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Special Forces Chapter LXIX: Good Times and Bad
 
 

January 2006, Edinburgh

Dan and Vadim sat in the hotel's restaurant, just about to order, when Dan looked up and saw a familiar shape through the arch that led towards the lobby. "Isn't that Maggie?" he pointed towards the archway. "She was supposed to return today." He took his cane and got up. She hadn't seen them yet.

"If the haircut is anything to go by, it's her," Vadim murmured, standing as well, but remaining near the table.

"Aye, the bomb proof hairdo." Dan grinned and made his way into the lobby. He had hardly stepped through the archway when she turned, and a bright smile lit up her face. She was even tinier now, deceptively fragile, her face wrinkled and yet no less classy than it had always been. Dressed in the eternally elegant twin set, and her pearls, the ring sparkling on her finger as it had done since her lost fiancé had given it to her. She looked up at the much taller man, exuding joy and warmth and despite her slender frame, she showed the core of steel in the way she moved despite her years. The aura of natural authority around her had never waned, right now replaced with joy and warmth.

"My dear Dan!" She exclaimed in her upper class voice, "so good to see you." She glanced past him and towards Vadim, "and your almost-husband." Her bright smile took on an almost wicked hint, when Dan's eyes widened in surprise at her declaration.

The couple of strange looks he got from some of the patrons, made him grin like a naughty schoolboy. "Ma'm, you look as radiant as ever."

"Oh, don't be silly." She laughed. When he took her hand to kiss it, he stooped for her, but she reached lightly for his shoulder instead and stretched to place a light kiss on his cheek. "Have you been looked after well?"

"Very well, Ma'm. This place is one of the best we have ever been in."

"I am delighted, and I am sure that after the celebrations you will be convinced that it is the best one you have ever been in. Now come and let me welcome Vadim."

With that she turned, but waited for him. Standing his free side, the other hand using the cane, she slipped her arm into his. With an amused smile, she let herself be escorted into the brasserie.

Vadim stood near the table, smiling as they approached. "Ma'am." He indicated a bow. "How good to see you."

"And you, my dear Vadim." He kissed her hand, but she did the same she had done to Dan and kissed his cheek. It seemed she had decided on a new manner of dealing with her friends.

After they'd settled, the attentive staff showed up, offering the menus. They sat for a while and talked, until the Baroness asked whether any guests had arrived.

"Yes, my best man and his partner," Vadim answered, smiling. "But the last time we saw them, they were recovering from the flight. I could see if I can summon them, they might be hungry, too."

"I'm not sure." Dan fidgeted a little, and her eagle-eyed ladyship looked at him with a bemused smile, when he continued. "They seemed pretty much out of it, didn't they, Vadim?"

"Did they?" She interjected before focusing on the menu and hiding her facial expression.

"Aye, they did." Vadim controlled that grin which became a smirk. "Maybe later. If you'd like to meet them."

"I would, indeed. In fact, I am very much looking forward to meeting all of your friends. Especially your best men, and of course your families. Truth be told, I am particularly excited to meet your daughter, Dan. I am sure I will be delighted."

"Oh, you will be ..." Dan grinned, "imagine me at my worst time, unruly, wild, but female and a teenager." He laughed.

The Baroness chuckled and patted his hand. "I didn't expect anything less."

Vadim poured them all water, Baroness first. "The other best man arrives early tomorrow, probably in time for breakfast, his wife arrives the day before the ceremony. And then it's a steady trickle … many more guests than we'd have invited, but then … we were just following orders."

"Aye, Ma'm." Dan smartly added with a swift salute, making her smile at both of them.

"I knew that if I hadn't taken over, you would have made this into a very short affair. Believe me, my dear friends, it has been and continues to be a pure delight to organise these festivities. After all, now that I am retired and whiling away the hours in my home ..." if Dan didn't know better he'd thought she winked at them, "it was a most pleasurable pastime. It is affording me the opportunity to share your joy, together with all your friends and family, while not having to worry about the perfect gift. You see, it was all very selfish." She leaned closer and murmured, very un-ladylike, "of course, it was all a ruse to see Dan in a proper Scotsman's outfit." Her brief laugh sounded light and carefree.

"Oh, that should be well worth all the work," Vadim said, chuckling. "He wore that when his best man married, and he looked stunning."

"Aye," Dan interjected, "but that wasn't the proper McFadyen tartan, and neither the same quality as I'm wearing now. You just wait and see."

Vadim reached over to press Dan's hand for a moment. "Should we order?"

"Indeed." The Baroness smiled and they proceeded to do just that.

They had a light meal, taking the chance to catch up. Talking about the time that had passed in between, the current world situation, the ceremony that was to come. Easily moving from topic to topic, comfortable and pleasant.

Several hours later, Hooch and Matt emerged, and the Baroness took an immediate liking to them. More to Hooch, thought Vadim, but the difference was hard to spot, and he might be completely wrong with his assessment.

Later that night, after a most enjoyable evening spent in the restaurant and after that in the Bollinger bar, Dan commented to Vadim that her ladyship had indeed taken a liking to Hooch. Hooch was, he pointed out, right up her alley. As for Matt, he thought she had taken him under her wings in a 'dear darling boy' style. Vadim had looked confused at first, but when Dan explained that he was certain the difference was mild but lay entirely in her taking Hooch seriously while not quite doing the same for 'pretty' Matt, something she would never let on, of course, it all made sense to Vadim.

That night they slept well and restful, aided by an increased dose of painkillers for Dan. While waiting for them to kick in, he had stood at the open window, smoking a forbidden cigarette into the icy wind while looking out across the magnificent city and towards the illuminated castle. Edinburgh, the grand old lady, and he, had finally become friends. He smiled when he 'cuddled up' to Vadim and was asleep a few minutes later.

* * *

When they picked Jean up at the airport the next day, he looked like a guy in a fashion ad when he stepped through the gates. He wore his hair a touch longer these days, mostly so it could be fashionably mussed, but also, noted Vadim, because the hairline was receding in the corners, or at least thinning a bit. Apart from that, expensive loafers, designer jeans, designer belt, white T-shirt that was too simple to have a logo anywhere, and a very tasteful jacket that he wore open and still flattered him. Solange must have so much fun dressing the ex-Legionnaire tastefully. The Breitling watch Vadim spotted was certainly new and one of the more expensive models - and unlike most men who wore the brand, Jean had the strong wrists to not look ridiculous with the watch. That alone told Vadim that the Frenchie was doing well, financially.

Jean spotted Dan first and lengthened his stride, dropping the bag that had hung over his shoulder, when he made contact with Dan. He drew him into a tight hug.

"Damn, it's nice to see you again," Jean murmured into Dan's ear.

"Missed me?" Dan grinned and held Jean close. "Not quite the same to fuck the pretty vintner?" he chuckled then drew back, knowing that he'd kiss the man otherwise, and that really wouldn't be appropriate.

"No, not the same." Jean grinned, pushing back. "Vadim. Hug?"

"Sure." Vadim opened his arms, and was pulled into a very similar bear hug. Exuberant Jean. "Like the watch," he murmured.

"The … oh, yeah." Jean laughed. "Solange doesn't like it, but I told her it's a guy watch. Men like watches like that. How are you guys, good?"

"Aye, spent some time yesterday with the first guests …" Vadim answered.

"... who turned out to be the first wedding present." Dan smirked. "It's the other best man and his partner. Have I told you about Hooch?"

"You mentioned him. American?"

"Yeah." Vadim herded them out of the terminal towards the car. "Old friend. From the Gulf."

"The Gulf is the place to go for best men?" Jean laughed as they were getting into the vehicle. "Seems it was."

"Shit, that's right, we should start a marriage agency, based in Kuwait." Dan grinned. "By the way, have you got anything planed for ... later?" He craned his neck towards Jean, once they were in the car.

"I'm open for suggestions."

"Depends on what Vadim, Hooch and Matt are going to be up to, and if I will be missed at whatever they are up to. Unless, of course, you want to do some good old fashioned sightseeing."

"Don't be cryptic." Jean leaned over towards Vadim. "Do you have any idea what he's talking about?"

"I guess it has to do with celebrating in a close and intimate environment." Vadim kept his eyes on the road, as he pulled out of the car park.

"Oh. Right. Well. As I said, I'm open."

"Ha ha ha, you fucking jokers." Dan groused. "So much for me trying to be less obvious and not going down the 'you want to fuck, Jean?' route." Dan finally cottoned onto what exactly Jean had said. "... open, Jean? Did you say open?"

Jean coughed. "Metaphorically. My mind. Okay?"

"Perhaps this, too, is up for negotiations after a bottle of plonk and some excellent food? Those beds really are first class." Dan smirked toothily. "And ... I'm just reminding you of the vintner." Reluctant to say anymore about the phone call.

Jean groaned, but laughed. "Hope the wine has arrived. Frederic was fussing over the boxes like he was sending away newborn kittens."

"What wine?"

"Your wedding planner was in touch. Last year's wine turned out pretty well. It's … my wedding present."

"Wedding planner? I wouldn't call the formidable Baroness a wedding planner." Dan chuckled, "she didn't tell us, probably wanted this to be a surprise from you. Thank you, Jean, and say thanks to your Frederic."

"You're welcome. He sends greetings, too. The way he got all starry-eyed, I was glad I am already married."

"Good grief, he's in love with you? You're a regular heartbreaker, Frenchie."

"He'll get over it."

Dan grinned and settled back in the seat while they negotiated the late morning traffic of the city centre, before arriving at the front of the Balmoral. The door man in kilt, cape and tam o'shanter, helped take out the luggage and carry it in, before a valet took the car to its designated hotel parking space.

They got Jean's keys, and Dan and Jean went up to the room, while Vadim went to await the delivery from their tailors, having been alerted by the reception staff. Up in the room, the Frenchman tipped the valet and had a tour of the luxurious room, grinning. "Edinburgh's finest. Solange's friends were very keen on this place."

"But they are not coming, aye?" Sudden trepidation crept in Dan's voice. "I've never forgotten that Chrestien fellow ..."

"Course not. Hope you arranged for a different photographer, because Chrestien is not coming."

"Phew." Dan leaned the cane against the nightstand and let himself fall onto the bed. "By the way, I was told the suite that the Baroness has booked for us from tomorrow onwards, is absolutely breathtaking." He patted the space beside him and lay back.

Jean took the jacket off and hung it across one of the chairs, then came over to lie on the bed with Dan, embracing him and breathing against Dan's neck. "Last chance," he murmured. "You could still elope with me, you know?"

Dan smiled into the handsome face before him, lined, tanned and goddamned gorgeous. Flashes of the young Jean in his mind, the man he'd met in the Gulf, the straight man ... "You realise that Vadim and I have our silver anniversary this year, aye? But I must admit I do try to not commemorate the day we actually met." He quirked a brow, then ran a hand down Jean's back, inhaling his scent.

Jean lifted his head to kiss Dan's lips, fingers running down Dan's cheek, as he opened his lips for one of those tender, skilled, heartfelt kisses. "You guys are great together though. Even Vadim looks happy these days."

"It's been a long ride. Twenty-five bloody years. Fucking crazy, aye?" Dan took his time to kiss Jean, to hold him and to be close. He murmured when he broke the kiss, "I sometimes think I'm making all of this up. It's just too damned insane, and a far cry from the man I once was, the tough SAS soldier who went out to work covertly in Afghanistan."

Jean smiled at him. "Miss it?"

"Good question. Only a few years ago I would have said 'aye, I do', but not anymore. Funny that, but what I have now, is a damn fine thing. Partner, family, friends, lovers, even a daughter, and no more goddamned wars." Dan chuckled softly. "I'm too old for wars, Jean. The reason why Vadim came up with this whole wedding thing? I mentioned it on the phone, I got to have a second knee replacement. I'm okay with that, but I'm clearly no longer fit to be a tough soldier. I'm fifty-six, and somewhere along the way, I grew a bloody dangerous and inconvenient thing: a conscience." He smiled, leaning in to place a kiss on Jean's lips. "I never thought I'd say that, but for me the wars are over, but I would do everything all over again."

"I call that a happy man, Dan," Jean said, in a rare moment of wisdom, and smiled. "Sometimes we give up something we think is such a sacrifice, and it isn't? And years later we finally get that it wasn't and feel a bit weird because … we made such a fuss about it?" He smiled, kissing Dan back, who nodded. "Few things I regret."

"Which are? I only have one."

"Having turned into such a bastard because of the army and later the Legion. I didn't like soldiering, I never did. I'd have been alright as a civilian, I think."

"Really? I never knew you didn't like the job."

"They take too much away that … many never recover." Jean kissed Dan again. "And yours?"

"Is one that isn't really one. I regret torturing Vadim, really torturing a man. To have become so base, because of revenge, is my one regret. But ... if I hadn't done it, and if Vadim hadn't done what he did, twenty-five years ago, then we wouldn't be here. So, I say the same that Vadim says when asked, I regret and I don't regret." Dan reached to caress Jean's face, smiling at him.

