had a good long chinwag with Kisa, which ended for the
umpteenth time with him trying to talk her out of wanting
to join the Hungarian Forces and her being adamant that
she would join them. She was just as boneheaded as he'd
always been, and he really shouldn't be surprised, especially
not with that mother. When he got back into the main
areas downstairs, he noticed Vadim with Dr Williams
and the Baroness in a quiet corner in the Balmoral bar.
He smiled and waved at them on his way past, then spotted
Maurice and George in the Brasserie, talking at one
of the small tables. He grinned to himself, wondering
if the surgeon had calmed down these days, or if he
was just trying to chat up the only seemingly single
man - unless he might find a single woman. Time would
tell. Dan was still miffed that he never got to shag
Maurice, but he wasn't going to remedy that anymore.
on, he got to another table in the bar, with Dima and
Markus, and he steered towards them. "I haven't
had time to properly talk to you two yet." He addressed
them as he stopped at the table.
stirred his tea, and nodded to him. "Come on, sit.
always." Dan handed the cane to Markus, who put
it against the wall. Dan sat down. "How have you
been faring since we last talked? You look like a picture
are." Dima grinned and pushed the dish with the
scones towards Dan. "I was hoping Markus would
catch the flowers, but then I thought, well, no flowers,
laughed, "I keep telling him that he should
catch them. Why me? He's better at sports anyway."
are you planning to follow suit?" Dan grinned from
ear to ear, putting jam on his scone. "And does
that also mean you got a different passport now, Dima?"
I pulled some favours and got some things adjusted."
Dima winked. "You only have to know how to ride
the beast that's bureaucracy, who to pay off and what
kind of papers to get. Much easier than convincing anybody
I should be their citizen. The places we go certainly
work that way."
course I had nothing at all to do with such shenanigans."
Markus winked, pouring himself some more tea.
course not ..." Dan took a bite off his scone.
never thanked you for introducing us." Markus smiled.
I was simply into the matchmaking business, still am."
Dan laughed, "and as long as you're happy ...."
didn't need to tell him that they were happy, because
it was so very obvious. Dan stayed for a while, chatting
with those two close friends, until it was time for
Baroness had arranged it so that several tables were
reserved in the restaurant. For anyone who wished to
explore Edinburgh and eat out, the hotel had put together
an excellent guide on her behest. Most of them stayed,
though, and the restaurant was filling up. Eventually
Matt and Hooch came down for dinner, dressed rather
elegantly for the occasion, and when Beauvais and St
John turned up, only marginally late, they were for
once in civilian clothing and blended in better than
before. Maurice and George had opted for finding a place
to eat away from the others, because George had claimed
he knew the city quite well and was happy to play tourist
guide for the French surgeon. The American ex-crew and
their families chose to stay, together with the whole
lot of Krasnoradas and the large group of McFadyens,
with babies, toddlers and children.
lot of the Spa mates stayed for dinner as well, before
heading out to Rose street, to go on the piss. Some
of Dan's old mates from the Gulf and the Balkans joined
them in the meal, and they had convinced the two legionnaires
to come with them to a pub crawl after dinner.
multi-course meal was excellent and the company great
fun. The Baroness smiled with joy and amusement at the
level of noise that would otherwise have been unacceptable,
and, sitting beside her old friend Charles, the doctor,
they kept exchanging quiet words. They both retired
to a whisky and a chat fairly soon after the dinner
was over, when the whole large group began to scatter.
Guests either went out, like Duncan and Gordon, the
two Glaswegians, who took Matt down to the train station
to head into Glasgow and to hit the scene, or those
with children went to their rooms, while others stayed
in the comfortable bar a while longer.
only Dan and Vadim were left. Hooch walked over to Jean,
leaned close and murmured something into his ear, which
made Jean grin and stand up. They both walked over to
where Dan and Vadim were standing at the bar, enjoying
a drink, while Dan smoked a fag. One of the few places
the hotel still allowed smoking.
guys," Jean said, grinning. "Ready for the
stag night, or would you rather pass?"
Vadim glanced at him, then at Hooch, but Jean's face
gave more away - with that smirk and a hint of excitement.
Good kind of anticipation. Stag night. That seemed to
mean a foursome. He looked at Dan.
you honestly think that I would say no?" Dan smirked,
"unless your plan is to make us wear glittery learner
driver plates, pink fluffy bouncing headgear and angel
wings, and take us to a pub crawl. In that case, you
can fuck right off."
Jean laughed. "Damn, not a bad idea at all. No,
I guess Hooch and I had a rather more intimate setting
in mind. Upstairs?"
suite? Sure, we've got enough space in there to host
a whole Rugby team." Dan added while stubbing out
his cigarette, "shit, isn't that a nice idea."
pointed to the lift. "Up, then."
knew you'd be so bossy." Dan grinned, then made
his way to the lift, that took them to the suite that
overlooked the castle and most of Edinburgh.
Hooch waited for Vadim to step through the door as the
last one, then closed it behind him. "Did you actually
bring any toys?"
"I did," Jean said.
"Not necessary, Dan has his own stuff, and plenty
of it," Vadim murmured. Trust these guys to bring
toys into the foursome. He didn't get much time to ponder
what this meant, though, because Hooch was suddenly
close, suddenly demanding, pressing into him and kissing
dimmed the light a bit, then stepped to Dan to kiss
him, arms around him, one of those tender playful kisses.
"I'd rather have you blindfolded," he murmured,
pulling a blindfold from his jeans pocket and offering
Dan eyed it somewhat warily.
work with your imagination," Jean murmured, between
kisses, then pulled his shirt off and tossed it on a
that means I don't get to see this." Dan pointed
to Jean's chest, but when Jean just smiled at him, he
conceded. "Okay." Lowering his head, "and
what about Vadim?"
worry about him." Hooch's voice, in between the
"No. No worries
at all." Jean slipped
the blindfold over Dan's face, then moved him towards
the bed. There was plenty of space. He cast a
glance towards Hooch and Vadim, who were kissing just
like Hooch had kissed him, deep and passionate, full
body contact, and Vadim really got into it, eyes closed,
unreserved, showing a trust and desire that seemed almost
not like him. That was what Vadim looked like when he
actually opened up.
sat down on the bed, dropping the cane onto the floor
once he was seated. Hooch pulled out a blindfold. He
was prepared, and between Jean's suitcase and his own,
they might not even have to improvise with the kit that
Dan carried around. Hooch didn't ask Vadim, wordlessly
pulled back from the kiss, offered a grin, then slipped
the blindfold on and reached to buckle it in the back
of Vadim's head. Black leather, and secure.
Vadim exhaled, but didn't protest, instead went back
into the kiss, even more interested, if that was possible,
as if telling Hooch he trusted him. Hooch started to
undress him, while never stopping the kisses. He finally
had Vadim naked, while he was still dressed.
Jean got rid of his clothes now, undressing himself
and Dan on the bed, who let it happen, even though he
felt uncomfortable at first, but then got into it, with
more of Jean's kisses and touches. Jean rubbed his face
against Dan's cock, allowing him to feel the warmth
of his breath there, then glanced at Hooch to check
on the other guy.
steered Vadim towards the bed and got him to sit down
on the other side of Jean and Dan. The bed was massive,
four poster, with bed hangings and a brocade ceiling.
"Will be right back." He murmured, then quickly
undressed himself, getting in record time out of elegant
shirt, tie, suit and shoes. He gave a silent thumbs-up
to Jean, who grinned, got up, and took the bottle of
whisky that sat on a table nearby. Just to blur the
taste, and maybe blur perception. He took a mouthful
himself, then offered the bottle to Hooch, indicating
the swap with a creative use of military hand signals,
which almost made Hooch huff a laugh, but he got himself
under control by taking a very large mouthful of whisky.
indicated he'd understood, reached for a tumbler on
the night stand, and filled it with whisky, then handed
the bottle over and gestured that he'd deal with Dan
now. He silently made his way across, placed the tumbler
onto the other bedside table and swapped with Jean.
the hell are you doing?" Dan complained, patted
around on the bed, trying to find someone, but before
his hand could reach Vadim it was snatched away and
placed back onto his chest. Neither Hooch nor Jean said
anything, but Hooch gestured to restrain the two, or
the game would be over too soon.
nodded, grinning, and found some leather cuffs. It was
strange, to say the least, tying Vadim's hands together,
but Vadim accepted that, no questions, no hesitation,
and Jean felt weird for a moment as he was claiming
Vadim's trust and didn't actually deserve it. He climbed
on top and tried to kiss Vadim the way Hooch usually
kissed, while lifting his hands up and tying them to
the poster. He began to stroke Vadim's cock, which had
an immediate effect, as Vadim stretched, hardened, and
sighed. No doubting yet who was doing this to him.
had nylon ropes in his hands and when he took hold of
Dan's wrists, to swiftly and expertly tie them together,
Dan protested. "Jean, what the hell are you doing?"
