That's the latest one."

Jean touched the scar, stroking it with his thumb. "Yeah, that's impressive. Did that hurt bad?"

Dan pondered his answer for a moment, until he came out with simply the truth. "Aye. Like a motherfucker. The bones got infected and they had to take it back out again." He shrugged, but he wasn't all that good at playing it lightly. "Thanks to my brother it got all sorted in the end." He reached across to the ashtray, placing it onto his abs. "I'll never run again, but I can walk, and that's all that matters."

"Shit. I had no idea."

"That's alright, I wasn't talking to anyone at the time." Dan turned his head and looked at Jean with a small smile. "Remember what I told you earlier? Sometimes even a lover or a friend can't make a difference to what is going on in one's mind. I refused help, refused to talk, refused anything."

"That's why it was impossible to get to you?"

"Pretty much." Reaching across, Dan touched Jean's face, before putting the ashtray away when Jean had extinguished his own cigarette. "If I hadn't been picked up just in time ..." leaving the rest unsaid. "Anyway, that's why I had an idea last night and why I need your help."

"Sure. Whatever you want." Jean stretched out, idly scratching his abs.

"I was thinking of starting up a network. Club, or association. Special Forces association, aye. International and with only a few rules: if someone was your former enemy, they aren't now. Gender, sexuality and race are to be disregarded, and if you can't solve an argument with a simple punch up, then stick your bloody head down a loo until you've calmed down." Dan flashed a sharp grin. "I know it sounds fucking crazy and might not work, but a discreet organisation, a lose network of ex soldiers, ex special forces, who can understand each other, and who can say what they want without having to censor themselves for the civilians, and who might provide enough of a safety net that its members don't drop off and do stupid shit ... maybe it'll work?"

Jean nodded, looking uncharacteristically thoughtful. "So they don't kill themselves?"

Dan took in a deep breath, exhaling slowly. "So that the aggression doesn't need an outlet, aye. I think what makes us dangerous at times is because we don't fit in, we deal with what we've done and what we've seen, and we can't talk about it. And ... suicide is an option."

"I'm game. Pretty sure Ash is, too. Thierry …"

"I was wondering if it should be ex-special forces? What do you think?"

"Well, I'm still active. Sort of. Not sure when I'll take the next contract, haven't been feeling like it, lately."

"A private contract is different. You are no longer employed by any nation's military. You are not a soldier anymore, thus you have no affiliation, and thus you can't have enemies. Well ... officially." Dan grinned. "Anyway, what do you think? Should it be only ex?"

"Would make sense, but maybe allow for some flexibility, just in case somebody still active needs or wants to join. The guys who are still active have their units and the bigger whole."

"That's a good idea." Dan nodded, lazily pulling Jean close, who followed, stroking Dan's chest. "And who knows, if this whole crazy idea is successful, then maybe we can even get some funds and apply for charitable status and ... perhaps one day there will be a Pascal foundation." Turning his head, "and I don't actually know his last name."

"Durand." Jean murmured.

"Pascal Durand Foundation." Dan leaned across to gently touch Jean's face. "You think he would have liked that? A network that keeps us all going?"

Jean nodded, silently, pressing his lips together. "Yeah", he managed finally. "I think he would've."

"I'll work my arse off to achieve this, then." Placing a kiss on Jean's cheek, then lips.

"I'll help", said Jean. "Would be good to do something for him, too, even if … it's a bit late."

"Aye, and I am sorry. Really am sorry." Kissing Jean again, Dan held him close. Just lying there, peacefully and dozing with open eyes.

Jean rested against his chest, idly stroking Dan's body, familiar, content and gentle. "You make it less bad", he murmured.

Dan smiled and leaned his head against Jean's. "That's what friends are for."

* * *

After finding themselves a nice restaurant and having plenty of good food, they returned to the caravan for the night, sitting outside for a while, despite the cold. Wrapped up, they enjoyed each other's company and a bottle of wine. Jean seemed better, more relaxed, and very thoughtful. "You know … there's one thing I don't want. I don't want you to worry about me … or, you know, worse. Because of Pascal."

"Does that mean I don't have to put the suicide watch onto you?" Dan glanced to the side, exhaling smoke into the cold night air.

"I wouldn't do that. Never. Just …" he shrugged. "Drink too much, talk too little."

"Yeah, I did that, and it was shit." Dan took a sip of his wine. "Besides, you have Solange, and she loves you so very much, but as she told me, she feared she wasn't able to get you to open up." He smiled, "she's more passive, aye?"

