next day Solange joined them when they all went sightseeing,
followed by excellent food in one of the many local
restaurants. The weather was kind to them, and while
it was cold, the sun had come out, giving the countryside
a warm glow. It was still early evening when they returned,
and they had hardly made it to the door, when they heard
the phone ringing.
hurried inside, while Jean and Dan brought the coats
out of the car. When Dan stepped inside, Solange held
the phone out to him with a smile. "For you. Dr
immediately tensed, but took the wireless phone, stepping
into the front room when Jean gestured to him he'd have
privacy in there. Sitting in the last light of the day,
he listened to the doctor's account of the week, while
leaning against the back of the chair, eyes closed.
This time, after over a month, it wasn't enough, though.
I talk to Vadim?"
McFadyen, this would not be a good idea."
Sudden aggression rose to the surface, and Dan realised
that it had been simmering for a while. Helplessness,
fear, and that goddamned loneliness, a feeling not even
Jean could ease. "I am sick and tired of being
told that this isn't a good idea. I am bloody well old
enough to decide what is a good idea or not, and so
McFadyen ..." the doctor's voice remained as calm
as ever. "As I explained to you right from the
start, it is important that Mr Krasnorada severs all
of his ties and his old coping mechanisms."
what I bloody well am, aye? Coping mechanism, ties,
carer. Don't worry, doctor, I haven't forgotten."
Rubbing the heel of his hand over his face, Dan scrunched
his eyes shut.
McFadyen, I thought we had agreed that this was all
about Mr Krasnorada."
know that. I know that. How stupid do you think
I am?" Dan shook his head violently. "It's
not about me and never has been, so bloody well stop
am sorry, I never meant to come across as patronising."
Dr William's voice was still quiet. "And I apologise
profusely if I came across as disbelieving in regards
to your acceptance of the situation."
Dan shook his head again. "You don't get it, do
you? You don't understand that I'd do anything to stop
Vadim from suffering, and if that means letting him
go then I will." The sudden pain in his chest constricted
his breathing, and he struggled for air, even discarding
the cigarette he'd been about to smoke. "But the
not-knowing is what kills me. If I could just have a
word or two with Vadim, that's all I ask for. Or are
you keeping him locked up?"
course not. Mr Krasnorada is a free man."
why doesn't he talk to me? For five fucking weeks?"
Krasnorada is not able to deal with anything other than
the therapy right now. You have to understand that."
what is so difficult about me? Can you explain that
to me? What's so hard about just saying 'hello' to me?"
it is not 'just hello', can't you see this?"
seems I can't. Seems I'm the bloody stupid Scottish
peasant who just doesn't get it. Seems I'm the fucking
idiot who doesn't even have a fucking clue if he'll
ever get his partner back!" Dan was breathing hard.
He knew, somewhere in his mind, that he was completely
irrational, and that he should stop himself, now, right
now, but he couldn't.
was a long pause on the other end, before the doctor's
quiet voice was heard again. "I understand how
hard all this is for you, but ..."
cut in, sharply. "You understand jack shit!"
McFadyen, please ..."
what? I miss Vadim, and how could you understand that?"
Dan was shaking.
want to speak to him, now!"
heard the roar even through the phone and saw the doctor's
face. He shuddered, still shaken up by the session less
than half an hour ago. His hands formed fists but he
nodded. "Let him. Give me the phone."
Dan froze, sitting ramrod straight, eyes open in the
darkness of the room.
Vadim inhaled deeply, turned to face the windows, staring
out into the green. Dan pushing for contact. Dan demanding
and shouting, yet the voice at the other end was everything
but loud now.
are you?" Dan was trying to crawl into the phone,
just to hear ... anything. The spoken, the unspoken,
each breath, any movement. "I ... I just wanted
to hear you. Just for am minute. I ... fucking miss
you." And since when had he turned into a stammering
shuddered. "I'm ... not good, Dan." I vomit
and I cry, I scream at night, I write things that make
me nauseous. I examine everything I did, and wonder
if I fucking deserved all this. All that is bad enough
without ... without ... closeness. "I'm in a lot
of ... pain."
sorry. I wish I could ..." do what. Do what, exactly?
"I wish I could just hold you." Quietly, hardly
more than a murmur. Holding. Touching. Wrapping his
arms around Vadim and spooning close. It had always
made them feel better, had always helped. Closeness,
knowing the other was there.
can't have anything touch me." Vadim knew his words
sounded cold, but they were the truth. "No sex,
no touch, nothing. I don't want anybody near. I can't
have anybody ... can't stand anybody right now. I don't
feel anything ... just pain. I don't need anything but
for this to stop, or I'm going insane. I'm halfway there,
but I don't want to fall, I have to get through this,
and I have to do it alone, because everything's drowning
sorry." Toneless. "So sorry." Vadim's
words had reached Dan's mind, but their meaning was
filtering through slowly. "I ..." Shut up.
The pain in Dan's chest travelled upwards, downwards,
and outwards. "I'm sorry. I won't call again. It's
all in ... in your court. The ball. Yes." Shut
up. Shut the fuck up! But he couldn't. "I'm really
sorry. I was selfish. Didn't understand. I ...."
So sorry. All he could do was push the button that cancelled
the call and let the phone clatter to the floor.
pain was like a sudden fist, hitting right into his
solar plexus. Robbing his breath, thoughts, heartbeat
alike. He hadn't understood, all these years, even though
he'd thought he had. He did now, at last. Eyes open,
he stared, unseeing, completely numb, and nothing was
left in his mind. No questions, no words, no queries.
Nothing. Except ...
sat in the darkness, his face in his hands.
put the phone down and looked at the doctor. "He's
hurting, but ..." He rubbed his face. "I can't
... can't care. I don't care. I need that space. I hope
he gets it now. That I need room to breathe. It's not
like I'm cheating on him with you. You help me, and
he still has to have it his way. Bastard."
that what it feels to you? That 'he has his way'? And
what does it make you feel in return?" The doctor
regarded Vadim, before turning to go back into the living
told him I need the distance. And he forced it."
has as much a right to feel as you have, don't you think?"
The doctor challenged quietly.
doesn't get it. He doesn't get I'm fighting for my sanity
here. All he wants is that I'm his, and his world is
that what you believe?