"That's what I mean. You wouldn't have done those things if you hadn't been a soldier."

"Aye, that's true. Look at Duncan, he wouldn't even have dreamed of doing anything like that in his worst nightmares. Of course my family doesn't know about the things I've done, and never will."

Jean held him close, chest to chest, fingers running across Dan's back. "Maybe it's different … I found my wife outside soldiering … you found your man inside."

"And a lover kind-of inside." Dan chuckled, inhaling deeply before rolling himself onto his back and taking Jean with him, until Jean ended on top of him. "What now, Frenchie? More cuddling, or getting frisky, or heading out to see if the other best man and his partner and the other groom are up to doing something?"

"I'd be happy with a cuddle … sex when they won't miss us, hm?"

"Aye, good idea." Dan embraced Jean and relished the weight of the man on top, enjoying to simply be and hold for a little while.

* * *

The next morning, they all gathered in the hotel brasserie for brunch, which gave the Americans some chance to adjust to the time zone, and suited Jean's leisurely life style. Jean had, he said, perfected late breakfast to an art form, which was altogether un-French, with their hasty croissant drowned in café au lait, he admitted, but he said it was probably closer to the Bohème lifestyle.

To which Vadim turned to face him and commented: "Tell Solange to not allow you to read her Cosmopolitan anymore."

Almost as if on cue, Hooch and Matt arrived. Hooch in silence, as usual, Matt talking to him, equally as usual. Only a few words, but enough to make Hooch crack a smile, until the word 'Cosmopolitan' was all too audible around the table. Hooch rose one brow but didn't comment. It was Matt who introduced himself and Hooch, with his usual killer smile.

Jean grinned back, too relaxed and informal to stand, instead giving a half-wave.

"You're Dan's best man?" Hooch addressed Jean.

"Yeah. Jean-Pierre Leclerc. Dan dragged me in front of the altar, I'm now returning the favour. Well, I married somebody else, but hey."

"Someone other than Dan." Hooch drily stated, which caused Matt to laugh, as both men sat down.

"Vadim would have skinned me alive even before my honeymoon," Jean quipped, glancing at Vadim, who didn't respond, merely watched.

"I can just about imagine that." Hooch let the words stand in the room, and three men out of the five knew exactly what he was saying.

"Skinning is hard work, takes a lot of control," Vadim stated, and reached for his coffee. "There are cleaner, faster ways."

Dan didn't say anything, downed his second cup of black coffee to hide a grin, while Matt coughed and Hooch did exactly nothing, keeping a completely neutral facial expression.

Jean laughed. "You can still be scary. Good to know people don't actually change all that much. Gives me hope for my future."

"You find Vadim scary?" Muscles finally moved in Hooch's face when he raised a single brow.

"Well …" Jean seemed to think about it, regarding Vadim for a long moment. "I used to. Hard to read him, and he's stronger than I am, and I've seen what he can do. To other people, to himself, and the rest of the world. Yeah. Vadim can be fucking scary."

"And you can be fucking annoying," Vadim said, but smiled, while Dan's grin turned into a badly concealed laugh, before he stuffed his face with some of the rolls. Matt was the only one who regarded the table for a moment, shook his head slightly, then got up to leave the older guys to their pissing contest and went for what was more important: the breakfast buffet bar and its nutritional content.

"You really think you have seen what he can do to others?" A second brow joined the first in Hooch's face. "Tell me more." He hadn't even touched his coffee yet.

"He's Spetsnaz. I've seen what those guys can do. A couple days into our friendship, Vadim smashed my elbow in a 'friendly' bit of wrestling so that I couldn't do anything with it for weeks."

"Did you cry?" Hooch deadpanned.

Jean's eyes flashed - his hands stilled left and right of his plate, and Vadim could see for a moment the Legionnaire, a man who did more than joke and screw around and play at being camp - or metrosexual, as they called it when straight men did it. "You think I would've?" Jean asked, and there it was, the gauntlet right on the table. He didn't joke, there was no lightness in him, a rare moment.

Hooch slowly leaned forward, dark eyes on every expression in Jean's face, and ... he relaxed a visible fraction. Casting his customary near invisible half-smile as a peace offering. "No."

But Jean didn't relax that easily, Vadim could almost see how Jean had re-evaluated Hooch and decided he didn't trust the man. Friends of friends didn't mean friends, not to Jean, not that easily. Like a kicked puppy, he didn't find his equilibrium again that quickly, and Hooch wasn't any help, face once again entirely neutral.

"That's how he became friends with Dan," Vadim murmured. "Jean decided he hated me, so my enemy had to be his friend. And since Dan and I were at odds at that point, Jean here figured joining forces with Dan made sense. But he got more than he bargained for …"

Jean shot him a glance, likely annoyed at the insinuation, but now Vadim smiled at him. "I'd have done the same." Remaining deliberately cryptic.

"What, deciding that you wanted to get into my pants even though you were straight?" Dan smirked, cruelly continuing in the same vein, this was too good to drop yet.

Jean was working on an answer, but visibly discarded several, when at that moment, Matt returned to the table, took once glance round and put his plate down, filled with nothing but high-protein low-calorie delicacies. He shook his head again, and reached for Hooch's plate without a word, to turn and retreat back to the buffet.

"Seems you fucked with Dan the same time I did." Hooch took a mouthful of his coffee. "And Matt did, too."

"In fact the kid started it." Dan shrugged, entirely too amused. "The Gulf was one big happy 'fuck Mad Dog' fest."

Jean inhaled, forced a smile, but it didn't work on his features. It looked strained, which told Vadim that somewhere, he'd actually drawn blood. Jean would get over it. His jokes weren't exactly always completely friendly. "Well, there was precious little else to do but play pool, and nobody could beat me at the pool table," Jean said.

"I'm not convinced, I do remember a particular game, don't you, Vadim?" Dan rasped a metaphorical fingernail over the wound that had been drawn on Jean, but with a grin.

"You were getting naked," Jean said, sharply. "That's not pool, that's …"

"That's …?" Vadim repeated when Jean left the sentence hanging.

"Unfair." Jean gave a sharp laugh that betrayed how ill at ease he was with the topic of conversation. "You guys were flaunting it all over the place. What's a man to do? I'm not as stoic as good old Vadim."

"I was flaunting it?" Dan asked with a grin.

"Yeah, you were." Matt commented. He had returned with a plate full of similar nutritious goodness for Hooch, with a few naughty carbs thrown in. "Or I wouldn't have asked you, like, behind the armoured personnel carriers, would I?" He rolled his eyes when Dan laughed.

Hooch touched Matt's back as a 'thanks' for the food, when Matt sat down.

"What was that about being straight?" Hooch suddenly asked, cleverly slicing back into the same wound, while Matt rolled his eyes again and muttered something about stupid pissing contests.

Jean's gaze met Hooch's, blue and brown, and Vadim could see that the Frenchman was struggling to keep the gaze level - and he could also see that the hair on Jean's arms was standing up slightly. The thought hit him that if Jean was a dog, his neck fur would be on end and he'd bare his teeth, unsure whether to attack to defend himself or whether attack was really what he wanted to do. Jean certainly did not want to discuss his orientation with a man he didn't trust. "Does it matter?"

"Depends on the grooms' plans for 'further entertainment'." Hooch countered coolly. Nothing in his body, stance, facial expression or eyes gave way to whatever he might be thinking.

Matt had been about to put a king prawn into his mouth, when he stalled, eyes flashing, before he murmured, "this time without me. Five's one too many." And stopped any further comments with said prawn.

Jean stared at Matt, and then suddenly understood. His tan turned into a redder shade and he missed a few beats.

"Jean, you up for another stag night?" Vadim helped, even though he enjoyed a flustered Jean. He'd never seen him this insecure, this out of his depth. Jean was too used to his charms working, if they didn't, he was clearly struggling. That made him far more likeable than he normally was, despite the fact Vadim had made his peace with Jean insisting on being a 'close friend'.

"Why not." Jean glanced at him, not sure whether that was a lifeline or another trap. "Last time didn't hurt."

"No, it didn't."

"Not so sure about that." Dan commented, thickly buttering a fresh piece of toast. "I was fucking sore for days."

Matt cast a quick glance, then stopped his grin with a couple more prawns and a few slices of hard-boiled egg, while Hooch still didn't let anything on.

"Correction, it didn't hurt me." Jean's smile was more natural now. "Won't hurt this time, because I sure as hell won't get fucked." He kept his voice down, but it was a clear challenge, gauntlet on the table again.

"Too straight or too worried it'd make you less of a man?" Hooch drawled.

Vadim smirked; he could smell ozone, like sparks flying off the other two men. They didn't like each other, or Hooch was enjoying to draw Jean out into treacherous territory.

"Jesus fucking H Christ." Matt groaned and washed his latest mouthful down with a cup of coffee. Dan, for once, actually stopped grinning and sat slightly tense, curious, waiting.

Jean froze again, more visibly now - anybody could see he'd been hit hard. "Try it, you bitch, and I'll kill you." No joke. No lightness. Just bared teeth, a cornered feral dog. Vadim could see a completely different Jean, the Legionnaire, as he must have been like, the man who faced down Beauvais, a Legionnaire who was just as vicious as the worst of men he'd seen. Losing his composure like that, drawing out a darkness that nobody had thought Jean possessed. Or, yes, once, when Jean had cursed him right after his elbow had got hurt. Interesting.

Once again Hooch leaned forward across the table, opposite to Jean. Slowly, deliberately getting closer and closer into the Jean's space. "It will be a pleasure." He said in a low, deceptively soft voice.

Jean was bristling, silently - he couldn't break free, he couldn't move forward, he couldn't move back. He stood his ground for what it was worth, glaring at the other man, fists suddenly tight, veins on his lower arms visible, subtle play of muscles. "I promise, it won't," he hissed between his teeth.

"Oh yes, it will." Hooch's voice remained just as soft, as he slightly tilted his head, baring his teeth for a moment in a fake smile before the attack. "And the pleasure won't just all be mine." His hand, until now lying casually on the table, turned and moved, fist flexing once, showing the corded strength that ran up the arm, around the wrist and inherent in each finger.

"You fucking freak." Jean grit out between his teeth. "You think you can make me? Say goodbye to your balls."

"I've got yours knotted three times and then stuffed down your throat before you can even mutter the word 'girl'." Hooch murmured, barely above a murmur.

Matt was taking in an audible breath, sitting tense and with a steep frown between his eyes, but he said nothing, not yet.

Dan was drawn to the scene before him. Part of him wanting to stop this, but the dominant part was bloody turned on by it. What wouldn't he give to see those two men fight. Naked. Holy shit.

Vadim glanced from one to the other. Yes. Jean was up in arms, and Hooch had his eyes on a target. Interesting combination. He assumed that Hooch would win. Jean had been softened by life as a civilian, while he'd never assume that Hooch could be anything but danger on legs. On the other hand, Jean would put up a fight, and that alone would be interesting.

"As much as I'm getting hard from watching you two," Dan said fairly quietly, but with no less intensity, "enough is enough. It's a wedding, not a battle, even though I'm clearly getting off on the latter right now." He glanced at Vadim with an expression that told Vadim that Dan was part amused, part surprised, part unsure what the heck to do about the animosity.

"Hooch, you're being a prat." Matt sighed. He placed his hand onto Hooch's back and the way the muscles twitched gave proof for all to see that if anyone else had touched him now, that fool would have lost an arm.

"Figures he's Vadim's best man," Jean murmured under his breath, by way of a parting shot, and murmured something about "alike draws alike," as he pushed his chair back. "Got to make a phone call. Gentlemen." He stood.

"Give her my greetings," Vadim said levelly, deciding for once to support Jean - him getting away from the table seemed a good way to calm things down.

"Yeah," Jean murmured, and stepped away, heading to the bar to pay for his mostly untouched breakfast, unaware that all expenses were being paid by the Baroness.

Dan sat in silence, looking levelly at Hooch for a long moment. No accusation, no judgment either, then took in a deep breath to let it noisily out through his nostrils. "Guess I better assist in that phone call." He took hold of his cane. "Could do with a fag after all this excitement anyway." He made his way towards the lobby, searching for Jean.

Jean was asking the guy at reception something, then received directions, as the other man was pointing and talking and Jean was nodding. Jean gave a little salute, then turned towards the doors. Noticing Dan, he slowed his stride and gave a small smile. "Hey. I was going to find a more peaceful place for breakfast," he said.

"Care to take an old battle horse with you?" Dan smiled and placed a hand on Jean's shoulder.

"Sure, come along."

"Would be a good idea to grab our coats first. January in Scotland isn't fun. Unless you rather have breakfast in bed?"

Jean looked at him. "Mind to walk a bit? I need to blow off steam. The cold will be good."

"Can't blame me for trying."

"No, I can't."