"Yeah. It's usually me who takes care of her. Not sure she knew how to deal with the tables turned. I mean, she … gives me peace and all that, but she's not the type who can bitchslap some sense into me."

"Must admit, I really can't imagine that either." Dan grinned, refilling Jean's glass. "Guess that's what I'm here for, bitchslapping you." Dan's smirk lit up his whole face. "So, consider yourself bitchslapped and if you don't stop drinking yourself into a stupor every night, I'll come to get your arse. A propos arse ..."

Jean glanced up. "Yeah?"

"If you're really that precious about it, then next time you're piss drunk and desperate, there might not be someone to say 'no'." Dan raised a brow and his glass.

"Oh." Jean seemed to realize what had happened that night. "Shit. I was just … couldn't sleep and I'd missed you …"

"That almost got you fucked." Clinking his glass against Jean's. "And since I am a selfish bastard, I figure that if anyone is ever going to fuck that arse of yours, then it's me." Grinning wildly to take any sting out of it.

"Oh. Vadim." Jean swallowed. "Fuck, he's big. That's a scary thought right there …"

Dan laughed, "hey, he isn't that big. I can take him easily."

Jean shuddered. "Still. I mean … probably shouldn't be that scared about it, enjoying all the other things I do, but …" He shrugged. "Don't get my head around getting fucked."

"Eh, he is not bigger than I am, is that clear?" Dan winked.

Jean laughed. "No. No, he's not. Course not."

"And I know what you mean, I didn't allow him to fuck me for a long, long time, but then I had ..." trailing off quickly, Dan shrugged. "Anyway, you fucked me, and you know that I enjoy it."

"So does Solange … good reason to marry, see? Somebody who loves getting fucked like that." Jean had another sip of wine and Dan laughed.

"Okay, means I better marry Vadim." Another bout of laughter followed.

"I promise, if I ever get my head around it, I'll let you know."

"Yeah, you know my number." Grinning, they sat side by side.

Companionable, shoulders touching, and sharing a bottle in the clear night, until it was time to go inside and warm up, and share more than just wine.

* * * * * * *

When they eventually got back to the house, something had changed in Jean. While the sadness was still there, he allowed himself to grieve now, and to accept what had happened. The guilt had been replaced by a painful, yet growing understanding.

Ash had left a couple of days ago, and Solange had been the perfect hostess for Vadim, who had enjoyed himself in the company of the lady more than he had thought. Even when she took him shopping, something she truly was an expert at. The fact that he'd somehow grown a lot more of a wardrobe - and also, she assured him, a far more varied one - wouldn't necessarily lead to Dan appreciating it, but the money was flowing freely and she made shopping a breeze and thoroughly enjoyable.

They stayed for a couple of weeks longer, until it was close to Christmas. During that time Dan talked a lot with Jean, across in the garden house, about their jobs, their comrades, their lives, their lovers, and one of those nights, with Vadim and Solange in the main house, Dan was sitting with an enormous grin, waiting for Jean.

Jean was just coming back from the kitchen in the main house and brought with him some food and two bottles of wine. Seeing Dan grin at him, he sat the food down and smirked at him. "What's up, Dan?"

"I was wondering about your interesting Christmas decorations."

"What Christmas decoration? I don't think we have ..."

"That one." Dan pulled something out of his pocket and dangled it from between his fingers. A black leather collar, studded with silver.

Jean laughed. "Wouldn't fit you. Damn, the woman isn't tidy all the time."

"What, so it isn't you who is wearing it? You disappoint me." Placing the collar down onto the floor, Dan held his hand out for the plate with food instead.

"Do I?" Jean laughed. "No, I collared her a few months before the marriage ... but we figured authorities wouldn't see the collaring the same way we did, so we did the traditional thing as well."

"Collared?" Dan blinked, a sandwich hovering in mid air. "What the hell does that mean?"

"Solange is my slave." Jean grinned, somewhat self-consciously. "It's a pledge. I own her. It's ... it sounds weirder than it is, really. She likes it that way, it was really her idea, and most people would never notice, because ... well, it's mostly a thing when we are alone, or she wears it when she goes to Paris. Just so she remembers she belongs to me."

"She wears this when she goes out? Holy fuck."

"Yeah. That or a chastity belt."

Dan had stuffed the sandwich into his mouth, spluttered and almost choked on it. "What? Chastity belt?" Reaching for the wine to wash it down quickly. "But what does it mean, her being your slave?"

