- August 1991, The Persian Gulf
unaware of the stand-off between his new-found more-than
mate and Vadim, Dan had refused to take notice of the
accident at breakfast. Doing all he could to ignore
the Russian - and failing miserably at night. When the
world quietened and the adrenaline died down, the images
were coming back. Memories, touches, and most of all
desert at night, in a tin room full of shadows, held
eleven years inside, like Pandora's box.
a fairly uneventful day at work, Dan returned bang on
time with a couple minutes to spare. Doing the usual
routine of signing the weapons back into the store,
airing his body armour and dealing with the laundry
of his sweat-drenched kit, he finally relished the best
moment of the day: washing the sticky cover of sweat,
red sand and dust off his skin.
his hot shower, he went to get some scran, famished
as ever. Sitting first with his team mates, chatting
about the events of the day and planning the route for
the following day, until it was time to get a second
or third helping of sticky toffee pudding. Taking a
seat amongst Jean's team after that, laughing and joking
while wolfing down his dessert. Glancing at Jean with
a grin, Dan made a rude gesture and an entirely inappropriate
comment that let the guys break out into roaring laughter.
Sure, Mad Dog, the self-professed fag, and Jean, the
uber-stud. Made everyone piss themselves.
an hour later, while dusk was settling, Dan was talking
to Jean as both of them carried a two litre water bottle,
while smoking a companionable cigarette on their way
towards Jean's hut.
paused, seemingly thoughtfully twisting the cigarette
in his hand, glancing at the glowing point, half-turning,
a movement that allowed him to have a quick overview
of who was close, with one face, one presence especially
unwelcome, but Krasnorada was nowhere to be seen. He
nodded for Dan to get in, flicked the cigarette away,
followed into his microwave oven and padlocked the door.
Pulling his shirt off right at the door, he looked at
Dan with half-closed eyes. "I think the pieces
are all set." Idly adjusting himself in the camo
trousers, grinning, left hand against his groin, pressing
in a little, glancing at Dan with a friendly challenge.
"I could use a cocksucker", he murmured. "Or
just a hand. Flexible here
you should say that," Dan grinned, "I was
thinking to myself today," taking his own shirt
off and tossing it onto the bed, "while securing
that particularly deserted piece of land", popping
the button of his shorts and pulling the zipper down,
"and guarding this particularly annoying piece
of Big Wig shit," dropping the shorts, he stepped
out of them, kicking them towards the bed as well, "that
I could do with a body."
suddenly pushed hard against Jean's chest, making him
stumble backwards and against the wall. Grinning all
the way, especially when he ground his naked body into
groaned, full-on-contact, part wrestling, not that he
wanted to fight, really, a vague, but nagging lust turning
into heated desire at the touch, the grinding. He pushed
against Dan's groin, felt the heat against himself,
fumbled with the belt and buttons to get the trousers
down, growing breathless. Would be fast, a quick release,
fine with him. Touching and kissing and lying there
resting, later. "Any body?" He teased, kissing
Dan's neck. "Of course
as long as he's strong,
" he murmured into Dan's ear.
"And has a big cock you can suck
" Toneless laughter.
any body." Dan smirked, moved his head, away from
the lips on his neck and towards the other's face. "And
that would be almost everybody since no one can resist
my charm." Biting along the jaw line while pushing
Jean's trousers down. Cock against cock now, heat and
desire that had been simmering all day.
right hand got hold of both their cocks, trapped between
their bodies, starting to stroke, push and grind.
suppressed a curse, not quite what he had expected,
but he'd be damned if he didn't roll with it. Feeling
the other's cock so close. Nothing like Krasnorada.
Krasnorada had loved the fear. Dan loved the lust. Fuck
it. Nothing like the Russian granddaddy. Lips opened,
he was starting to pant, push forward, hard enough to
force Dan to use more strength, which, in turn, made
Jean even hornier.
I didn't know you're such an arrogant twat," Dan's
voice was husky and breathless, lips working their way
towards Jean's mouth, "I'd tell you, you have a
fucking great cock to suck." Delving in for the
kiss, harsh and demanding.
groaned into the kiss, liked the compliment, loved the
kissing. Hand on Dan's shoulder, digging into the muscle.
Tongue wrestling his, no fight, not at all, a weird
sense of rhythm and harmony, like the other read his
body much too clearly.
suddenly, something banged hard against the door, just
a yard away from where they were standing. "Jean?
Got a minute?" The door rattled. "Hey, you
almost jumped out of his skin, first reaction to delve
for cover at the attack and aim his weapon, when his
violent jerk head-butted Jean's chin.
glared at him and touched his chin, grinning, face gleaming
with a sheen of sweat. "Pascal", he mouthed.