Jean steered Dan towards the lift and they went upstairs to get their coats. Jean's was a lambskin affair, fur shorn off and worn inwards, the fine leather turned outwards, while Dan still went with the practical but expensive high class outdoor gear.

They were soon out and on the steps of the hotel. "You want to go along Princes street," Dan pointed to the left, "or towards Carlton Hill," pointing to the right, "or up North Bridge? Carlton Hill's probably out for me, and you did mention breakfast."

"What place serves breakfast and won't get us trailed by your American friends?"

"Singular, nor plural. Leave Matt out of it." Dan sighed and held the cigarette packet out to Jean. "North Bridge is our best option, lots of places in the university area."

"Taxi?"

Dan took a cigarette for himself, then put them away when Jean didn't take one. "No, we walk." Lighting his fag he went off the steps and turned sharply right, towards North Bridge and its breathtaking views. Arthur's Seat to the left, and the city to the right, but Jean didn't seem to take in any of it. "So your charms didn't work and Hooch behaved like a prat, because for some reason you two just crashed spectacularly like something proverbial that I can't think of right now." Dan blew smoke into the cold wind. "Or maybe you're just chalk and cheese and a good fuck amongst friends would take care of that."

Jean looked at him, hands dug into his pocket, a frown on his face. "You heard him. He's decided he'd fuck me, and … and …" Jean shook his head. "Fuck. This is your marriage do, you're getting married, you and Vadim, and he just ticks me off like that. Why? Because I'm suddenly some pushover that he's decided will just lay down for him and get fucked by a guy who doesn't … who I don't trust?"

"Hey, hey, hey! Whoa, calm down, Jean." Dan put his free arm onto Jean's shoulder and stopped in the middle of North Bridge, in the bracing wind. Turning Jean round to look at him, and Jean followed, after just a few moment's hesitation.

"He never said he'd fuck you. I remember distinctly that we were joking about your stag night, you said it won't hurt you this time either, because you won't get fucked and all he asked, admittedly in an infuriating way, was if you're too straight for it or if it would make you less of a man. You blew your top after that, telling him you'd kill him if he tried, but he never said he would in the first place."

"He did. He said something about getting me to enjoy it."

"Well, you did call him a bitch before that ..." Dan pulled in a drag from his cigarette. "Let's get some things straight, here." Dan flashed a grin at the age-old pun. "First of, Hooch never said he wanted to fuck you. Second, you blew your top. Third, you obviously have a problem with getting fucked, or rather, the idea that anyone might know other than you and I, that I do sometimes fuck you. Trust me, absolutely no one knows, and that includes Vadim. Fourth, Hooch's the most extreme masochist you can think of, who lets himself get worked over by Vadim until he's half dead."

Jean had opened his mouth to speak during the list, but the fourth point surprised him so much that he lost the thought he'd been holding onto. "By Vadim? He's … oh fuck." Pausing, and reconsidering. "It's … it's just that I don't trust any other guy to do that, okay? I've known you for forever, and I'd trust you with anything, my life, my family, my pride, whatever, but it's between you and me and I simply don't trust anybody else enough. Not a total stranger, not one that basically tells me I will enjoy it, whether I like it or not. One that makes me feel like a bitch, and he did that."

"I'm sorry that you felt like that. Hooch's an acquired taste, I give you that, and you two really did hit it off spectacularly badly. Hooch's a good guy, even though it might not seem like that. Loyal, in a committed partnership for years, and, yes, trustworthy. Just ... a damn acquired taste and not everyone's taste at that, that's for sure."

"Yeah. Didn't say he wasn't attractive. I can see what Vadim sees in him, anyway." Jean conceded.

Dan stubbed out the cigarette butt on the bridge's turquoise ornate iron. "And no one will ever know what we do between us, okay?" He smiled, and reached out to squeeze Jean's shoulder. "No one."

Jean reached out and embraced Dan, a close, warm touch, his cool lips moving to Dan's neck. "Maybe breakfast in bed would have been the better option …"

"Well, we could go back, if you wanted to, that would certainly stop the tourists from staring at us right now." Dan chuckled, but made no move to let go of Jean. "Or aren't you missing my famous blowjobs?" Murmured into Jean's ear. "I am sure I could take your mind off the unpleasant non-breakfast ..."

"You win." Jean smiled and hugged him closer. "The tourists are just staring because we're both damn good-looking guys." He moved away a bit, and turned around, back to the hotel. "Let's go."

Dan laughed and shook his head. "Hang on, got to text Vadim, should at least let him know I won't be around for half of the day." Producing a sleek mobile, he texted while walking. "I am sure Vadim will be able to entertain our American guests with a sightseeing tour." He winked, and soon they were back at the hotel entrance. The whole excursion had taken no longer than fifteen minutes.

"My hotel room, or do you want to get Vadim up there as well?" Jean asked.

"No, just you and me, aye? We need some quality time. What with groom and best man and all that. Besides, you know that Vadim doesn't share anymore."

"Yeah, sounds good to me. My room, then. It's really nice. Huge. Great view." Jean led him upstairs, where they shed the jackets and kissed, then they remembered food, which they ordered. When it arrived, they were both half-undressed and breathless, but they managed to keep their hands off each other long enough to have breakfast, which was a whole lot more playful and tender than expected. They returned to being breathless, trading more kisses and later blowjobs, eventually resting, comfortable and content, together on the bed. Talking a bit, interrupted only by Dan smoking a fag illicitly out of the window, then back on the bed to just be comfortable together. Being close, and being there. True friends.

* * *

Matt and Hooch had been exploring the city during the day, while Vadim spent some quality time in the luxurious Spa that was part of the hotel. Dinner with the Baroness at night was scheduled to be a quiet evening, before the remaining guests started arriving the next morning and.

Before the dinner in the hotel's own five star restaurant, Matt vanished into the health club and gym, working out, and Dan returned to Vadim, spending alone together, probably the last chance before the big event.

When Jean came out of the elevator, Hooch was leaning casually against one of the pillars, looking at him.

"Yeah, that's okay, I'll call you later," Jean said into the slick little cell phone and flipped it shut, walking casually as if he hadn't, with the flicker of an eye, noticed Hooch and deduced that the man was there not because he liked to watch lift doors open and close, but for him. Unnerving, like passing another predator at the water hole. Jean gave him a friendly nod and proceeded on his way outside to have a smoke.

A moment later and Hooch moved into Jean's peripheral vision. He hadn't made a sound, not until the last moment, when he'd been deliberate. "Vadim told me you were legion?"

Outside, Jean lit the cigarette and inhaled. Still a light smoker, but habitual again. He'd quit a million times and restarted just as often. "Regular army before that, then Legionnaire. You're Delta." And a masochist. Damn, he didn't look it.

"Yeah. Commissioned these days." Hooch shrugged with a miniature grimace. Implying the unspoken: no more missions for the 'old man'. "The legion's damn sharp." He leaned against the cold stone of the massive doorway, looking comfortable in the cold, despite wearing only a shirt. Watching Jean from dark, somewhat shielded eyes, who didn't quite know how to take the compliment. At face value? Was that a 'kiss and make up' without the kissing?

"The Legion has to be. The French army boys are, in the majority, not worth their salt. That's why they send us when they cannot pull out just because of some bodies … the whole Iraq thing …"

"Yeah, I remember. You were a Merc with Dan. Might have walked past you in the Gulf. Was there anyone he didn't have sex with?" A small, amused spark came into Hooch's eyes, before the expression went back to neutral.

"Lots." Jean stood there, smoking for a moment, feeling the chill more. "I developed into a regular shag, though, in the Gulf and after. We go back a long way. Like … you and Vadim?"

"We're friends, and so are you and Dan." Hooch gave a slight nod of recognition. "Not that different, after all. You're married. I got Matt. You got Dan. I got Vadim. When it comes down to it, they got each other. Non-negotiable." Hooch slipped his hand into his jeans pocket as if he were looking for something, then after a moment, crossed his arms in front of his chest. "Dan hasn't had sex with your wife. She's the odd one out." He flashed a small grin as a peace offering.

"She's buddies with Vadim. I guess that counts." Jean glanced at the cigarette and dropped it, grinding it out under his heel. "Do you smoke?" Offering the pack, just in case. His own peace offering.

"Not anymore." Hooch shrugged. "Got fucked up in some shitty place, couldn't move for months. Stopped it then." He studied Jean's face with utmost intensity, for one short moment. "Can I buy you a drink?"

Jean paused, long enough to stuff the pack back and slide the Zippo back in his pocket. "Sure." He nodded towards the hotel doors again, indicating Hooch should lead the way. On his account, the matter was settled. They were both best men, they'd both behave, and that was it. "Any idea who of us is going to keep the rings?" he asked on the way in.

"No idea, but you can if you want to. Uniform is shit for that."

"Yeah, no uniform here."

Hooch made his way straight to Hadrian's bar, where he stopped at the bar top and leaned against it.

Jean took up position a polite distance away, briefly checking the substantial drinks menu. After the cold, that was whisky. "Right, you caught me off balance … just wanted to make sure you won't ambush me and fuck me … up because of that."

"Matt said I was a prat." Hooch glanced at the whiskies on offer before turning his attention back to Jean. "And Matt's usually right. You got up my nose, and I don't know why." He waited for Jean's order before getting a Clynelish for himself.

"Yeah. Nevermind." Jean said while the barkeeper poured him the 25-year old Highland Park, and, when the man retreated a bit, added: "Don't think it makes me less of a man, just prefer it the other way round. I'm attracted by people, not plumbing, but I have some preference what to do with people I take to bed."

"Yeah, so do I." Hooch cast another miniature grin, merely a flash, then reached for the small jug with water and poured a tiny amount into his whisky to allow the flavours to come to life. "What doesn't make you less of a man, though? That you play both fields? I used to, too."

"That I don't take it." Apart from Dan, but that was different. He'd do anything for Dan, including that, even if the kick was mostly in what it did to Dan, and that weird psychological thing about turned tables and allowing Dan to do this. Like a good sub, he let Dan have that power over him.

"Not taking it makes you less of a man?" Hooch raised his glass with a ghost of an amused smile. "You've got some weird reverse psychology working here."

"No." Jean rolled his eyes. "Fuck, the other way round. You said I'm afraid to be less of a man if I took it. Do I think Dan or Vadim are less of a man? Vadim loves getting fucked." Beauvais, Vadim, the stag night, and the threesomes he'd had with Dan and his partner. Somebody so powerful, cool, threatening, somebody so aloof, yet that strength even when he was getting fucked. How Vadim could relinquish control. How his face changed when he felt something, lust, surrender, when Vadim's armour cracked open. Time to change the track of thoughts, because, damn, those were some fine memories.

"What made you stop? Why would anyone foreswear women." Jean asked.

Taking a sip, Hooch savoured the taste for a long moment, with half-closed eyes. Never closing them fully, not unless he was with those he trusted, and that was exactly two men, and no more. "Realised eventually they couldn't give me what I needed. Was pointless, then, and too complicated."

Masochist. "You need the equal or superior strength? Vadim's a good choice there."

"Vadim's a safe choice." Hooch nodded, "on all counts." He took another small sip. "You can take it from me that it doesn't make you less of a man to take it. I can still wipe the floor with anyone's ass here," Hooch flashed another rare grin while making an economic gesture across the bar.

"That's your hang-up, buddy, not mine." Jean raised his hands. "Me, I don't care what anybody calls me. I have kids, a wife, a nice house, very nice holidays, lots of friends - I'm fine, I'm happy, and I have no hang-ups. Just because I don't like something that other people do like doesn't mean my masculinity is anywhere near dubious. Neither is yours. Our job as best men is to take care of our friends that are getting married, maybe throw a memorable stag night, and leave our shit at the door, because, frankly, it's their party, not ours."

"First of, I haven't got a hang-up. Secondly, seems to me that you have one, or you wouldn't have blown your top. Thirdly, you do have a point, like, about the best men business, but have you got any ideas for something memorable?"

Jean decided to leave the hang-up part unanswered. Big macho Americans insinuating the whole receiving anal sex thing was that much of a deal. He just didn't like it very much. "My stag night, we had an orgy. One of my old Legion friends … well, contacts … well, comrade, really, Dan and Vadim, well, and me. Helped with the nervousness, I was very calm the next day."

Hooch let out a huff of laughter. As dry as the whole man. "I can imagine. We've already all had Matt, and I don't think they're nervous." Taking another sip, he was relishing the taste. "Perhaps we could make them nervous instead."

Matt. That was a nice looking guy right there, seemed exactly the type for some fun and fooling around. Jean took a small sip from that whisky - he preferred them neat and worked through a shot in increments. "Short of taking them hostage … what could make them nervous?"

"After the lives they had? Not much. Can't even make them sweat if you chain them up. At least not Vadim. What about Dan?"

"Dan doesn't like that. Surprising them at night? Sneaking into the room … recording some sex, or photos, or something … I don't know. How nasty a prank should it be without screwing it up? Or just … unexpected?"