"It means I call the shots. I make the decisions. Her body belongs to me. If I should decide, that, for example, Ash can fuck her, that is what happens, she doesn't even get asked. On the other hand ..." Jean grinned. "It's about working out what the slave wants but wouldn't ask. I can push her and stretch her limits, but I can't go too far. It's ... a game. It keeps things interesting, and is especially helpful when either of us is away." Jean looked at Dan. "Okay, now you think I'm a freak."

Dan swallowed the last bit of his sandwich, staring at Jean with very dark eyes. Slowly chewing, until he swallowed it carefully. Taking his time to wash it all down with some more wine, before he finally answered: "No. On the contrary."

"You think I'm completely normal?" Jean poured some wine. "What about this, then ... before you and Vadim came for the wedding, I made Solange blow Thierry, right there on the couch, and then she blew me, while he watched and that night, I bound and gagged her and Thierry fucked her ... we were taking turns until we couldn't go on any longer ..."

Dan blinked again, abut to say something, but he remained quiet. Finishing his wine instead. "I don't know." He finally admitted. "That ... I don't know. Give me more wine and I might get my head around it."

"There's plenty of wine. Frederic keeps dropping off more." Jean grinned and leaned back while Dan refilled his glass, which he half emptied straight away. "I think part of ... part of that fascination I had for Solange was that she's like that. Remember how I told you how we met?" Dan nodded. "I could have killed her, just for deceiving me, and that turned her on, on some level, and I saw that, I saw that she wanted to be treated like that. And I really, really wanted to treat her like that. Sexually, we're like hand and glove. It's perfect. For her, for me ... well, if I could have a male slave, too, I guess..." Jean grinned.

"Not me." Dan very quickly waved his hand. "Not my cuppa, and Vadim's taken."

"Taken? Is he?" Jean grinned.

Dan cocked his head when he realised what he'd said. The implications slowly filtering through. "I ..." finishing the wine, "I cut the Cyrillic first letter of 'mine' in his thigh. Does that count?" Slowly moistening his lips, new thoughts were taking him to places he hadn't been to yet. Not quite.

"It does." Jean shook his head. "Always wondered about that ... you have your masochistic moments, and you can also be sadistic, or ... dominant. Vadim, I'd have pegged him as a dom, but I've had too much sex with you guys to really believe that anymore. So, you're taking turns?"

"Not ... really." Dan rubbed his nose with the heel of his hand. "And I wouldn't call what I do 'masochistic'. I just play games, and sometimes it's something of a re-enactment, perhaps. Exorcism." He shrugged, "and I wouldn't call what I've been doing sadistic, not when the guys are enjoying it, and they sure as fuck did." Refilling his glass yet again.

"Masochists ... or submissives, or whatever you call them, they do enjoy it. It's what they want. They are actually in charge and all that, because they allow it to happen. Forcing them, really forcing them would be rape and abuse, but it's not. It's fucking with their minds."

"I know the difference." Dan glanced towards the plate with food, but didn't take any. "With Vadim ... that's a different matter. He told me that something 'clicked' when I tortured him. And fuck, that was sadistic."

"Okay." Jean looked taken aback. "Torture. The real deal, I guess?"

"Aye, the real, goddamned motherfucking deal." Dan frowned, put the glass down. "It was revenge, fourteen years ago. I hated him. And that moment, up in the Afghan mountains, that moment he said something, something 'clicked' with me as well. I was the one who cut 'cunt' into his back." Dan looked at Jean, not blinking, open and honest. Expecting judgment, whatever the verdict. He wanted to add that there had been nothing sexual about it, but he remained silent, because ultimately, everything had been sexual about it.

"You marked him. That ... that's powerful stuff." Jean was visibly trying to get his head around it. "I never went that far, but my best guess is ..." Jean stared into the wine and chewed thoughtfully on his lip. "There's a point when they can't resist anymore. At some point, they give up, they open up, and then they are all yours. I'm not sure we can even use that to understand what you guys did, but ... something happens when that happens ... the submission. That's really strong stuff. Maybe, even though it was torture and even though it wasn't ... consenting adults and all that ... maybe that's exactly what happened?"

"It had never been about consenting adults with us." Dan looked at his left hand, studying the scars. "Not until he begged me to kill him with honour. I think ... I think he believed I would rape him with the knife." Staring at his hand as if he could decipher the past from the patterns of scars.

Jean jerked, muttering "shit" under his breath. He looked at Dan, almost if asking him to say 'but I wouldn't have', waiting for something like that for several long moments, until Dan finally looked up from his hand.