Dan muttered, still standing close, reluctant to step
away from the heat of their cocks. Could feel an insane
bubble of hilarity welling up inside him, despite his
heart racing in the sudden adrenaline rush.
up?" Jean bit his fist to stop himself from laughing,
face twitching, eyes brimming with humour at the fucking
timing, Pascal. I'm
busy right now."
mate, just fucking a tied-up Mad Dog on my bed. Not
sure you'd appreciate the sight. It's a bit of a massacre."
Jean fought full-out laughter while speaking. Grinning
like a devil as he took Dan's hand and made him stroke
him again. "Yeah, baby, just like
immediately started to stroke, adding the grinding of
his body into the mix. Harder than before, while biting
into Jean's shoulder muscle to stop himself from laughing.
silence. Then: "You're hitting the fucking bong
was too much, too fucking hilarious and Dan lifted his
head, shouting: "Sure thing, mate, coz Jean got
it all wrong. Must be fucking delusional, that teamleader
of yours, seems to be mistaking his own arse being pounded
with mine." Dan delivered a particularly vicious
stroke, that made his own cock twitch and his body shudder,
adding an unmistakable huskiness to his voice. "Yeah,
bitch, you're as tight as a fucking fist."
almost came with that, giving a groan that shouldn't
have come out, not like that, lust, desire, needs. Just
barely managed to laugh at Dan's game of dare, eyes
closed, panting against Dan's shoulder. "Finish
me off", he breathed, in Russian, probably so Pascal
had no chance to get what he was saying, but Jean was
too fucking close, needed to come, whatever the situation.
Teeth locked in Dan's shoulder, body tensing up with
the onslaught as Dan obliged, thank god, and Jean gave
shuddered, different, memories. Suffocating. Burning.
Language and man and shadows of blond hair and angular
planes of muscles and jaw and cock and
furiously with a renewed viciousness. Needed to come
as well, to eradicate the image of another man.
right, you bastards are taking the piss", grunted
Pascal. "Got it. Have the shit for yourselves."
knew he shouldn't shout, too breathless, but the weed
was a brilliant excuse. "You can always join us
for a threesome, I'd be willing to pop the cherry of
your virginal arse." Dan laughed, but only for
a brief moment, had to bite hard into Jean's shoulder
to stop himself from groaning. Forgetting about the
marks he left, his own mauled in return, stroking so
hard and brutal it bordered on pain. He came hardly
a second later, right after the legionnaire, convulsing
and grinding into Jean. Whimpering against the sweaty
skin, biting hard into muscles to stop himself from
making too much noise.
See you guys later, then." Pascal sounded flustered,
probably at the laughter and the shared joke he wasn't
privy to. Rapped against the door as a goodbye.
laughed, breathless, helpless, just didn't seem able
to stop, even though his knees were weak and he seemed
eager to collapse on the floor or bed or anywhere. "Fucking
brilliant voice-acting", he laughed, giddy from
climax and the fucking risk. Hand running through Dan's
hair, taking a handful to force his head into a kiss.
"Reckless fucking sexy bastard
you're a kinky motherfucker." Dan grinned, let
himself be drawn into the kiss, bodies still grinding
against each other. Contact too good to leave yet. He
liked kissing that guy, Jean was good, different to
Matt, even though he liked kissing the kid. Jean was
somewhat distinguished, somehow deeper-intense. Entirely
unlike to the only other man he'd ever kissed, whose
kisses had reached into the depth of his soul and had
Dan broke the kiss, breathlessly chuckling, covering
up his thoughts with a smirk. "Want to get stuck
glanced down between them and gave another laugh. "No
fun in that
but I guess we could make the most
of it." He broke the contact to reach for his discarded
t-shirt and wiped himself down first, then handed the
shirt to Dan. "And whatever Pascal says, I'm not
smoking pot in camp. Not on duty."
didn't expect you to. You're not an idiot." Drugs
meant getting chucked out, no matter what; while alcohol
on duty warranted a severe warning. Dan took the shirt,
eyed it for a moment before wiping himself down, then
handing it back. "Make sure no one sees your laundry.