"Not nasty." Hooch finished his whisky and leaned back against the bar. "Let's go for unexpected." He was thoughtful, then, "how much do they trust each of us you think?"

"That's easy. Vadim doesn't trust me. He never did, he never will. Dan trusts me a great deal. Why?"

"Dan doesn't completely trust me, whatever he says or even believes, he doesn't. You trick Dan, I trick Vadim, until they are helpless ..." savouring the thought for a moment, "and then they find themselves with Dan with me and Vadim with you. That's as far as my thoughts go. Over to you." Hooch ordered another whisky for himself and one for Jean.

"Hmmmm… swapping right in the middle? Blindfolds? Now, what would they want to happen when they are blindfolded? What would Vadim want of you then? I have no idea what you guys do in bed. With Dan, he …" Jean swallowed another bit of whisky. Damn. Dan would like to fuck him. Like they'd done that time on the couch. But Dan would end up fucking Hooch. And Vadim? He had no idea. The thought was mildly disturbing, at the same time, his body liked the idea.

"Blindfolded, good. No talking, and they haven't got a clue who they are dealing with. No touching, too, when they're tied up." Hooch raised is glass once more to his lips, taking a small sip, neat this time. "Vadim and I don't just play hard. There's the whole vanilla stuff, we swap."

"I'm glad, because no way I'd let Vadim top me in a scene …"

"You said fucking's out, I can take two, but ..." Hooch thought for a moment, "not sure if I ever kissed Dan."

"I kiss him whenever I can. If you're going to impersonate me, kissing is definitely part of the package." He still hoped that Dan wouldn't ask for one of those rare fucks. He might. He'd just have to hope that Dan didn't give him away. "I give head, and handjobs, and the rubbing stuff."

"How do you kiss?" Hooch pondered, "when I fuck Vadim, it's pretty much vanilla."

Jean suddenly felt his pulse jump up in his throat. "Shit, describing it …" is useless. How do you describe a kiss? He looked at Hooch … his lips, his eyes, the features, the dark hair, back to his lips. He'd somehow manoeuvred himself into a really awkward situation, and that sober. "Guess showing is easier."

"Yeah ..." Hooch tipped the rest of his whisky down. "Guess it is." Dark eyes resting intently on Jean, before his brows arched. "Your room?"

No fucking way, Jean thought, especially as Hooch made it sound like a corny pick-up line, or that was irony or an accident. "Yeah." He couldn't back out. He took another sip - shame to rush it - then finished the glass, and led Hooch to the elevator. Upstairs, he unlocked his door smoothly and closed it behind Hooch.

Hooch turned round, facing Jean, who stood with his back to the door. "With Matt a kiss can be anything. Brief peck, silly smooch, full-blown snog, mindless eating face off. With Matt it's daily, but with Vadim it's different. It's rare, and it's intense." Hooch stepped forward, closed any distance between their bodies. He dropped his hand to Jean's hip, holding, the other at the back of Jean's neck. "With Vadim," Hooch's voice dropped, "it's always full body contact. Full tasting." Angling his head a fraction, his lips touched Jean's, and his tongue instantly sought entrance.

Jean almost jumped - but damn, this was a fucking nice way to get kissed. Possessive, the hand in the neck was like claiming control, but damn did it feel good, and this stranger knew what he was doing. He hadn't had that many casual encounters, somehow his men always turned into relationships, if he discounted the sex he'd paid for. Jean couldn't help the groan, couldn't help opening up to the tongue further, without thinking, his body greeting the full-on contact enthusiastically. Good kiss. Damn. Bastard. To catch him off guard again. Demonstration? It wasn't. It wasn't showing. It was too fucking much for that.

Hooch's groin pressed into Jean, growing hard, pushing him further and further backwards, until Jean's back hit the door, and Hooch's hand slipped from the hip to Jean's buttock, resting there, but leaving no room for movement. The fingers in the back of Jean's neck splayed and opened, as much contact and guiding as possible, while Hooch's kiss grew in intensity from zero to one hundred.

Jean groaned, the taste was new, still whisky, but smell and taste were a stranger's, the body was unfamiliar; male. Fit, trained, dangerous. Fuck. He pressed against the strong flesh, shifted his legs just enough to have one leg between Hooch's knees to increase the pressure. Hands moving over that body, hard, tough, sexy. He wanted to say: Fine, I get it, that is how you guys kiss - but by now, it wasn't Vadim and Hooch, it was him and Hooch. And it got more serious by the second. They could just get off together. They could. Nothing bad about it. He broke the kiss to suck on the man's throat, the strength there was tantalizing, sinews and muscle and pulse. "Fuck. Vadim's lucky," he said, managed to barely make sense.

"So's Dan." Hooch murmured, baring his throat, head far in his back, while grinding and pushing against Jean's thigh. A moment later the passiveness turned without forewarning into aggression, as he pushed full body contact into Jean, pressed him against the door, and sought out his lips again, while his hand searched for and fumbled with Jean's fly.

Jean struggled to have a little control despite the onslaught, despite the fact how good this guy was at this. The aggression was what he'd have imagined, and it had freaked him imagining it, but right now, it was great. It was fantastic, even, far away from any game or demonstration. There was no friendship to be won here, but god, the kissing was already blistering hot. He, in turn, fought Hooch's tongue, mouth wide open, locked, needing and fierce, tasting the heat and the man, hands pulling him closer, hips rocking against the other.

Finding Jean's cock, freeing first Jean, then himself, Hooch never let up on the kissing, as fierce and real as any kiss he'd exchange with either his lover or his love. Forcing their cock's together, trapped between their bodies, he let out a throaty sound, half swallowed and half suppressed, but entirely needy, while stroking and grinding both of them closer to the edge.

Jean responded to the kisses with all the need and passion he could muster, thoughts of threat and enemy and smug bastard bleeding away - Hooch was a body, a great body, and god did he know what he was doing, driving Jean closer and further, higher. It wasn't about making it last, that wasn't part of it. Jean pulled him close, thrusting, muscles in his body dealing with that sheer brute strength, and the orgasm was fierce when he came, making him almost shout - very different to Vadim who was always so silent.

Hooch swallowed the sound in a last, deep kiss, and with a few more ferocious movements, near violent thrusts, he came, in absolute silence, except for his breath hitching. He pulled back from the kiss soon after, lips parted, hand still closed around their combined cocks, with their shirts and trousers splattered with cum.

Jean looked up, trying to catch his breath and self-conscious about that. Flushed, hot, sweaty. The post-orgasm high racing through his blood like cocaine or speed or something else that threw everything into sharp contrast. "And this …" he murmured. "Is how I kiss." Hand reaching out to Hooch's face, thumb brushing the lips apart as he closed in, the kiss comparatively soft and gentle, tender; his eyes closed to concentrate better, not ignore the man, because after this mad race, shit, he could easily kiss him like this, just for the buzz he'd given him. Opening up his lips, he licked Hooch's lips, all playful, no urgency, just tenderness, caring, playfulness, but still fully committed. More artful, too. Hooch had great lips.

"Damn ..." Hooch murmured, and then nothing, too occupied with allowing his body to relax into the come-down, hand slackening, covering their spent cocks, no longer holding, no more pressure. His passiveness came to the surface now, letting go and giving in, he was breathing into the kiss, with a shudder and small sound.

"What about … the bed," Jean murmured. "Or are you in a rush to leave?"

Hooch's eyes opened fully, giving Jean one long and searching look. "Got until dinner."

"Plenty of time." Jean pushed him backwards, then pulled his shirt free, shedding clothes and taking the undershirt off to wipe himself down. He was naked, no point in keeping any clothes on. He showed off his body, semi-smiling at Hooch, who was clearly appreciative. Jean had a good body, no doubt, and after Matt, he was the youngest man.

It took Hooch only a moment before he decided to do the same, got out of his soiled clothes and stood naked, allowing himself to be inspected. Unlike Dan, his scars were not spectacular, one surgical, could have been for a civilian reason, and an odd, but faded, senseless pattern of dots. What was striking, though, was the sheer deadliness of the body. Still honed to perfection, and without the extremely ripped appearance of Matt's ridiculously low body fat, Hooch was sharp angled and his muscles spoke of the stamina of a killer, rather than simple strength. He clearly was still in the business, even though he wasn't out in the field anymore.

Jean studied, but he'd always been more tactile than visual, closing the distance again for another deep, gentle kiss, manoeuvring them both onto the bed, where he rolled on top to kiss and lick down the throat, to the chest. Stroking and caressing, relishing in all the skin he had underneath him and against his skin. The heat, the power, the strength. "Caught me by surprise again," he murmured between kisses. "Didn't think you'd go that … far… doesn't matter," murmuring nonsense like that, lazily, off-handed, no deep pondering.

Hooch didn't move much, less than active and more than passive. Receiving, by no means as tactile as Jean, and yet he left no doubt that the touches were welcome. He lifted a hand eventually, resting on Jean's shoulder to keep him at a distance to look at him. "There is no fucking way we'll fool them."

"Alcohol could help." Jean rolled down and regarded Hooch from the side.

"Yeah, but I'll never kiss like you. No chance. Am not touchy-feely." Hooch flashed a sharp grin.

"Damned shame, that kiss wasn't bad at all." Jean rolled onto his back and stretched out, arms above his head, making himself as long as possible. Thinking about something - that passion, and something he did rarely, but with a lot of relish. "You said you like women, too? What do you think …" He reached into the nightstand and pulled out his copy of the setcard that Solange had given him. "Have a look."

Hooch lazily reached over and studied the pictures for a while. Nothing in his face gave away what he might think. "Your wife."

"Yeah. Solange." Jean found that mask face unnerving - something always remained out of reach with this guy. On the other hand, he thought, that wasn't too different from Thierry. A core that nothing touched. "She's coming for the wedding. We plan to stay for a week or two, depending on whether she has a shooting or not. These things get cancelled a lot at the last minute."

Hooch turned his head, still lying on his back, photos in his hand. "She's beautiful. Haven't had sex with a woman for over ten years."

"Not something you ever unlearn," Jean teased.

"Yeah, but why do you want me to have sex with her?"

"Because I get to watch my collared slave take it from another man." Jean gave him a sharp grin. "And you're her type. It would be part of a scene. She'd love it."

That finally did get a reaction. Hooch sat up. "Collared slave. Scene." He raised both brows. "Don't think I'm the right one for that."

"Funny. You're the guy who has sex with Vadim. I'd have tagged you as somebody who doesn't shy away from a little fun and games." Jean remained on his back, comfortable, tiredness lingering at the edge, a short snooze was always a possibility after sex, but he wouldn't mind a second round with this guy.

"I don't play games." Sitting on his hip, Hooch twisted to look at Jean before putting the setcard down. "In my 'scene' I ..." just a second's hesitation, before Hooch gave Jean more than he could ever be paid back in trust. "I'd wear the collar."

Jean's eyes lit up - possibilities here, too. He plays with Vadim until he's half dead. Dan had said something like that. Different from Frederic, who was vanilla, but male, heartfelt, who was in love with him and adored him, but who thought blindfolds were kinky. "I can do that," he murmured. "I could order you to fuck her, or tie you up." The thought was arousing, his body certainly agreed and he turned onto his side, then sat up.

A miniature shake of Hooch's head was his first, unchecked reaction. "No can do." He looked at his hand for a moment, then back at Jean. Dark eyes intense for a moment. "Not with a woman."

"And if we keep it vanilla?" Jean nodded towards the photos. "Interested?"

"Vanilla for whom? Me? All?"

"You. We could still have her collared."

"Yeah," the intensity in Hooch's eyes waned and softened. "You can direct me. I do that. Orders, no." Another small quirk of his lips, "but I got to get Matt's okay first. Woman? He'll be shocked."

Jean laughed. "So a guy like me's alright and a woman needs to be talked about? You're a weird guy, but sure. It's just an offer." And damn, he'd spend the next night imagining that - even right now, it was a good thought to have.

"Yeah. I love that guy. Don't want to piss him off. That so weird?"

"No. I don't do other women that are not whores, guess we're not that different, only I'm not telling her." Jean took the setcard and placed it back in the drawer, then studied the other's body. "I'm not as good as Dan, but fancy a blowjob?

"You sure I'll get it up again?" Hooch grinned. "You could always help it along by tying me up."

"That an offer?" Jean pushed Hooch back with a hand against his chest, wasn't sure the kissing would be welcome now, so he pushed the legs apart and got between them, placed bites along the stomach, a sixpack that moved with Hooch's breaths. Living, tanned flesh, male, powerful, some black hair, except for his shaved balls, which again emphasized that this body was male. Vadim always appeared too chiselled in all that hairless beauty, the effect of the marble statue was likely on purpose. Hooch was a man of flesh and blood. Reserved, but willing enough when it came to straightforward sex. Less tenderness than with Frederic, who was a cuddler and touching him meant a lot more.

Hooch's voice had turned a notch huskier. "You dare take it up?"