But Hooch didn't answer, only leaned down, concentrated,
and put all is emotions, every scrap of feeling he'd
ever had for anyone, into a kiss, as playful, tender
and sensuous as he could make it. It worked, Dan relaxed
into the kiss, allowing Hooch/Jean to tie his arms over
his head and onto the bed post. It was their stag night,
after all, and if the two grooms were to be ravished,
side by side, by their best men, who was he to struggle?
almost laughed, but that, too, could give them away.
He fished for a note he'd written beforehand and only
now felt confident enough to hand to Hooch, who came
up from the kiss and tried to remember how Jean had
stroked him. Making sure that Dan remained interested
while he took the note.
had spent some time thinking what he wanted to do and
what would likely happen, so he handed the scrap of
paper to the other best man.
It read: "I lied, I do let him fuck me, and if
you tell that to anybody, I'll have to kill you."
reaction was priceless. First a widening of his eyes,
then a swift, growing grin, that soon turned into a
rare, full-blown smirk, and he fought hard not to laugh
out loud. He kept stroking Dan, who was moving into
his hand, getting hard. Hooch signalled 'okay' with
his free hand, he'd understood, he wasn't suicidal,
and would keep the secret. He held up his hand, signalling
to Jean to give him a moment, before spending a minute
licking and kissing Dan's cock to buy himself some time.
When he looked up he grinned again, gestured and mouthed
silently that he was willing to fuck himself on Vadim,
and that since they'd never find out who exactly was
doing what when, they could swap back now, and no one
would know that Jean wasn't doing the same, when they'd
swap once more, before Hooch would take Dan as well.
He shrugged in the end.
considered it, really did. He wasn't too eager to do
it, it had taken a long, long time until he could get
his head around it with Dan, and Vadim
the other hand, Vadim didn't appear much larger, and
secondly, Vadim was tied down - and had no idea it was
him. He'd still have to do it like he expected Hooch
to do it, which meant likely with a lot less care and
more speed than he'd normally do it. 'Oh fuck', he mouthed,
but stayed on top, grinding against Vadim and playing
with his nipples, biting them, which made Vadim groan
and shudder. He knew the man was sensitive there, while
Hooch lavished attention onto Dan's cock, as far as
Hooch knew, Dan wasn't much aroused by nipple play.
a while, Hooch moved off the bed, reached for his trousers
to get the mini packs of lube, and handed them over.
He indicated to Jean that 'he' would fuck himself on
Vadim first, before he lowered himself back down to
pay closer attention to Dan's cock. When he slowly sucked
down, Dan arched up with a groan and a string of expletives,
softly cursed under his breath.
grabbed the lube and poured some in his hand, slicking
Vadim's cock up, which again made Vadim shift and push
up slightly, seeking leverage, friction. Fuck, Jean
thought. Was it really all that different that it wasn't
Dan? Whatever. His idea, or was it? Hooch had come up
with it, or had he? Wouldn't be different. He got on
top and took Vadim' s cock. Not different, not the pressure,
or the breach, that forceful stretch. Vadim's groan
helped, the way the man tensed underneath, how his breath
went faster, unaware this wasn't who he thought it was.
Hooch wouldn't go slowly. Jean grimaced and forced the
cock inside, the sensation so intense it made his whole
body tighten and tense. Oh fuck. He fought to remain
silent and follow through with this, taking Vadim completely.
Hooch helped. Leaving Dan who groaned in protest, but
who accepted the replacement of lips, mouth and throat
with a hand, just as he'd accepted the whole stag night
game. Hooch leaned and arched across, all the time continuing
to stroke Dan, and took Jean's cock in one swift motion
down his throat, to counteract the discomfort. Jean
couldn't help but groan, one hand on Hooch's head, feeling
lips and tightness and that hunger and moved, harder
and faster, fucking himself which was only really possible
like that because Vadim couldn't see him, Dan couldn't
see him, and Hooch kept him in a good place, wanting
and aroused while he gave Vadim what he could. The Russian
underneath was panting, moving his lips silently, and
Jean moved harder, trying to force Vadim to come, to
speak, to give up that control.
Dan's voice, breathless, blindfolded head turned towards
him. Hooch was stroking him irregularly, too occupied
with sucking Jean, but Dan didn't know what was going
arms bulged as he tried to move, unconsciously, pushing
up into the guy on top of him. "Yes," he said,
voice rough, then clenched his teeth again, breathing
harshly between them, as the need built up further and
the movements became more reckless, more demanding.
...," Dan struggled himself, trying to move into
that hand to get more, feel more, "do you feel?"
Hooch then kept his head steady, throat relaxed, and
allowed Jean to enter him as he could or needed, while
focusing more on Dan.
top, on me
" Speaking in sentences
seemed like an enormous challenge to Vadim. "Hot
and tight and
the other's sucking him, I think."
It was his best guess, with the hair brushing his skin.
He remembered Jean sucking him off, or Dan, or both
of them, then somebody squeezed his balls, added sudden
pressure-pain to it, and he came, tensing and sweating,
groaning, body pumping.
Dan got out, was about to demand, want, ask, when limbs
moved, bodies shifted, lips were once again on his cock,
and he lost all orientation. Which man was where, whose
hand he felt, whose thighs straddled him. He didn't
know and couldn't talk, because suddenly there was cool
air on his saliva-slicked cock, and then even cooler
lube, which made him shudder and curse, but then he
stilled, whole body tense like a drawn bow, when he
could feel the tip of his cock against something tight.
For all he knew it was Jean, Jean who rarely did this,
and only with him. Jean, who trusted him enough, and
who right now lowered down slowly, ever so slowly and
carefully, like he would, never as reckless as he himself
paused, looked at Jean with an intense gaze in his dark
eyes, as if asking for something, then moved once more
in small increments. Stretching, breaching, filling,
nothing compared to the self-inflicted cruelty of most
of his life. More like the 'fun' and vanilla stuff he
did, putting all the emotion he was capable of for the
very few people in his life, into fucking himself on
Dan, who could do nothing but moan, open-mouthed.
felt sluggish and weak from his own orgasm that had
very nearly surprised him when Hooch had made him come,
close to Vadim, and he moved to Hooch to kiss him; maybe
that was what he wanted, he had no idea, but it seemed
like a good enough response, because Hooch clearly relished
how Jean kissed him deeply, passionately, tasting himself
on this strange occasion, but what did it matter, they
were all enjoying themselves. His hand pumped Hooch,
slow but intense, giving more friction than he could
have managed with his throat.
up, yet more carefully than he would have, Hooch fucked
himself with long, slow, but powerful thrusts, enough
to force Dan closer and closer to the edge.
was muttering nonsensical words, of "what..."
and "how ..." and "oh shit ..."
as the body on him sped up after a long time of riding
him steadily. With a ferocity born from lust, Hooch
was thrusting himself down, forcing Dan to topple over.
He came with a shout, lost, intense, hardly noticing
the cum that splattered his chest as the man on top
of him, Hooch/Jean, came as well, but without a sound.
managed to get off the bed, feeling sore, but he got
to the bathroom to clean up and returned with towels,
one for Hooch and one for himself. Grinning, because
those were nice images, nice things to remember. Hooch's
way to do it, and both Vadim and Dan pretty much helpless
with no idea who it was they were fucking. He stretched
out on the bed, lazily wiping himself and then Vadim,
who smiled tiredly and blindly.
would ..." Dan moistened his lips, "ask what
you're up to now ... if I could think." Stretching
into the touch, while he was wiped down.
voice close to his ear after a moment, between the two
on the bed, so that Vadim could hear as well. "We
could feed you, water you, then wait until you get it
up again, and make you watch. No touching allowed."
what?" Vadim asked, not sure what Hooch implied.
Hooch cast a glance at Jean and flashed a grin. It was
all open to negotiations, but they had all night.
nodded at that. He was game. As long as it didn't involve
him getting fucked again, he was game. "Yeah. Would
you like that?" Jean teased.