Vadim felt the rage boil up, sudden, unexpected, like
heated milk suddenly spilled all over the cooker. Feeling
a pure rage that made him feel good, that dark
red crimson flood that came up and made him capable
are you now?" Unafraid, unfazed, the doctor stood
in front of Vadim. "What do you feel? And why do
you feel what you feel?"
am ... strong," Vadim murmured, feeling the rage
like a current, and reason was the rocks he stood on,
feeling the pull. "I could ... just ... let it
go and ... destroy something ..." He wanted to.
He wanted to let the rage take him, and felt it pulse
high up in his throat. "Kill ... somebody."
Like in a war. "Helps ... with the motherfucking
doctor nodded slowly and pointed to the table and the
writing pads. "Write it down. Write down what you
feel and how you feel it. Write down when you felt it
last, and your memories connected with it. The context,
the physical sensations and the mental impressions."
The ghost of a smile crossed his otherwise serious face.
"Write, so you can understand and handle it."
forced himself to sit down, inhale, gulp down air. Writing.
He hated it by now, but forming letters on the paper
- they looked shaky, chased, untidy, blurred and jagged
and not like his writing at all - forced the rage down.
It was hard to sustain the anger while he was writing,
and it seemed to make all the finer, smaller muscles
in his body useless, but he obeyed, and he wrote.
Williams quietly went to make a tea, and when Vadim
was finished for that time, he let him read out what
he'd written and they talked about it. The feelings,
the reactions, the reasons why - overblown and realistic
day of extremes, of pain, of struggle. Another day closer
The word kept echoing in Dan's mind. Unlike another
'Nothing' that he had eradicated, a long time ago, this
one he could not deal with.
was still sitting in the darkness, his face in his hands,
when the door opened.
didn't sound good," Jean murmured, a bottle of
wine in his hand. He sat down in the darkness, lighting
much did you hear?" Dan lifted his head and wiped
at his face. Strange, where the hell was the moisture
coming from? Itched like hell, too. He reached for the
cigarette and took it out of Jean's hand, inhaling deeply.
that you were shouting." Jean lit another one and
inhaled. "I didn't listen at the door or something.
But I got worried when I heard you shout." He had
his elbows on his knees. "Want to come over to
fucked it up, Jean." Dan stood up, took the step
to make it across and sat down beside Jean. "I
really fucked it up."
reached up and placed an arm across Dan's shoulder.
"Hey." He turned his head to kiss Dan on the
temple. "What happened? What went wrong?"
forced Vadim to talk to me. I missed him, just wanted
to know how he was, only a few words, that sort of thing.
He couldn't bear it. He said he can't stand anyone right
now. Can't feel anything, just pain. Can't bear touch,
can't stand closeness, can't stand me, and can't ...
just nothing." He inhaled another deep drag from
the cigarette. "I shouldn't have. I made such a
mistake." A shrug, "I'm a selfish bastard."
Jean murmured. "You're not. Okay? Trust me on that
one, you're everything but selfish. This ... this isn't
easy for either of you. The least ... fuck, the least
you can demand is hear whether he's okay, or ... less
bad or whatever. Aw, shit, Dan." He moved closer,
holding him tight.
Dan shook his head. "You don't understand. I can't
demand anything and I shouldn't demand anything. I should
have known, I just ... just wanted it anyway, because
I miss him so much." Dan reached for the ashtray,
found its outline in the dark and he extinguished the
butt. "The whole thing is a lot bigger than I told
you, but I had hoped I could just stop thinking about
it for a while, because I can't do anything right now
anyway, and have some fun with you. But ..." Turning
his head, until he could glance at Jean. "PTSD
is chronic. It will never go away, he'll only learn
to manage it. And if ... if he wants me back I ..."
Dan trailed off, shaking his head vigorously, as if
he could stop all those feelings. "Carer."
Pressed out. "That's what I'll be."
Jean remained close. "Any ... any-fucking-thing
I can do?"
shook his head again, wanted to say something, but the
words got stuck in his throat. He finally managed to
press out, "just ... be here?" Hold me, it
said. Be my friend. Just hold me.
nodded and took hold of Dan's head, pressing him close.
"Yeah. I'm here. And I won't go away."
wrapped his arms around Jean and buried his face in
the crook of Jean's neck. He didn't say anything for
a long time. Words didn't change anything, and no one
would help him understand what it all meant for his
life. For their lives. Nor what the future would
he and Vadim had one.
stayed with Dan through almost all of the night, except
for a few minutes of explaining the situation to Solange,
then returning and sitting with him, just holding. Listening
when Dan wanted to talk, but mostly they just sat in
and Solange did their best to keep Dan occupied and
entertained. Something they fairly succeeded in, until,
a week later, Dr Williams called again but Dan refused
to take the call. Refused the second and third attempt
as well, until both Solange and Jean were instructed
that no matter what, Dan was not going to talk to the
doctor, because he had nothing to say, nothing to add,
and could not bear to listen. Dr Williams kept trying,
though, each week of the whole month that Dan stayed
in France. Time spent in the acceptance of friends.
While Jean showed a side of himself, unknown to most,
of altruism, of caring and of understanding. Of true
was at the end of the second and into the third month,
when the Baroness' calls got more insistent. Dan had
kept her vaguely up-to-date and she kept asking him
to stay with her and to have a heart-to-heart, and finally,
Dan accepted. He couldn't remain in France forever,
didn't feel that he could stretch the friendship too
far, especially not when knowing what Jean felt for
he'd never seen a hint that he was becoming a burden,
it was time to leave and let Jean and Solange live their
own lives. A life that might change, soon, since Dan
had been talking with Jean about the possibility to
adopt kids. The weeks had not just been spent with 'moping',
as Dan called his state of mind, but with business plans
and concrete ideas for the future. Dan helped where
he could, trying to get Jean into the network. The busier
he was, and the more distracted, the less it hurt.
it still hurt a fucking lot.
flew from France to London, meeting Her Ladyship in
her country manor house in Surrey that had been her
family's seat since the 16th century. She was, it seemed,
taking a holiday herself, and Dan had the strange feeling
that she might have done that for him. Or perhaps he
had just become over-sensitive and couldn't read people
anymore the way he had been able to, before his world
had become too complicated to grasp.
was sixty-three now, could retire if she wished to,
but he somehow doubted she ever would. Not a formidable
lady like her.
indeed, when she stood on top of the wide, sweeping
stairs, at the impressive entrance door, smiling at
him. Tiny as ever, deceptively slim and fragile yet
he knew she was made out of steel. The bomb proof hairdo
as unmoving as ever, and her smile as warm as during
the best games of chess he'd ever managed.
should have known, though, that staying with the Baroness,
no matter the warmth, the friendliness and the welcome,
wouldn't be all that easy. They talked for many hours.