Interesting white stains." He grinned, not that
it mattered. They'd all wanked into an item of clothing,
picked up the bottle that he had set down and drank,
deeply. "The medics say I will probably be all
set next week. Swelling goes down nicely, and the joint
seems to be alright. With a little luck, I'll be on
your flank in a week."
would be good." Dan waited for Jean to finish drinking
before taking the plastic bottle and chugging the water
down his neck. "Let's sit down for a while before
I need to grab some shut-eye. I demand some of your
after-sex speciality." He pulled away from the
other and sat down on the bed, inviting.
grinned. "And that would be
?" He sat
down while Dan merely grinned from ear to ear. Jean
was leaning against the wall, adjusted the sling, then
raised his hands. "Docking permit granted, Sir.
Welcome aboard." Laughing again. "I would
have loved to see Pascal's face. Holy shit."
let himself fall back across Jean's thighs. He rather
liked the 'grooming', that human touch that he had missed
for two and a half years. The Yank kid was great, but
was a kid after all, and the depths of non-verbal communication
just didn't exist with him. Dan settled in, grinning
upwards. "He'd have upchucked his supper, but who
knows, he might have joined."
doubt there's enough space for three in your hand
Jean idly traced the hairline with his fingers, then
ran them into the dark hair, smirking. "I thought
chess was a game for two players, but then, there's
played that kind of 'poker'." Dan closed his eyes,
grinned lazily, "sounds interesting, though."
went down the temple to the jawline, touch almost minimal,
just the fingertips, it was still too warm. "And
he's too much part of the rumour mill. No. Good long
legs though. He did a lot of marching and running."
chuckled, "I'm not fucking stupid. The less anyone
knows the better - in this case." He let his arm
dangle off the bed, revelling in touch, heat, satiation.
"I meant to ask you something. How in god's name
did you get into the legion? What shit happened back
was unlucky enough to turn eighteen in the Soviet Union.
Got drafted, of course. A couple months later I was
sitting in a mountain fortress, scared shitless and
homesick. Didn't help I caught typhoid fever
polluted water, and logistics were appalling. I mean,
you get used to being hungry, right? You steal and barter
enough to stay alive, share stuff with comrades
of course, all illegal. You were not supposed to do
that, but the fucking system fucked us up the ass, every
inhaled while Dan listened attentively, with closed
eyes. Didn't he just know it. He remembered supplies
he had brought back for an enemy, to keep that man alive.
at a discount. Save money. No idea. I only know that
there was hardly a day I had enough food to not be fucking
hungry. They say it was the same in all the barracks,
the Soviet Army likes to keep her bitches lean, but
we were combat troops." Jean's hand rested against
Dan's cheek. "That's what I remember of Afghanistan.
Being hot. Being cold, being hungry, and finally, being
sick." He paused, as if waiting for Dan to tell
him to stop.
Dan didn't. Not a word, just opened his eyes at Jean's
pause and nodded.
medic in our unit. The only man I ever respected in
that army. He'd get his steel helmet, get kitted like
the others, like the fucking special forces, and raid
the trucks with them, for medical supplies, never for
anything else. Most of the booty vanished in the deep
dark pockets of the officers and the specwar types,
especially bandages, syringes, and morphine. Sure, they
could use it, too, but they also traded it. So, the
medic goes out with them, carries his own shit, laden
like one of those fucking bend-legged donkey, takes
off the helmet, washes his faces and hands, gets the
clean and new gloves, and while everybody else is still
squirreling away the booty, he starts operating."
frowned, dark brows steep over equally dark eyes. He
had suspected, never known, and sure as shit never asked.
He was still silent when Jean shifted to reach for a
packet of cigarettes, pulled one out with his teeth,
let it hang between his lips. "Anyway. I caught
the fever. No drugs to treat the shit. I got isolated,
and that was it. I got the feeling they were just waiting
for me to die. Medic could do nothing. Officer didn't
care. That bitch almost killed me, so I decide to leave.
And I did. I don't remember much of that. By all rights,
I should have died. I ended up with some villagers that
thought higher of hospitality than revenge. There were
Europeans, too. Could have been CIA, or reporters, or
anybody, really. Those had drugs, which kept me going
until I could cross the border to Pakistan. I recovered
in a small hospital near Peshawar. But before they could
put me on a plane to Moscow, I could walk again, and
I was on my way. Went West, did some crazy shit."
He laughed and Dan grinned, murmuring, "I bet."
up in East Africa, working any way that would fill my
stomach. Happened to stumble across a recruitment office.
I needed a new life, a new name, and the Legion offered
that, so I thought fuck it, can't be worse than the
Soviet Army. Signed up for my five years, got shipped
to Castelnaudry in France, learnt French, and did the
nodded again, "I did the whole Afghan war, but
on the other side." He shrugged, fished for a cigarette
for himself. "Did your five years, or more?"
nine. Got shot after the first two years, could apply
for citizenship one year earlier than anybody else,
sure as fuck I did. I learnt a lot of useful things,
and I liked being a hard bastard. Still like it."