Jean grinned. "Yeah. I'd offer you wrestling for it, but winning is not what you want." Spoken against Hooch's skin, then emphasized with a sharp bite. "Is it?"

Hooch let out a dry huff of laughter. "You got it." He lifted his arms in front of him, crossed his wrists and raised his brows with a challenging smirk.

Jean got off the bed and grabbed cuffs he'd kept in his suitcase. He was long past caring what security people at airports thought of him and his sex life, if he'd ever cared. They were nice, smooth metal cuffs, rounded to not cause damage to the skin, but not padded. Clicking them around those strong wrists turned him on more - the challenge, too.

A challenge that was turned up a few degrees with Hooch's growing, impetuous grin. "And now?" Rattling the cuffs for effect, before raising his arms over his head. He stretched out, until every muscle, sinew and line in his body stood out, pronounced, before slowly, provocatively, letting one knee fall open, bent.

Jean thought that that was a good look on any human being, male or female. "Make sure you won't get in the way…" he murmured, stretching out on top of Hooch. Jean brushed Hooch's face with his stomach as he stretched to tie the cuffs to the bed frame.

"Any more toys in that suitcase of yours? Or don't they come in man-size?"

Jean grinned, amused that Hooch was fooled by the obvious, the outside. "Plenty more." He checked the knot at the frame, moved so his cock brushed Hooch's face, who moved his head to follow and lick, which made Jean harder. Very different game now; no way he could be as nasty as Vadim, but Hooch clearly wanted more than vanilla. How far could he go? Especially with a guy who needed the extreme from somebody like Vadim. He stood up, found the nipple clamps, and put them on Hooch, carefully positioning the little teeth, readjusting them on the nipple, which was painful.

Almost no reaction, just an increased concentration in Hooch's face, as if the pain made him focus. He made no sound, cocked his brows, but a new timbre in his voice gave him away. "Not bad for a start."

Jean grinned at him. "I'll fuck you," he murmured against Hooch's chest, glanced up, a mischievous, dark glance, then his teeth pulled on the left nipple clamp, twisting and turning. His weight on his left arm, the right hand went down to Hooch's cock, his balls, squeezing them in his hand, rolling and twisting with the motion from his teeth. Getting reactions out of the man turned into a bit of an ambition for him, but Hooch wasn't cooperative.

Hooch's body reacted, and his breath quickened with every bite and each jolt of discomfort. His reactions were involuntarily, but what he could control he did, except for the cock that hardened, the breath that had its own mind, and his voice, which betrayed the rest of his body. "What if I don't let you fuck me?"

"I'd do my best to convince you." Jean turned to the other nipple, licking the clamp, brushing it, the playful motions rather different at Hooch's end, tip of his tongue toying with the metal while he was on top, his cock brushing Hooch's stomach and hip. "I might fuck you the way you like it best … hard and fast, or slow … I can give you pain there, too. You want it to hurt, right? I can fuck you that it hurts. I can make it burn for you."

"Yeah." Hooch's voice was forced now. "Make it hurt. As much as you can." He was fully hard, moving into the painful bites and touches, instead of away.

Jean felt his guts tighten at that voice. Make it hurt. He wasn't Vadim, shit, hurting people was natural for Vadim, while he was always playful about it, but the bottom called the shots, and Hooch was the type to call a bluff when he saw it. "Turn," Jean murmured, voice coarse, as he moved away enough for Hooch to roll over onto his stomach, which he did, with surprising compliance. Added bonus would be friction of the mattress against the nipple clamps when he'd fuck him.

Hooch opened his legs straight away, no preliminaries with that man. He raised his ass as much as he could with those legs wide open. Jean pushed a pillow under Hooch's hips, improving the angle by a few crucial degrees. The back, the V-shape of excellent lats, landscape of muscle. Jean was short of breath - different now that the eye contact was broken, Hooch could have been another man, any man. That made it easier in a way. He spit in his hand. He'd promised pain. He rubbed the saliva over Hooch's opening; he'd need more, but he forced two fingers in, causing Hooch's body first to tense, then push back against and into the fingers, while Jean allowed more spit to run between them, opening the muscle a little bit. Extra-strong condom from the nightstand, he tore it open between teeth and free hand, then rolled it down. More spit, while Hooch relaxed for a moment, before his body tensed once more, as if he deliberately made it more difficult for himself. Bracing and at the same time contracting his muscles, making the onslaught truly hard.

Jean groaned, shifted weight, got on top, knew he'd need his weight in addition to his strength to really fuck this guy. Pulling the cheeks apart, smooth, slick muscle, breaching him was one part violence for every part lust. The tightness almost hurt him, it took a lot of concentration to not slip and hurt himself, but he used his fingers to force, to find the angle and a way in, and finally he got a reaction. A sound, suppressed, clearly involuntary. A sound between a groan, whimper, cry, everything and anything; a sound that spoke of pain and lust and the ultimate satisfaction of giving into the need, no matter how dark it was.

Hooch's fingers curled around the rope that tied the handcuffs to the bed post, and pushed back, trying to force more of that cock and the pain into his body. Breath coming ragged and noisy now, he didn't have that under control, didn't want to, even. Jean gave him what he so clearly wanted, pushed in, deeper, the spit just barely enough to allow this to happen, groaning in turn. Force. Male bodies were capable of so much force, withstanding it, containing it, unleashing that strength and focus - against each other. Jean was covered in sweat when he was finally inside, breathing hard, and soaking up the other's sweat, the sounds, the breaths, that need. He pulled back, began to thrust, hard, slow thrusts, the tightness too much to simply speed up - he'd last longer like this, too.

The sounds that Hooch were making became more urgent, and yet they remained suppressed, as if he fought against them, but they forced their way out nevertheless. Moving against and into each thrust, while deliberately rubbing his chest and the nipple clamps over the bedding, he was as much demanding as he was taking, even though he did not speak a word, did not ask, nor beg, and certainly not demand - not in words. And Jean sped up with those thrusts, inflicting pain on top of that pleasure, following his instincts, then came, surprisingly hard and sudden, biting into muscles and burrowed deep inside, panting against the sweaty skin.

Hooch kept moving into the final, erratic thrusts, towards the bites, then slowed more and more, until he suddenly lay still, completely unmoving, legs wide, arms stretched, whole body tense and still. His breathing remained wild and ragged, noisy against the rumpled bed sheets. Jean remained there for a few seconds, too dazed to move, then finally pulled back, holding the condom as he pulled out to not spill anything, and got rid of it, then lay down on the mattress, right next to Hooch, who still didn't move. Didn't say anything either, but the tension in his body, the way his breath had not calmed, it was obvious he was waiting or expecting. Something, something he did not ask for.

Jean's hand roamed across the back, to the ass, stroking, kneading. "Turn around," he murmured and when Hooch did, Jean moved to take the cock between his lips. The taste of precum, he'd promised a blowjob, and the cock seemed filled to bursting with blood. He licked the hot tip, searing hot, left it, blew cold air on it, then licked across it.

Hooch shuddered, a sharp intake of breath, before he murmured, hoarse "hurt me." Finally asking.

Jean reached up, saw how sore the nipples looked, and twisted them with the clamps, while he took the cock between his lips, sucking in time with the movements of his hand.

That was it, enough after a short moment to make Hooch arch up, tense so hard, every muscle stood out as if sculpted from solid bronze, and the sound he made when he came was full of need, before he managed to swallow it, because it gave more away of his self, than anything he'd done or said or would allow Jean to see. He fell back onto the bed, breathing hard, eyes half closed, still never fully.

Jean forced himself to swallow the moment he came, mouth suddenly filled with the stuff. He didn't particularly like that, but he did, sucking the cock for several long moments after Hooch had come. Frederic didn't like that, he didn't like to be touched just after climax, too sensitive, but Hooch clearly relished it. Every guy was different. Jean let go of the cock and crawled forward on the bed, lay there, near Hooch, just brushing the body, hardly a touch.

Hooch was silent for a long time, breathing into the come-down, until he finally shifted slightly and turned his head. His facial expression was back to exactly what it had always been: the somewhat ironic half grin and the mocking cocked brow. "Not bad all the way through to the end, either." His voice was still husky.

Jean thought he liked him better when he was needy. "That will hurt more," he murmured and reached for the first clamp, opening up and taking it off, and it did cause Hooch to take in a hissing breath. Then the other one, which caused the same reaction, before he reached up to untie Hooch's wrists. "You okay now?"

"Yeah, I'm good." Hooch rubbed his wrists, which were red circled by the steel. "How long before dinner?"

Jean checked the watch on his wrist. "Two hours. Enough for a snooze and a shower."

"Give it one, I need to get back." Hooch stretched slowly, then got up to sit. Nothing in his movements showed that he might be sore, which he had to be.

Jean just watched, lazy and sated, on the verge of drifting off to sleep. "Your shower, if you want it," he murmured, pulling the pillow closer and resting on top of the tousled covers, allowing the sweat to cool, breathing deeply, and then his eyes closed and he drifted off to sleep, discounting all danger that might come from Hooch, trusting him implicitly.

Hooch watched him a moment, then got up and into the bathroom. When he returned, freshly showered, Jean was asleep. He lay down beside the man. He could do with a quick kip himself.

When he woke again, more than an hour had passed, and Jean had turned in his sleep. He had turned away, his back touching, Jean's face pressed into the pillow, arms crossed in front of him.

Hooch touched Jean's shoulder once, then got off the bed to dress and leave the room quietly.

* * *

When he got to his own room, he could hear water running in the bathroom, and soon Matt stepped out.

"Where have you been?" Matt grinned while drying his face, freshly shaved, standing in just his briefs in the doorway. "Had hoped for a quickie after the gym."

Hooch didn't say anything, just walked closer, until he stood close enough that he could lean against the doorframe, almost touching Matt. So close, that Matt couldn't miss the scent of Jean's shower gel that clung to Hooch's body.

"You fucked." Matt stated promptly. Throwing the towel over the edge of the bathtub, before crossing his arms in front of his chest.

Hooch nodded and quirked a brow and one corner of his lips. When he reached for the buttons of his shirt he could feel Matt's gaze on the bruises around his wrists.

"Vadim?"

"No." Hooch unbuttoned the shirt and opened it, revealing the sore and swollen nipples.

"No?"

"Jean."

Unspoken between them after all those years, that if Matt was going to have to force each bit of information out of Hooch, there'd be shit, and Hooch liked being in shit, just that little bit too much.

"Jean?" Matt repeated with disbelief, then pulled himself up to his full height and breadth, which was impressive. "You're a slut, Hooch."

The surprise was evident in Hooch's face. This was a new angle to Matt's tack, and he might have been amused, but he liked that new side in his long-term partner more, than it amused him. "Am I?"

"Yeah, you are. I bet you're fucking sore now, right?"

Hooch nodded, shrugged, and slipped the shirt off his shoulders and onto the ground. Hands on the buttons of his black jeans.

"Good, because I'm going to fuck you now, Hooch, and I don't give a shit that we'll be late, and I give even less of a fuck that you'll hurt like a bleeding motherfucker, and I sure as hell am not going to try and make you cum again, because I'm just going to fuck you as hard as I can and get off. That's what you want, isn't it? You want to be torn apart and you want to be made to scream, but I won't let you."

Hooch stared at Matt with open surprise. Damn, that man was getting better with age. When he'd snapped up the baby Jarhead, he'd been one lucky bastard.

He said nothing else, just opened his trousers, toed off his shoes and socks, and stepped out of the jeans. He still said nothing when he went across the room and towards the elegant dresser, to bend over it. Silent, still, as he lowered his chest, spread his legs wide and reached behind to spread his buttocks apart, like the slut he'd been accused of to be, opening wide and presenting his sore arse. And fuck, was that a damn good feeling.

Hooch didn't make a sound when Matt forced the briefs he'd been wearing between his teeth and pushed them into his mouth, and when Hooch finally screamed into the gag, at the entirely reckless onslaught of brutal, unbridled strength, when Matt fucked him, just as he'd promised, the hand over his mouth helped to muffle the sounds further.

It blew Hooch's mind, if not his already too sated body, and the pain was exquisite, as was the knowledge that this, bareback and trusting, was his lover, who was giving him all the pain he could have wanted. He really was a goddamned lucky motherfucker.

* * *

During dinner, Jean was silent, almost sluggish, but that hardly registered as they sat together around the table. Matt, Hooch, who sat stiffly throughout, the Baroness and Dan and Vadim. The conversation flowed much easier than Vadim had expected. The Baroness had it down to an art form to talk to such different people. Much later, after courses and courses of food, Vadim and Dan moved into the suite proper - both impressed with the splendour and elegance there, and that night, Vadim couldn't help the thought that it was just one night now, and the one after that they'd be married - or at least a legal couple.