At night sitting in front of the large fire in the
main room, filled with the finest artefacts; or during
the day, strolling through the beautiful countryside
that surrounded her property.
helped him understand that he needed to make a decision,
once and for all, and that he had to come to terms with
whatever that decision entailed. But, she pointed out
to him, not many people received a gift like he had,
and despite all the pain, he should very carefully wager
that Dan felt he didn't really have. He couldn't leave
Vadim, unless Vadim wanted him to, a possibility that
was too dreadful to imagine, and yet he had to get his
head and his heart around all of the possibilities.
the worst happened, the Spa, she said, was a purpose
to go on, just like his friends and, yes, his daughter.
the end, Dan trusted her wisdom and her friendship,
and eventually, he let her convince him that he should
get in contact with Dr Williams once more, before he
returned to Scotland to stay with his brother again.
The doctor sounded a lot more positive than he ever
had before. Dan, though, did not dare to hope, but he
dared to believe.
his friends, and most of all himself.
when it came down to it, it was all he could always
three months, it was like coming out at the end of a
deep, dark tunnel, claustrophobic and terrifying. There
was an overwhelming sense of clarity, like Vadim knew
what he was doing, some sense of calm, emptiness, maybe
control. The dreams had been far less bad, less shaking,
less vomiting, like he felt very nearly sane again,
if he'd ever really been sane to begin with. Somehow,
time had moved on outside, the seasons were changing,
and Vadim felt with a moment of guilt that he hadn't
actually missed Dan. There had been no time to miss
him, because, really, his own life and mind had been
called in the early evening, which was morning in Europe,
waiting for the phone to be answered.
was Dan himself who answered, rattling off his brother's
phone number instead of a hello.
me." Vadim ran his hand over the hilt of Szandor's
sword. "I just booked Doctor Williams' flight back
didn't say anything. Nearly two months. Two fucking
months, since he'd last heard Vadim's voice. He hadn't
forgotten the 'nothing', but neither his friends' advice.
Yet he couldn't bring anything out, couldn't find any
reply. This came too suddenly, and nearly shocked him
to the core. What had he expected? Wine, roses and moonshine?
you're still there." Vadim listened intently. "I
think we're done here. And I ..." How to put this?
"I'm ready to risk it. To ... attempt ... feeling
this ... and being close. If you are." Because
suddenly he realized that he himself might be ready,
but he had no idea what had happened to Dan in the last
three months. "If you don't ... it's okay. What
I mean is, we need to work that out ... if you aren't,
we need to work that out, too. I can't demand you taking
that role. You have a right to be happy, and if that
has nothing to do with me ... it would just be good
that it? Good to know?" Dan's voice sounded forced,
but it was hard to make a sound, when all he knew was
that he was reeling. So many weeks, hoping, wondering,
thinking, feeling, missing, and now? Now it was all
too much, and it hurt that Vadim could just pick up
the phone, say a couple of words, and with an 'it's
me' expected he'd jump like Pavlov's dog. "I ..."
I don't know. I want. Anything. But I don't know, because
I am frightened. "I missed you." That, at
least, was nothing but the truth.
I'm sorry. I ... didn't feel very much of anything positive."
know. You told me." Dealing with Vadim and with
his own feelings was like walking on a knife blade.
"What do you want me to do?"
want you to come home," Vadim said, softly. "We
could head to the south island, have a holiday together."
Get out of the house, and remove the distractions. It
might be easier to explain what needed explaining when
they were alone with themselves and nature.
What a painful, longed-for concept. Those three months
had felt longer than the separation before. Or perhaps
they'd really been separated for many years, ever since
that dawn in Kabul, when the KGB had taken Vadim away.
"I would like to." Dan closed his eyes, to
keep every distraction away. "But I'm not sure
if I can." Or dare. What was the difference. No
matter, it had to be said. The truth, that old, faithless,
painted crone that had always been his most despised
and loved companion.
your time. Just call me in advance so I can pick you
up at the airport." Calm words, masking whatever
went on in Vadim's mind.
you really want me to come?" Dan's voice
remained quiet, toneless even. "And do I really
have a home?" Dan shook his head slowly, to no
one there. "I am willing to be who you need me
to be, but ... I can't do that and accept the consequences,
unless I know that you are certain." He took a
deep breath. "Is there love left for me, Vadim?"
won't be easy, Dan, because, if I tell you to leave
me alone, you ... you have to. Can you do that?"
haven't answered my question." Barely above a murmur.
"I can do a lot, learn a lot, accept a lot, if
I know the reason and if there is an unshakable core
I can cling to." Remembering the last phone conversation
with the doctor, and the importance of boundaries and
commitment - on both sides. "I have needs too,
you know. I cannot ignore them, but I can and will adapt
for you, if you really want me."
love you, Dan, and I always will, even if there are
times when I can't feel it underneath everything else.
When I turn numb. Or angry... then it'll be difficult,
then I need space. I will ... do my best to tell you
what I feel, so you can ... monitor it."
smiled, to no one, because he only heard the first three
words. The smile was just for himself, not even for
Vadim. "Okay. I'll take the next flight."
Let me know when you'll arrive, I'll be there."
I will." Dan hung up. It wouldn't be easy, but
as long as there was love, he wouldn't be merely a carer.
He had to believe in that.
May 1996, New Zealand
days later, after the gruelling flight, Dan was finally
in the plane from Auckland to Palmerston North. He wasn't
sure what he felt, because the feeling was new, unknown.
Anxiety, some ponce probably called it, or nervousness,
or just plain old insecurity. Whatever it was, he kept
fiddling with the packet of peanuts and the miniature
beer, while surreptitiously glancing out of the window.