Jean grinned darkly. "But I heard how much private
security people make. So I left, could have had a nice
pension after fifteen years, but I did the numbers and
figured I'd try being on my own. Met Solange right after
leaving and was just having a one-man-and-lots-of-women-party
in Paris. Thought I could do better with my languages
and experience, and figured being a merc was more interesting
than the goold old 'march or die'."
lit his fag, inhaling deeply. "Seems you fell on
your feet in the end. Good for you, mate. Thousands
didn't make it."
the officer's fault. I watched it, on CNN. The bandits
getting better, the speeches of the general secretaries
getting grander, the fucked idea to launch an offensive
in the Panjir. But the worst thing were the granddaddies.
Bitches like Krasnorada. Officers could do whatever
they liked. I've seen men being beaten to death for
stealing food. I don't believe the numbers. Any numbers.
No cause of death. I stopped being Russian in Afghanistan.
Calling me Russian was a good reason for me to kick
somebody's teeth in. I'm French. France has treated
me like a human being. Not always, but most of the time."
said nothing, smoking quietly and staring at the ceiling
of the tin hut, past the other's face. Eyes not seeing
anything other than too much of the past. "Aye,
they were gods. At least they thought so." Inhaling
deeply, he stalled, feeling the hot smoke enter his
lungs, then slowly exhaling. "Vadim Krasnorada
is a human being. Always has been. In some corner of
their fucked-up minds they all were. Family dads, husbands,
sons, and shit like that." He shrugged, felt suddenly
drained and sat up. He couldn't gather the energy to
try and explain and it was probably of no consequence,
no matter what it felt like inside.
is. He screams in the night. He bleeds. I guess that
counts." No real malice in Jean's voice, just a
twitched. The screams. Jean mentioned it again. No.
No, he didn't care, he couldn't care or it would kill
him. Again. "Whatever. Who cares. The war's officially
over, but guess it never will be for the survivors."
He craned his neck and suddenly bared his teeth in a
humourless, dark grin. Feral and close to nasty. "I
sleep and never dream. My only guilt is that I have
none." Taking another drag, Dan inhaled quicker
this time, switched unexpectedly back to the piss-taking,
fun-loving Mad Dog everyone knew. "At least this
shit here pays damn well. Enough to keep your lady happy
and enough to make me stacks of dosh to turn my farm
in New Zealand into Crystal Palace."
grinned. "And as many needy guys in camo as you
can wish for. Like a great white shark trawling the
coastline. Something's bound to show up." His hand
returned to Dan's chest, idly stroking the skin, following
the lines. "I don't feel guilt, either. It's not
like we get forced to do what we are doing, and Iraq
is evil, so Kuwait is good. We're helping the good guys,
and that makes us heroes."
started to laugh, leaning against the wall to allow
the stroking of a hand that damn well knew what to do
with a body. "Black and white, eh? If you ask me,
there are no goodies and there are no baddies. Just
a great big fucking mass of shades of grey. It's all
a matter of who is worth more, and fuck, the Gulf is
filled with oil. Or do you think the bloody Yanks are
doing this shit for the greater good of mankind? Fuck
them," he shrugged and finished his fag. "Fuck
them and their 'policing of the world'. But as long
as that pays me fucking shitloads of dollars or pounds,
I don't give a fuck why I'm doing this. I'm a war junkie;
I'm a soldier. That's what I do. I chase adrenaline
and I risk my life. In return I used to get my countries
'thanks'," Dan snorted, "and now I get paid
enough to live a comfortable life when I'm too old and
my body belongs to the scrap heap."
grinned humourlessly, "I've paid enough for the
'honour' of earning fat zeros behind numbers. I've paid
with my blood, my pain, my health. I've survived until
now, I've got a few more years in me." He turned
to Jean and smirked. "But I probably won't if I
don't get some shut-eye now. Double shift tomorrow,
it'll half kill me. So no cocksucking Mad Dog tomorrow
night, I'm afraid."
nodded. "Well, there's the weekend. And I'm fucking
bored, so drop by whenever." When Dan got up, he
leaned in to whisper again. "And if Pascal asks,
don't tell him just how much I begged you to fuck me.
He's still in my team." Pressing his lips right
on Dan's. "See you after your ass-kicking, Mad
Dog. Kill a towelhead for me."
winked, stood up to find his shorts and t-shirt, even
the flip-flops had to be somewhere. He never lingered
long and was at the door, working the padlock once he
was dressed. "Maybe." Opened the door. "Maybe
I won't tell - maybe I will." He was still laughing
when he kicked the door shut behind him.
bear it. Just couldn't. It was a grinding pain in Vadim's
guts, like somebody had shoved a hand into his innards,
grabbed a handful of the stuff and pulled and twisted.
