1995 to January 1996
as Vadim had promised, they went to Kashmir that autumn,
so that Dan could see the mountains again. This time
from the safe side, but even though he could not stop
thinking about the tea house in Kabul, wondering if
it still existed, it was the past. Done and over with,
just like the many safe houses they had used, every
street corner, hidden market place and the hamam.
was good to see the mountains again, and they spent
three weeks touring the area. It had a strange effect
on Dan, mellowing him, and while Vadim would never love
mountains as much as Dan did, he appreciated the sense
of freedom, calm, and simple satisfaction that they
gave Dan. Finally, the loss was laid to rest. The loss
of Dan's functioning body, the loss of who he had been
all his life. Acceptance was finally there, and when
they took a helicopter ride into the mountains, camping
for a few days in the silence and majesty, before being
flown back down, it healed the last ache in Dan's soul,
and the last sorrow for the man and life he had lost.
He was who he had become, a product of that past that
was gone, and as long as Vadim was with him, it was
all he needed to know.
they got back, they threw themselves into the consulting
work, making a name for themselves in the conference
circle, and by the end of the year they had to reject
invitations and job offers, or they would not have been
able to spend time on the farm in New Zealand, nor visit
year, Dan remembered Vadim's birthday, and the party
took place in the famous grill in town, with beer and
neighbours, and a lot of laughter. They'd been taken
in and welcomed by everyone, and at last the farm was
a true home. Dan carefully divided the gifts into those
that could be shown and those that ... were only for
their own eyes and for games they 'played', that night
and many more that followed. Games that went deeper
each time, and bound them ever tighter. Some of these
'games' they played in the bedroom, where the Maori
carving told their story: two war chiefs embracing,
weapons at their sides, both aroused and savage and
proud. Vadim loved the carving with a passion and had
paid the creator well.
stayed on the farm for the Christmas holidays, and Dan
joked more than once what a suburban couple they had
become - if only they'd lived in suburbia. Yet secretly,
despite his mocking of the peace and calm, he relished
the simplicity of it all. Sitting on the patio after
a good work-out, in sight of the old apple trees and
with the view over the hills, watching Vadim when he
came back from a run, and - more often than not - ravishing
him on the spot.
January they had the money spare to invest in a swimming
pool, and they left the builders to the work while they
headed for a conference in Europe, which promised a
lot of kudos and not an unsubstantial amount of money.
February 1996, Lisbon, Portugal
first two days of the conference had been exhausting,
but immensely successful. The panel sessions had been
well attended and in return, even Dan had to admit that
he'd enjoyed some of the talks.
mingled with the participants, sharing a bit of wisdom
here, a quip there, clarified a point he'd made, when
he suddenly saw something. It wasn't so much seeing
as feeling, a strange sense that the world wasn't right
anymore, that something had happened, and he found himself
staring at a tall, thin man who'd just entered the room.
The man seemed as well-known to him as his own father,
but in the split second that it took him to place the
sharp features and the dark amber eyes - not a soldier,
not an ordinary politico or adviser - dread came up,
with the force of a geyser, bursting, hissing, a fear
so pure that Vadim tasted blood.
man's eyes met his, and he came closer, weaving his
way through groups of talking people, and it felt unreal.
A nightmare come true. Vadim stumbled backwards, didn't
even realize he'd dropped his glass. Staring at the
man, he felt his mind shatter. He was back there, a
bloody pulp of what was left of the man he'd been, a
prisoner, half-insane with deprivation, pain, and this
voice made Vadim sweat.
amber eyes ate up his world, and when the man touched
his arm, Vadim simply couldn't bear it - he wanted to
strangle him, but he was too scared. Something deep
inside allowed only one reaction, and he bolted, running,
stomach heaving, and he made it into the corridor, blinded,
confused, it was like any of those nightmares, only
worse, and he went to his knees, retching.
there, let me help you."
had followed him. Vadim didn't hear his own sounds of
despair, hopeless, broken. He knew he wasn't in prison,
yet with this man, he'd never be anywhere else.
does it come, Vadim Petrovich, that whenever we meet,
you are on your knees? Are you feeling alright? I bet
you don't. I bet I was with you all these years. You'd
rather forget yourself than me."
had been up to the rooms to take a couple of pain killers,
and was on his way back to the conference rooms. Turning
a corner, he stopped, taken aback at the sight at the
other end of the corridor. It took him less than a second
to realise who it was.
Calling out, Dan picked up pace.
other man looked up, looked at Dan, who met his eyes,
then pulled back, his hands slipping from Vadim's shoulders,
while he murmured, "you are an animal, Vadim Petrovich,
and you know it."
was confused, concerned, but thankful for this gentleman
who seemed to take care of Vadim. He was about to say
something, when he saw that Vadim was sick.
was retching, not in control of his body, too weak to
escape, too panicked to think one clear thought. Only
that: that Konstantinov was just as bad as he'd remembered.
Getting down on the good knee, Dan was on the floor
in front of him, hand on Vadim's shoulder. "What
the fuck happened? Shit, Vadim, I get you a doctor."
out." Vadim managed.
was standing there, watching. He did nothing but watch,
and that already felt like being flayed alive.
okay." Dan pushed himself back up again, taking
Vadim's hand to pull him up. "Let's get up to the
room and you lie down a moment. Must be something you
ate." Dan shook his head with a frown, his arm
around Vadim's shoulder when he stood. Turning towards
the gentleman in his sixties, with the grey hair and
amber eyes, "thank you for trying to help."
man smiled - it wasn't a nasty smile, it seemed nice
enough. "Entirely my pleasure, Mr McFadyen. Good
evening." He turned and headed back into the main
was surprised for a moment, then realised the man had
to have seen his name in the program, and he nodded
at him when he left.
to get Vadim into the room wasn't easy, and it took
them a while. Vadim was dripping with sweat when they
arrived in the room; he was mostly dead weight, tensed
up, heavy, like drunk. He managed to stumble into the
bathroom where he vomited again, the retching and dry
heaving painful now.
the hell happened to you?" Dan closed the door,
following into the bathroom. "I call reception
now. You're sick."
it's him. No." Vadim clung to the
toilet. He felt sick. Sick in his soul, his mind, his
body, everywhere. "Can't say
the name. It's
Dan shook his head, nothing made sense, and least of
all Vadim's reaction. Staring helplessly down, one hand
on Vadim's shoulder, when it suddenly hit him. The last
time Vadim had been that sick was in Rome ... stress.
Mental stress. Nightmares. And ... "Fuck."
Dan slumped onto the edge of the bathtub, immediately
followed by a violent reaction, when he shouted. "Fuck!"
up again, he stood, from naught to rage. "I'll
kill that fucking bastard." He was already turning.
No, Dan!" Vadim's body still didn't react. He had
to, had to stop Dan. "No."
not?" Dan's voice came down like a whiplash. "What
did he do, what did that fucker say to you?" Fists
clenched, he was brimming with rage. All those helpless
nights, waking from Vadim's screams, watching him suffer,
and being able to do exactly nothing. The knowledge,
buried far away, of being a carer rather than a lover,
that knowledge that he didn't want to see, couldn't
bear looking at, and it was all down to that torturous
bastard. "Why the fuck not?"
murder him. He won, Dan. Let's go away ... away
from here. I'll be okay. Don't let him fuck you up."