Not much longer, and he didn't know what the hell to
months, over three months, and he couldn't just go and
plane finally landed, and it seemed like an eternity
to Dan, before he got his luggage, found a trolley and
piled it on. Customs had been done in Auckland. He was
using the cane, sitting in the plane had played havoc
with his knee, but right now, he didn't care about the
limp. Didn't care about anything, except for the silhouette
he could see against the light.
promised, Vadim was there in the single hall that the
airport building consisted of, and he smiled at him,
then walked close to offer help with the luggage. Careful,
too aware of space and distance to just hug him.
Russkie." Dan stood, didn't reach out and didn't
touch, but how much he wanted to. Forcing himself, with
his entire willpower, not to try and touch but to stand
still. Straight. Tall.
smiled warmly. "Yeah. I missed you. I did."
Tilting his head, Dan offered a tentative smile.
stepped closer and opened his arms, then embraced Dan,
who kept standing still and unmoving for another moment,
before he gave into the urge and wrapped his arms around
Vadim. Inhaling the scent deeply, of body heat and Vadim's
favourite shower gel, his after shave and simply the
essence of him, the combination of all the familiar
smells. Holding onto him tightly, for a long time. "Are
you going to take me home?"
will," Vadim murmured near Dan's ear, holding him
for at least a minute, then kissed him on the side of
the neck. "Car. Let me get those." He grabbed
Dan's bags and headed out, with Dan following right
behind. It was just a few steps outside and into the
parking lot. Vadim tossed the bags into the car. "I
got a lot of food from the supermarket ... I went a
bit overboard ... and, well... you'll want to rest,
I know, but I whipped up a chicken salad ... just something
grinned. "You didn't think I'd come all the way
from my brother's without Scottish fare from Mhairi?"
He got into the car. "Plus wine from Jean, the
latest fashionable cufflinks and ties from Solange,
and a few essential nicnacs, or whatever they are meant
to be, from Maggie. And don't forget the whisky that
my brother got you." He buckled up, while Vadim
started the car. "I, though, I'm afraid I come
smiled at him, and steered the car out of the parking
lot. "No you don't. You've taken that awfully long
smiled and glanced to the side, his hand hovered for
a moment, but then he didn't touch Vadim. Didn't dare
to, too deeply embedded the worry of not initiating
anything. How was he going to deal with it, though?
Falling asleep, waking up, wanting sex, or just the
casual touches. He'd always been tactile, how the hell
was he going to learn to wait until he was invited to
touch before touching? At least that was what he had
figured out his life would be like. For a moment he
faltered, tried to find a topic of conversation, and
felt dreadfully awkward. "When ... when did Dr
morning. Strange ... he was ..." Vadim frowned,
trying to put his feelings into words. "He knows
a lot about me now. Probably everything. Well, anything
that's important. He just accepted it all. Not one bad
word. First ... father figure that I get along with,
I guess." He looked at Dan, then reached to touch
Dan's thigh. "You don't like him, though?"
gaze went to the hand on his thigh, taking it as an
invitation, and he touched the hand. Just a light touch,
conscious and mindful of boundaries he had no idea of
yet, and of rules he didn't know. "I don't know
him. I have no reason not to like him." Except
for the irrational rage that that man had taken Vadim
away from him.
that the whole story?" Vadim gave him a glance,
then turned into the side street that would get them
whole rational story." Dan shrugged and searched
for his cigarettes. Surprised himself that he hadn't
lit up yet. "I'm afraid the irrational one would
make me sound like an idiot."
looked at Vadim, then lit his cigarette, after opening
the window for a bit despite the cold air. "I'd
rather not tell."
Vadim drove on in silence for a while, then they crossed
the little bridge and he pulled up in front of the house.
"There." Vadim exhaled and stretched. "Welcome
sat and looked at the house, his home, and it felt strange.
"Doesn't feel like it." The words were out
before his brain had engaged, but then he didn't know
the rules yet, did he? The house, at least the living
room, still looked exactly as he remembered it, and
yet, after all this time, it felt - once more - like
a stranger's place. Home ... Vadim had always been his
home, since that goddamned fateful day in the bloody
have to show you something." Vadim got out of the
car and got the bags, then carried them over to the
door. He'd left it open - there was simply no danger
anybody would break in. He dropped the bags in the living
room, waited for Dan to get in and closed the door.
"After you've rested. You'll ... understand. I
hope. But not before you've rested."
Confusion was written all over Dan's face. "Do
you want me to lie down now?"
all that much, but I'm hungry."
reached out again and pulled Dan closer. He felt awkward,
too, but he was sure they'd be alright. He felt sane,
saner than he'd been in a long time, and he'd get everything
in order, too. "I want you to read the diaries
... the writing he made me do. What happened. And what's
in my head. What made me do the things I did, and kept
me from doing things I wanted to do. What ... kept me
silent and what made me go all wrong. Okay? If you want
to. I'd understand if it's too much, because it's pretty
lifted his head to look at Vadim, and all those pent-up
emotions were playing out across his face. An open book:
weathered and scarred. Looking for a long moment, until
he smiled. "It won't be too much, how could it
be? No way, Russkie, I need to know. We've been through
so much shit, we got to find a way to build this up
again. Us, you, our lives. I just ..." he trailed
off, shaking his head, "I just need to understand.
Need to know the rules. Right now I bloody don't know
anything. May I touch you? May I not? Am I going to
have to wait until you take the initiative all the time?
Am I going to feel as fucking awkward as I feel now?
Because I don't know what I am supposed to do and what
I am allowed to do, and because, until I know the rules,
I can't tell you if I can live like that." He paused,
leaned his head closer, until his cheek touched Vadim's,
and he murmured, "but I will read everything
that you give me. Every single word."
pressed him close, deeply inhaling the scent. "Touch
me all you want," he murmured, and it sounded strangely
sexy, like something Jean would say. "I'll say
no if I don't want you to be close. That's something
I have to learn. I'll remember it, and I'll do it. You
can't read my mind, and I need to accept that sometimes
I just can't ... but it won't mess us up. I promise."
kissing ... may I kiss you? Will you tell me if you
don't want me to?" Dan's head moved a fraction,
lips touching Vadim's jaw, the clean shaven cheek.