Vadim went to bed with how Dan looked, how he moved,
how he spoke, but it was too often how he laughed with
Jean. Too often when he'd seen him, it was with the
legionnaire. It was so damned obvious; all of it. He
was amazed nobody saw it. He could imagine them together,
entwined, sweating, cursing, fucking each other's hands,
wondered if Dan fucked Jean, didn't quite think it was
the other way round, assumed Dan still didn't like it,
unless he did it out of spite. Because Jean had never
harmed him, never forced him.
the legionnaire spilled the beans? Vadim waited for
it, but it didn't happen. Jean kept shut. Good. Bad.
By now, he knew he could only end this one way. And
he lay awake and thought about it. Thought about it
all the time, before duty, after duty, worked hard to
be too tired to think.
he was alone in his room, alone with the darkness. Knew
Dan was less than a hundred yards away. Knew Dan was
probably right now sucking the legionnaire, and that
made him hard, but in the most desperate, wretched way.
Knew too well what that felt like, what Dan looked like
on his knees. Knew all of it, the kinds of sounds he
made, turned, restless, didn't want to think, didn't
want to remember, and couldn't help it.
SAS, fuck Royal Marines, fuck everybody who had put
him back together. It didn't matter. He was unable to
deal with it, one ambush, one pounding, one artillery
strike that rattled him, rattled heart and mind, and
he clutched at thoughts and memories, and they broke
when he touched them. What amazing bad idea to come
here. What utter stupidity to walk into Dan's war, thinking
just because he could walk again, the other would once
more accept him as an equal. Dan had found a man who
wasn't broken, for fun and laughter, and that was it.
Why drink salt water when you could have something entirely
that quenched the thirst. That easy laughter. Vadim
groaned, turned again, felt the anger and pain mingle,
like puss and blood. Just couldn't stop worrying that
wound. But one question was answered. What he felt for
Dan. He had learnt that here. The rage, the fucking
loneliness, the helpless anger, the envy. And the pain.
wiped the sweat off, heard jeeps arrive, checked the
time. Ah, the late shift returned. Dan. He knew what
Dan did, and where, his duties, his team. Of course
was only one solution to the pain. He dreaded it. Dreaded
it almost as badly as the pain itself, but maybe he
could stop prodding at that wound. Maybe the twisting
in his guts would stop. Permanently.
stood, slipped into his boots, the vest, still wore
the trousers. And the knife. Reached for the moonshine,
emptied the bottle. Felt the alcohol kick. Again.
his way through the dust, saw people, didn't greet,
didn't pause to chat, People tended to jump out of their
skins when he had tried. You make my skin crawl,
Krasnorada. He'd heard that a few times, different
words, sometimes only as much as a surprised "fuck!"
when he showed up. The man who smashed glasses in his
hand without provocation. The bastard who had knocked
people out in hand-to-hand. The hardass who stood his
ground even against the gay-hating crowd. Who asked
for the fight. Who got it, every time, and who refused
to lose. Who got up when he fell, just to absorb more
pain. Who didn't give any quarter when he was winning.
the last fight in this camp. He saw Dan head for the
had been a bloody bone breaking double shift. Dan was
completely shattered when he finally returned just after
midnight, but the reason for swapping the shift had
made it worthwhile. At least the desert was cool now,
and the sweat had dried on his body, encrusted with
that vile mixture of sticky sand and dust. Having signed
his weapons back into the store and exchanged a few
words with the QM, Dan dropped his helmet and body armour
in front of his hut, to let it dry out from the inside.
Shirt and trousers discarded, boots drying as well,
he was in his running shorts. Towel slung over one shoulder,
soap bag in his hand, he walked towards the shower block,
whistling to himself. Tired, but content. If he worked
his body to the bone until he was so tired he couldn't
stand anymore, then he didn't have to think. No memories
for him tonight.
into the shower block, Dan hit the light switch. The
place was deserted, everyone else had hit them either
first thing or was long past their bedtime anyway. Stepping
out of his shorts he kept the flip-flops on as usual,
the best protection against the dreaded athlete's foot
that loved sweaty boots far too much. Sorting his soap
bag then dropping the towel over a hook, he turned towards
the first set of showers. Almost asleep on his feet
and doing the mechanics of cleaning automatically.
glanced around, saw nobody in the showers, followed
like the hunter. Tiles. Blood. Water. The room in the
Lubyanka. Tiled. Buckets of water that turned the blood
pink that brought him back around, staring at the swirl
of colour in the water running from his head.