Defeated, the rage was still there, but Dan's mind for
once won over the instinct. Civilians. No more war,
even though he felt as if the war was very much raging
right now. A different one, worse, with his hands bound.
A war where he wasn't allowed to kill the enemy. "How
can that man freely walk around here, he is a goddamned
felt the sweat run down his body, and it was cold sweat,
fear, terror, weakness. "Psychologist. He's
a fucking torturer! I don't give a shit what he claims
to be." With no outlet for his rage, Dan hit the
bathroom wall with his fist. At least the pain gave
him something else to concentrate on. "You really
want to leave?" Turning round, and seeing Vadim
on the floor, nodding miserably, all he could was add,
"Okay. I organise it."
you." Vadim rested his head against the wall, feeling
the nausea come and go, unable to do much more than
wait for his body to calm down. But his mind didn't.
It was like his life had suddenly become the
nightmare. Konstantinov was there, and he'd always be
be back as soon as I can. I explain to the organisers
that you're ill. I might have to take over, but I try
to get us out." Dan lingered for a moment longer.
This was wrong. Horribly wrong, and he didn't have a
fucking clue what to do about it. Except for revenge,
but that was out.
can ..." But Vadim knew that he couldn't. He couldn't
talk about disproportionate warfare while Konstantinov
was anywhere close. He'd simply ... go insane? Again.
"You know ... the stuff as well as I do. Maybe
I got some ... food poisoning."
Dan frowned, valiantly keeping the ever growing worry
at bay. Wouldn't do to crack in the face of the old
helplessness. "I'll be right back."
made his way downstairs soon after, trying to find an
organiser, or at least one of the admins, who could
initiate a change in programme. The conference rooms
were bustling, and after a while he had to admit to
himself that he was far less searching for any of the
organisers than for one particular man. A tall, grey
haired man who should be screaming in terror, with hands
around his throat, instead of walking around.
found him, more by accident than design, in the hotel's
restaurant, where Konstantinov was eating. He was alone
and looked perfectly harmless, just finishing up a minestrone
his threats, his hatred, his sudden, all encompassing
need to break that bastard's neck - Dan froze. He stood
in the doorway, just one step into the room, staring
at the man's back. Man? Beast. Torturer.
it all came back. The heat of the sun in the Afghan
mountains. The glint of steel in his hand, and the yielding
flesh beneath him. Dark red blood that had bled out
his hatred, and the screams in his ears. Then sobbing.
A plea. To kill. Kill cleanly. Because he had been a
suddenly felt a gaze on him from across the room, when
Konstantinov turned. Looking at him with one slightly
raised brow, as if the man tried to express amusement.
But it didn't matter, nor did the hatred, and least
of all the fervent wish to kill that beast and crush
its bleeding face into the ground. Obliterated.
met the look, his face hard, unyielding, unlike the
flesh had once been. Unfeeling, unlike that day in the
mountains. Unwilling to listen, nor see, nor breathe
the same air as that thing.
was Dan McFadyen, ex-SAS soldier, and he was not a torturer.
turned and walked out of the room, tall, squared back,
and even the limp was barely visible. He couldn't remember
afterwards how he found one of the organisers, nor what
he explained, he was only aware that he would take over
the panel the next day, and that they would be able
to leave after that.
the taste of ashes in his mouth, which had nothing to
do with any cigarette, he returned to the room as quickly
as he could.
had undressed, showered, and was lying on the bed, the
hotel room brightly lit around him. He wasn't cold,
not hungry, wasn't hurting. Yet he knew Konstantinov
was down there, somewhere. Accident? As KGB - or ex
KGB, what was Konstantinov doing here? He wouldn't travel
all that way to see him crumble? And why was there nothing
he could do to resist the man? He knew exactly where
the wounds were, and there was no forgiveness, no mercy,
nothing. Konstantinov despised him like on the first
day, and there was nothing that Vadim felt but dread.
Closing the door behind him, Dan stepped into the room
and sat down on the bed. "You feel any better?"
What a pathetic, useless thing to ask.
turned to look at him. "Yeah. I was just ... shocked
to see him." He sat up, leaning with his back against
the head of the bed. "He's ... like he was."
looked down at his hand for a moment, "I never
asked. I never really asked what he did."
shook his head. "I can't. It was ... a matter of
pride to him. He enjoyed it."
slowly nodded. "Did you tell Dr Williams?"
knows. Bastard's been writing about torture for ...
You telling me Konstantinov writes about how to torture
successfully? And that's getting published?"
makes it sound legitimate, Dr Williams said. But yeah,
he's gloating about what he did to me. My mind."
Vadim felt weak, angry, deep down, helpless. "Guess
he was just checking ... whether the damage is permanent.
Guess I made him happy."
he didn't win." Dan shook his head violently.
face twisted with anguish. "Fuck, Dan, he broke
me. Okay? All I'm doing is manage the fucking damage."
twitched, had the sudden urge to shout at Vadim, shake
him, try to negate anything he'd ever said, and most
of all the poisoned barb that was still stuck in his
mind: carer. But he did nothing, just swallowed hard,
hiding the clenched fist. "You should call Dr Williams."
okay. I got this far. I can hold it together. I have
to." Vadim was starting to sweat again and his
heart had been pounding all the time.
could do it for you. We're not that far away from the
UK, we could stop over." Dan leaned closer, reaching
out to touch Vadim's face.
shuddered. "Maybe. Let me ... let it calm down,
okay? I don't know why ... this cut so deep."
hand stalled, never touching. "Okay. Guess it's
because the bastard's suddenly here." Not knowing
what else to say, he stood up. "I'll stay here.
You want anything? Anything I can do?" Feeling
as useless and as inadequate as a rifle without bullets.
leaned his head back, baring his throat. "Stay
close." He reached over and took Dan's hand. "Not
in the mood for sex, just ... stay close." Because
I can't lose you, he thought. I can't allow this to
pull us apart.
hell, Vadim, you really think I'd want sex right now?"
Dan frowned, but toed his shoes off before scooting
onto the bed. "Of course I stay. As long as you
want me to, and as long as I get a bite to eat."
He tried a grin, but it turned out miserable. Holding
Vadim close, once he sat beside him. As close as he
could, as if his arm around the other could ward off
leaned his head against Dan's shoulder. "Just ...
because it takes my mind away from ... this." He
closed his eyes, breathing against Dan's throat. "Room
service. Menu is on the nightstand. We just call the
kitchen and ... eat up here."
anything you want." Dan sat, staring into the room,
while holding onto Vadim. He didn't check how long they
sat like this, but he eventually ran out of cigarettes
to smoke, and the water bottle beside the bed was empty
as well. He had to get up eventually, but not before
looking at Vadim and placing a hand on his shoulder,
then heading into the bathroom. He hurried and it took
no longer than five minutes before he came back out.
Freshly showered, still damp. He didn't ask for room
service, even though he was getting hungry. A couple
of chocolate bars had to do, especially since Vadim
wouldn't, or rather, couldn't eat anything. He settled
back in, under the blanket this time, resting against
Vadim's shoulder while holding him close. With the light
dimmed, Dan began to drift off, even though he'd meant
to stay awake.
Vadim could do was sit there, eyes half-closed, staring
into nothingness. Like the darkness in the Lubyanka.