"We made up," Jean murmured and Hooch let
out a small sound of agreement.
that case ..." Dan moved his head as if trying
to peek through the blindfold, "I'm not adverse
to begging. We've only got the once chance of a stag
night in our lives."
huffed a dry laugh. "Whisky first, agreed?"
agree to anything at that prospect."
filled the two glasses and handed one to Jean, clinking
them together, "to Dan and Vadim and a long night."
and blindfolds and handcuffs," Jean laughed, taking
a mouthful and winking at Hooch, who grinned at the
dismayed expression on the two grooms beneath them.
next day, Dan and Vadim were glad that the ceremony
didn't take place before the early afternoon, and that
the Baroness had arranged a luxurious and extended brunch
for all of the assembled guests, including those who
arrived in the morning.
chance to have a lie-in was very much appreciated after
the stag night, which had lasted well into the early
hours of the morning, and left them wondering about
what exactly had happened at times, but also utterly
sated and feeling every single year of their age. In
a damn good way.
brunch, a colourful affair where everyone seemed to
talk to everyone else, enjoying conversation and laughter,
trading stories and tall-tales, they went back up to
their suite. Like the guests, they were dressed for
you ready to get knocked out by the best looking Scotsman
ever to grace Afghanistan?" Dan grinned, leaning
against the doorframe to the bedroom, where he'd hung
his exquisite outfit, wrapped in its cloth bags.
pulled the jumper over his head and regarded himself
in the mirror. "I think I deserve the best-looking
Scotsman to ever grace Afghanistan," he said. "Don't
you think? After all, this is a commitment for life."
twenty-five years, you think?" Dan grinned, studying
Vadim with an interest that had never waned, and neither
had the scars. 'Cunt', pizdar. A lifetime ago. "How
am I going to bear that?"
all the grace and strength you've had so far."
that'll be a doddle." Dan flashed a smirk and Vadim
glanced at the clothes bag. "You'll have a captive
audience for whatever you'll wear."
I get cracking, then. No peeking until I'm done, it
might be a while." With that Dan pushed the door
open with his cane and went through.
grinned. "No. I'll change in the bathroom."
His suit already hung there. He stripped in front of
the mirror, thinking that, indeed, for his age, he was
doing alright, but of course age was slowly getting
to him, or not so slowly. Lines in his face - frown
lines, across the forehead, around the eyes, and even
lines that suggested he smiled every now and then. And
it took far more effort these days to maintain his own
standards. Being blond helped, the silver hardly showed.
He headed into the bathroom, had a shower and shaved.
Well-worn routine. He'd been to a hairdresser a couple
days ago, everything else looked like he wanted it to
look. He towelled himself and unzipped the bag. Running
his hands over the fabric which looked and smelled carefully
ironed. The tailor had finally got him to take one of
those; smart black trousers, dinner jacket, matching
shirt, black tie and cufflinks. Dan would appreciate
the irony that the stone was blue with golden specks.
he got out of the bathroom there was some muffled cursing
coming through the bedroom door, and the sound of something
clattering to the floor or against the side table. Eventually,
the door opened, and Dan appeared in the doorframe,
smiling. His hair brushed, gleaming, more silver now
than dark, and his face, lined these days, still tanned
and still striking. Even the scar in his face had faded,
as if it had accepted that the years of danger were
well and truly over.
stood in the most exquisite dress kilt the Edinburgh
tailors were capable of producing. Handmade and tailored
from finest wool, wearing the McFadyen hunting tartan
in elegant blues and greens on black. Even the mess
of scars his knees sported seemed suddenly of no importance.
The short black Prince Charlie jacket with its square
polished silver buttons accentuated his trim and fit
body, and so did the snugly fitting black waistcoat
underneath, with the same elegant buttons. He wore a
white shirt and an understated black silk cravat, his
only deviation from the truly traditional outfit. The
sporran was made from smooth black fur, with silver
decorations. His polished brogues were laced up neatly
over the knee high off-white hose, leather laces tied
off just below the knee, and the tartan flashes there
as well. He'd slipped a bejewelled Skean Dhua dagger
into the hose at his right calf. The kilt pin glistened
understated, silver and garnets, a copy of one of the
magnificent ancient Scottish brooches.
wound the lapis lazuli prayer beads around his left
wrist, making a faint noise whenever he moved his hand.
"You look stunning, Russkie."
smiled and moved closer to kiss him, remembering, weirdly,
the slap against the chest he'd received from Katya,
a lifetime ago, about not kissing the bride (and possibly
smearing the lipstick). No such concerns with a man,
which was funny, in its own way. "You should dress
up a bit more often, it suits you," he murmured.
"And we both look stunning."
if you are taking advantage of me in my kilt this time.
I am, after all, a proper Scotsman."
me take advantage of you after the party." Vadim
grinned. "We shouldn't head down all crinkled up
is a very good point. Maggie has organised a photographer
through all of the day and night to take candid shots
and not posed ones, because I really can't stomach posing.
Thank fuck." Dan reached out to run a hand through
Vadim's short hair, and smiled. "You think it's
time yet? Who has the rings?"
has the rings. He keeps making jokes about losing them."
Vadim took Dan's good hand and squeezed it lightly.
"Yeah. That's it. Are you ready?"
just pop some more pills and I'm ready to go."
Vadim went to the door to open it, keeping it open with
his back while watching Dan vanish to get his pills
and then return. He let it fall shut behind them and
offered his hand again. Somehow, he wanted Dan close,
touching on the way down, and Dan gladly held Vadim's
know," Dan mused on the way to the elevator, "If
anyone had told me at thirty, that I'd walk along in
public, holding hands with a man, I would have punched
them. If they had told me I'd actually marry a man,
I would have punched myself." He chuckled.
And I swore never to marry again." Vadim let Dan
step into the elevator first, then followed. "But,
come to think of it, we're not doing too badly as ageing
middleclass faggots, are we?"
laughed out loud as the doors of the elevator closed
behind them. "You can call me a faggot any time,
but middleclass? That's an insult." He winked,
and leaned against the mirrored wall. He really didn't
want to use the cane during the ceremony itself.
we're as bourgeois as they come these days. Respectable."
Marxist or Leninist rhetoric had faded, sometimes it
returned, like an ironic commentary from a long bygone
what?" Dan grinned and shook his head. "After
we step out of that elevator, what are the chances we
won't have a single second for each other from then
to when it is all over ?" he leaned close, close
enough to kiss.
smiled. "Just stay close. Because they might decide
on some prank like the one we pulled at Jean's party.
I'm not sure I'm in the mood to get abducted again."
think we're too old for such shit." Dan chuckled
quietly, before Vadim kissed Dan, but the doors opened
right then; he didn't draw back, merely smiled and kissed
Vadim again. "Off we go," he murmured.
holding hands, they had hardly taken a step out of the
elevator and onto the first floor area, when Kisa's
voice cut through the noise of the crowd of people.
was cheer and clapping, and some of the regular hotel
guests who didn't belong to the wedding party, turned
their heads at the two splendidly dressed men, who were
walking hand in hand towards the crowd. The heads turned
even more, when a gentleman in full US Army officer
parade uniform stepped towards them, closely followed
by another handsome man, blond, and elegantly dressed.
buddies?" Hooch smiled at them from beneath his
at Hooch, Vadim hoped he'd get a photo of him in that
striking outfit. Jean, by comparison, looked very normal,
if expensive, but it was understated - a true reversal
of the men's actual dispositions, or what they usually
portrayed. "Got the rings?" he asked Jean,
who gave him a mischievous grin, but patted one of his
pockets and nodded.
think we're ready." Probably have been for years
and just needed the world to catch up with us, Vadim
Baroness appeared out of the crowd, the epitome of elegance
in her silk mauve suit and elegant hat, smiling at them.
Dr Williams, in a dinner suit with bow tie, at her side.
inhaled deeply, feeling a little nervous as everyone
made their way into the room. Everybody's eyes on them,
as the guests filed through, for a moment it felt as
officious as a military parade on Red Square, but they
were all friends here, and Vadim managed to relax a
little. He could almost hear Jean, who stood behind
them, telling him to 'lighten up', and he tried, smiling,
if a little stiffly.
dear friends, would you mind waiting a moment?"