What's good enough for the KGB sure as hell is good
enough for me.
followed, saw Dan, saw sudden tension between the other's
shoulder blades, saw him turn around.
was staring at Vadim, fucking defenceless. Naked. Bone
tired, but suddenly all his senses were alert. Checked
the situation, the man - drunk, the danger. Glanced
behind, but had the tiles in his back. Fuck. No way
darkness came up like bile, Vadim wanted nothing but
to scream, scream like his body normally did, instead
pulled the knife. Needed to end the pain, couldn't see
him any longer. Just one more fight and I'll be free.
No more screaming, no more pain, no more.
couldn't even reach for the towel. Had nothing, razor
too far away. Just his fists and his sober senses. Adrenaline
kicked in, with no where to go, except forward.
a weapon", Vadim said, in English. "Let's
finish it. You or me. Think you can ignore me? Think
again." Moved closer, teeth bared.
you, Russkie." Dan snarled, in Russian as well.
Attack the best defence. Vadim was unhinged, lethal,
and he believed him when he said he would finish it.
"You want to use a weapon in camp? Think again,
grip around the blade was light, insecure, yeah, whatever.
He didn't plan to win. Lost ages ago. The battle, the
war, and everything else. "Fucking camp mattress.
Russian and blond, and that's enough. Fucking your way
through the camp, deserters and anybody else. Leaving
me to rot, you don't even care enough to fight me. Make
me feel one last time, Dan. Come on. I'll cut you open
and fucking strangle your bitches with your guts. Don't
doubt me for a heartbeat, because I will."
fucking cunt!" Dan hissed, seeing red-hot anger.
"How dare you, fucktard. Pissing off without a
word, not giving a shit. Two years and you just fucked
off. Fuck you, bastard. You want to kill me?
Try it, loser. Try it and suck it and see!" Dan's
heart was racing, his naked body in the best fighting
stance possible. Would have to deflect the blade, possibly
grab the towel and flick the knife out of the lunatic's
hand. "I fucking hate you, Russkie. Fuck out of
my life for good. How dare you. How fucking dare you!"
lust for bloodshed. Vadim would go into this fight with
no thrill. Had to be done. Just another task. Work.
Function. I want to function, Sir. What a waste
of effort. Dan's hatred hit him square in the chest,
deeper, pressure wave. Couldn't say that he had been
broken. Couldn't admit the weakness. Didn't want pity.
Didn't want any more ridicule. Inched closer, saw the
body he had been so desperate to have, recoil, tense,
ready to defend and counterattack.
for not being your bitch straight from prison
sorry for needing some time to fucking get my head straight",
Vadim hissed. "Jean does that quite nicely, the
bitch part, huh? Almost as tall, almost as strong. And
he's so funny, our legionnaire. Such a sunshine. Pretty
boy, too. Not like that piece of cunt you discarded.
Tiger and mountain lion, fuck you. Fuck you for getting
me out. You should have shot me. But you didn't have
the guts to do it. Too weak. You just didn't care enough.
You waited two years, and then you stopped to fucking
care and tear out my fucking heart. Come on. Promises,
Dan. Keep them. Cut it out. If you're a man. Make me
scream if you can."
jerked as if punched. Words. Fucking words. Pain. Punches
un-pulled. Words that hit, deeper, harder, drilling
down into every memory, every thought and each feeling
he'd ever had. Words. Torture. Words. Death. Words.
Hatred and accusations and guilt and pain.
Dan snarled, stunned and debilitated with a pain like
the one back in Finland. Pain, like the day he had been
listening to the tick-tock of the clock, counting towards
his lover's death. "No, Vadim. Fuck you! You won't
make me into who you are." He kicked out, aimed
at the hand with the knife. Smashing his heel against
the wrist to disarm the Russian.
knife sped away, clattered over the tiles. Killing a
man without a weapon was too hard work. Dan had failed
once to tear him to bits. In the mountains. "Who
I am? A walking corpse?"
liar, Russkie, that's what you are." Dan hissed,
brimming with rage and pain, it suffocated him and turned
his voice into a snarl. "Breaking promises, forgetting
any- and everything and not having a fucking idea what
feelings really are. Loved me? Liar. Fucking disgusting
useless pathetic liar!"
face twitched, the mask of rage almost falling apart.
Needed to deliver one more blow. Maybe Dan would still
do it. "You don't have the guts. For nothing."