Something he mentioned to Dan, who for once didn't quip nor laugh, and just smiled at Vadim and held him tighter. Perhaps awed by the extravagance of the their lodgings, or maybe just, for once, quietened by the magnitude of what they were going to do and what that actually meant for their lives. Even though their lives themselves wouldn't change, it meant that despite their past, they were two men who had gained everything anyone could wish for: love, trust, friends, family, children even, financial comfort and good health - bones and joints didn't count, Dan always said.

* * *

The next day guests began to arrive - guys from the Spa and relatively recent additions to their circle of friends. Dr Williams arrived by train, and with Waverley station being literally next door to the Balmoral hotel, he was warmly welcomed by his old friend the Baroness, and of course by Vadim, and even by Dan. Dr William joined them for a late breakfast, and then, one by one, more people arrived. The American guys Dan had rescued, who came with their partners and wives, and who were all much impressed with the city and what they'd seen so far, and keen to explore with one of the double-decker sightseeing buses. Seeing Chris again, the injured crew member, was a moment for Dan that was more emotional than he'd have ever thought, when the lad - no lad anymore - pulled him into a bear hug.

Markus and Dima arrived around lunchtime. They were still very much in love and made a handsome, comfortable couple, joking with Dan and Vadim for a while, before they hooked up with Hooch and Matt. The latter enthusiastically welcomed them, glad to meet the man who had got some information to him during Hooch's captivity. When the Glaswegian couple arrived, still together after all these years, they ended up in the company of an Austrian, a Russian, two Americans, while fitting in without the slightest hitch.

Almost at the same time, the whole family Krasnorada arrived. It was Kisa who hollered Dan's name through the hallowed halls of the posh hotel, not giving a damn for appropriate behaviour, as she threw herself into a hug, almost toppling Dan over, who managed to keep hold of his cane in the last moment. He was laughing, then admiring the kid who was still classified a kid because of her age, but she was a tall, dark haired, deadly good looking youngster, for all he knew. Katya clearly called the shots, though, keeping Anoushka in line, who had arrived with a heavily pregnant woman - her girlfriend, Nikolai said, by way of explanation. That woman was Polish, a pale beauty who seemed more silent and composed than Anoushka, or Anya, as she was referred to nowadays. Anya had become a respected surgeon, and, she said wryly, with that undercurrent of steel that was so typical of the Krasnoradas, she was about to become a 'dad'. Vadim spotted the hidden edge in that, something like an accusation, but he congratulated her and sincerely hoped she'd do a better job than he had.

Dan, too, congratulated both of them, and held Anya's hand for a moment too long, while intently studying the face, remembering the teenager he had once met. He got a hug from Nikolai, and Kisa hardly left him time and space to talk to anyone else, until Dan's side of the family arrived. All of them still lived in Scotland, except for the youngest nephew, who had settled for now in London to make a career in - most uncharacteristically for all of the McFadyens - fruitless fine arts, as Duncan called it with a grin, while still making sure that his son was supported best he could to fulfil his dreams. Duncan and Mhairi, nephews, wives, girlfriends, babies. Both grooms' families - with Kisa being the combining factor, were soon settled around several large tables, pushed together in the Brasserie.

In the afternoon, Beauvais arrived, wearing the uniform of a French army officer. He'd brought a younger man with him, who might or might not be his lover, but was certainly a soldier himself, dressed in the tenue de sortie of a legionnaire. George arrived, gorgeous and red-haired, as bland as he was English, and then Vadim spied a blond man he faintly remembered, but wasn't sure whether that guy was his or Dan's acquaintance. He touched Dan with an elbow. "Any idea who he is?"

"No, best we find out, aye?"

They walked up to the man, who smiled at them, somewhat bewildered by the setting.

"Vadim Krasnorada?" the man asked, in English. "I'm Manke."

Vadim smiled, touched to meet the man again, and he stepped up and offered a hand. "I'm glad you came. After all those years."

"Not too long, you've become a bit of a local legend … the homeless Russian who forgot who he was."

"I remember now. Manke, this is Dan, my partner."

"Manke?" Dan's face lit up and he quickly shuffled the cane into his left hand, holding his right out. "So glad to meet you at last. You are definitely a private legend as well, because without you, I don't think Vadim would have found out of the darkness."

Manke glanced quickly at Vadim, then at Dan. "It's weird, all those years, every now and then I wondered what had happened to you. But there you are, healthy and about to get married." Manke smiled, brightly, clearly and strangely happy for them both.

"It was a bumpy road." Dan smiled.

"It wasn't easy to get him to talk," Manke said to Dan. "It was my luck he had been famous, otherwise I'd never have worked out who he was."

"There you hear it," Dan laughed, giving Vadim a nudge, "you were famous. By the way, did you come on your own?"

"Yes. I … years later I married, but my wife died five years ago."

"I am sorry." Dan smiled warmly, he didn't know the man, but without him things would be very different. "I hope you will enjoy the party."

Which answered a question, Vadim thought, remembering that strange attraction for the cop, back then. An attraction buried so deep that he was hardly aware of it. "Come on in," Vadim offered. "Meet the rest."

Manke had moved through into the Brasserie, and was welcomed into the ever growing group inside, when a man walked up the steps. Shaved hair grey and distinguished, body ostensibly fit and wiry, and wearing stylish glasses. "Maurice." Dan pointed out, grinning. He hadn't seen the man for years, and the French surgeon was everything Dan remembered him to be: still a knockout, still fit. It all depended on if he had calmed down his habits a bit. Dan turned his head to murmur to Vadim, before Maurice spotted them, "I have plans for him ..."

"Plans? Tell me it has nothing to do with stag nights or honey moons…"

"We're too old for hat shit." Dan laughed, "but did you see George arrive with anyone? Huh?"

"George? You planning to bore that French doctor to tears, are you? Apart from that, French and English … that's not supposed to work."

"You wait and see. George is pretty and sophisticated and Maurice must have fucked more men and women in his life, than we have soldiers in the Army. You never know, he might be ready for retirement." He flashed his teeth in a sharp grin, then turned his attention to Maurice, who had spotted them.

"A hundred quid it's not working out," Vadim murmured, then followed to greet Maurice as well, before finding Dima to alert him to Maurice's presence.

There was much greeting, laughing, shaking hands and patting shoulders, and both Dan and Vadim made sure that Maurice was welcomed in by the crowd, that had taken George and Manke under their wings.

While Vadim was occupied for a moment, Dan spotted Beauvais fairly alone in a corner, looking as stiff and officious and as goddamned attractive in his uniform, as ever. Age, like for so many of those men around them, had been good to him, but then all of them were working with the years, not against them, keeping as physically fit as possible.

Dan decided to exchange a few words before Jean returned, who'd left for a short while to pick up his wife from the airport. "Good to see you." Dan smiled as an offering.

Beauvais gave him a nod and something that might become a smile if he relaxed more. "And you. You are making it real. Marriage." He stepped a bit closer.

"Aye." Dan kept his vice quiet for privacy. "Who would have thought, aye? Looks like we're respectable now, guess we're simply too old to be disgraceful." He smiled, then glanced around, but he couldn't spot the young man that Beauvais had come with. "You? Are you faring well? I saw you didn't come on your own."

"Yes. It's illegal and dangerous." Beauvais gave the smallest shrug. "He's part of my staff. It's a secret, we don't usually appear together in public, but we are en route to a NATO manoeuvre, so there is an excuse."

"For how long have you been together?"

"Getting to our second year."

"That is good to hear, I am glad." Dan nodded. "Hooch is here as well, Vadim's best man. He'll be attending the ceremony in uniform. He is here with his partner. I trust all our guests, even if you should ever slip in public, but somehow I don't think you will."

Beauvais shook his head. "I can't and I won't. We can't make it official, not like you." His brow was dark, maybe with control, discipline. "Times don't change that much in the Legion. He's a legionnaire, I'd be dishonourably discharged, and he … no."

"Of course not, as far as I know that would be the end of both your careers. But perhaps, one day. How much longer before your retirement?" Dan saw the young legionnaire come towards them in the corner of his eyes.

"Not just yet." Beauvais didn't seem willing to discuss that - as if denying age stopped making it happen. The young man came to a halt in what seemed respectful distance, just as stiff as Beauvais, impeccably dressed in his uniform, and he looked as if he was about to salute his superior.

Beauvais looked at him, then at Dan. "St John, that is Dan McFadyen, Dan, this is Martin St John, one quarter American, one quarter French, half-Vietnamese, which makes him appreciate cars, good food and a good ambush."

"And good men." Dan murmured very, very quietly, for no one else to hear other than them. He smiled and nodded to the young man, who couldn't be any older than perhaps twenty-four or twenty-five. A good looking man, no doubt, but not conventionally attractive. He held out his hand. "I am glad you could make it, and I hope you will enjoy your stay. We have American serving military here, one of them, a Delta officer, is Vadim's best man, and we have a lot of ex-special forces. I think you might find the company easy to be with. They are good guys."

St John took the hand and shook it. "Thank you," he said curtly. "It is an honour to be here." The way he said it sounded as if he meant it. "All this is certainly an inspiration."

Dan tilted his head and scrutinised the young man for a moment. The 'inspiration' was quite ambiguous, and he liked that. He could also see how the lad had as much of a rod up his arse as Beauvais had. "Well, who knows." Just as ambiguous, before he stepped to the side. "Would you like to have a word with Hooch and Matt? They are in the Balmoral bar."

St John exchanged glances with Beauvais, who nodded. Subtle, fast, just flickers of movement, a well-honed team, communication between them was easy and natural. "I will find them." St John moved towards the bar, to ask around who the men were he was supposed to have a chat with.

Beauvais' glance followed him - and his glance did rest on the young man's legs and arse, then returned to Dan. "Officer material."

"Aye." Dan gestured towards the door. "Care to join me while I continue with my vice? I need a fag." He made his way outside, then leaned the cane against the massive doorframe, then himself. It was cold and quiet out there, out of the way of the tourists. "I am curious, where the hell did you find him? He seems quite remarkable."

"He found me." Beauvais watched him, a wry expression on his face. "It was a bar, I was looking for company, and was just getting to an interesting part with a local, when he spotted me. I recognized him, too." Beauvais' eyes showed an echo of the mortification he must have felt. "He vanished, I went to the darkroom. Somebody in there touched my head, then kissed me. That man had a shaved head as well. He … fucked me, there, told me to meet him if I wanted, and I did, so we …" Beauvais breathed, "got started. I was determined to end it after R&R, but St John had nothing of that."

"He is a remarkable young man, in that case, but you know that, or you would have never accepted that offer, aye?" Dan lit his cigarette, inhaling the smoke with relish. It must have been a damn good first fuck, he thought, but for once he didn't say it out loud. "You are taking great risks, both of you are. If you tell me now that he's just a good source for sex, then I tell you that I don't believe you."

"It's a compromise between what we are and what we feel." Beauvais' brow was dark, determined. "I don't care about the risk for myself. I will not risk his career, nor would he risk mine. We're bound by that."

Dan nodded. "Love's a funny thing, aye?" Leaving the remark at that, he exhaled thoughtfully. "You've been managing so far, and eventually, you'll be in an easier situation. One way or the other. Look at us, twenty-five years, and the first fifteen were insanely difficult. And now?" he gestured behind him, "need I say anything?"

"No." Beauvais nodded. "There are always solutions. It would be more difficult doing this alone. I'm working to get him to realize his full potential. Actually … care for a man. Different to how I used to do it. He will be a fine officer."

"Good luck to you two." Dan nodded, "I mean it." Stubbing the cigarette out in the sand bin. "Really do."

Beauvais gave the hint of a smile. "Thank you for making me aware of this," he said, voice low, terribly controlled as he was. "Facing it turned out easier than expected."

Dan smiled and reached for Beauvais. Only touching his shoulder, he gave it a squeeze, where he would have kissed or embraced any other man. "I wish you and your partner as much love as I found."

Beauvais nodded. "We're not there yet, but it was a good start." Not pulling away was, for Beauvais, as much of an affectionate gesture as he could allow himself in the uniform.

"He certainly is remarkable." Dan let go of the shoulder, dark eyes warm. "While your age gap is quite remarkable, I somehow think there is far less of a gap between you than seems on the outside."

There was a strange flash in Beauvais' eyes, showing that, yes, that thought had crossed his mind. "What are thirty years between friends," he said, voice taut. "When the time comes, I will let him go without losing my pride," he said, staring into the distance.

"You will never lose your pride, Beauvais. That is one thing I am sure of. You are what, around fifty? And he is what, mid twenties? That's just a silver anniversary between you, not thirty years." Dan made light of the fact, but he reached out once more, touching the uniformed arm for a brief moment.

Beauvais pressed his lips together, jaw muscles tensed under the meticulously clean-shaven skin. With a small, rapid movement of his head, he met Dan's gaze again.

"Just take what you can get." Dan said. "It will last as long as it does, and let's face it, love can tear down the most remarkable hurdles. Vadim and I are proof of that. You never know what happens." Not making promises, accepting the facts and the likely outcomes, but he did believe that there was never a certainty when love was involved.