Endless nights spent standing, chained up, hurting in
every muscle, every bone from the beatings. Wanting
to meet Konstantinov, because Konstantinov talked
to him, acknowledged that he was a person. Despite the
poison, the accusations, the way the man had skilfully
dismantled his mind, dug at his secrets, and pulled
them out of his mind - each and every one of his monsters.
He knew he'd have nightmares. And he knew they'd be
the worst he'd had in ages. And he couldn't give up
control, just couldn't face the nightmares. He got up,
waking Dan in the process. "I ... can't sleep.
No way. Just can't."
from one second to the next, Dan had been worried enough
for the old instinct to function. "We could ...
I don't know, talk? Or take a bath? Maybe you'd be tired
want to. He'll be waiting there." Vadim shook his
head. "Did you ... did you ever dream of me, right
at the beginning? Nightmares, I mean?"
a moment completely taken aback, Dan stared at Vadim,
before he caught himself and shook his head. An aborted
movement, no more. "I can't remember." Yes,
he could, but he didn't want to, but he added, quietly,
"for months afterwards I caught myself suddenly
feeling a stab of panic, if I saw a movement in the
corner of my eyes, or an unexpected touch. I was like
a skittish horse, but I hid it."
didn't rape me. But he's in my head. He's right there,
and he did that on purpose. He said he'd always be there.
Well, maybe he did rape me. My mind. Sometimes I can
forget that, but other ... other days, I can hear his
voice, and then I think I'm going insane."
mind is worse." Sitting up now, Dan lit a cigarette.
"I think he did rape you, your mind ... something
tearing into you, violating who you are." He stared
down at the glowing end of the fag. "I just don't
know what to do about it, how to help."
swallowed. Rape. That was what it felt like then. Dan
had nailed it, and Dan knew what he was talking about.
"I can't ... I want to kill him, but I can't ...
no way I can face him again. He makes me sick, takes
everything, I just can't."
don't have to. We're out of here once I've done the
panel. You just stay in the room and we'll get an earlier
flight back home. The bastard won't reach you at home,
aye? Too far away."
think he knows where we live." Vadim got back onto
the bed and rubbed his face against Dan's chest. "I
feel like shit. He's just ... an old man. Why the fuck
am I so scared ..."
don't know." Dan's voice was quiet, "I don't
know because I don't ... don't understand. Bloody peasant,
eh?" Self-deprecating, as he stroked Vadim's back.
"I just don't understand."
I can't explain. I can explain what he did, but not
what it did to me. Beatings, interrogations, isolation.
You know all that. I do. I know it was just that, but
it scares me still and I really don't want to remember.
It's ..." Vadim shrugged. "Having been there.
Two years. Losing my... myself."
nodded slowly. He felt out of his depth, but he was
used to that. "Why don't you call Dr Williams?"
Quietly, again, while stubbing out his cigarette.
can deal with this. I don't need drugs. I can live with
this. I don't need ... I just want to forget it happened."
And I don't want to lose you, Vadim thought, but couldn't
Dan knew he was pacifying Vadim too quickly, but he
was so far out of his depth right now, he'd never been
so far from the shore before. "Why don't you just
lie back down and I hold you. You can put on the TV
if you want to, and just stay awake. I'll catch a wink
or two, so that I'm not a complete zombie tomorrow at
Vadim lay back, checked the time. Agonizing quarter
past two. Long, long hours to go. And even while his
eyes were burning and he felt sore and tired, with his
stomach full of acid and his throat raw, it was so much
better than closing his eyes and giving in to Konstantinov.
next morning, quarter to ten, Dan was in the conference
room to prepare for the lecture and the following discussion.
He'd got it wrong, he was on his own. No panel discussion.
He didn't like giving presentations, wasn't fond of
standing there on his own, without back-up, but he knew
the material, even though he'd always left the finer
points and the more intricate argumentation to Vadim.
Vadim, who was in their room, upstairs, with dark shadows
under his eyes, which were visibly burning with tiredness.
hoped the questions wouldn't be too tricky, and that
his guts would simply carry him through. It was five
to ten when he had finished checking that his presentation
was running smoothly and the data projector was in focus,
when the first participants were sitting down. His back
to the audience, Dan picked up the notes from the briefcase,
shuffling through them, and at two minutes to ten he
almost froze again. There. How could he not have been
prepared for this. Of course. The bastard was probably
hoping to dance on Vadim's grave. He got him instead,
Dan McFadyen, the bait, the weapon and the evidence
at the same time.
row, the outmost seat, a perfect place to survey most
of the room, and the speaker, of course. A man, grey
hair, amber eyes. Distinguished and smooth on the surface,
a beast underneath.
the presentation, Konstantinov had his arms crossed,
touching his chin thoughtfully, like he was weighing
and considering every word Dan said, and the way he
said it, down to his softened Scottish accent. Every
detail was under scrutiny, every time Dan halted or
spoke too fast, when he chose to move the presentation
on and whether his trail of thought was there all the
time. The man was watching him with an intensity Dan
wasn't used to anymore.
had to fight not to be irritated by the scrutiny, and
it took him at least halfway into the presentation before
he regained his equilibrium, by using an old trick.
He imaged the man to be one of his poncy officers, way
back in the old days, who would sit like that, trying
to take a man apart during debriefings, especially those
men, like himself, who were quicker with the weapon
than the mind.
finished the presentation on guerrilla warfare on a
calm note, and the chair invited questions.
allowed a few questions before he raised his hand just
to shoulder-level. "Vadim Petrovich Krasnorada
... is he unwell?"
was prepared, he knew the moment the beast had appeared
that he'd bury his claws into his prey. "If you
have any questions for Mr Krasnorada, I am happy to
relay them." Dan managed a smile that never touched
is a matter of counterterrorism that I'm greatly interested
in, from a psychologist's viewpoint. If you had caught
a terrorist ... or a traitor ... or a double agent ...
what would be your recommended cause of action?"
entirely depends on the circumstances." Dan retorted,
no hesitation. Inwardly feeling a knot of hatred twist
his stomach, but he fell back onto the man he'd once
been. Remembering, using the strength, the training,
the tactics, while showing no feelings. "Are you
referring to the context of this talk: guerrilla warfare?"
Traitor. The word was stuck in Dan's mind, reverberating.
Traitor. Perhaps this man was far more dangerous than
he'd thought - perhaps this beast had any means to get
his hands on Vadim. The USSR was gone, but the men in
the grey suits were still there. Still in power.
If you were the occupying force, and you took control
of a collaborator who has been aiding the guerrilla
... what is your recommended course of action?"
of, I would ensure that the evidence is substantial,
non negotiable, foolproof. Not just an isolated incident
that lends itself to interpretation." They weren't
taking about guerrilla warfare anymore, but about a
war of a very personal kind.
it is. And assume that some of your most loyal men died
to provide the evidence."
would recommend to ascertain the reasons why."
Big words, echoes from those who'd used them before
if the traitor was part of the military, his motives
would they not?" Dan let his brows rise as he leaned
against the podium. Casual, seemingly relaxed, as if
he wasn't on razor's edge. "Or would you be too
frightened to find out that you didn't have your machine
as much under your control as you believed?"
are implying a fault in discipline. Now, if you ascertained
the reason and these were personal ... emotional, even,
how would you go about dealing with him?"
said it was a him?" Dan smiled, glanced into the
round as if he were amused, while he actually wanted
to be sick. Bile in his throat, choking on the 'him'.