He turned around. "Last chance. Or I'll take you
apart. And I'll start with Jean. And then your other
friends. I'll destroy you so completely like nothing
has ever been destroyed."
took a step forward, his whole boding shaking. "You
already did that, cunt. Six months ago. You can't destroy
me twice." His fists were useless now, trembling
too hard. "You touch them and I fucking take you
apart and then let you live."
It hurt. Vadim wanted to scream. He wanted to fall to
his knees and die. Please fucking kill me.
kill me. We're soldiers.
nodded, and walked away. No more strength. He didn't
scream that night, but he wished he could.
watched him leave. Stood. Turned on the water. Stepped
under the shower. No sound. No gesture. No reaction.
Turned his back to the room, didn't give a shit if Vadim
returned. What did it matter if he were stabbed like
a pig, bleeding out under the water.
stood, letting the water drum onto his skin and blind
his eyes. Leaning forward, one palm resting against
the tiles, he hung his head. Water mixing with salt
as he cried.
one heard. No one saw. No one knew.
checked the watch. Ten hours should be enough. Besides,
it was getting too warm to sleep, he could tell from
the sweat gathering in his bandage. He headed over to
the tin huts, whistling to himself, flipping the finger
to somebody asking whether he was bringing his 'stud'
some tea - as long as it was not Krasnorada, it would
just be the finger.
rapped the door, which stood ajar to catch what feeble
breeze might err in this direction, then stepped in.
"Wakey wakey. Coffee." Not that the Nestlé
shit deserved that name, which was the reason why he'd
dunked three heaped spoonfuls in there. If his taste
buds were going to be in pain, make it proper pain and
a caffeine punch to the guts.
seen guys in their morning glory before, but Dan wasn't
there. The soap bag was still there, but so were the
combat boots. That could mean the tracks, or the gym.
He'd have to deliver the liquid there. He headed out
again, strode across to the gym. The clatter of metal
disks on the ground and against the bars. Comrades helping
each other, making sure the big weights didn't crush
a chest first thing in the morning.
was in the corner on one of the weight machines. Doing
butterflies while letting out grunts that sounded positively
offensive. He'd put more weights onto the machine than
he usually did and was forcing his body into yet another
push. Sweating like a pig, he'd already done the leg
workout and the rest of the upper body, winding down
the torturous routine.
pull up that shoulder", said Jean, completely useless
comment, but Dan was overdoing it.
Dan hadn't quite understood the words nor registered
the newcomer, letting his arms move back slowly, wrists
resting on the padded bars. Feeling his muscles tremble
with over-exertion. He ached, would hurt like shit in
a day, but fuck, did that feel good right now.
put the coffee down on the seat of the next butterfly
machine. "Breakfast." He eyed Dan, had a quick
sweep of the gym. No Krasnorada. Like most biblical
plagues, Krasnorada entered when least expected, and
Jean did expect him.
Dan's grin wasn't quite the same as usual, fading too
fast. "I grew up with porridge and stale tea. That
was the scran at home, the army was worse." Flashed
his teeth. "Don't think you got better in the Glorious
Soviet Army, eh?"
Jean crossed his other arm in front of his chest. "How
was the shift? Alright?"
shrugged evasively. "Aye." Looked around,
too many blokes in the gym. He gestured with his chin
to the towel out of reach. "Got to tell you something.
Will be re-deployed."
picked up the towel, stepped closer to hand it to Dan.
His credentials as team leader were going to hell. He
placed the good arm on the padding of the machine and
leaned in. "Ah. Already fed up with Disneyland
quite." Dan wiped the sweat off his face and neck,
his t-shirt drenched so badly he had several stages
of white salt-lines of sweat, dried, and the freshest
one on top, wet. "Fed up with some of the company,
slung the towel around his neck and came out of the
machine, chucking the coffee down in one go and the
Styrofoam cup into a nearby bin. "I'll request
glanced around. "Let me guess." He paused,
looked straight into Dan's face and knew the answer
before he asked the question. "You're fed up with
the twohundred-something pounds of shit that is doing
his damned best to win the popularity contest against
grimace said it all, he didn't bother to nod. "I
had a visit last night, aye. Am not going to put up
with that shit anymore. Too much history." Walking
towards the exit, he expected Jean to keep up. He needed
a shower badly, and they had too many witnesses in the
gym for their conversation. "Anything at least
ten thousand miles away will do."
face darkened. He nodded, seemingly thinking unpleasant
thoughts. When they left the gym, he murmured: "Something
I should know as his team leader?" He glanced to
was shaking his head. "No. It's up close and personal."