The Baroness stood at the door, smiling at the two grooms
and their best men, when everyone else had found a seat
inside. "You have to forgive me, but I am terribly
old fashioned and also incredibly delighted to be able
to organise this wonderful occasion for you. If you
could just follow the ushers, everything is arranged
for the important moment."
grimaced a little, realising that what she really meant
was for them to have a 'grand entrance', but after a
glance at Vadim who gave a small nod, he bowed his head
a and smiled at her. "Anything you wish. You know,
Ma'm, I would never not follow your orders."
gave a small laugh, eyes twinkling, before stepping
into the room herself, being seated at the front by
one of the ushers, who had seen to the guests being
seated on either groom's side, depending on whose family
or friends they were - or indeed of both of them. Not
a single one of the guests was dressed in anything but
their best, from the 'Sunday best' suit on some of Dan's
ex-mates from the Gulf and the Balkans, to expensive
suits on some of the other guys, including the ex-crew
of the chopper, and many long dresses with big hats
on most of the wives and girlfriends. Culminating in
the vision of beauty and elegance that was Solange,
seated in the front row as one of the best men's wife.
She sat beside Matt, as the other best man's partner,
and they looked as if they belonged to each other, with
Matt in a sharply cut suit that accentuated his impressive
The Krasnorada family, with Kisa in a long bright red
dress that showed just how tall and lithe she was, with
her unruly dark hair in a lovely up-do with glittering
pins holding the mane together. She sat beside her mother,
was dressed as coolly elegant as ever. All of the Krasnoradas
including Anya's partner were seated in the front row
on Vadim's side. Dr Williams sat with them. The other
side of the room saw the entire McFadyen family, which
needed three rows by the time the Baroness had settled
in the front row as well. All of the men of the McFadyen
family had come in tartan: each of them wearing the
full Prince Charlie outfit with the McFadyen hunting
tartan, the same that Dan was wearing, even though Dan's
outfit was clearly a cut above the rest. Duncan sat
proudly, beaming from ear to ear, with Mhairi at his
side, who was dressed rather splendidly in a tailored
suit with long skirt and tartan throw over her shoulder,
fastened with a thistle brooch. She had splashed out
for once, unlike her usual self, when Duncan had encouraged
her to go to one of the best 'mother of the bride' fashion
shops on the Royal Mile. She, as well as her daughters
in law and fiancée, were all wearing wide hats.
Even the boy toddlers sported kilts, the girls wore
fine dresses, and the newborn baby had been dressed
in a tartan romper, which made everyone chuckle. Duncan
and Gordon, the two chaps from Glasgow were in their
kilts as well, and so was Dougie, the ex-Sergeant from
the Gulf, with whom Dan had rekindled a matey friendship
in the last five years.
ceremony room, decorated with thistles, was full to
bursting, and when finally even the last of the guests
had been seated in extra chairs, the remaining usher
asked Hooch and Jean inside, to stand at the front.
They had both been waiting patiently, beside an ever
increasingly anxious Dan, who had a hard time pretending
that he wasn't nervous, while holding Vadim's hand tighter
than technically necessary. Vadim reached over with
his free hand and placed it on Dan's arm, which was
taut with tension. "It's not a parade," he
murmured. "We're just getting civil partnershipped."
they were finally asked by the usher to make their way
into the room, and to walk 'down the aisle' towards
the registrar at the front, a hush came over the guests.
Music was starting up, the Baroness had hired a piper,
a fiddler and a drummer, all of them in full Scottish
regalia. They played a moving piece that Dan wondered
for a few moments about. It sounded fairly Scottish,
quite traditional and yet not, until he realised, just
before they reached the front, that it was Promontory
from the Last of the Mohicans. He smiled at Vadim, touched
by the way the Baroness had gone for a mix of the traditional
and the modern. Just like their lives together: twenty-five
years, a mixed bag of extremes. A past that had been
overcome by the present, no more Soviet Union, no more
ban on homosexuality in the British Forces, equal rights
for same sex couples, and most importantly, no more
wars for the two of them.
felt all eyes on them, and for possibly the first time
in his life he became oddly self-conscious, until he
saw Jean and Hooch smiling at them.
a while the music stopped and the registrar's face brightened
with a smile, while waiting for silence to settle, before
he addressed the two men.
would like to welcome you to the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh
today. We are here today to celebrate the commitment
to each other of Dan and Vadim, and on their behalf
I would like to thank you for joining them to celebrate
this happy occasion, hopefully a day to remember for
the rest of their lives."
Vadim glanced at Hooch right next to him, who had taken
his peaked cap off and was carrying it under his left
arm; if he hadn't known him so well, the uniform allowed
no guess at what kind of man was inside. Different to
the camo, which he thought never quite strangled the
character in such a way. Jean, on the other side, looked
in a way the most civilian, most harmless, his face
always ready to break into a smile, to mock, lie, or
joke. Then the registrar, who's little speech had sped
up his heartbeat. He was nervous. It wasn't that the
other groom could run away, or that it was, after so
many years, anything but a ceremony. But it was a very
public statement of what they were, and a bold one at
that, at least for their generation. After everything
they'd seen and encountered, after the shame, the humiliation,
and a prison term, after the secrecy and the excuses
and lies. From the first meeting with the Baroness,
where he'd told her he needed to find an enemy because
he respected him, to acting as if they were just comrades
when meeting Dan's family. All the lies had slowly melted
away. These days, they on the outside what they truly
were inside, deep down. No more need to hide or trick.
Even if that had had its own rewards - he wouldn't want
to have missed Katya or her children, hers and his.
registrar pulled Vadim out of his thoughts when he continued.
"We are here to witness the formation of a Civil
Partnership between Dan and Vadim." He paused,
nodding to both of the two men and their two witnesses,
and then addressed the room.
any person present knows of any impediment to this Civil
Partnership they should declare it now."
paused, again, and for just a moment, Dan felt ridiculously
anxious. Like an old fear creeping up his spine, the
old order, the old world with its rules, duties, threats
and destruction, but then there was nothing but silence
in the room. Nothing but the hushed sounds of the guests
sitting, breathing, and waiting with anticipation. Dan
turned his head to glance at Jean, who grinned at him,
mouthing something he didn't get, because the next moment
the registrar spoke again.
and Vadim have found love in their relationship with
each other, and now they have chosen to offer to each
other the strength and security that comes from the
commitment of this legally binding contract."
felt a knot in his stomach, the silly, sudden fear had
turned into nervousness, and he felt even sillier. Why
were there ants racing around his guts? He was fifty-six
years old and had been with Vadim, one way or another,
for twenty-five years, but when he now glanced at Vadim,
his face flushed.
registrar continued, once more addressing the whole
room. "I am sure all gathered here today wish you
both every happiness and success in your future life
together. May your trust and understanding of each other
increase your contentment and strengthen your joy in
reaction of the guests was unexpected, some cheered,
others clapped, and the solemn occasion turned for one
moment into a jolly party. Even Hooch gave one of his
customary half-grins. The registrar waited until the
cheer had quietened down, then asked the guests to stand.
This was it, the moment had come, and Dan's stomach
went from knots into flip-flops, while Vadim cast a
glance over his shoulder, but he only saw a blur of
turned, facing each other, after the registrar had asked
them to. "Each to repeat after me." He turned
towards Dan. "I, Daniel Ewan McFadyen ..."
Daniel Ewan McFadyen," Dan only grimaced a little
at his middle name.
promise to share my life with Vadim Petrovich Krasnorada."
to share my life with Petr... Vadim Petrovich Krasnorada."
Dan flushed a deeper shade, suddenly so nervous, he
was garbling his words. It hit home, well and truly,
what the words signified and what the pledge meant.
promise to respect, support and care for you, to honour
and encourage you."
looked at Vadim's face, knowing each line, angle, each
touch and kiss, and speaking got difficult. The emotions
had become full force and with no quarter given. "I
promise to respect, respect ... support and care for
you, to honour and ... and encourage you."
will respect you as an individual and be true to you
through all the changing scenes of life - in good times
and in bad. I undertake to fulfil this promise until
repeated the words, managed the first part, choking
up at "changing scenes of life, good times and
in bad." Those they had had, plenty of them. There
was no doubt. A lifetime of good and bad, testimony
to their love, strength and determination. They were
still together. His voice became firm, when he finished
off, "I undertake to fulfil this promise until
in a way, had it easier, used to wearing the mask and
abide by all the pompous rituals of his past. Yet the
words reverberated through him, like the beating of
butterfly wings that could cause turmoil, far away.
"I, Vadim Petrovich Krasnorada ..." Petrovich
... the son of my father who will not understand and
cannot understand, yet who was there with me in the
worst hour ... "promise to share my life with Daniel
Ewan McFadyen." He had to breathe, feeling his
pulse up in his throat. "I promise to respect,
support and care for you, to honour and encourage you."