"It took me years to realise that that's what he thought I'd do." Quietly, dryly. "Hence his fascination for me with a knife, I guess." He shrugged, some self-deprecating humour about him. As dry and brittle as his words. "And I only wanted to finish the last letter." The huff that followed had a weary quality. "I never told him. Would you believe that? And now ... now you tell me about this fucking collaring and I want to carve my name into his flesh." Trailing off, Dan turned his gaze away, refilling his glass.

Jean had to clear his throat. "He wants it ... you want it ... what's the problem? It's not torture if you know what he wants ... and respect the limits. No ... no permanent damage. Keeping in control of what you're doing."

"How do you know that he wants it? That it isn't some fucked-up result of the other torture?" Dan lifted the glass to his lips, taking a large mouthful.

"It's a hunch, but from what I've seen of Vadim, I'm pretty sure he enjoys some pain. And I don't think torture can cause that ... I think that's something you are or you aren't, it's not made, not triggered. I don't think you made him enjoy pain."

"Maybe not, but he sure as fuck enjoys giving out pain." Another mouthful. "Not to me though. Not in that way. As I said, I play, but I'm not real. He's got someone else for that. Well, had ..."

"Ah, I figured ..."

Dan pondered a moment. "It's not the dishing out of pain for me that does it. That's just a by-product. It happens. It's the utter control. There's this couple in Glasgow that we met and ... holy shit, controlling their every breath, every thought, made me drunk with it. And if it were Vadim ... it'd kill me. I think he ... he knows that."

"Control?" Jean nodded. "I know exactly what you mean." Eyes glowing with a fierce emotion. "There's a lot of stuff you can do. Controlling his breath, his movement, collars ... control is an art form, and there are all the tools you could wish for. Solange ... I put chastity stuff on her. Just the thought that nobody else can fuck her kills me. That any step, any movement, she knows exactly that she's mine."

Dan nodded, moistening his lips again. "I like dildos, butt plugs, and gags. Blindfolds. Reducing the senses to nothing, except for touch. Watching, listening ... I've done that. Kept Vadim like that, tied up. But ... somehow I've always improvised. A collar would make things different." Emptying the glass in one go, "I guess you know what I mean."

"Yeah. You want to own him. Make him your slave, completely yours, your property." Jean shifted. "Shit. Turns me on, too."

"Aye, fuck." Dan glanced at his crotch, which had been a lot more comfortable a while ago. "I'm fucking horny now." Looking straight at Jean, very intensely so.

Jean laughed. "Either take that to your man, or we keep it here ... your choice."

"I guess I do understand now why you're so precious about your arse ..." But Dan made no attempt at getting up. Instead, he leaned closer.

"It's ..." Jean tapped his temple, "weird for me. Mentally. I feel much better when I'm in charge, and getting fucked is like submission. I don't do that. It doesn't turn me on. Well, I like to blow you, I guess I'm not completely ... dominant with that, but fucking is five steps too far."

"It's bullshit that getting fucked is about submission." Dan gave a quick, sharp grin. "But I guess I won't ever sway you."

Jean grinned, adjusting himself. "Or maybe it's just because you are fucking gorgeous even for a straight eye."

"And the straight eye is yours?" Dan snorted, shifting closer. "Get real, Frenchie, you want me, and you want me because I have hard angles where Solange is softer; because I am as strong as you are, where she is physically weaker; and because, in the back of your mind, you know that I could potentially overpower and take you, because I am your equal ..." So close now, Dan could feel the heat from Jean's body, "and ..." he murmured, "you like that gamble ..."

"But you wouldn't ..." Jean grinned, kissing Dan's throat. "However much I'd tease you and however horny you were, you'd never do it. That's not a gamble, that's a safe bet with money-back-guarantee."

"You really are that goddamned sure?" Dan tilted his head to allow better access, while grinning. One hand sneaking towards Jean's shoulder, the other caressing his chest, up towards the throat, while getting Jean out of his shirt.

"Yeah. I trust you, Dan ... that's why you're the first guy I did all that to, sober, I mean. You're an honourable bastard, and I guess I was taking advantage of you in Kuwait, but fuck, I didn't mean any harm, I always told you how it is, right?"

"Yeah, right, just like now." Dan's grin grew, pulling back a fraction, as if to look at Jean, but in the forward motion he suddenly twisted, pushed against the chest, pulled against the shoulder, forcing Jean out of balance, from a sitting position halfway sprawled onto his front.

Jean did trust Dan and his response wasn't automatic and not fierce, merely somewhat resisting, but far from playing dirty or getting brutal. "What ... what's the plan, Dan?" Glancing at Dan, some tension in him, but not much.