Yes, him. Only one.
assuming, as part of the military, it would be a male,
but you may assume that traitor to be a female, if you
are, after all, in the nineties." Some of the people
in the audience were chuckling at the mild joke, while
inwardly, Dan's anger and anxiety rose. He'd just manoeuvred
himself into a trap, a trap in which this bastard implied
Vadim - and there was no way they were talking about
anyone else - was 'female'. Dan remembered all too well
that last night in Kabul and the tape, while knowing
that he was no intellectual match for this man in a
verbal sparring. If only he could get his hands around
the throat, but ... he'd walked away before, and he
would walk away again. "In answer to your question,
I would suggest to weigh carefully the pros and cons
of the situation. Calmly, and with an eye on nothing
but the greatest advantage, if you must. Are you inclined
to go down the path of revenge? Or are you determined
to enter negotiations with the other side - if there
is another side." It was hard to stick to
this fanciful language, "or, indeed, are you willing
to forego any of those steps and simply look for your
personal gains? Say, for example, a quarter of a million
pounds, perhaps." He managed a laugh, which sounded
convincing enough for a few people to laugh in the audience,
who got the 'joke' all too well. The Cold War hadn't
'ceased' that long ago, after all.
very interesting question. Would I not attempt all of
these, plus make an example of the man - or woman -
and also teach her - or him - a lesson about loyalty?
After all, they are not exclusive of each other, and
it would be largely a matter of timing."
..." Dan leaned forward, even producing a wink
into the audience, "then you really are a master
of your persuasive profession ... and don't require
my expertise. After all, I was a soldier." Not
a torturer. "I fought with bullets and knives,
not with persuasion, and I killed cleanly."
He smiled, yet he felt sick, but his tanned skin did
not show the pallor and his hands remained steady. Training,
control. The audience was silent for a moment, until
they finally applauded, finishing a session that had
nearly cost Dan's soul.
smiled, even raised his hands to clap them together,
once, twice. He could have been in the audience merely
as a way to allow Dan to look good in their spar - but
the truth was far more sinister than that. When people
got up, shuffled out, some talking, others approaching
Dan to ask a question or shake his hand, Konstantinov
remained sitting there for longer.
everyone left, even the last ones, after Dan had answered
all their questions. He picked up the briefcase with
the notes and stooped to get the cane before heading
out. Looking stoically straight ahead and towards the
door, and yet the man remained in his peripheral vision.
can only hope that it was worth it for you," Konstantinov
said, softly, thoughtfully.
stopped, turning slowly, measuring the man with dark
eyes that betrayed nothing. They were alone, but he
kept his voice low. "No, you don't."
I don't what?"
don't hope for anything for my sake. Spare us
didn't move, didn't shift. "We both know what it
costs you to keep your promises. I can only hope that
Vadim Petrovich returns enough on that emotional and
we?" Dan's brows rose. "Do we know
what anything costs me? You might call yourself a psychologist,
but I doubt you are a mind reader." His distaste
was all too evident.
Konstantinov smiled thinly. "Case studies. Histories.
Projections and outcomes."
course. How could I forget. You pride yourself on these.
Which makes me think that you certainly don't hope for
anything on Vadim's behalf, either."
is nothing to hope for him. There is only one likely
outcome, with a few variations."
is where you are wrong." Dan straightened up and
a slight smile crossed his face. It almost touched his
eyes, but he didn't allow it to, lest the thought and
the emotion got tainted by the presence of the beast.
"As I said to your Colonel when I killed him, I
love Vadim." A small shrug of his shoulder. He
knew he sounded naive, but he did not care. "You'd
be surprised what that means, but then, how would you
know." How would this bastard know what he was
willing to do, what he had done, what he'd been living
with, against, and for, and what he would give in the
future. There were no limits to the price he'd pay,
and that was something this man would never comprehend.
means two things ... either, you are very much like
Vadim Petrovich, in which case you deserve the pain.
Or you are truly in love, in which case it is regrettable
that you have to suffer so much. It takes a courageous
man to love." Konstantinov stood. "Thank you
for the presentation, I found it very enlightening."
did I." Dan's face was stoic once more, as he fought
with a surge of anger. He turned without another glance
nor word, and walked out of the room, not bothering
to keep the limp in check, because such a minor irritation
truly did not matter. Not with a beast like that.
was soon back in the room, calling out for Vadim, who
had been watching TV and was lying on the bed, in his
bathrobe, freshly showered. "What happened?"
It was a good presentation." Dan was a shit liar,
but damn, it had to do this time. "I even remembered
to talk like Maggie." He put the briefcase down
and sat down on the bed to lean closer. Now that he
knew, now that he finally understood what it did mean
to love, the anger, the hatred, and even the helplessness
had lost some of their sharpness. "How are you?"
He smiled slightly, placing a kiss onto Vadim's lips.
"Ready to head home?"
than ready." Vadim yawned. "I could try to
sleep. Maybe just for an hour." He placed his forehead
against Dan's, but the terror was still coiling inside.
Maybe he'd lose the man's shadow once he was at the
far end of the globe.
we could grab a taxi now and head to the airport. There's
a flight in four hours, we could spend the time in the
lounge or do some shopping." Anything, anything
to get away. Even shopping.
Vadim looked up as if he'd never have thought of that
idea, then got dressed. They packed and checked out,
and it felt like flight, but Vadim breathed a sigh of
relief once they were in the taxi, heading towards the
airport, which felt like a shelter.
got through check-in relatively painlessly, heading
towards the lounge, where Dan was hoping to get some
food. Skipping dinner the night before and with lunch
on the fly, he was already famished. With two hours
to kill he opted to get himself some proper food.
off to find a fry-up or something. You hungry?"
Looking down at Vadim who had made himself comfortable
in one of the club chairs.
I'll just close my eyes for a bit. Get me some nuts
or dried fruit for later." Vadim leaned back, head
resting so he was baring his throat, and arms crossed
over his chest.
and some peanut butter energy bars." Dan grinned
and made his way back out, to forage for food that would
satisfy his appetite. He went looking from vendor to
vendor, until he settled on a grill, after buying Vadim's
nibbles, and had steak with potatoes and salad and a
quite drinkable beer.
cursed himself mildly when walking back, that he'd forgotten
to take his cane. When he got closer he heard crashing
noises and somebody screaming in pain. Forgetting about
the knee, Dan started to run as fast as he could and
soon burst into the lounge.
was kneeling on top of a security guy and somebody else
was cradling what looked like a dislocated shoulder.
Vadim was wild-eyed, face twisted into a monstrous grimace,
and he was snarling. Security began to pile in, the
man underneath Vadim was shaking with terror, and tried
to break open Vadim's grip around his throat.
Dan shouted. He was close with only a few strides, but
he didn't touch him. Too dangerous. "Vadim!"
The same voice he'd used in Rome. "Listen to me!"
white knuckles relaxed, and he let go of the man, shaking
his head like he'd woken from a nightmare - only then
did security move closer, and somebody said something
about "police". Vadim was breathing hard,
positively panting, sweating, pale, drifting slowly
back to sanity.
please!" Dan cast a frantic glance at security.
"Don't come closer." Yet he did, carefully.