I would have killed and died for you, too. "I will
respect you as individual and be true to you through
all changing scenes of life - in good times and in bad."
He realised he'd dropped an article, which these days
only happened when he was very emotional or nervous.
"I undertake to fulfil this promise until life's
registrar smiled slightly. He had been prompted that
there would rings, and he took hold of a velvet lined
board. "Dan and Vadim are now invited to exchange
rings. Would the ring bearer please hand me the rings?"
that, Jean produced the rings. Vadim had bought them
with Solange; they were from a small workshop in Paris,
where a fairly young Algerian - one of her friends -
had taking up making jewellery that used some untraditional
materials. He'd been agonizing over what material to
use, gold, white gold, platinum, the simple rings had
seemed too simple, and anything over the top Dan would
veto. They'd have to wear those rings for a few decades
more, every day. Eventually, the young man had brought
four rings made from a patterned material. Damascene
steel, Solange had translated, from which blades had
been made. The patterns were formed from different kinds
of steel to make the blades strong and flexible. The
dark patterns were much like the grain of wood, and
Vadim thought that these were perfect. Blade steel.
Weapons had brought them together, it was only right
that they kept them together.
registrar nodded when Jean carefully placed the rings
onto the velvet board. "Repeat after me."
took hold of one of the rings, both of them were the
same size. The moment he touched the cool steel he remembered
all those other tokens and symbols of who they were
and had been, of their love, what they meant to each
other, and what they would be in the future. Prayer
beads, energy bars, boots, scars, blades, and a bullet.
He looked up and into Vadim's eyes, as he took hold
of his hand. Suddenly the nervousness was gone, and
the ring was just a logical continuation of everything
that had gone before. Twenty-five years. From hatred
give you this ring as a token of my love and a lasting
reminder of the promises made between us today. I promise
to care for you above all others and cherish you throughout
the rest of our lives together."
hand closed involuntarily around Dan's fingers when
the ring slid on, and he had to smile to bear the emotions.
He couldn't remember having ever been so nervous, not
in this way, not in ways that had to do with emotions
rather than his public face. He cleared his throat to
make sure his voice was steady: "I give you this
ring as a token of my love and a lasting reminder of
the promises made between us today. I promise to care
for you above all others and cherish you throughout
the rest of our lives together." Token. Scars.
Steel, and memories.
looked down at his left hand, a ring there, for the
first time in his life, and the swirls of steel echoed
the irregular pattern of scars on his hand. Functional
and fucked up, just like them, but when he lifted his
head and smiled into pale blue eyes, he knew that they
were everything but merely functional.
registrar's voice pulled them out of their silent intimacy.
"We now come to the signing of the schedule, which
will bind Dan and Vadim together in law. Each partner
to repeat after me. I declare that I know of no legal
reason why we may not register as each other's civil
repeated the sentence, still looking at Vadim, still
holding his hand, and still smiling. Seemed he'd never
stop to smile that day. All that mattered were the warmth
and strength of Vadim's hand in his and the words he
understand that on signing this document we will be
forming a civil partnership with each other." Vadim
repeated. A formality, a legal act, and just as binding
and emotional as the 'man and wife' thing. Vadim wondered
for a moment what Katya thought of that, at the front
of the crowd behind him.
registrar nodded and half-turned towards the narrow
table close by. "Dan and Vadim, will you please
now be seated at the ceremony table to sign the civil
partnership schedule." Turning towards the guests,
"you may be seated as well."
The fiddler and the drummer quietly played a melodic
tune, while Vadim helped Dan sit, unobtrusively so,
then sat next to him, watching him sign with his full
name "Daniel Ewan McFadyen," and put his own
"Vadim P Krasnorada" on the indicated line.
I now invite the two witnesses to add their signatures."
The registrar said.
Jean invited Hooch to go first, grinning, watching the
man step in his tailored uniform to the table, to bend
down at the side and sign in the place indicated. Hooch
flashed a smile at both Vadim and Dan, before he stepped
aside to let Jean take his place, who signed right after
registrar indicated to Dan and Vadim to stand up once
more, this time Dan accepted Vadim's help with even
more good grace. The guests, too, were asked to stand
once more. A moment's silence settled over the room,
before the registrar raised his voice.
Ewan McFadyen and Vadim Petrovich Krasnorada, you are
now partners in law. Ladies and Gentlemen will you please
congratulate Dan and Vadim as they celebrate their partnership."
applause and cheer drowned out even the piper and the
drums, and came to a crescendo, when Vadim stepped a
little closer, and, ringed hand against Dan's face,
kissed him - the other arm around Dan's shoulders. He'd
wanted to do that all the time, the 'sealing' kiss,
and then placed his forehead against Dan's. "I
love you," he murmured.
smiled, felt the smile etch itself into his memory by
the sheer magnitude of emotion. His voice was shaky
and thus he whispered, in Russian, "I love you,
Vadim laughed and shook his head, then noticed that
Jean and Hooch stood there, Hooch offering his hand.
He let go of Dan to shake it, then Jean's, who congratulated
him, too. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed the
photographer shooting away, and he grinned that moment
- a photo that turned out really well, showing joy and
alertness and Dan and friends around him. Not isolated,
not alone, and from that photo, nobody could have guessed
the story; a normality that he always found striking
when he looked at that photo in the coming years.
Then the guests came to congratulate, Katya embraced
Vadim and kissed him, much like a sister would have,
and he held her for a little. "Thank you, Katya,
it does mean a lot," he murmured in Russian to
"I know - it means a lot to me, too," she
said, stepping back and squeezing his hand, then she
turned to Dan and embraced him, too. "Good luck
with him," she said and gave a laugh.
you, I've had a few years to get used to his finer points."
Dan laughed, then let go of her when his daughter threw
herself into his arms and he held her tightly. Laughing
even harder when she asked him if that made Vadim her
stepfather, and he claimed that it was all too confusing
to ponder at the moment.
had hardly moved to embrace Vadim in the same exuberant
fashion, when Duncan and Mhairi stood before Dan, smiling
brightly, from ear to ear. "It got you finally,
aye?" Duncan grinned, "congratulations big
brother." He pulled his Dan into a bear hug, covertly
handing the cane back to him, which made Dan grin with
relief and wink. Mhairi, too, embraced him, and kissed
his cheeks, before both went to Vadim.
have long ago welcomed you into our family." Duncan
said to Vadim, with his warm smile, arms open, "let
us welcome you once more, brother in law."
embraced him with no second thought, just the word,
"brother" held a strange magic for somebody
who couldn't imagine how it could have been, growing
up as a team, sharing blood like that. Brother and sister
in law. "Thank you, thank you," he murmured,
not quite sure what else to say.
thank you, Vadim." Duncan murmured into
Vadim's ear, "thank you for having given me my
bother back." Duncan smiled when he stepped away
and Mhairi embraced Vadim, then the whole family followed,
the whole large clan of McFadyens.
embrace from Vadim's daughter and her pregnant girlfriend
was more reserved; Anya was playing along, for appearances
sake, but Vadim was sure that she either resented him
or expected more of a apology from him than he'd given
her. Probably something like he'd given Nikolai, but
his son had been easy to talk to, easy to connect with.
Whereas Anya was much like he'd been when he was young.
Aloof, masked, fierce in her dedication to follow her
own way, whatever the cost, whatever the sacrifice.
A narcissist of the highest order. He could respect
that, and thought, ruefully, that he'd somehow taken
his own father's place - unable to truly connect to
his offspring. Too similar; even in the preference to
her own gender, but Lizabeta wasn't Katya's calibre,
she looked shy and pale and feminine.
hugged him, too, and Vadim held him only too gladly.
No misgivings here. When Nikolai was anywhere near Australasia,
he flew over for a few days and they caught up. He seemed
happy with short, physical affairs with women, and had
partnered with a former boss and a financial firm that
invested in resources. He was involved in finding deposits
and marketing the exploitation rights--which meant he
got to travel a lot and worked hard, for ten years longer,
he sometimes said, then he'd do something else. Vadim
wasn't worried about him. Nikolai really just needed
two things; freedom and his own space, and plenty of
that, 'so I can hear what I'm thinking', he used to
say, grinning. "Congratulations, dad," he
said now, close to Vadim's ear, and Vadim smiled at
the 'dad'. As if. It was a gift, but probably nobody
else understood that.
congratulations." Dr Williams had appeared out
of nowhere, suddenly in front of Vadim. His remaining
hair was bright white and he was smiling at him, eyes
crinkling in a wrinkled and kind face. He shook Vadim's
hand in a firm grip. "I don't think I can express
satisfactorily how happy this today makes me."