"To let me have some control." Dan murmured close to Jean's ear, his weight on top of the other man. "A taster, if you like ..."

Jean grinned. "Like? What do you want to do, Dan? Tie me up? Make me suck you?"

"If I told you that it wouldn't be control, right?" Running a hand down along the side of Jean, back up along the spine, to rest between his shoulder blades.

Jean stayed close, pushing against him like he needed the touch. As much touch as he could get. "You didn't get the part I told you about bottoms and subs."

"Oh yes, I did ..." Leaning down, Dan placed a kiss at the base of Jean's spine, slowly working his way upwards. "But how much did you get the part of me saying I wasn't one?" Chuckling low, Dan had reached the shoulder blades, replacing his hand with his lips. "I figure ..." murmured, "that in all the time we have known each other, I always allowed myself to be passive, because Jean was straight ..." kissing, licking and lightly biting the neck, the side of the throat, the jaw, speeding up Jean's breath like that, and the ex-Legionnaire kept pushing back. "Jean was just experimenting ... but I reckon you are a lot less straight than you've ever claimed to be."

"I was experimenting", murmured Jean. "All that stuff is very confusing … didn't want to have a go at it, because … didn't want to face it. A faggot in the Legion? There are some, more-or-less secret, whatever the rules say, but these guys are exponentially harder than anybody else. One guy I knew off… had the most amazing mismatched eyes, but fuck, he was hardly human anymore. I … didn't want all that pain."

"Interesting ..." Dan nudged Jean to tip his head back and bare his throat, which made Jean shiver and give a small groan. "You never seemed to have thought about anything. Not back in Kuwait, not even when my best intentions of not bothering a straight mate came to ... getting fucked when I didn't even want that."

"You didn't want me fucking you?" Jean reached for Dan's chest, touching him. "I'm sorry. I did take advantage of you. And you'd just been fucked around by Vadim, too."

Dan was about to grin and retort that what one wants and what one really wants wasn't necessarily the same, when he captured Jean's hand on his chest, "what do you mean, fucked around?"

"The way you were with each other. The split-up."

"Ah, that. Aye."

"Okay, I guess you weren't innocent, either, but Vadim … he's the more vicious of you guys."

"Is he?" Dan's brows rose to his hairline, clearly remembering the 'you are stronger, Dan', which had confused him just as much.

"Yeah. If I'd get on your bad side, you'd just simply shoot me. If I'd get on Vadim's bad side … he'd eviscerate me. I think, deep down, I'm still fucking scared of him."

Dan couldn't help it, he burst into laughter. Destroying the mood he'd been in, but nothing a few well placed words, hands and lips couldn't remedy. Rolling to the side, he faced Jean. Still grinning when he had himself enough under control to talk. "Does everyone think Vadim's a psychopath? I must have missed something, in that case."

"I think that's the common assumption." Jean reached for Dan's hips, pulling him closer, flat hand finding his groin, and adding a little pressure. "Still, he's sexy. Scary sexy, if that makes sense."

"Do you want him?" Pushing harder into that hand. "Without me?" Something calculating about Dan, something that wasn't as playful as his usual self.

"No." Jean looked at him. "I don't trust him the way I trust you. I wouldn't be calling the shots."

"Is that the only reason?

Jean gave a laugh. "How many more reasons do you need? He fucked up my elbow in the tussle we had, and he could just as easily have turned me over and fucked me. And I'd have shot him for that."

Dan leaned his head back, resting on his arm. "So that's what it was. Neither of you ever told me why the fuck you hated each other's guts, back in the Gulf."

"It wasn't …" Jean grimaced. "Let's say he tried to show me his appreciation and I … didn't appreciate that. We were halfway through the bonding shit when he decided he should take it to the next level … guess he thought I was flirting. Don't know. I think we could have ended up friends, but after he'd fucked up my elbow …"

"... you decided that you'd get your revenge by fucking with his at-that-time ex-partner, instead." Dan pulled a face, and Jean visibly winced, swallowing whatever defence came to him. "A reason that didn't have to do with Vadim as a deterrent, but with me, would have been not too bad." Dan gave a slight laugh.

Jean grinned. "I can only love two people, not three, honey. Three is a crowd."

Blinking, Dan was about to say something, when he carefully closed his mouth again. 'Love'? There be dragons, and he'd been riding on one for too long. "In that case ..." clearing his throat, "pointing me to where I can find a blindfold and cuffs isn't asking too much, aye?"