Recognising the physical reaction, and the smell of
stale sweat, cold panic. All those nights of terror,
he'd never forget a single one of them. "Vadim,
listen to me." He placed his hand on Vadim's shoulder
in a firm grip. "It's alright. Listen to me. I'm
here." Trying to hold off security with a pleading
look, he had to concentrate on Vadim first and foremost.
closed his eyes, the terrible tension in him slowly
leaked away, breath went shuddering, while his victim
crawled away and was helped up by somebody. Coughing
and shocked, staring at the madman in the middle of
looked around quickly, as if he was expecting an enemy.
"Nightmare?" he asked. "Not ... it's
it isn't. Listen to me, Vadim. It's me, Dan." Getting
down onto his good knee, he needed to make Vadim see,
had to make him look at himself. Both hands on Vadim's
shoulders now, he felt the tension brimming and the
uncontrollable tremors beneath his hands. "You're
in Lisbon airport. We are about to fly back home to
New Zealand." Dan saw someone come towards them,
and he shook his head, trying to keep them away. How
the hell would they get out of this mess? Vadim had
just assaulted a civilian. If that shoulder was dislocated
... oh shit. Surely the police was already on their
nodded slowly. "I dreamt. Somebody ..." He
frowned, not sure he knew what had happened through
the haze and the sheer overwhelming terror. "Attacked
me. I think."
one attacked you. You must have fallen asleep, perhaps
someone touched you." Dan let his hands wander
to the back of Vadim's neck, applying a reassuring pressure.
"Sit down, okay? You got to be calm now. I'm here,
I'll help with the explaining." Dan was too shocked
to know what he was doing. As usual, reacting by instinct,
and all he could hope for was that he was doing the
nodded and sat down, looking confused, then looked at
the man he'd strangled and the other guy whose shoulder
looked horrible and who was brought outside. People
kept staring at him, while Dan pushed himself back off
the floor with considerable effort, then stood beside
Vadim, his hand on his shoulder. That was when the police
Dan greeted them, raising his hands in a placating gesture.
"Would you listen to me first? I can explain. Do
you speak English?"
senor." Both cops nodded. "What happened here?"
don't know all of it. I wasn't here. You have to ask
the witnesses, but please, believe me, Vadim is not
a homicidal maniac." No? Fuck! "Vadim is my
partner. We are both veterans, and Vadim ..." searching
for an explanation, word, anything that could describe
... and then he got it. Of course. "Vadim suffers
from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He was a Prisoner
of War." Slight lie, a white one. "Something
happened at the conference we spoke at, something which
triggered the trauma. Please, I need to get Vadim to
..." and he knew, all of a sudden, "his therapist.
Dr Williams. Please let me call him. Please." He
had never in his life begged like this, and couldn't
have done it for himself.
policemen talked among themselves, while Vadim sat silent,
staring ahead, not reacting to anything, not even when
Dan asked him quietly what had happened, the mobile
phone in hand. He had Dr William's number, and there
was nothing else he could think of to do. The police
officers continued to debate, one seemed to be reluctant,
but at some point, the first man nodded and stepped
back to talk to a witness. "Well, senor, it depends
on whether they will press charges. We need your details,
and you will likely have to compensate."
course. I understand, but may we leave the country?"
Glancing towards the airline personnel, he wasn't even
sure how to get Vadim onto the plane after this serious
is likely you will be banned from using this airline,"
the cop said, helpfully. "Could I have your passports,
of course." Fuck. But the inconvenience paled in
comparison to the magnitude of what had happened. Konstantinov.
He wouldn't let that bastard win. He just wouldn't.
He'd never gone down without a fight and he wouldn't
this time either. "Vadim, where did you put the
passports?" It had always been Vadim to take care
of such things.
patted the inside of his jacket and pulled them out.
"I'm sorry", he murmured, seemed far calmer
now, more there.
okay, it's not your fault." Dan said quietly, "but
you have to tell me what happened." Holding the
passports out to the cops.
must have fallen asleep. I don't remember. Just ...
wanted to kill." He shuddered, but kept his voice
down. "Rage. Shit. I could have killed someone.
I ... nearly did."
know, but you didn't." Murmured, Dan watched the
police officers run checks on their passports. One of
them nodded when Dan held up the mobile phone, to indicate
he wanted to make a call. "I call Dr Williams now,
Vadim inhaled. "I'll get some water. Just from
over there." He nodded towards a water cooler,
then got up, and when he moved, people gave him a lot
of room. He stood silently in the corner, drinking water,
one plastic cup after the other. Only keen eyes could
see that his hands were shaking.
was praying that Dr Williams was available, only letting
out his breath when the phone was picked up.
Williams? Dan McFadyen here."
McFadyen?" The voice at the other end sounded surprised.
... I am sorry to call out of the blue, but I really
haven't got time for pleasantries right now." Talking
quietly, Dan turned away from the people. "Something
awful happened. We are at Lisbon airport, in the airline's
lounge, and currently apprehended. Vadim attacked two
innocent people, he must have fallen asleep, I wasn't
there." Bitterness in his voice, anger at his stupidity.
He should have taken better care. "We were at a
conference, doing our job, and Vadim saw Konstantinov."
Almost spitting the name out, but quietly enough so
that Vadim couldn't hear it.
The voice at the other end betrayed Dr William's shock.
"Konstantinov is in Portugal?"
in Portugal, at a conference. Approaching Vadim, and
gloating." And I wanted to kill that bastard. "Vadim
... lost it. I don't know what to do, Doctor. I might
need you to speak to the officials. I want to get Vadim
home, but it seems they won't let him onto the flight."
course, Mr McFadyen." Dr William's voice had calmed
and was once more back to its distinguished Englishness.
"Could I have a word with Mr Krasnorada?"
... just a moment." Dan held the mobile out to
Vadim, nodding to him and waving him over.
crushed the plastic cup in his fist, which was enough
to make some people step back even further, like he
was a tiger that had just growled. He took the phone.
Krasnorada, this is Charles Williams. How do you feel
Vadim felt embarrassment about all, and some relief.
"I feel ... like I'm trapped. I didn't do it on
purpose, I was startled ..." And how pathetic are
you that you're making excuses? "Angry. Ashamed."
understand, but please don't blame yourself. It is an
episode that was triggered by the sudden confrontation.
I will have a word with the authorities, if you'd like
me to and if I can be of any help."
sir." Vadim closed his eyes briefly.
have my number." The offer open, honest, given
with a gentle but firm voice. "Please call me as
soon as you feel able to."
sir, I'll call you once ... we're out of the airport."
Vadim handed the phone back.
took it and exchanged a few more words with the doctor,
before walking over to what appeared to be the person
in charge of the airline, trying to sway them to take
Vadim, after all, and of listening to Vadim's doctor,
who could explain the situation and that no harm would
come out of this. The man talked in hushed voices with
the Doctor, and the main point seemed to be whether
Vadim would turn violent again, which, apparently, the
Doctor could not guarantee.
the manager handed Dan the phone, he shook his head.
Explaining that in the circumstances he could not let
a potentially dangerous passenger on board, and that
the doctor could not guarantee that such behaviour would
not happen again. Furthermore, on top of the possible
charges and the compensation money to be paid, the airline
would press for compensation as well with a lifetime
ban for the perpetrator. Dan could do nothing but nod
mutely. He wouldn't let the beast win, no matter what,
and whatever price he would have to pay, he'd pay it.
an eternity of form filling, with their names and addresses
lodged with several authorities, they were finally let
out of the lounge and back into the main airport building.