I'm sane enough to not drive everybody off," Vadim
said with a good measure of irony, which held the knowledge
that it could have been very different. "Thanks
to you, sir."
this was entirely down to you, you had the strength
and the determination." Dr Williams gave Vadim's
hand a last firm shake, before he, too, stepped back
into the crowd, to congratulate Dan in turn, replaced
with Dima who came to stand in front of Vadim, Markus
at his side.
Major," Dima said, and the rank was less of a joke
and more a reminder between them.
saluting, please," Vadim said and embraced him.
"Thanks for coming, Dima." He shook Markus'
hand, and touched his arm. Never quite sure where the
welcome touch ended, but Markus closed his hand over
Vadim's and gave a squeeze when Vadim said, "and
thank you. Must have been a bit of a pain to organize."
what fierce admins are for, I told her that there was
nothing more important than attending this ceremony,
and she wove her magic. If I hadn't managed to get my
deputy to take over for these days, Dima would never
have forgiven me." Markus grinned. When they stood
side by side, Dima had his arm around his waist, and
the taller Markus had his arm around Dima's shoulders.
Casual, intimate and tender. "We'll see you later."
With that they let Vadim go, and turned to congratulate
didn't know anymore who was who nor where, and kept
shaking hands, left, right and centre. He even got a
brief half-embrace from Beauvais. He kept laughing,
smiling, a blur of faces, Manke, Gordon, Douglas, all
of the American crew, his old mates from the Gulf and
the Balkan, the men from the Spa and many of their partners,
wives, girlfriends, voices, congratulations and music
above it all. Matt embraced him at some stage, and at
another he had the slender form of Solange in his arms.
Eventually, he wondered where the Baroness was. Looking
around, he found her standing a little to the side,
watching the commotion of the guests, with a bright
smile on her face. Like an onlooker who could not get
enough of the spectacle of joy.
managed to get through the last well-wishers, before
walking over to her. He smiled at the Baroness. Tiny
now, a little stooped and deceptively fragile, but the
steel was still there, and the mind as sharp as a cut
diamond. "There is something I've wanted to do
for many years." He stuck the cane under his arm
and bent down, wrapping his arms around her frame in
a tight embrace. Holding her close, and after a split
second, she embraced him back, with surprising strength.
murmured into her ear, "I love you, Maggie."
another squeeze, he straightened back up, grinning down
at her. She reached out for him, and her eyes were dangerously
bright, shimmering with an emotion so rarely expressed,
as she patted his cheek.
know, Dan. I know." Her voice had a tremor in it.
"Now off you go to your husband."
chuckled, "I have to get used to that."
will." She smiled and shooed him off, but when
he turned his head, he saw how she dabbed at her eyes
with an emblazoned handkerchief.
afternoon was spent with the 'wedding breakfast', a
phrase that never ceased to make Dan laugh, and which
consisted of an abundance of champagne, cakes and savouries.
The Baroness had thankfully foregone the fully traditional
route and there was no wedding cake to cut, instead
a magnificent cake selection, a veritable feast for
the eye and the palate.
guests enjoyed themselves, each of them wanted the grooms'
attention at some stage, and thus Dan and Vadim never
got a chance to even look at each other, except for
across the room. At some stage Dan had to sit down,
but that did not stop the laughter and the conversation
it was time for the formal dinner, the assembly retired
into the splendid dining room, with its magnificent
gilded ceilings, its ornate mirrors and its crystal
chandeliers, decorated in the most elegant way with
silver, thistles and ivy. Dan murmured to the Baroness
if the silver had the special meaning of an anniversary
by chance, but she merely winked and then ushered them
to their seats of honour at the top table. At long last
they sat together, and while the piper, the fiddler
and the drummer played quietly, everyone enjoyed an
exquisite five course meal, during which the aperitifs,
the wine and the spirits continued to flow freely.
some stage, the Baroness announced that it was her pleasure
to say a few words to celebrate the union of her dear
friends, and her short speech left Dan with a lump in
his throat. She invited others to say a few words if
they wished, and to both Dan's and Vadim's surprise,
more people stood up for an anecdote, a bon mot, a toast
or simply a "well done, mates" than expected.
and Hooch were the last ones to speak as the best men,
and both their speeches were humorous yet full of emotional
impact. When the guests demanded with a lot of laughter,
cheer and encouragement, that the grooms should make
a speech as well, Dan looked at Vadim in horror. He
hadn't even thought about it.
I'll do it," Vadim murmured close to him, to give
Dan more time, then stood. "Of course I haven't
prepared anything, so I'll take the opportunity to embarrass
myself." Smiling, he gave a small pause, ordering
the sentences in his head while he picked up a wine
glass. "I ... and I'm sure Dan agrees, we've been
together long enough to pick up on such details, am
deeply honoured and pleased today. One of our oldest
friends has taken it upon herself to arrange this occasion,
and to her, Baroness de Vilde, go our heartfelt thanks
for everything she has done. From the day she told an
obviously lying Soviet soldier where his wounded enemy
was being treated, to this, brighter and far more cheerful
day. I wish to thank our families, for having been protective
and accepting of our nature, as much as we were struggling
with what has been our destiny. For the mentors and
teachers that we encountered, some of which are here
today, and others that have left us before their time.
To our friends, witnesses and their partners, who have
stood beside us, quite literally in war and peace, to
those we hold dear and who crossed our paths. Thank
you for sharing this day with us, but even more, thank
you for the past, and, of course, the future."
applause that branded up was only cut short when everybody
drank a toast to Vadim's speech, and then Dan got up
from his chair. He leaned in to place a kiss onto Vadim's
cheek, and while Vadim sat down, Dan grinned into the
round of guests.
of, I need to thank Vadim for rescuing me. I'm not a
man of words, certainly not of eloquent words, and apart
from a string of swear words, I am not known to come
up with speeches." He let the laughter and the
friendly hackling die down, before he continued, more
serious this time. "I would also like to thank
all of you, for sticking to our request not to bring
any presents, but to donate instead to the Pascal Durant
Foundation." Dan turned to glance at Jean with
a warm smile. The best men and their partners were seated
beside them, at the same table, and he saw Solange's
fingers press Jean's arm. "If it wasn't for you,
each and every one of you, all of you in your own ways,
I wouldn't be running the Spa and Foundation. Instead
I would be in need of its help. Without you, my family,
old and new, dead and newborn, and you my friends, close
and far, deep and loose, I wouldn't be as human as I
am today." He raised his glass, then turned to
look down at Vadim, "and without you, Vadim, I
just wouldn't be at all." He paused, the room had
gone very quiet, until Dan let out a huff of laughter
to try and hide the sudden surge of feelings. "Let
us drink to what you've all turned me into: a damned
old fucking emotional fool." When everyone laughed
and stood up to raise their glasses to toast the grooms,
he called out into the room, "to love, loyalty,
friendship and trust!"
love, loyalty, friendship and trust!" The whole
room erupted, and everyone drank.
the table was broken up, hotel staff quickly came to
transform the grand dining hall into a ballroom, with
plenty of space for the revellers. Clann An Drumma,
the band for the evening arrived, to play their version
of Scottish traditional music, delivered with such electrifying
drums, it made everyone move or at least tap their feet.
Soon Jean and Solange claimed centre stage, dancing.
while later, Jean met Dan outside on the balcony that
overlooked Princes street gardens, they were both in
search of place to smoke a cigarette in peace. Lighting
up, he glanced at Dan, then inhaled deeply and looked
at the sky, while Dan kept staring at the illuminated
skyline of the most beautiful city he knew. The castle,
the buildings, the lights of Princes Street. It couldn't
be any more different to the Afghan mountains, and yet
the sense of majesty was the same.
would have thought, hm?" Dan said quietly, exhaling
into the cold air. The sound of music and revellers
came muted through the grand doors behind them. He turned
his head to look at Jean. "And you are such a big
part of this, my friend."
good. It's good to be part of something." Jean
smiled. "I guess that's really why I did the things
I did, you know, marry, have kids, get that huge house,
become somebody completely different. Too many guys
end up alone, fucked up, betrayed or just simply broken.
We're the lucky ones. I certainly am more lucky that
I can say. The old lady that left me the house when
she died, I'm sometimes thinking about her, how that
really started everything. I was drifting through the
country on R&R, sick of life, and god so fucking
angry at everything and everybody." Jean inhaled.
"Helping old ladies was the last thing on my mind,
but there was this guy who was bothering an old lady.