"The main bedroom has all the interesting toys, but there's a blindfold in the nightstand over there … Might even have cuffs."

"Good thing you've upgraded since the airbeds." Dan flashed a grin.

"That's the South Africa money …" Jean rolled over on his stomach to reach the nightstand. "Bingo." He dropped blindfolds and proper metal cuffs on the bed. Not the flimsy ones that could be broken, but the jointed ones that police used, and Dan reached for them, weighing them in his hands like a familiar, long-missed item.

"Before you put those on me", Jean murmured, "I'd figured the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But I liked you … pretty much from the beginning. Got caught up in my own game, of sorts."

"You worried I'm be pissed off with you now?" Dan smiled, reaching to stroke Jean's face, down to his chest, where he lingered.

"Yeah." Jean looked at him, eyes dark with concern. "I wouldn't hurt you, Dan. I'm not tricking you. I'm serious."

"It's a bit too late for that." Dan's grin grew, "for the hurting. Whatever the reason why you started this whole thing with me, it's too late to pretend it's anything than what it is." Whatever that was, and Dan wasn't too keen on finding out every detail. Sitting up, he gestured towards Jean with that challenging grin of his. "You might already have your top off, but you're otherwise entirely overdressed."

"Okay." Jean seemed somewhat less than convinced, but he pulled off his trousers, briefs, socks, then lay back, arms behind his head. He seemed more alert, watchful almost, trying to read Dan, but Dan only grinned at him.

"Didn't you just say that you trusted me?" Leaning closer, Dan had a very good look at the body. A perfect body, no doubt. No blemishes, nothing that marred the perfection, apart from the scar on the outside of the thigh. "No need to look at me like a snake at the snake charmer."

"Just … the cuffs." Jean straightened his arms and offered Dan his wrists, as if to contradict the nervousness.

Dan made a low hushing sound and shook his head. "On your front, please." Uncommon courtesy, delivered with a mischievous grin.

"Okay." Jean stretched out, but on his back for now, relaxing, but his stomach was taut. Idly reaching down to tug at his cock that was half-hard in the blond hair. "If you keep looking at me like that I'll assume you want to photograph me, too …" Slowly turning over until he lay prone.

Dan's voice had taken on a husky tone. "Vadim did say I should take on another hobby, but right now I wouldn't have a clue how to go about it." Reaching for Jean's hands, the cuffs snapped shut with a low, metallic click, circling the strong wrists, and Jean's back and shoulder muscles worked and displayed a sudden tension. "You think I should start taking pictures of naked, helpless men?" Murmured into Jean's ear, who shifted, pressing his forehead into the mattress.

"There are some black and white shots of me … I can show them, later."

"Tied up?"

"No." Jean laughed, sounded nervous. "But naked."

"Taken by Chrestien?" Dan teased, while reaching for the blindfold in Jean's back.

"No. Fuck no." Jean shook his head. "Even though he'd have chewed off an arm to get me there."

"Does that mean I could have bought a magazine and found you as the centrefold?" Grinning, Dan reached forward, and in one swift motion slipped the blindfold over Jean's eyes.

"No. Strictly non-commer…" Jean faltered, and didn't get the last syllable out.

"For private entertainment, then?" Dan murmured, so close to Jean's ear, his lips almost touched it, as he fastened the blindfold securely in the back of Jean's head. "Just like now, aye?" His hand ran down the spine to touch the handcuffs, warming the steel.

"Yeah." The word was just an exhaled breath. Jean was silent, tensed up, but not freaking out. Passive, for once, because he had no other choice. No other options. He shifted his legs, which were slightly opened, even though that made him vulnerable.

Dan's hand left the steel, and then a shuffle and rustling of cloth as Dan took off his clothes, discarding them to the side. Naked like Jean, his body a very different picture to the one laid out before him. Watching Jean for a moment, without touching, until he positioned himself beside the body, which allowed him full access of hands and lips, without having to kneel. Dropping a hand between the slightly opened legs, he let his fingertips caress the flesh, drawing a shudder from Jean, but never touching the cock that was pressed into the mattress. "How are you feeling?"

"Calmer than I thought I'd be", Jean murmured. He opened his legs further, as if to underline his words.

"Good, because you were right in one thing: I never would overpower you. I guess I just am an honourable bastard." With a low chuckle, Dan proceeded to kiss and caress the body before him. Lightly biting, licking, touching with tender strokes, then harsher demands, before once again kissing. Taking his time with the whole body - as much as he could reach, but never getting beyond fondling the balls. The cock was off-limits for now. Jean relaxed under the caresses, but at the same time was clearly aroused, the way his breathing shifted and how he responded with a hundred small signs, his strong body welcoming the attention, and he opened further when Dan did touch his balls, clearly asking for more touches there.