Having been blacklisted, they had to wait for their
luggage to be unchecked and brought out once more.
now?" Dan smiled a little at Vadim, at least he
tried to. "I could give my brother a ring, perhaps
stay for a while on the farm? There are always trains
if we have problems with airlines right now."
nodded, his face betrayed the tension. Humiliation.
Shame. "He shouldn't have fucking touched me,"
he said, but sounded miserable. "I wasn't in control.
I was ... asleep. I didn't ..." He exhaled and
rubbed his face. "Scotland. Good ... good idea."
stood close, briefly touching Vadim's face. "He
won't win, okay?" Murmured. "You just have
to find your control, and Dr Williams ... he'll help,
aye?" Nodding slightly, he had to believe it. Had
to trust that despite all those years of merely functioning,
there had to be a solution after all. More than simply
keeping the status quo. "Let's get to Scotland,
a phone call to his brother, which took no longer than
five minutes, and a brief explanation, they headed across
to the BA desk, where they thankfully got a flight out
to Glasgow later that day. Arriving late at night, they
got a hire car and Dan, who'd been sleeping on the plane,
drove them up into the Highlands. It was worth navigating
through the night rather than staying in yet another
hotel room. Vadim especially seemed anxious to get to
familiar surroundings, and the further they got into
the wilderness, the more he seemed to relax.
February 1996, Scottish Highlands
they arrived in the early hours, both Duncan and Mhairi
came out in their dressing gowns, insisting on making
them comfortable, which included food and whisky, but
when Duncan asked Dan to explain, he told him he couldn't,
not yet. He had to be on guard duty, he called it, and
that he had neglected it, but would never again.
that morning, after just two or three hours of uneasy
sleep, Vadim called Dr Williams. He was nervous and
felt even more ashamed than at the airport, like he'd
been lying to the man whenever he'd said he was okay.
voice on the other end sounded as ever: cultured, calm,
and with that unmistakable upper class accent. "Mr
Krasnorada, I am glad you called."
Williams--I ... am asking about your offer. About ...
fixing this. The ... therapy." It would be just
another form of torture, with all the dangers involved,
but he felt he'd run out of strength. He'd been lying
to himself, and to Dan, about his sanity. It was and
always would be fragile. For Dan's sake, and his own,
he had to try it at least. "Whatever you think
needs to be done, I ... ask that you do it."
things ... I am afraid it is not that easy." The
voice was compassionate but firm. "I must ask you,
you really are certain this time?" the doctor paused
for a moment. "It will be a long process, but I
believe that you have the strength and the stamina to
get through it." Another pause, then, "it
would take at least three months, three very intensive
months, and regular check-up sessions afterwards. I
have retired from the Forces, Mr Krasnorada, and I would
gladly take this time."
pay whatever it costs. We're financially comfortable,
I ... just don't want to go insane."
no, Mr Krasnorada, you misunderstand. I do not wish
to gain financial advantage from this, my interest is
purely medical, and my reward will be to help a patient.
No, what I was trying to say was that the therapy is
intensive and long-term, and, this is the most important
point, I do believe that it should take place away from
any of your supports. Especially your partner."
alone." Dr William's voice kept its same quality
of understanding and firmness.
thought was terrifying. Who'd wake him up when he was
screaming? Then it hit him. Carer, not lover. Dan had
become the man who'd wake him - and hold him - after
these nightmares. "I ... see. I still ... want
to cover the cost. I don't want to cost you anything,
would be agreeable." There was a faint hint of
a smile in the doctor's voice. "The next question
is, where this will take place?"
have a ... a lot of space in New Zealand. If Dan agrees
..." Three months, kicking Dan out of the house.
"I would have to ask him, but there's the farm.
It's close to Palmerston North. A long flight, but it's
... well, it's New Zealand." Which meant it was
beautiful, the most beautiful place on earth.
have to ask. There's always spaces to rent, too. Wellington,
maybe, which is close."
was a silence at the other end for a moment. "However
you decide, I am happy to make the travel arrangements.
Perhaps you could call me back once you have received
sir. Thank you. I ... will call you back." Vadim
put the phone down, then rubbed his face. Three months.
He headed upstairs and back to their usual room. Dan
had been still in bed when he'd gone downstairs, and
that's where he was, burrowed into the blankets . "Dan?"
was movement inside the blankets and a pillow was lifted
off a bleary-eyed face. "Aye?"
Williams. He says he has time for therapy, estimates
about three months." Vadim sat down on the bed.
... that is good." Dan forced himself awake, then
pushed up until he sat, looking for his cigarettes on
the nightstand. "Three months? Hell of a long time."
He smiled, feeling guilty for a moment for the relief
he felt. Relief that someone else, a professional, was
going to take over. Someone who knew what he was doing.
He said ... I should be alone." Vadim winced. "It's
part of the therapy."
Lighter forgotten, the cigarette remained unlit. "What
do you mean?"
said I should be without my usual support." Vadim
swallowed. "That means, you might have to do something
else. Visit friends."
don't like this, but ... if that's part of the therapy.
I want to get sane, Dan. So I don't embarrass you or
wear you out ... I don't want to be a nutcase you have
to watch 24/7."
of, you are not a nutcase, and secondly, you don't embarrass
me." Dan frowned, remembered the cigarette at last
and lit it. We both know what it costs you to keep
your promises. Fuck you. Fuck you, Konstantinov.
Dan took a deep breath and remembered that he'd pay
any price. "Okay." He lifted his head. "If
this is what you have to do, then this is what you'll
do. You fly back home, with Dr Williams, I stay here.
Travel. Whatever. Maggie, Jean, maybe a conference or
two." He shrugged, trying to make light of the
took his hand and pressed it. "I'll call. Could
... use the farm, or the nice apartment in Wellington
we rented when we went there last time. I ... want to
put this behind me ... the nightmares, the ... fear.
I want to be free in my own head again."
the farm, it is big enough. You go and call, okay?"
Vadim went back downstairs and called again, to confirm.
He felt his pulse hammer in his throat, when Dr Williams
said yes, he could meet him as early as he wished, and
they agreed on a flight back to Auckland from Heathrow,
which Vadim booked the same day, sending Dr Williams
the details straight away.
said very little throughout the day, keeping his thoughts
to himself until Duncan finally collared him and Dan
tried to explain what had happened and what was going
to happen. Separation. Three months. He was nauseous
at the mere thought of it. Three fucking months. It'd
be worse than the nine months in the mountains. Duncan
was supportive, listened, and offered Dan to stay with
his family on the farm as long as he needed to.
stayed for another four days, before it was time for
him to take a flight to Heathrow, to meet Dr Williams
on the way out. Dan had remained quiet, but as attentive
as he could ever be, but during the nights he felt unsure
for the first time. Wanting Vadim, needing his reassurance,
or whatever else sex was meant to be, but he didn't
dare to initiate it.
the last night, Vadim lay at his shoulder, wide awake,
worrying, but he knew it was for the best. It had to
be. He'd have to take the risk. "I'll miss you",
he murmured. "Already do."
craned his head, catching a glimpse of the blond hair.
"It's going to be hard as fuck, but it's not about
me." Murmured, reaching out to caress Vadim's shoulder.
"It never was."
closed his eyes. "I'm sorry. I ... want to fix
this so ... you don't have to do all this anymore. No
longer be ... anything but my lover and partner."
don't do it because of me. Do it because of yourself.