That's part of the touching." Vadim turned his
head to kiss Dan, gently, and full of longing, and it
hurt in all the good ways to have Dan back. "And
sex, too. That's ... included in the touching,"
he murmured, feeling his body respond to the closeness.
now?" Dan allowed his hand to run up and down Vadim's
back, merely brushing the buttocks. No greed, no possessiveness,
even though it all simmered somewhere. Pushed away,
right now, with an all-encompassing sense of yearning.
"It's been a bloody long time since I last ...
Two ... two months." He hadn't been able to, not
even with Jean. "But it's not, you know, not a
demand or anything. It's okay if ..." he knew he
was babbling and he finally shut up. Pressing closer
instead and opening his lips to invite, but Vadim grinned
and pressed him closer, hands on Dan's ass.
you haven't turned the bedroom back into the unbearable
poncy place?" Dan's old irreverent humour made
a peek appearance.
Vadim kissed him again. "I changed nothing. Let's
didn't need to hear the invitation twice and he followed,
never letting go of Vadim.
bedroom had not changed at all - and Vadim pulled his
shirt off and dropped it on a chair, while Dan stood
and watched, just taking in the sight. Vadim then started
to undress Dan - all slowly and considerate, while Dan
did nothing more than raise his arms to help with the
baring of skin. It wasn't the consuming madness, it
was tenderness and longing to feel the other's skin
and closeness after three months apart. Vadim kicked
off his shoes and then stepped out of his trousers,
while Dan finished undressing himself, pushing the awkwardness
away that tried to creep close all the time.
they were finally lying on the bed, fully naked, bodies
touching, the kisses were almost chaste, while nothing
had ever been chaste about them. Fully grown, ex-killers,
bound on destruction a long time ago, now rediscovering
their bodies, their taste and touch, their scent and
their desire, as if they'd met for the first time.
ached, Dan thought, deep inside, but the ache was good.
Vadim smiled at him, kissing his chest, hands running
down his body to explore and stroke, body half on top,
but he was keeping his weight off, didn't want to hurt
the knees. "It feels all weird ..."
Dan smiled at him, relishing the arousal, but even more
the feeling of closeness. He reached down, stroking
through Vadim's hair, then cupping his face. Studying
it intently. He had to clear his throat before he could
talk. "You do realise that you are beautiful, even
though no one in their right mind should ever call a
man beautiful?" He quirked a grin, but his voice
gave away the depth of emotion.
good on camera ..." Vadim smiled and kissed Dan.
"I'm a vain bastard, you know that."
I know you're a bastard alright." Dan murmured,
"just good that I'm one, too."
lay down, side by side with Dan, reaching for Dan's
cock and he stroked it while he kissed him again, deeply,
and Dan shut up. So many things to say, to ask, to tell,
to understand, but right now all that mattered were
their bodies. Touching, stroking, reacquainting himself
with the terrain of Vadim's skin.
that he knew so well: carved by his own hands. Scars
that stood for terror, revenge and pain, and scars that
spelled out their love. 'Mine'. Possession. Yet 'mine'
had meant to let go and let free.
pressed against him, their cocks in his hand as he pushed
and pressed into Dan. Feverish and close, groaning,
his eyes opened fully just before orgasm hit him, and
he saw Dan, truly looked in his eyes, facial expression
tender before climax washed over him, almost at the
same time as Dan's, and he rested right there, next
to Dan, who was shuddering with the aftershocks, sweaty
were both silent for a long time, just breathing, taking
in the other's scent and heartbeat. The closeness, the
heat, just feeling and being.
That's what it felt like, Dan thought. Home. At last.
The awkwardness was gone for now, as he held and gently
stroked Vadim's back, his shoulder, his flank. "Hey,
Russkie?" Dan smiled, his voice hoarse with the
jetlag, perhaps, or the smoking, or the abundance of
looked up from his shoulder. "Hmm?"
about that promised food? I'm starving." Leaning
in for a light kiss.
smiled. "Okay. Yeah." He stretched and half-turned.
"I'll get some." He ran his hand down Dan's
cheek and stood. He located his shorts and put them
on, then headed to the kitchen. Salad, fresh bread,
some mango and papaya. He brought it all into the bedroom,
but when he looked at the bed, he found Dan deep asleep.
Lightly snoring, he lay sprawled on his back, fallen
asleep from one minute to the next.
didn't have the heart to wake him, and with a smile
carried the food back down, letting Dan sleep, but not
without pulling the blanket up first.
slept through, the jet lag and worry had knocked him
out, and he merely snuffled without rousing when Vadim
came to bed later that night. He slept until the small
hours of the morning when he woke at 2 AM, refreshed
and still right in the middle of jet lag and the fact
that his body clock knew nothing of New Zealand time
rubbed his face and looked at the sleeping man beside
him for a while. Smiling, he leaned across for a light
kiss on one bare shoulder, but Vadim slept on, and Dan
got out of the bed. There was no point in trying to
sleep now, and once he was up, a coffee wouldn't go
amiss. Enough time to readjust to the time zone later.
He found his dressing gown still on its hook and slipped
making a strong coffee in triple measure, and raiding
the fridge for the leftover food that Vadim had packed
into tubs, Dan balanced a tray into the living room
to settle on the couch and watch a video, when his eyes
fell onto the writing pads that Vadim had shown him
earlier. He wasn't sure what to feel about it, but one
thing he knew, there was no way he would shy away, and
why not do it now, in the silence of the night.
picked up the first 'book' and started to read. He was
still reading hours later, and just about finished reading
around five-thirty. He'd felt cold, sometimes, hot at
others, nauseous and plain sick at yet another. Guilty,
pained and angry, shocked, hurt and taken aback. Unknown,
betrayed, sad and full of rage, of love and of every
single emotion under the sun - and those that only showed
up at night.
placed the last writing pad onto the table when he was
done and quietly made his way back upstairs. Vadim was
still asleep, and Dan carefully sat down on the bed
beside him. Watching the sleeping man without touching.
Watching and thinking. Short thoughts that needed digestion,
long emotions, that needed clarification. He wanted
to touch Vadim's face, to caress the cheek, the jaw
line, but he didn't, merely waiting with infinite patience
which had been hard-won in his life. He didn't even
smoke, didn't want to disturb Vadim.
smiled as he studied the face, devoid of a frown or
lines of worry, and it was maybe the fact how Vadim
slept - deep and peaceful, relaxed, not a hint of the
darkness that claimed him and made him restless at night,
that for this alone, Dan was grateful. The therapy must
have had an effect, and maybe made the nights safer.
woke eventually, reaching over to Dan's side first,
then, almost confused, turned and looked around, found
the light switch. He smiled drowsily. "Can't sleep?"
fucked up my sleeping pattern." Dan smiled, reached
out to stroke the face. "I was downstairs, reading."