Dan shifted to reach for the bedside table. He knew he'd find lube there, and he managed to squeeze some into one hand, while the other kept rolling flesh and fondling balls. Getting himself part between Jean's legs, part outside, waiting for the lube to warm on his fingers. "You see ..." murmured, "I was told even straight men enjoy stimulation ..." poised, then moving and slipping a finger smoothly inside Jean, angling just right, "... there."

Jean almost jumped off the bed, the speed, the place unexpected, surprised at the finger and the violent shudder than raced through him when Dan hit the spot right away. His fingers closed, and he let out a groan that sounded nothing like him, struggling with the overpowering sensation.

"It seems the rumours are correct, then." Barely above a whisper, a very low chuckle accompanied Dan's words, as he pulled out again, only to smoothly push back in, finding the spot once more, which made Jean cry out. A choked sound somewhere between arousal and … something else that Jean probably thought was discomfort, as he struggled to decide whether this felt incredibly good or just too fucking intense.

Dan pushed against Jean's leg, to make him lift his hips, and Jean managed to comply, shuddering body not completely in his control. His cock was hard, seemingly having decided the quandary for Jean.

One hand on Jean's cock, stroking in a leisurely way, the intensity lay in the finger that moved and searched, angled and pushed, until Dan sped up the stroking slightly, the moment a second finger joined the first. This made Jean groan out again, his lips were parted, and he was breathing fast, noisily. Blinded, helpless, but he didn't protest, didn't beg, struggling to come to terms with that intense sensation that seemed so powerful it was borderline pain. His weight on knees and shoulders, he pushed into the hand as much as he could in that position that opened him up even more, panting. In the low light, he was a strong blond body wrecked by need, and covered in a sheen of sweat. A body that had lost its distinguishing features, and Dan was fully aware that what he saw could have been another body - before hatred, love and pledges and without any scars.

Slowing down, Dan reached one-handed for the lube, while the two fingers were deeply embedded. Squeezing some onto his hand, he once again closed his fingers around the rock-hard cock, slick with precum already, now slippery and smooth while he stroked slowly. He pulled out his fingers, attempting to add a third, carefully pushing back in, widening slowly, waiting for acceptance, then angling sharply and touching just right, but with more intensity.

The sounds turned into something desperate, sounding like Jean was being tortured, but his cock left no doubt about the fact that it was lust. "D…dan", he panted against the mattress. "Fuck me, but … make me … come."

Fuck. Dan almost jerked at these words, immediately transported from fascinated arousal to fully-fledged lust. Fuck Jean. Have his arse, at last. Fuck him and make him cum and feel the body shudder under him, giving what he'd wanted for a long time. The stroking gained in intensity, and so did the thrusts of his fingers. "No ..." Dan murmured, holding himself back for a moment longer, "but I will make you cum." True to his word, he increased the intensity of his stroking the next second, in sync now with the thrust of his fingers. Both designed to force Jean over the edge.

Jean tensed up, cried out, despair, relief, lust so intense he had no way to deal with it in any other way but to lose his mind, his control, his cool, and spilled across Dan's hand. He sounded like he was sobbing, clenching around the fingers, the whole man deeply shaken, helpless, the veins on his arms in stark relief, flushed and sweaty. Wrecked by spasms.

Dan watched him, painfully erect, but hell, this was more important, better, even, and he carefully withdrew, swiftly wiping his hands, when Jean crashed. He pulled the blindfold off, fingers carding through the short, sweaty hair, and he lay down beside him, caressing the body. Heated and damp, and shuddering.

Jean needed long minutes to stir again, during which Dan unlocked the cuffs and took them off. Jean then twisted around to turn onto his back, shifting away from the wet patch underneath. "You?" he asked with a raw voice.

"I'm okay. Watching you blew my mind if not my cock." Dan grinned, a warm, tender grin, reaching out to place his hand onto Jean's shoulder.

Jean kissed his fingers, then shuffled closer to kiss Dan's lips, hands reaching out to holds him close. "Want a hand … or a blowjob?"

"I don't mind, what would you rather?" Pressed against Jean, bodies touching all the way.