"Yes, an inspirational example if there ever was one," Beauvais said. "You and Vadim. Matt and Hooch. Even those mixed civilian military couples, everybody finds their way to live. But legislation and tradition what they are, we have to exist in the spaces that others leave us. Servants of the civilian order, we don't have their rights or liberties. They expect us to lay down our lives and live like dogs, but we may not do things they do with impunity or they will destroy our careers and lives. It's still worth it. I'm more than what I do in bed," he said, the small speech brought forth like he was reporting to a commission, calm, every syllable carefully pronounced, the only emotion in the choice of words.

"I know." Dan nodded. Legislation, rules, and most of all what made a person. He'd learned it the hard way. "You are not what your needs are, they can even be suppressed, but at the same time, your sexuality is a defining part of you, of the man, not the soldier. It does seem to me that the man has found a way to exist within the confines of the soldier."

"I have merely let go of my anger and accepted my place." Beauvais' lips quirked with a hint of irony. "Time will tell whether I will be the last generation that has to play the game like that, or St John's generation, or the men coming after him. We merely have to be stronger than our peers. And at that, a real Legionnaire excels."

Dan nodded again, slowly this time. "Don't forget that when I joined up, and even when I left the SAS, it was still illegal to be homosexual in the British Forces. I would have been discharged without a second thought, no matter how good a soldier I was. And now? Not only has Britain become all inclusive, we can even marry now. Would you have believed that if anyone had told you, even less than ten years ago? I wouldn't. The legion might still be the most traditional military force of the whole lot, but as I said, you never know." He half-turned towards the doorway, picking up his cane. "You are strong, especially if you are given the opportunity to sometimes just be."

"We have our arrangements," Beauvais said, with the hint of a smile, then opened the door for Dan. The way his gaze swept the room when they returned was not mistrustful, merely to locate the other man and seek his gaze, and St John, who stood in a group with Hooch and Matt must have a seventh sense for Beauvais, because he nodded to the Americans and half-turned to look at his superior. Dan was certain he saw the ghost of a smile in the young man's face, before Beauvais joined the group, standing near St John, but at a distance that was perfectly acceptable between soldiers. Nothing even hinted at their relationship.

Dan took a look around himself and spotted Vadim talking to his family, which made him smile even more. He then he joined the group of ex and current soldiers. Even Matt wasn't touching Hooch, not in public, and Hooch, like Beauvais, stood close, closer perhaps than the other two, but there was nothing obvious. Certainly not in the eyes of the former crew of the American chopper and their families, who could return any time from their sightseeing.

Dan addressed the group. "Gentlemen, I thought I'd best mention to those who might not know yet, that free use of the hotel's luxury Spa and the gym are included in the festivities. Matt, I guess you've used it?"

Matt laughed and nodded. "Yeah, it's, like, as high class as the hotel. I was about to go for a couple hours before dinner, anyone care to join me? Was pretty much empty yesterday."

"Sure." Hooch shrugged, "could do with a workout."

"I would be quite partial to some exercise myself." St John's well chosen words were a surprise to Dan. The young man didn't sound like the usual crop of soldiers the legion conventionally recruited. St John half-turned to face Beauvais. "Sir?"

It was not asking to be allowed, but asking to join. Beauvais gave a curt nod. "I will see you there." The 'you' ambiguous, meaning the group or the man.

Beauvais moved away to head to reception to get directions and then to his single room, where he changed not into private sports kit, but into the legion's tenue de sport. White shorts, white vest with a broad yellow block stripe across the chest. Both skin-tight.

When he joined the gym, St John was already there, in the same outfit, listening to Dan who had just arrived and was asking him how he enjoyed the stay so far. The gym was otherwise deserted, despite the state of the arts kit and machinery. Dan wasn't the one who turned first to welcome Beauvais with a glance, it was St John again, who seemed to sense his superior before he was visible.

Beauvais gave him a glance, then took a moment to make himself familiar with one of the treadmills, placed the towel across the screen - he knew exactly how fast he ran, he didn't need a computer to tell him. Then he stepped to St John's side.

It was almost immediate, and altogether visible, how St John relaxed the moment Beauvais stepped to his side and they were alone with Dan. Dan, who grinned at them, thinking for all his control and all his masks, the legionnaire was still very young and when the mask slipped, he became entirely transparent. "Quite fetching, those outfits." The joke seemed to relax the young man a little more, and Dan realized that he had to trust him, because the young man smiled, for the first time since he'd arrived. Beauvais had probably told St John about himself and Vadim,. When Dan glanced at Beauvais, he knew what he saw in those almost black eyes. Hunger and something else. Bigger, deeper.

"I think so, too. On some." Beauvais commented.

It was clear who he meant, and only one. Dan noticed how the young man's hand twitched, as if he wanted to touch but couldn't or didn't dare to. Beauvais, in turn, relaxed more, rolling his neck and shoulders as if he were getting ready for exercise. "We are spending a lot of time improving our times on the triathlon," he said, off-handed. A good reason why they were spending time together, and a clear indication why Beauvais was as hard and fit as his age allowed. "St John could beat me, but he is too polite." He raised a hand and, once, touched the young man's shoulder, who smiled warmer, and who leaned a fraction into his superior's touch.

Dan craned his head towards the doorway for a moment, then cleared his throat. "You do realise that single rooms side by side were booked for you?"

"We will make good use of the facilities," Beauvais said.

That was when Dan saw St John, for one moment, relax completely, letting go of any and all guards. He touched the small of Beauvais's back, hand resting there, leaning down, to steal a kiss onto the side of his face, while smiling brightly, which entirely transformed the whole man. Beauvais didn't change as much, just smiled, which was shocking enough for him. But then there was a sound outside, and immediately, without hesitation, St John straightened back up, the mask slipped on, his dark eyes shielded, and he stood perfectly respectable and ramrod straight.

Dan recognised Matt's voice and smiled. "I shall leave you now, as much as I could do with some exercise, I have to take care of our guests. Especially my daughter." Turning towards the two Americans who stepped into the gym, he grinned at them, then back at the legionnaires, "it's only Matt and Hooch ..." Leaving the comment in the room, he re-gripped his cane and made his way out of the gym and back into the hotel.

Beauvais turned to face the Americans, shoulders squared, but not hostile. "Our American friends," he said in French, again with a double edge, hinting at deeper meanings, the days he'd spent understanding how he could be himself without destroying something that was also him. St John nodded, and the mask of his face relaxed a little, but only a fraction. Following Beauvais' lead to the letter.

"Good to see you again." Hooch started the conversation, a rare occurrence. "It's been a while." He stretched his hand out to Beauvais, while Matt smiled and nodded.

Beauvais took the hand, nodded to Hooch. "I heard your lives have changed quite a bit in the meantime, but seems you are faring well. You met St John." Indicating the younger man.

"Yes, to both accounts. Matt left the Marines and I'm commissioned now, have taken over a training wing in Fort Bragg after a ... mishap with enemy forces in some years ago." Hooch gave the slightest indication of a wry smile. "We're doing well, or rather, Matt is the one who is making all the money."

Matt laughed. "The gym turned out to be a success." Focusing on the young man, a mere ten years or so younger than himself. "Since we seem to be at the lucky end of the aging scale, up for a round through the machines against me?" Adding, "but leave out the treadmill, I'd lose against a legionnaire."

"You?" Hooch commented, one brow raised.

"Yeah. Even I." Matt grinned.

"I wouldn't mind." There was something immediately eager and competitive in St John, an edge that seemed razor sharp.

"Hoo-rah!" Matt slapped St John on the shoulder, all buddy-like, and St John hardly flinched. "Let's get started with the weights, then."

Beauvais watched the younger men get on the weights, shifting his stance to stand closer to Hooch. "You had the mind to be commissioned," he said. "And to train young men." Which was his way of saying 'it suits you' and 'they couldn't have found a better one'. "I managed to follow your advice, eventually. The hard way, but I learnt."

Hooch stepped onto the treadmill beside Beauvais'. "Getting out of the operating theatre and taking over the training wing wasn't merely a decision I made. I was more or less forced to do it. Physically, after a broken pelvis, and mentally. I had become too human after the ... mishap." He began to walk on the treadmill, towel around his neck, checking the setting. He had to take his time to warm up, or his pelvis would give him grief.

Beauvais started the machine as well, going for a slow, but steep setting for the warm-up, merely accepting what Hooch had said. Taking it at face value, no pity, no questioning of a foregone conclusion. Hooch clearly not only appreciated it, but had anticipated the reaction, or he wouldn't have admitted to the real reasons instead of the usual career-move smokescreen.

"St John is your lover, I assume?" Hooch asked, as straightforward as ever.

"He is." Beauvais reduced the angle and sped up, now moving at an easy trot. "Part of my staff, we outed each other in a local bar. The haircut." And the built, and the discipline. The place hadn't been seedy enough to reduce men to just shapes.

Hoch remained in a fast walk with long strides, rolling his shoulders to ease his neck. "Local? Gay place I presume? That was courageous." He added, with a quirk of his lips, "or presumptuous."

"A bit of both. It was on R&R, but in the area. Best part about being the highest-ranking legionnaire in the region is that I had less to fear than he had."

"Is that so? In our military the superior would get dragged in front of a tribunal, for misuse of their position." Hooch let out a dry huff, lacking any humour. "If only they knew what position the superiors might want to get themselves into."

Beauvais glanced at him, but was clearly amused. "That position can't be abused," he conceded, playing upon a private joke. "He had no business being there, either. I'd have pulled rank if he'd attempted anything. There are very interesting postings for legionnaires. Very interesting."

Hooch nodded, speeding up the treadmill, but when he started jogging he grimaced. He was still sore, worse than anticipated, and he turned the treadmill back down again. Muttering something under his breath, before he caught a glance from Matt in the mirror, who was spotting St John in a shoulder press. Hooch gave a rueful smile to Matt, then commented to Beauvais. "I was too reckless yesterday. No running for me."

Beauvais cleared his throat. "I'll join you in twenty minutes."

Hooch nodded again, not offering another comment, then hit the stop button and got off the treadmill, walking over to the free weights section instead. He settled in, working on shoulders, biceps, triceps and chest, while watching the two younger men piling on the weights, continuously fighting to outdo each other.

Beauvais brought the speed up, his strides lengthened, moving faster, then found his best speed, and went for it, breathing deeply and controlled. He began to sweat after a few minutes, focused on a point far beyond the walls of the hotel, somewhere only he could see, and a place where he was by himself, just he and his body, the systems that kept him going. The pounding of blood and pulse, the second rhythm of breath, the third rhythm of his feet on the treadmill. When the twenty minutes were up, he was pumped up and sweaty, veins visible at his temples and more so at his hands. He wiped his face with his towel and watched how St John stood over Matt's weights, ready to take the bar off him if Matt lost his strength midway through a chest press.

He didn't though, but he almost got to failure. When Matt got the barbell back into the rack, he demanded that St John should put on five kilos more. He was going to widen the margin, even if it killed him.

When he sat up, he was sweaty, every vein visible along the arms, wrists, hands, pulsing in his neck and into his chest. He took the shirt off, used it as a towel, wiping the sweat off his hands and neck. Deliberate or not, it did cause Hooch to glance across and admire that body. He always would and it always made Matt grin. Beauvais' eyes lingered, too, but then returned to St John, whose muscled form was beautifully outlined by the sports kit. Beauvais walked over to Hooch's position, then selected for himself a bar and weights, stretching the hips before he prepared for deadlifts.

"Wouldn't have thought you could ruin your running like that," he said, after the thought had settled in that Hooch might have taken on too much. Ten years ago, Hooch hadn't seemed like a man who would.

Hooch wiped his hands on his shorts, taking his eyes off Matt, who was sitting back in position concentrating before another rep. Hooch glanced across at Beauvais, taking his time to assess and decide, finally conceding. He'd given an opening earlier, if the man was willing to take him up on it now, he wasn't going to rescind the offer. "I've ruined a lot more at times, than a quick run. Just not with Matt."

"Out of recklessness or ignoring things?"

"Neither. Out of need."

Beauvais found the tableau of the two men riveting, the hiss-groan of Matt lifting the weights, and St John, steady and strong, ready to help and take the weight instead. Very distracting. "You have also given a lot of help."

"I could have given more, had I allowed you to see deeper." Hooch's gaze was drawn to the way Matt's arms started to tremble, the sounds he made as he tried the last rep, the determined struggle, and the inevitable failure. The barbell was safely caught and put back into its rack by St John. "He sounds very much like he does when he comes." Hooch commented quietly.

Beauvais shuddered. An off-handed comment from Hooch could affect him deeper than far more explicit material. "I was struggling too much, and I wasn't done," he said, quietly. "That was why I didn't stay closer in touch."

"Would you now?" Hooch let his gaze rest on Beauvais, intense and without escape. "You are always welcome. Your lover, too. Does he already have his passport back? No one would know you in America."