Fingertips resting lightly on the jaw bone, then tracing
towards the temple, carding through the rasp and buzz
of short hair. "I'll need time to digest and to
understand, to fully understand what was done to you."
You ... read them." Vadim looked at him, carefully
judging Dan's expression, but Dan was still smiling,
softly, then said, "I never knew you hated it so
much that I had sex with others, even though I'd asked
you a couple of times and you said you didn't, and I
believed you. Nor did I ever realise that you resented
my touch at times, and that you found me demanding."
times." Vadim sat up in bed and leaned against
the wall, pulling a leg up to rest his elbows on. "And
I could have told you, but I didn't. I thought ... I
think it all comes down to the fear that you might decide
I'm too much trouble to keep. If I'd pushed you away,
I feared you might not come back, and that's ... that's
something I couldn't deal with. The closest I've ever
come to suicide was when you didn't come back. I couldn't
go through that again, so I didn't tell you what I felt."
I didn't come back?" Dan frowned, pulled himself
further up on the bed, to sit on his hip.
you didn't jump right into my arms in the Gulf, I guess."
Vadim smiled ruefully. "Felt like you'd left me,
but you hadn't. I had."
aye ..." Dan trailed off. "I had a lot of
time to think, and even my short thoughts eventually
made a big whole." He reached out to touch Vadim's
knee. "What we have is, as you said once, non-negotiable.
From the day you raped me, and the day I tortured you;
from the pistol wound and the knife cuts, and from all
the anger, pain and hatred onwards ... from that very
first moment on we were fated. To die together - from
each other's hand, or to live together. And, I guess,"
Dan cocked his head with another smile, "to die
together, eventually. When we're old and decrepit. There
is nothing that could take me from you, nothing except
for your own word, if you pushed me away." Dan
leaned forward, the scent and heat of his body close,
and Vadim was suddenly breathless, whether from the
words or the closeness or Dan's knifeblade intensity,
was impossible to say - and didn't make any difference
quiet voice was intense. "I lost you, the man I
knew in Kabul, on the morning the KGB took you away.
That man is gone and will never return, I understand
that now. It's time I get to know you, the man
you have become, once and for all. If that man does
not want me to have sex with anyone else, then I won't.
You just need to tell me, truthfully. No more deflection,
no more lies, because what we have is non-negotiable."
reached and took Dan's hand. With a word, he could sever
what was going on between Dan and Jean. Dan and Matt.
Dan and Beauvais. Dan and a dozen other men, past, present,
future. That meant he was enough, didn't it? "The
man I was ... didn't feel that fucking fragile,"
Vadim murmured, throat tight.
man that was wouldn't have admitted the truth in the
first place." Dan softly interjected.
It's like ... I can't open to them. The others. They
are always at arm's length. Apart from Hooch, I guess."
He'd pushed this man away, but there was, sometimes,
a faint echo of him, and regret. "Never felt much
for them. They didn't get to me. Like I couldn't feel
much of anything." Vadim pressed his lips together,
felt he was getting overly emotional, but he forced
himself further. "Like a blind man remembering
sun. You were still there. You were always right there,
at the core, like my own heart, beating." He swallowed,
and it hurt, his throat was so tight. "I ... need
to learn that the others don't mean you'll leave me.
It's just a fear I have, something that has to do with
... the thing they did."
shook his head gently, reaching once more for Vadim's
face. A light touch, almost chaste. "I understand
now, I do. And I mean it, I will be monogamous if you
want me to. Don't tell me what you think I want to hear.
We have been there before, more than once. Tell me what
you truly feel and truly want me to do. I won't hurt
you anymore, I am through with that."
I try not to hurt you. Like I used to do. I know I haven't
been easy for you to handle, and I'm so fucking sorry."
are who you are. Trauma and all. I am not a victim,
I'm not here because you forced me to. It is my decision
to be with you and to accept the consequences."
Dan leaned closer, until his forehead touched Vadim's.
"And I am who I am. Stubborn, peasant, kinky, stupid,
tactile, smoker, all-round embarrassment to anyone with
class," Dan flashed a grin, "straightforward,
crippled, dumb, honest, hard, annoying, selfish, hungry,
and promiscuous. But the latter I'd change for you."
smiled and kissed his hand. "I just don't want
to share. I don't want these men, and I can't let them
close." Did that include Jean? He wasn't even sure,
but making that decision meant Jean would leave that
grey area in his mind where he was at turns annoying
and welcome. "And I won't. Unless we pay the guys,
I won't share anymore. But ... you can do whatever you
want. If there's somebody you want, go for him."
you sure? I mean
about me going for it. Absolutely
sure? Because I won't ask again. I want to be able to
believe your word from now on, and your feelings."
Vadim looked Dan in the eye. "You're different.
Your emotions work differently. I know that now. But
I won't be there in bed with you and the other, I've
shared too much already." Katya, amongst other
nodded and smiled - part ruefully and part amused. "There
won't be that many opportunities anymore. Even I
am getting older."
believe that when I see it happening. And there's one
thing ... I want to get back in touch with Hooch. As
a friend. Mostly, I think. I need to know if that is
okay with you, because if it's not, I won't. I'm attracted
to Hooch, but he's not relationship material and no
threat to you."
paused for a moment, listened to himself and his reactions,
and in the end, after a silence, he nodded. "Aye,
I'm fine with that. If I can trust your feelings and
your word, because you can now trust them yourself,
then I'm okay with that."
exhaled, feeling relief, above all. This business of
talking about his emotions - that deeply and truthfully,
and carefully, because he had to inspect whatever he
felt, and made sure he actually communicated
what he felt - that was surprisingly hard work.
leaned in once more, placing a kiss onto Vadim's forehead,
strangely chaste. "And now?" He murmured,
"breakfast or a cuddle?"
then breakfast." Vadim pulled him closer and kissed
him on the lips, less chaste, and more playful than
he'd been in ages.
didn't lead to sex, but it led to a lot of touching
and smiling, and when they kissed and held each other,
it was like truly coming home.
breakfast, Vadim had a quick workout, a shower, and
then dressed again. He didn't close any doors anymore
- there was no secret from Dan, nothing he was ashamed
of, even with Hooch. He dialled the American's number
and waited, not quite sure how to start the 'conversation'
or where Hooch actually was. For all he knew, Matt could
was, indeed Matt's voice that came up with a breathless
Krasnorada here." Vadim thought this did sound
distanced, and forced himself to smile, and be polite.