Jean laughed. "'Don't mind'? Yeah, right." He pushed against Dan's shoulder, who was laughing, to make him stretch out on the bed, got on top of him, kissing him again and then kissing his way down the body. Taking his time to look at the cock, then up to Dan, grinning. Then he bent down, taking it between his lips, sucking and licking with abandon - heated up by what Dan had done to him, possibly as a way to say 'thank you', or maybe all inhibitions had been swept away by his own orgasm. Dan's reaction was almost instantaneous, as if he suddenly registered that he had been aroused for a long time. Release came swiftly, far sooner than expected, and with a suppressed groan, remembering how Jean had sounded, how he had begged, his desperate, breathless voice, and Jean didn't shy away, instead took him deeper, swallowing and licking him clean afterwards.

Dan lay panting, one arm flung above his head, the other loosely connected to Jean. Jean came up again and lay down right next to him, kissing his shoulder and arm. "Guess I get now why you and Solange and Vadim love getting fucked", he murmured.

Eyes still closed, Dan lay grinning for a while before he turned his head to look at Jean. "And? Does that change your mind?"

"Right now, my mind's not even there", Jean murmured, kissing his chest.

"Where is it?"

Jean reached up and touched Dan's cheek, smiling. "Let me think about it", he murmured, as if he'd realized it was a cop-out and Dan had seen right through it. "Shit, it does feel … fucking amazing."

Dan grinned, "it's okay, you can think about it, as long as you like. Just don't forget that it does feel good and that it isn't about submitting, just about getting off, aye?"

"Yeah. That … works."

Twisting his head to kiss the hand that was caressing his cheek, Dan yawned. "Do you think they are coming to get us at some stage or can we risk a snooze?"

"I'll risk it." Jean nuzzled closer, resting his head on Dan's shoulder, bodies touching, hand flat on the scars on his abs. "She knows this place is off limits."

"And you are sure she has no idea?" Angling for a blanket, Dan managed to throw it over them.

"I sure as hell won't ask her whether she knows." Jean laughed softly.

"Damn good point." Dan laughed, then yawned again, eyes falling shut. "Wake me when it's time to shag Vadim."

Jean laughed and relaxed at his side, drifting off with him.

* * *

They returned to the main house later, deep in the night, to get cleaned up and rest some more, this time with their respective partners. When Solange went off to the long promised shoot for a few days, Dan, Vadim and Jean shared the same bed and when she returned, Jean had clearly regained most of his equilibrium, which made her hug Dan one night and kiss him, almost causing him to flush in return.

Saying their good-byes at last, under vows of not making it take that long before they'd meet again. Jean promised he would be drumming up interest amongst his former comrades for Dan's idea. An idea which had over the course of their time together matured from Special Forces Association to Spa, the term invented by one of them, they couldn't even remember, because SFA or Sfa sounded stupid, and Spa would be inconspicuous to civilian ears.

They arrived at Dan's family just in time for Christmas Eve, laden with parcels and an overabundance of gifts, because Dan hadn't been able to help himself. He'd gone on the first shopping spree in his life, when they'd arrived in Glasgow, and had spent a day buying too many gifts for Duncan, Mhairi and his nephews. Vadim said nothing, just smiled a little and indulged Dan, who didn't have much of a clue what to get everyone and thus got one of everything that caught his interest, 'just in case'.

They got into contact with the Glaswegian couple, still together and still living in the same flat with its impressive high ceilings, and who were delighted to hear from then again, making time in their pre-Christmas schedule for a little session of re-acquaintance. A session that left Dan hungry for more - but not with anyone, only someone. And he was determined to set some ideas into motion.

Christmas turned out to be everything either of them could have hoped for, and there wasn't a single awkward moment when everyone retired the first night. It was just natural that Dan and Vadim had been placed in the guest room together, sharing the same double bed. A fact the nephews were glad about, because it meant they could all keep their rooms. Besides, they had been plied with a plethora of gifts - which had made Duncan and Mhairi cringe somewhat, but accept the abundance once they'd realised why Dan had gone so overboard.

New Year was a far more raucous affair than Vadim had imagined, the whole village celebrated Hogmanay with a band, plenty of whisky and haggis, neeps and tattis for all, singing Auld Lang Syne at the stroke of midnight and everyone seemingly hugging everyone else, while the fireworks went off into the clear cold sky above the majestic Highlands.

Dan had never thought that anything so domestic could feel so good, but when he went to sleep at the crack of dawn, filled with food and drink, he wrapped around Vadim and was simply happy. Once a peasant, always a peasant - and at one with his roots, for the first time in a lifetime.

 
 
Special Forces Chapter LIX: Skin Deep
 
 
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 16 January 2009