"He has it." Beauvais met the gaze. "And I would." America, a country that was so large that people simply got lost in there, lost from the world, from other humans, from the constraints of smaller places.

"It's a deal, then. I leave you our contact details. You're always welcome. If I'm on a training course, Matt will be there. Unless we're on holiday, there's a gym in Fort Bragg, with a large flat above, a comfortable guest room that is 'mine' but never used, and staff that has been proven trustworthy for years, and who are used to 'don't ask, don't tell, and we have seen nor heard nothing'."

Beauvais nodded, then continued with the lifts, working legs, arms, back with every motion, precise and focused like a machine. It helped not thinking about the other men, kept him firmly grounded in his own body.

Hooch returned his focus for a while to the weights, before he sat up, watched the two younger men still outworking, outdoing, and outlifting each other, until he caught Matt's eye again, who was spotting for St John, doing straight triceps pulls. Hooch offered a ghost of a smile that he knew only Matt could read, then glanced at Beauvais, then at St John, who was working too hard to notice. Hooch finally gave a minuscule shake of his head with another fleeting grin.

Matt seemed to understand, because he flashed a grin and nodded, then concentrated on the man beneath him. Hooch heard him say soon after, once St John's last rep ended in failure, "I think I'm done in. Shall we call it quits?"

St John turned his head to look at Beauvais, who placed the weights back on its stand and came over to offer a hand. St John didn't need it to get up from the bench, but he took it nevertheless. "We wouldn't want to be too late for dinner," Beauvais said.

"Wise decision." Hoch stood up from his bench and rolled his shoulders again. He stepped beside Matt and put his arm around the younger man's bare shoulders. "There's only a couple of hours left. Taking a shower does take time ..." he deadpanned without a twitch of a muscle in his face, while Matt broke into a bright grin, wrapping his arm around Hooch's waist. Comfortable with each other.

"We'll see you later, buddies."

St John smiled once more and nodded, the young man hardly ever said a word, but when he turned, he allowed his hand to touch Beauvais, and with a fleeting but tender gesture, he placed it between the other's shoulder blades, until they reached the door. They went straight to Beauvais' hotel room. Beauvais was glad when the door was open, and then closed behind them. Decorum intact for another moment, before St John turned round and with one fluid motion, pulled the sports vest over his head and stepped closer, into Beauvais, pushing him against the door. He spoke in French, barely above a husky murmur. "Need you. Badly. So long." Stammered words, not even sentences.

Beauvais reached up, touching the other man's face was like burning himself, too intense after all that denial. The same room was too close with him, every step further was torture. Grabbing St John by the neck, the kiss made him gasp, burned all oxygen immediately from his blood, that was the reason why he was suddenly panting. Shaved neck, whisper of short hair, the fresh sweat, all that need coupled with youth and strength. "Yes," Beauvais said, in French as well, breaking the kiss just for that long.

St John didn't say anything else, as if all the words had been spoken that could possibly be said. He pulled on Beauvais' vest instead, tearing it off. There was nothing controlled about his movements, only demand, when he stepped back, pulled Beauvais with him, pushed, nearly forced him onto the bed. Beauvais resisted only enough to feel the strength and the need, heating his own blood more, being wanted like this, and St John passionate. He'd be rough, he knew that, which was what had attracted him from the start; where other men probed, insecure, St John simply did. He got on the bed, still sweaty from his own workout, managed to kick the shoes off before St John joined him there, after he'd somehow managed to get off his own shoes, socks, even pulled down the shorts and off.

When St John straddled Beauvais's legs, he was naked, taking hold of the waistband of Beauvais' white shorts and pulled them down in one swoop with both hands. He followed through, took the socks off on the way, until Beauvais was naked. St John mumbled something in French as he came back up, letting his hands roam all over the sweaty body laid out below him. Need, unbridled need, nothing was tender in those touches, it was groping, taking, grabbing of muscles and sinews. Open admiration for a body that belonged to a man who could be his father, but that he wanted so much.

Under those touches, Beauvais grew fully hard, reached in turn for the other's body, vibrating with the strength from the workout, the smell heady, male, fresh.

"Lube?"

"Bathroom." Beauvais hadn't expected it like that, had just arrived and put the bag with everything into the bathroom.

St John nodded, was off the bed and in the bathroom, where an almighty clatter was followed by a heartfelt "merde" and another grunt. He reappeared a moment later, lube in his hand, and was back on the bed, not straddling this time, but roughly pushing Beauvais' legs apart. Too needy for consideration, just the pure, visceral greed. Base instincts, pushing up Beauvais' legs with one arm, and his hand, slick with cool lube, found the cleft, the ring of muscle, the resistance that he breached the next moment.

Beauvais kept his legs up as St John pushed the fingers in a few times, rough, using enough lube to slick him up good. He rolled over while St John lubed up his own cock, then pushed himself up on all fours, slightly grimacing, too aware of his own need, the fact he offered, very nearly demanded to be taken like that. Movements replaced all words, they knew each other well, never mind the age gap, or, worse, the gap in rank. All pretence went out the window when they were alone, during sex. They both preferred these roles, Beauvais taking it, St John giving. Beauvais lowered his head, saw St John shift behind him, saw his own, hard cock expectant, and felt, rather than saw, how St John positioned himself. In one formidable, brutal thrust, he breached and entered, nearly taking Beauvais' balance with the onslaught, making him brace, bend deeper, shaking from the way the other man took him. Already. Perfect. So good he fought hard to not make a sound, because it would have been begging, and he couldn't, simply couldn't do that, not right now. Not yet.

St John groaned, his whole body suddenly trembling as he stilled, both hands on the narrow hips before him, two, three, panting breaths, before pulling out, almost completely. Knowing what Beauvais could take, as much as he needed, and the next thrust buried his cock deep into the offered body. Again, Beauvais hissed, teeth clenched, he opened his legs further, clenched his ass to feel as much as he could. The strength and resistance, the thrusts made his body tighten, ass, guts, throat, the next thrust stripped him off more control, and he groaned, pushing back, so desperate to get all that strength. "Yes. Please," he said in French, the last word choked when he received yet another thrust. God, please yes.

"Oui." St John answered. Only ever 'yes'. No negations, never, and he gave Beauvais everything he wanted, everything they both needed. Fucking the man with all the strength and need of his twenty-five years, with months and weeks of denial, he was soon dripping sweat onto the bared back, with its muscles coiling beneath smooth skin. He had the stamina to wait for Beauvais, not touching the man's cock, while groaning, cursing, growling under his breath. He knew Beauvais, had known the body long before he could have known it, had wanted it even longer. Knew the angle, the strength that was needed, the treatment and unbridled passion. Knew better than to reach for Beauvais' cock.

Beauvais in turn fought that damned pride, every groan got him further to his own brand of denial, denying that he was an officer, and so much older, and that it was improper, that they were both at risk and breaking every rule that was drilled into him. Denying he could lose this man, denying that he couldn't show what he felt for him … he could lose himself like this, losing that control, this kind of sex finally set him free. The unbalance in their lives matched by the unbalance in bed - true natures, true selves, as equal as they could never be because of it. Beauvais lost more and more of himself, slipped towards burning, excruciating need.

"Come for me. Come. Come ...." St John stammered, French words, thick accent right now, "can't hold back ... can't ..." senseless, breathless, and even though nearly impossible, St John still sped up, still increased the strength and violence of his thrusts and still had yet more power to unleash as he completely let loose and fucked Beauvais with utter abandon.

The climax was just as violent - Beauvais had been close. This tipped him over the edge, tensed every muscle while the pressure mounted and suddenly exploded, and he had to clench his teeth or he would have screamed. Beauvais felt the pulsing, the twitching, and the impossible relief wash through and over him, going weak for those moments, barely able to withstand the fierceness, when St John could finally let go of his own control and crashed over the edge, coming inside of him. I need you, Beauvais thought when thoughts returned. I need you like that, need you more than anything.

St John stayed in the position for a long while, breathing, his hands roaming over Beauvais' sweaty back. Gently this time, fingers slightly trembling. With exhaustion perhaps, or with the fulfilment, and while his cock eventually softened, he was still caressing, still touching. As if taking now what he couldn't have taken earlier, and what he could never have outside the confines of the locked room.

He carefully withdrew eventually and leaned down to place a kiss between Beauvais' shoulder blades, then slowly kissing along the spine, until he reached the small of the back. He lingered there for a long moment, before he left and went into the bathroom to clean himself up, soon returning with a wet washcloth. Smiling at Beauvais as he got back onto the bed and handed the washcloth over without a word.

Beauvais cleaned himself lazily, then left the washcloth and kissed St John, the kiss tender and strong, more emotional now than he'd been before the sex. Defences down, purified of all that steel, relishing the weakness alongside the exhaustion. Speaking, however, was a different matter. Talking about deeds, actions, practices was one thing, emotions were quite another. Fuck me was easier than love me.

But St John didn't speak either, not even outside of bed, unless he absolutely had to. Obeying an order, yes, Sir, came easy, but all other words were locked up inside of him. His emotions transmitted themselves through his touches, his smile. Open, warm, relaxed, and without the hint of a mask. Each kiss was tender, every touch said without words what he couldn't voice. Holding Beauvais close and being held. Now that the need was over, he finally could be once more what he was as well as being a legionnaire: a young man, in need of tenderness and reassurance.

Beauvais eventually rolled onto his back, and St John rested his head on his shoulder, one leg possessively thrown over Beauvais, while his arm rested across the chest, holding onto. He closed his eyes, drifting, being caressed and caressing. Beauvais' lips at his temple, and Beauvais relished the closeness and silence, and how they breathed together.

* * *

Down in the gym, Matt grinned and settled down on the bench, straddling it. "Well?"

"Well, what?" Hooch sat down, but carefully and he sure as hell didn't straddle the barely padded bench.

"You look like a man who is on the one hand quite pleased with the world, like, and on the other has got something to say."

Hooch chuckled dryly. "You know me too well, kid."

"Kid?" Matt laughed out loud, then scooted closer to rest his chin on Hooch's shoulder. "Thanks for the compliment, but a kid I ain't no more."

"No, you ain't." Hooch smiled back, reaching to touch the handsome, smiling face. "You're everything but."

"Is that another of your weird love declarations?"

"Could well be."

"Yeah, could well be, but is it?"

"What do you think, Donahue?" Hooch smiled and Matt lifted his head.

"I think that you do love me."

"As I said, you know me too well." Hooch leaned closer and placed an infinitely tender kiss on Matt's lips, whose smile grew.

"But that was not what you wanted to tell me, right?"

"It was, partly." Hooch twisted on the bench until he sat face to face, "seems to me these days that it's something that bears repeating." He let his arm rest on Matt's shoulder, who turned his head enough to place a kiss on that arm.

"And the other part is?"

"The stag night. Jean and I, as best men, are going to come up with something hopefully memorable for the two grooms, but I didn't want to leave you out of it. Don't want to take you for granted." Hooch smiled, more at Matt's touched expression and the open emotions, than anything else. In many ways Matt was still and would always be 'the kid', no matter how much of a man he'd become.

"I know you don't."

"Good, don't ever forget that."

Matt shook his head, then rubbed it along Hooch's arm. "I'm sorted for tonight. Martin and Gordon are taking me out. We'll get the train to Glasgow. They want to show me the gay scene, they said it's pretty thriving in Glasgow."

Hooch grinned. "You'll be a busy man tonight."

Matt chuckled. "Don't think you won't be either."

"Well ... that's true." Hooch's grin morphed into a warm smile. "There's something else, Jean offered me his wife, Solange. She's his slave, and he wants a threesome. Haven't had a woman for over ten years, but wouldn't mind having a go in a setting like that. Are you okay with me having sex with a woman?"

Matt broke into a huge grin. "A woman? Holy fuck, girl cooties!" He didn't mention the 'slave' thing, living with a man like Hooch had pretty much stopped him being surprised at anything. "No, I don't mind, no more than I'd mind other men, and you know that I don't mind them." Adding suddenly, "usually."

"Usually?" Hooch tilted his head, studying the face before him. Still no lines, no wrinkles, and so goddamned 'pretty', but if he told him that, Matt would verbally whop his ass again, and that would only make him laugh.

"Yeah, but I don't want to talk to you about that right now. It's nothing bad, like, just different."

"Different? You speak in riddles, Matt."

"I know." Matt grinned, "makes a change, eh?"

Hooch had to laugh, and when he trailed off he leaned his head forward, resting his forehead against Matt's. "You know what I want to do tomorrow night?"

"No?" Matt smiled, their faces so close, all each man could see was a blur.

"Just be with you. You and I, no one else, and then make love to you. You need a thoroughly good, slow and long fuck."

Matt would have quipped another time, might have joked about the old man getting it up and still having stamina, but nothing of that sort right now. He just smiled and murmured, "yes, I still do."

 
 
Special Forces Chapter LXX: The Sum of All Things
 
 
Warning for Readers

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

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

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

 

 
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Published 20 April 2009