"How are you?"
hi, Vadim." A rustle, followed by a bang. "Sorry,
I, like, just came running up the stairs. Heard the
phone." More rustling, then a muted thud of something
being thrown onto the floor. "What's up, buddy?"
trying to keep in contact. We're in New Zealand at the
that's great. Dan's alright?" After some more rustling
with muffled curses, "you calling for Hooch?"
Vadim felt he'd exhausted his ability for smalltalk.
"If he's there." And if he was, Matt and Hooch
were an item and had continued on for months. Interesting
sorry, buddy, but you're lucky, Hooch's in Fort Bragg
at the moment. Due out soon. I can give you his number.
He's got a cell now. Got anything to write?" The
sound of something getting shuffled.
Vadim reached for a pencil and a torn envelope. "Got
you." He noted down the number, checked that it
was correct. "Dan's here if you want to talk to
bud, but we had a chat by mail a few days ago. Gotta
take a piss, like, urgently." A short huff of laughter,
and then, "bye!" And Matt was gone.
called the cell phone number, which rang several times,
until he wondered if anyone picked up. A click, at last,
and a drawl. "Yeah?" Reserved, as if vetting
the unknown number was of paramount importance.
Hooch." Vadim's voice was lower, but not to be
subtle, rather, it was a strange feeling of tenderness.
"Vadim here. Can you talk?"
Vadim!" Astonishment, joy, surprise, and a mix
of things Hooch usually didn't let slip, was audible
in his voice. "Sure thing." The sound of walking,
echo of steps in a hallway. "You alright?"
better. I had ... therapy." Nothing to be ashamed
of. Hooch knew he was fucked up, or had guessed it.
In any case, Hooch had in all likelihood seen people
with PTSD before. "Realized a few things ... the
value of friendship, my own emotions. I'm good now.
Scarred, but alive."
sound of a cigarette being lit, and if Vadim listened
carefully, there was the sound of birds and the whistle
of a breeze, as Hooch had moved outside. "That's
good. Been thinking about you. How you were. You and
Dan. The lot. Been out and about several times. Doesn't
come close." The sound of smoke exhaling.
here, Hooch. I'm here." Vadim smiled softly, wondered
what it meant; was 'out and about' Hooch's quest for
the nastiest, most brutal sex he could get, or a mission
for his government? You and Dan. Was he looking for
a lover that could carve out his heart, the same kind
of madness that was always reminiscent of Afghanistan?
"If you want to meet up, we can."
sure?" Hooch inhaled, then nothing, finally the
sound of a slow exhale. "Things the same with you?
Not changed with me."
didn't expect you to change." Vadim gave a short
unlikely." The grin was evident in Hooch's voice.
have to see what happens when I see you again. But there's
Dan for me, too."
alright with us meeting up?"
We talked about it. I guess ... if you're together that
long, there are things that you just assume about the
other, and they're not necessarily true. He'll be okay.
We worked some things out between us."
The sound of smoking, then, "I'll be back July/August,
if all goes according to plan." A dry huff, "fucking
unlikely, but it's a working hypothesis. Meet then?
Don't mind where."
on a mission?"
dozen places that looked likely, several where the US
had interests or 'friends' to defend. Same old. "What
about a trip to the Antipodes? Doesn't have to be here,
South Island is beautiful. Will be winter, but it's
great even in winter."
good. How long can you bear me?" Amusement coloured
the voice, then an exhale again. "Could combine
it with Australia. Promised Matt we'd go surfing in
September. Got to be back for the second week."
weeks? I'll check the schedule, but I've been taking
it easy." He hadn't been sure whether he could
go back to work after the therapy. He had somehow expected
he wouldn't go back to work. Maybe it was time to re-think
that career if he kept walking into bastards like Nelson
and Konstantinov. "Heard Australia is good for
surfing and diving, too."
huffed a dry laugh. "Parcelling Dan off with Matt
can try," Vadim said. "Keeps them both busy."
He paused, listening to himself and his responses, but
all emotions connected with Hooch were good. The trust
far outweighed the regret, the friendship was far stronger
than the danger to get confused about love and friendship
and desire again.
obvious." A faint rustle and shifting, Hooch could
be sitting down or standing up. "Leave them out."
is it going with you guys?"
Matt's still 'pretty'. Turned into a regular thing."
sound, this time voices in the distance, and then a
change in Hooch's voice, as if shielding his phone.
"Look, Vadim, those two weeks, you looking for
friendship, or sex, or both? I'm alright with any of
the combinations. After the mission, I probably need
to let off steam in August."
be honest ..." That was one of the phrases he'd
use a lot. To be honest. To be open. To communicate
his feelings. Vital, with his condition. "I don't
know yet, but I'm hoping for both." Despite everything
that has happened, I can hold you through the darkness.
I can keep you safe, because I've been there. I've been
right there in the pit of darkness, and I've crawled
out again. I survived. "I can give you both, too."
A pause, then, quieter, "I can't find any longer
what I need. You damn spoiled me."
else fills out that uniform like I do, eh?" Vadim
smiled. The Soviet uniform. In a way, it was defiance
of the past, and still truth, and it had no significance
anymore, because the Soviet Empire had ceased to exist.
And Major Krasnorada with it.
nobody understands that part of me that well."
Another dry huff. "Anyway, I'll let you know timings
as soon as I can. You got a cell yet?"
wait a second." Vadim fished the annoying thing
out of his pocket and skipped through the menu until
he'd found his own number. He'd never had to remember
the number, it was printed on his business card. He
read it out to Hooch. Connection established. One major
thing resolved. Dr Williams had encouraged him to slowly
tackle all the open issues in his life. Evading those
created negative stress, and negative stress was something
he'd want to avoid piling on.
let me know, I should be available. Be safe."
sound of a short, dry burst of laughter. "I try.