That's the only reason that counts." And the beast
won't win. "Just ..." Dan trailed off, couldn't
put his worries into words. Would he still be wanted
when he wasn't needed anymore?
Vadim turned his head to kiss Dan's temple. "If
anybody can fix me, then Dr Williams."
..." Dan hesitated once more, feeling like a right
idiot for thinking this, but he'd learned the hard way
that shutting the fuck up wasn't going to help. "You
said once that you don't know any more if you love me,
because you need me. What ... what if you ... I mean
... fuck!" He huffed with frustration, "this
is hard, I sound like a right fucking idiot."
just ..." Vadim inhaled deeply. "Like I don't
feel very much these days." A feeling of separation,
distance, aloofness, most of the time. Definitely to
everybody else, like there was a big sheet of glass
between him and the world. Dan got through there, often,
but other times, he felt like he was watching himself
go through the motions. Like it wasn't real. "I
hope he can fix that."
craned his head to look at Vadim, caressing the back
of Vadim's head, fingertips carding through the short
hair. "I hope so, too. Whatever happens don't forget
I love you, aye?"
course not." Vadim's lips moved down the side of
Dan's neck, to the collar bone, the hollow of the throat,
and, by reflex, Dan bared his throat. "Don't be
afraid of this. We'll be good."
I tell you something?" Dan murmured, eyes closed,
concentrating on the feeling of Vadim's lips on the
sensitive skin. Three months. Three fucking months.
"I'm so glad that Dr Williams ... that he ... takes
over. And I feel like a right shit for that."
paused when Dan's words sank in; too busy with his nightmares
and pains to realise how much it took from Dan. "I'll
make it worth it for you. I promise. I'll be stronger."
don't need to make anything up to me." Dan let
out a soft huff, "You're not a 24/7 patient, aye?"
A pause, a breath, "and I love you. It's that simple.
I pay any price."
... love you, too." Vadim shifted his weight on
top, legs left and right of Dan's torso, his weight
on the legs as he slid down Dan's body, kisses trailing,
but he stopped to lick, too, tasting Dan's skin, feeling
the shuddering breaths against his face.
you make love to me?" Dan's voice was barely audible.
Odd words, request, and question.
night has to last me a while", Vadim smiled, moving
deeper. "I can sleep on the plane."
can sleep for three months ..." Dan trailed off,
torn between closing his eyes and concentrating on nothing
but the sensations, and propping his head up on a pillow
and watching Vadim, to take in each sight and sound.
The latter won.
was no urgency, Vadim was more concerned with taking
his fill than make Dan cum. It was stroking and teasing
and licking, tasting Dan's cock more than giving him
a blowjob, not finishing the job in any case, deliberate
and intense, stoking the fire very slowly and with all
the restraint he'd learnt over the years. In the end,
he fucked Dan, pausing when he felt he was going too
fast, and returning to kisses and touches and gentle
promises until Dan had recovered enough to fuck him.
Three months. Half the planet apart.
night, they did not sleep, but held each other, each
man lost in his thoughts, and each with his own worries.
had checked in for the long flight via Dubai; with his
boarding pass and passport in a thigh pocket - he was
wearing casual clothes for the flight, and that meant
outdoor trousers, shirt, and a light jacket - he went
through security and then headed for the lounge. He'd
used up most of his air miles to upgrade again - using
the flights to conferences to make his private flights
more pleasant. In the business class lounge, he located
the doctor right away. He was reading, and it was almost
strange to see him in a civilian setting, but not unpleasant.
He fitted in there, a friendly older guy who seemed
thoughtful, polite, and fairly unremarkable.
headed towards him. "Dr Williams. I'm glad you
Krasnorada." Dr Williams smiled and stood up. "So
good to see you." He shook hands, then indicated
the seat beside him. "I believe we have another
couple of hours to 'kill'."
joys of long-distance flights." Vadim settled and
stretched his legs out. "Greetings from Dan, by
the way. He's staying with his family in Scotland."
am glad to hear. I must admit, I was a bit worried."
Folding the newspaper he had been reading, the doctor
placed it in his lap.
be fine. He has many friends all over the planet ...
they should be able to keep him busy for three months."
guess 'busy' is an interesting word." The doctor
smiled slightly, then turned his head fully to look
at Vadim. "And how do you feel about it?"
just want to be sane again", Vadim said. "Whatever
it takes. Meeting
him again I thought I would
just go insane or die."
doctor nodded slowly, before taking his specs off to
polish them with a handkerchief he produced from his
blazer pocket. "Understandable." Nodding once
more, he turned his head to look at Vadim. "You
see, when you experience a traumatic event you have
three choices: first of, die, which is highly unlikely
because the physical entity aims with every fibre towards
the main genetic goal of staying alive. Secondly, to
go insane, or, since the second option is not an option
either because the mind protects itself as well as the
body, the third option, which is to dissociate. However,
when you learned to dissociate, your mind disconnects
from your body. What I mean with this is, that your
mind and your thoughts disconnect from your feelings.
For all this time since the trauma, you have been 'living
in your head,' experiencing life intellectually, not
emotionally." He put the specs back on, giving
an understanding smile. "Your unexpected encounter
with Konstantinov threw you out of your ability to dissociate,
and thus you experience the fear of going insane."
nodded, feeling a slow darkness creep up. Disconnected.
The glass wall. The darkness, kept only in check by
willpower and discipline. Tension, inside and outside,
wrapping steel around a vessel that was under pressure
and had many, many cracks already. Keeping it together
so he could do his job, be functional. Lately, though,
the cracks had been widening. "It doesn't help
I'm an atheist, doctor. Other men kid themselves that
there will be something else after death. The end of
suffering means the end of everything else. Anything
that is me. I'm not
ready to give up."
The doctor nodded once more, the smile still in place.
"I am glad that you say this, because, sadly, too
often the ultimate step is suicide, if the sufferer
does not seek and receive help." Those grey eyes,
wise and kind, rested with an intelligent scrutiny on
Vadim. "The next three months will be very hard.
Do you realise that, Mr Krasnorada? Are you aware that
you will get much worse, before you get better?"
an ex-athlete. I know suffering." Vadim met the
gaze full-on, open and determined. "I have staying
power. I can do this." If I could live with Konstantinov
in my head for the last years, I can go through everything.
doctor shook his head gently. "This is not about
staying power, this is not about control. This is about
the exact opposite. You will break down, you will be
sick, and you will be weak. You will cry and you will
shake, and you will wish that you had never started
this journey to recovery."
there's no alternative."
are right, there is no alternative."
inhaled deeply and lowered his gaze for a moment. "Unless
I go insane, or kill myself. Rock and a hard place.
I will go through this."
believe in you." The doctor reached out for the
lightest of touch on Vadim's sleeve. "Will you
be alright for a moment? I need to head to the gents."
nodded. "Of course, sir." I believe in
you. It touched him, strangely. The man had been
nothing but kind to him, yet, he knew the darkness inside,
and didn't shy back.
Williams stayed for a short while, and on his way back,
he took a bottle of carbonated mineral water from a
tray. He sat down once more. "I believe it would
be beneficial if I tried to explain to you why you reacted
as violently as you did, in Lisbon airport." Pouring
himself a glass.
pressed his lips together, but nodded. He'd been startled.