She was carrying some shopping and he didn't do anything
to help and instead was shouting at her. I thought,
what a jerk. I was itching for a fight anyway, so I
got involved. The guy didn't have the guts to fight
a legionnaire, and fucked off. I didn't actually want
to get involved in any way, no tea and cake and whatever
in her kitchen, but I guess I did. That's how I got
the house - we signed a contract that I'd make sure
she's okay for the rest of her life, and she'd leave
me the house. She told me I should get a 'lady' to make
sure I have a home. And then I realized that was what
I really wanted. Have a place, a community, the people
in the village and be a part of all that. I worked through
the anger, I didn't want to turn into a feral animal.
Okay, I wanted to not be a feral animal any longer,
because at that point, I was. No more than a rabid dog,
really good at killing and not giving a shit about anything
but the next battle, the next war, the next meal, the
next bitch. Pretty much in that order, too. Not easy
to wean yourself off that anger and all that blood."
Jean shook his head, working through a memory he pushed
away eventually. "You're such a big part of all
that, too. I kept understanding myself better, could
let the defences down, you know. Trust somebody who
wasn't ... isn't weaker than I am. You mean a lot to
know," Dan smiled, stubbed out his cigarette and
leaned against the wall to be able to pull Jean into
a tight hug. "You mean a lot to me, too. Perhaps
we've both helped each other become human. You certainly
blind leading the blind," Jean laughed and held
held onto Jean for a long time, until he chuckled quietly,
"let's go back inside, aye? That fucking wind is
an icy draft up my kilt!"
you Highlanders supposed to be all manly about that?"
Jean grinned and kissed him, when Dan laughed. "Alright,
let's go back."
the guests were thoroughly enjoying themselves at the
party. People dancing to the music, children amongst
them, and even some babies sleeping in a corner, as
if the drums and the pipes and singing voices were but
a lullaby. The alcohol was in great demand, too posh
to be called booze in that place, even though many of
the ex-soldiers had long gone over to beer from the
Frenchmen had stayed with the wine, and while Maurice
was still - or again - sitting and talking with George,
with no one the wiser if talking had been all they'd
been doing, the young Legionnaire walked across the
ballroom. A glass of wine in his hand, one of many he'd
already had, he smiled at the dancers. A free, relaxed,
somewhat drunk smile, a rare sight. Nearly bumping into
Gordon, who was talking to Matt, and who laughed when
St John grunted a slurred apology, before being sent
along with a wink. Hooch was close by, right where St
John was heading to, talking with Beauvais. Hooch looked
up when the young man approached, and something in his
face, or the smile, seemed to tell him something, because
he finished his conversation with Beauvais with a few
words and turned to join Matt and the others. Matt lifted
his head to smile at Hooch when he arrived, and placed
an arm around his waist for one easily overlooked moment.
St John smiled at Beauvais, standing too close, and
clearly worse for wear from all the wine, but a happy
drunk. "Would you like to dance?"
eyes lit up with clear alarm at the request, the reflex
too deeply ingrained to be suppressed, especially after
some wine as well. Maybe they'd already been pushing
their luck, the framework, the mask, and he felt a sense
of nausea at being exposed, even in friendly surrounding,
even with just friends in the room. It was out in the
open, out of the box, and how would he be able to put
it back into that box? It seemed like a shocking indulgence,
too emotional by far, especially regarding what they
were. "I would like to," he said softly, "but
it is not possible. I cannot dance." I must not.
John nodded, no defiance, no anger, not even disappointment,
as if he never dared hope for much, but that night,
with the joy and happiness all around them, nothing
could put him down. He still smiled. The smile turned
his face into more than just handsome. Open, warm, and
achingly attractive. "Would you come with me to
another room? I just want to kiss you. Please."
features softened and he nodded, indicating a direction.
He led, away, outside, and St John followed, like he
always would. Beauvais took them to the adjacent cloak
room, deserted and quiet, with racks of the guests'
coats and jackets, and nothing else. There was a small
emergency light above the door, but when they stepped
inside and closed the door behind them, the green glow
was the only light, casting their uniforms and their
faces into a surreal play of fractured shadows.
wanted to kiss you all night." St John said quietly
in French. A little slurred, but undoubtedly lucid.
"Wanted to touch you, like the others do."
The alcohol had loosened his tongue, allowing his thoughts
and feelings - usually cut off and shut away - to come
unguarded to the surface. "I love you, mon Commandant,
please let me kiss you."
felt that love like a pain, too intense to be spoken.
He even had to force himself to speak in bed, of needing
and wanting, because for the rest of his time, it choked
him. "Granted," he said, voice strangled.
How did he deserve this man, and how much was he a prisoner
to those two things, his job and his emotions. It didn't
bear thinking about.
were no more words, when St John embraced Beauvais,
and kissed him with those pent up emotions. With the
love that he felt, and that ran deeper than even his
loyalty to the Legion. But Beauvais did not exist without
the Legion, and thus St John put everything he was and
felt and wanted into that kiss, that soon had Beauvais'
back against the wall of coats, and St John all over
him, murmuring words that would have been senseless
out of context, but within, they declared feelings,
needs, and hopes. Demanding, pressing into him, breathlessly,
open-mouthed kissing and grinding against him. Forgotten
the guests, the occasion, and any loyalty except to
the ballroom, Hooch suddenly stood beside Vadim, his
hand in the small of his back. "Are you one of
those who think we Americans get a medal every time
we cross a foreign border?" he murmured into Vadim's
ear with a grin. He shifted to stand in front of Vadim,
in all his glory. The uniform accentuated the lines
of his body, and true to his quip, his breast was a
treasure trove of medals and ribbons.
laughed. "I know you do." He could read Hooch's
whole career from those ribbons, every mission, every
medal, and it was a busy career. "But crossing
lines is clearly heroic. Lines in the sand, lines we
set ourselves, imaginary lines ... challenging what's
there. Yes. That's heroic."
you are clearly a hero." Hooch smiled, "and
one without whom I would not be able to keep redefining
mine." Hooch turned round to a waiter who came
along with a tray of wine glasses, and took two, holding
one out to Vadim, who took it. "You mean a lot
to me, Vadim. You are my friend, and I do not say this
know you don't. That makes it worth something."
Vadim raised his glass. "It's an honour and privilege
to be your friend; even though you're just a filthy
alright, since you're just a Russian peasant."
Hooch clinked his glass against Vadim's and winked.
"Whatever happened to the Cold War ..." Instead
of taking a sip from his wine, though, he leaned in
and placed a brief kiss onto Vadim's lips. More than
a buddy and less than a lover, but no one seemed to
have noticed. "To many more years of friendship
and of crossing lines."
I sure hope so," Vadim said, smiling.
raised the glass to his lips and drank, dark eyes on
Vadim. He commented with a smirk, when he put the glass
down, "I hope you're creative, because one day
I'll be too arthritic to kneel."
are ways to get around bad knees," Vadim said evenly,
and smiled. The kind of smile that showed he was examining
ideas to put into practice at a later date. If anything
was good about age, it was the ability for patience.
bet there are, and I know you'll find them." Hooch's
own smile held the promise to experience all of them.
party went on, and there was no one who didn't enjoy
themselves. Kisa was seen dancing with her youngest
cousin, then her brother, chatting animatedly with the
Baroness who she had met a couple of times before, and
ending up for another dance with her uncle. After that,
she picked up each and every military man she could
find, to grill them about being in the Forces. She was
still adamant she was going to join the Hungarian army
after school, no matter what anyone said, and that she'd
one day whop her father's ass in rank. She was so exuberant
and happy that no one found her annoying, and she even
managed to grab Hooch, who was too amused not to answer
her questions when she grilled him, too, but none the
less glad when she found another victim after a while.
had sat down with a glass of wine to watch the revellers,
when Matt sauntered towards him.
buddy?" Matt grinned at Hooch, sidling onto the
deep window seat beside him. The corner was mercifully
dark and fairly quiet, with a view over the magnificent
city to one side, and over the whole ballroom to the
Hooch rose his brows.
not?" Matt flashed an impertinent, toothy grin.
happened to darling, lover, honey, or stud?"
would never call you shit like that." Matt laughed.
must have put something into your drink tonight."
quirked a grin, more relaxed than his customary half-ones.
"Perhaps, or maybe I'm just, like, glad to be here,
with you, for this particular occasion."
tilted his head, resting his hand on Hooch's thigh.