Not sure if the enemy agrees."
found himself smiling after the chat, warmed, somehow,
relieved. It would be good - he knew that. There was
no danger of madness with Hooch now, he knew what he
was doing, and which parts of himself he accessed during
their games. It was deliberate and controlled, and it
was their way of being tender and caring, as absurd
as that thought was. The moment Hooch became his prisoner,
Vadim would have torn himself apart to protect him.
Nothing evil about it.
turned around when he heard a sound behind him. It was
Dan, walking past and smiling at him. Naked, hair still
wet, a few drops clinging to his dark skin, a soggy
towel over his shoulder. He'd been swimming. "Everything
He's very nearly out on a mission, but I thought we
could meet up in August. South Island, a week."
nodded. No fear, now, and no jealousy. He did believe
Vadim now, and trusted his words. Most of all, he understood.
"How's Matt?" As if he didn't know.
brushed back some of the wet strands in Dan's face,
smiling. "He and Matt are regular by now. Seems
even Deltas calm down."
grinned. "Matt's a good guy, he'll keep Hooch human."
that combination works. Strange but true."
the following weeks, life was a breeze. It was simple
and good, as they found their rhythm back, worked a
little, but mainly stayed home, talking, touching, spending
time together without darkness. Vadim locked the diaries
away - he was through with those and put the pile of
notepads in storage, while still occasionally writing
- he found it was a good way to order his thoughts,
discard baggage whenever it sprung up. The ups and downs
had levelled off, it was all far more steady and calmer
in the bedroom became interesting, too. After all the
vanilla sex, stroking and kissing and getting to know
each other again, Vadim one day found the collar and,
on the way to bed, dropped it in Dan's lap, grinning,
then awaited him naked on the bed, offering, his wrists
crossed, on his knees. Things got very interesting from
there, when Dan picked up his games again, and while
intense, they were never destructive, never pushed Vadim
over the edge. He could bear isolation and sensory deprivation
much better now, and knew it, which made him far more
confident, and Dan more courageous and reckless.
Hooch arrived, sunburnt from some place in Africa he
didn't talk about, the three of them spent an evening
together, talking, and the next morning, Hooch and Vadim
headed towards the South Island. Nature, a cabin out
there in the wilds, and then it was their kinship and
sex - no fear about it. Vadim knew he was in control,
of the other, himself, and his own darkness. A week
later, they returned to the farm, talking and being
lazy - but no sex. Vadim didn't want to share Hooch
- or Dan - and both respected that.
Matt arrived, he had no eyes for anyone but Hooch, and
Dan remarked to Vadim that those two men were the only
ones who didn't realise how much in love the Jarhead
really was. That much, in fact, that Dan didn't get
to play with Matt at all, and merely spent a few hours
talking, laughing, because the moment Hooch turned up,
he was all Matt wanted - which was obvious to everyone,
two Americans headed off a couple days later for some
quality surfing, and time away from 'don't ask don't
tell'. When they left, Hooch was mellow, relaxed, and
plain fun to be with. The week spent with Vadim, locked
away and suspended in time, had had a calming effect
on him, and he was as attentive to Matt, without realising
it, as the kid was devoted to him.
and Vadim talked at great length about the job, Vadim's
fears, and possible ways around it, to realise in the
end that Vadim had become strong and centred enough
in himself, and had - should he need to - the arsenal
of tools to combat any mental downfall, that they would
continue with their work.
New Zealand's spring and Europe's autumn they flew across
once more, touring the conference circuit, interspersed
with Dan's ever flourishing Spa, which was growing into
a close knit international community, a network that
started to become essential to some and a safety net
to a few, while providing friendship and fun to many.
A place where they could let their proverbial hair down,
as long as they abided to the few rules. It was during
the time in Europe that Dan suggested to Vadim he might
want to contact his ex-wife, after he received another
update from his daughter.
course Katya had lingered in Vadim's mind - any time
Dan mentioned Kisa, and Dr William's gentle hints. His
past. Unfinished business. He didn't want to call her,
instead he used the time spent at airports to write
a long letter. It was a rambling piece of work, it seemingly
just kept growing, until it was twenty pages, written
on thin light blue air mail paper. After all the letters
she'd written him, he did his best to write her a good,
long, proper letter, and, in this way, he thought, she
couldn't unsettle him, couldn't stop him from saying
things that had to be said. He didn't hear from her
for a long time, but he thought she might be busy, or
need time, or was still battling her own pride.
was in Europe's winter and New Zealand's summer, after
visiting friends and family: a week of Dan meeting Jean,
on his own, Christmas spent with Dan's family, and New
Year with the Baroness, that they headed back home.
Dan returned with a plan to start the Pascal Durand
Foundation, born out of the Spa, and financed initially
with most of his own salary.
February, Jean and Solange came for an extended visit,
full of hopes and life and with the news, not all that
surprising to Dan, that Jean had successfully started
a new career as an independent supplier of ex-special
forces soldiers to a large international PMC company,
and that they were about to adopt twins. The children
were Ukrainian, and the way things were going east of
Europe, Ukraine seemed happy to accept Jean and Solange
as adoptive parents - or maybe Jean had known exactly
who to bribe. The fact he spoke Russian likely helped,
and maybe he even drew on former contacts, but Jean
never told the story. Vadim rather suspected something
fishy, but then Solange was so happy about the prospect
to have two little girls that anything else just faded.
kept teasing Jean, telling him he had become a responsible
middle aged man, who was about to turn father and should
- just like him - grow up at last. A notion that Jean
countered with taking Dan out to a few days snorkelling,
while Solange stayed with Vadim and they explored the
island. Dan and Jean did get some snorkelling in, but
most of the time was spent in bed, or rather, on top
of it, and eating good food, drinking, and smoking and
talking. Intimate friends, just as much as Hooch and
the end, when Jean and Solange left for the Ukraine,
life settled down once more for Dan and Vadim, interspersed
with visits from friends, such as Markus and Dima, and
with work, preparations, keeping up to date with news
and current affairs, with exploring the island through
camping, with exercise and swimming and working on the
of them would have ever believed they could enjoy peace
- of body, environment and mind - that deeply.