Somebody had touched him, and his soldier reflexes had
gone berserk. That was his explanation. It didn't account
for the hazy feeling, of being in a dream and having
no control. "That's another reason. I don't want
to end up in prison if I happen to
you ever been close to attacking your partner?"
stared at him, but then realized he had. The need to
get away. Rome. When Dan was getting too close and he
couldn't bear it. "Sometimes, he didn't give me
space." Vadim kept his gaze on the ground.
"After the nightmares, it's hard to have anybody
close." Hitting him in the Balkans
was a different matter. That had had nothing to do with
a tightrope. Aggression,
yes. Quite a bit of it, but it's
I need space, and sometimes he cornered me. He's changed
that, but at the beginning
you ever explain that you could not bear the closeness?
You see, the relatives and loved ones of PTSD sufferers
and trauma victims do not know how to deal with their
loved ones, who are suddenly different to what they
used to be. Many state that they don't know this person
anymore, and they don't know how to get close, how to
make them see that they are still loved. As a consequence,
there might be the attempt to get physically close when
the mental closeness is being rejected." Dr Williams
took a sip of his water.
" Had he? Vadim paused, thinking,
trying to remember. He had no idea what he'd said and
just imagined, what had been thought or actual words.
sex, if you will, used to fix
everything. If I'd told him to not touch me
he'd have gone to Jean. The thought bit deep. Somebody
who was comfortable with touch all the time, who sought
it, who'd never say no.
you fear that if you told him he would have taken it
badly and possibly even left you?"
was the only thing that always worked. Different form
of communication. Even when we weren't
It goes too far back." I wanted his touch even
when I hated him. When he hated me. Konstantinov had
gone deeper than that, right to the core.
you kept quiet and went along." Looking at the
water in his hand, then back at Vadim. "Did this
ever make you resent him?"
Vadim felt a pressure on his chest. He had. No doubt
Williams merely nodded, quiet for a long time. "I
believe, when you can, you should explain this to him.
What do you think?"
think Dan wouldn't understand it, and it would hurt
him." Vadim shook his head. "He's
much about what you see is what you get. I'm not the
he wouldn't get that all these
are at odds with each other."
we shall see, then. After all, this is all about you
and no one else." The doctor smiled. "Not
your partner, not your friends nor family. Only about
you." Finishing off his water. "What I mentioned
earlier, the sudden aggression and the over-reaction,
are you familiar with the three-cup model?"
I assume, like many other sufferers from PTSD struggle
to understand why you tend to become disproportionately
aggressive at small things. For example, you might get
disproportionately aggressive when someone walks too
slowly in front of you, or a stranger looks at you,
or, perhaps, a sudden noise, an unexpected touch and
a joke that does not seem funny to you. The reason is
quite simple. Imagine three cups. Everyone constantly
deals with things that we call 'good stress'. This can
be simple tasks and chores as washing the dishes, going
to work, getting up early, shaving. Now imagine this
first cup. It has a small amount of 'good stress' in
the bottom, and everyone has this." Dr Williams
put the empty glass onto the narrow table beside him.
"Imagine the second cup, and you see it fill with
a certain amount of 'bad stress'. These are the things
that go wrong. For example, the car doesn't start, the
train is missed, money is tight, the partner does not
do what one wishes and one gets upset. Everyone gets
such bad stress. As you can picture, there is still
a lot of space in the cup and thus the person who does
not suffer from PTSD is unlikely to have their cup overflow
and fly into a rage. Most people can take a lot of 'bad
stress' before they are being pushed over the edge.
Does this make sense so far?"
you saying my cup is already full and then something
comes in from outside?"
you got it straight away. What you have in your cup
is a large amount of 'PTSD', which contains all of your
trauma and more. While there is still the 'good stress',
and you have been admirably functioning, there is very
little room for the 'bad stress' to fit in on top of
the PTSD. Therefore the control needed to deal with
the constant threat of overflowing is great, and this
is why something seemingly small and insignificant can
make a PTSD sufferer 'fly off the handle' so quickly.
A little 'bad stress' makes the cup overflow and the
person flies into a rage."
Dan having slept with Katya. "Yes. I've done that
" And how good it had felt, going
on that killing rampage. To let the beast out and revel
in destruction. "I did
some extreme things
in the Balkans. When the cup overflowed."
doctor nodded. "I think we should be lucky that
you are here now, safe and sound. It could have had
worse consequences." Nodding to an attendant who
came past, he got a couple more bottles of water, one
with and one without fizz. "I'd also like to explain
the kind of therapy we will work on."
nodded and motioned for him to continue.
is a combination of CBT and Exposure therapy. Or rather,
Exposure therapy is part of CBT and CBT stands for Cognitive
Behavioural Therapy. What this means is the following:
the events are not necessarily what traumatises someone,
but the views that the person is taking of them. The
implications of this are that situations, like real
world objects, are better viewed from certain angles
than from others. CBT takes the stance that people have
a degree of choice in the point of view they take. Does
this make sense?"
Williams handed Vadim one of the bottles, and opened
his own. "What this means for practice is that
CBT emphasises the importance of breaking out of negative
chains by changing thoughts and actions."
So working with the rational mind, emotions, and the
body to get this under control."
and since we are dealing with emotions, we can only
break the cycle through a rational approach." The
doctor took another sip of his water. "The next
thing you need to know about is Exposure therapy, which
is the largest part of CBT, and the most important one
to deal with the trauma healing process." He turned
his intelligent eyes onto Vadim. "Do you have 'blackouts'
or memory losses from your time in prison?"
hard to remember all of it. It was very monotonous.
I was left alone most of the time, but then there were
beatings, and interrogation, and
"He toyed with me. A few things, scenes, conversations
more beatings. I
frowned. "I don't know. I couldn't tell. How do
you remember two years?"
look on Dr William's face was compassionate and knowing.
"I understand, and the Exposure therapy is doing
exactly that: helping you to remember. You are an intelligent
man, Mr Krasnorada, I believe you can imagine that remembering
will be extremely painful. Still, it is vital for the
healing process. Talking and writing about the trauma,
about each incident and its effects are absolutely critical
to the recovery of lost memories and to be able to piece
the whole picture together. If you try and block memories
when they arise, the more you think about them. In a
nutshell, Exposure therapy is a deliberate method designed
to expose the mind in controlled doses to your past
trauma, which you experience as intense emotional fear.
It is aimed at teaching your body that it no longer
needs to be disturbed by traumatic memories, as they
are just memories. Exposure therapy is a learning
strategy designed to separate then, the past,
from now, the present."
that mean I get Konstantinov out of my head? He'll be
means that you will be able to see what he did as a
part of your past. As something that happened, but that
no longer happens. In that sense, yes, he will be gone."
Dr Williams was about to say more, when the attendant
returned, to tell the waiting passengers in the lounge
that the flight was ready for boarding.
nodded, took his bottle and jacket and stood. "That
would be good", he said. At least he could deny
Konstantinov room in his head. His voice. You will
never forget what I did to you, Konstantinov had
said. You'll never be able to pass for normal, or
human. "That's a lot of things to think through."
have a lot of hours." Dr Williams smiled, picked
up his hand luggage and stood as well. They got into
the plane and seated in the comfortable business area,
to get through an uneventful but terribly long flight,
during which Dr Williams explained some more and asked
a few questions. The flight was too long anyway to keep
an intense conversation; instead, Vadim slept and read,
and worked a little, answering letters, which was slow,