No one was watching them, and if anyone did, it was
highly unlikely they'd take pictures as evidence and
reported the incident to the US military. "You
know what, Bozic?"
let his brows arch up at that name.
no one, absolutely no one, other than Captain Hubert
'Hooch' Bozic, I want to be with. And if you are too
tired tonight to make good on yesterday's promise, I'll
kick your ass."
and whose army, kid."
leaned close, whispering into Hooch's ear, "me
and my ass, which I'll wave into your face because you
can't say no to anything if I do that."
I don't think. I know." Matt grinned.
answered the grin with one of his own rare, full-blown
ones, and in the relative safety of their corner he
reached out to touch the handsome face in front of him.
Fingers stroking the warm, smooth skin, he murmured
the three words that he'd hardly ever said. "I
love you, Matt Donahue."
I know, too. My darling, my lover my ... you can fuck
right off when it comes to baby, honey and stud."
laughed and Matt chuckled quietly, far more touched
than he tried to let on, and he let his lips touch Hooch's
for a brief but tender kiss.
didn't realise that they were being watched from across
a table, but watched by a man who smiled and quickly
looked away to give privacy. "Seems today has a
soppy effect on everyone." Markus reached out to
take Dima's hand, squeezing it with a warm smile. "I
wish we could do the same, albeit with a smaller celebration."
can do the same, it's just not legally binding,"
Dima said. "Austria's not quite there yet. Might
never get there, either."
think we should have a celebration, and forget about
the legal side of things? We are safe, what with insurances
and everything set up, but I would like to celebrate
our life together, with our family and friends."
Markus smiled warmly, "would you not-quite marry
me, Dmitri Starov?"
I would." Dima kissed him. "But you don't
know what you're getting yourself into. The place I
come from? It's a backwater even compared to the places
we end up working."
ask me if I know what I am getting myself into?"
Markus laughed, "we've been together for how many
years? I know all about your annoying habits. For example,
you do snore at times, despite your claims to the contrary,
and you still can't cook a decent egg Benedict, but
I still love you." Markus reached for his glass
to take a sip. "Next year, then? In our house in
France? My mother will be absolutely delighted, but
you know that, you have her wrapped round your finger."
it's obvious where you have your charm and intellect
from, that much is clear." Dima pondered. "Why
wait so long. What about spring ... May? We don't need
to make nearly as much of a fuss about it, your admin
should be able to put everything together in an idle
she ever has an idle afternoon then I am doing something
wrong." Markus chuckled. "But you are right.
I've got R&R in May, and since we originally planned
to spend it at home, why not do it there and then? I'll
get things rolling when we're back in Africa."
He leaned closer with a wink, "it's a shame, though,
that we can't get properly married. I quite fancy your
name. If I had the choice between Starov and Kaltenbrunn,
I know what I would go for. I might have a chance of
the BBC getting the shorter one right."
laughed. "I wouldn't know who they talk about with
'Mr Starov" giving oh-those-carefully-worded statements
to the press, shooting down their need to get all worked
up about a little genocide or other humanitarian catastrophes.
I would think I had suddenly wizened up." He pressed
Markus' hand. "But if you want to, you can use
see." Markus smiled. "I might be too high
up the food chain to change my name, after all, but
in here," he tapped his chest above his heart,
"I've been your husband all these years."
later that night, some guests had retired, while many
were still dancing, drinking, chatting and partying.
Those with the young children had eventually gone to
their rooms, and so had several of the elderly. Some
were worse for wear and had had too much to drink, while
others wanted to make the most out of the rest of the
night with their significant - or not so significant
and Vadim finally found themselves in the same place
at the same time, and they sat down in chairs side by
side. Dan stretched out his legs, rested the cane beside
his chair and downed a large measure of whisky. He leaned
back and grinned at Vadim. "Well, it's late and
there's the wedding night looming. Are you going to
carry me over the doorstep?"
thought you resented the thought you were the 'girl'
just because you're wearing a skirt," Vadim teased
gently, but stood. He was still solid on his feet. "Come
on, then." He offered his hand.
fucking kidding me, aye?" Dan laughed, but took
the hand and let himself get pulled up. "I'd flash
the whole ballroom with my kilt, and I'm not sure that
all of them appreciate my shaved bollocks."
not all of them, but a fair part." Vadim grinned.
"I can cover you with my back." He bent down
and lifted Dan, who let out a sound of protest and then
just laughed and clung to Vadim's neck.
was careful to move in a way that didn't screw up his
lower back - at least not worse than it was. The hours
he spent on working his stomach and back to minimize
the pain had to be worth it, and so far, he managed
the weakness, but he'd still slipped a disk a few years
ago and while it had moved right back, there was always
the potential he'd need an operation to fix it when
it happened again. When, not if.
"Hey, look!" Someone exclaimed, and several
of the dancers turned, pointing at Dan and Vadim and
the mind boggling sight of two men like them, one carrying
the other in his arms.
bride's getting carried to the wedding night!"
Someone else shouted, and then an unmistakably American
voice added, "he's the one wearing the skirt, after
managed to stop laughing long enough to shout his own
abuse: "careful, or I'll fucking have you, it's
a kilt, not a skirt, and I'm more of a man in
a kilt than you are in a whole damned pair of
Vadim laughed, shifting Dan's weight, and it was an
effort, but he was okay. He'd definitely make it to
the elevator, and he did crossing the entire ballroom
with Dan in his arms, to the cheers and wolf whistles
of the remaining revellers. Still, he was glad when
he'd got into the elevator, and soon after, the doors
opened, and they arrived on their floor. "Do you
have the key card? Or I'll have to set you down."
in my sporran." One-handed opening the flap, Dan
quickly rummaged in his sporran to produce the swipe
card, and managed to reach and open the door. "I
keep wondering if I should be embarrassed, or touched,
or just piss myself with laughter." His toothy
grin nearly split his face.
clearly didn't have enough whisky." Vadim finally
got them through the door, closed it behind them with
a kick, then dropped Dan crossways on the huge bed.
Dan ended up on his back, arms and legs sprawled, when
Vadim followed closely to lie next to him. "Here
we are ... feel any different?"
didn't answer for a while, looking up at the brocaded
ceiling of the four poster bed. He finally turned his
head and smiled at Vadim. "Aye. I don't know quite
how nor why, but I do. It's good, though. Damn good.
And you?" he reached across to take Vadim's hand
like wearing that ring," Vadim said, clicking his
ring together with Dan's. "Always liked to wear
a ring on that finger, as a reminder, when the other
isn't close. To remember." He rolled over onto
his side, and Dan followed suit, lying face to face.
Hands still clasped, Dan reached his free hand to cup
years, aye? We're two fucking lucky bastards, all considered."
in the meantime, the world has changed. Just for us."
Vadim grinned, liking that preposterous idea. "They
ended the Cold War, made marriage possible ..."
Just for us. As if. But it was a nice indulgence to
joke about it.
just for us." Dan chuckled softly. "And they
made sure they put a lot of people into the world, just
for us, to have friends, mates, and family."
wouldn't go that far. After all, many of those people
were also enemies and ... other things." Worse
things; rivals, torturers. Victims. "In the end,
most of what we did happened because of our decisions.
We're back to one of the favourite topics for discussion
with my father ... how free is our will really. How
much is our fault." Vadim groaned. "And I'm
too drunk to care."
no, Russkie, don't go all deep on me. Not on our wedding
night, when we should be shagging like rabbits, if we
weren't too old, too knackered, and too pissed."
Dan grinned, leaned his forehead against Vadim's and
murmured, "it has almost become impossible to remember
the hatred I once felt for you."
good. You wouldn't marry somebody you hated, right?"
And thank you for feelings changing; for that strange
human ability to adjust and adapt and survive; for black
becoming white, and white becoming black. That we are
not carved in stone, not like marble statues, endless
and immortal and unchanging, but human.
wonder how it all happened." Dan let his hand slide
to the back of Vadim's neck, fingers splayed. "I
guess if any of our grandchildren ever asked, we'll
just claim it was magic."
answer." Vadim moved closer, not caring about the
suit, he didn't want to get up, certainly not get undressed,
because he was content and tired and it was simply a
good moment to lie there and touch Dan. "But they
won't ask. Every generation has its own hang-ups and
its own problems. Which is just as well."
stifled a yawn, then wrapped his arm around Vadim to
hold him close. The sporran was wedged between them,
but he couldn't be bothered about it. "It'll remain
our secret, then. Our very own story." He smiled,
leaned in for a gentle kiss, and whispered, "for
no one to tell."
The end of Dan and Vadim's story -