What else. It could never be anything else.
nodded, decided on a different angle. "You know,
I have some shit on him. Some pretty bad shit. I'd rather
not bring it up, but he's on probation and he's been
acting like a loose gun."
Dan stopped dead in his tracks. "What shit? What
the fuck did the cunt do?" The tight line of his
lips betrayed the sudden tension.
confidential. No permanent damage and word hasn't spread."
Jean inhaled. "I can return him to sender. He's
here on my goodwill. CO will bust his ass if I talk
fist clenched, 'damage'. Not 'permanent damage', but
damage, after all. There was only one kind of damage
he truly remembered. Bastard. Finally looked at the
other, silent for a while. "Vadim has nowhere to
be returned to." At least he, himself, had a farm,
a friend, medals and honour, and a country that would
pay him a pension if he made it to fifty-five.
can just about manage to keep my heart from bleeding
for him", said Jean. "And I'm sure there is
some nice dictatorship somewhere that buys his kind
Dan's answer came fairly quickly, but then he paused
once more. Why the fuck did he keep defending that Russian
cunt? Why? Damn. His face was thunder and lightning.
"No." Calmer, he shook his head. There had
to be a rational explanation for it all and he'd cling
to it. The rest would fade away again once he was thousands
of miles away. "There's too much history, too many
memories here. Everyone would remember the madman. I
have to leave, go somewhere where I can't be traced.
I am sure my employer will make certain of that."
shame", murmured Jean. "Yeah, I guess it's
an option. I'd prefer it the other way, though."
He allowed Dan to step into the showers first, then
followed. The place was empty. Still no Krasnorada.
Jean hoped the Russian would get shot up today. A car
bomb would do just nicely. "You're an asset, he's
had already stripped and was turning on the water, realised
too late he had forgotten his soap bag. Just water would
have to do, at least the sweat was fresh. "You
never know, he might become an asset." Dan huffed
dryly, wondered if hell froze over before that happened.
glanced at Dan, then slipped out of his wifebeater and
the shorts and stepped into one of the showering stalls,
separated by a thin partition from the other. Talking
to a naked man under a spray of water when dressed looked
a bit awkward. He took the sling off and began to remove
the bandage, rolling it into a dusty ball of fabric.
Prodded at the elbow, slowly straightened the arm, but
made an effort not to move it or use it too much. The
round scar on his thigh became visible as he turned.
"Let me know when you get your new posting."
rather not." Dan stepped under the hot stream,
tipped his head back and closed his eyes, letting the
water run over him before moving his head back out of
the water to continue. "Vadim has
getting information when he sets his mind to it. You
know the old motto 'know as little as you absolutely
need to know and you're less of a target'."
motto." Jean leaned against the partition and watched
Dan, thoughtfully. "But I'm not exactly Red Riding
Hood that gets ambushed by the evil black wolf. If he
does so much as look at me funny, he's right outside
the camp gates, with no security clearance to return."
But he didn't ask again, instead turned the water on
to cool down in the heat.
was still shaking his head with a weary chuckle. 'Little
Red Riding Hood', indeed. Yet it would be better for
everyone concerned if no one knew where he got sent
to. He'd have to tackle the issue straight away, then
contact the kid to explain and to meet him later. He'd
have to turn the regular shag into a good-bye fuck-fest.
Possibly with a bottle of booze. For him, not the Yank.
washed quickly, didn't bother to wipe down with the
sweaty towel, slung it around his hips and waved to
Jean before he left. "See you later, mate."
that morning, exactly one week after he got hauled in
front of the goddamned CO, Dan requested an international
phone line, once more waiting for the Baroness' aide
to let him through to her. It took several minutes,
before he finally heard her speak.
Her voice gave no clue what she might feel. It probably
didn't matter. He'd trusted her, like he had trusted
another, once. Fat good that had done him. "How
are you, Dan?"
good, Ma'm." He cradled the receiver in his hand,
stared at the wall, then his boots. "I need you
to get me out of here."
was a pause and the line was dead for a long moment.
Dan?" As if she didn't know and Dan huffed quietly,
but said nothing. Enough to make her continue. "Vadim
nodded even though she couldn't see him. "Yes,
Ma'm. Who and what else." He lifted his eyes only
to stare at the bare wall once more. "Ma'm, with
all due respect, you shouldn't have sent him here, shouldn't
have interfered. It's
" hesitation, deeper
breath, admitting defeat was painful. "It's unbearable,
line fell once more silent and Dan wondered if she would
ever reply, before she finally spoke again.
am sorry, Dan." Her voice as posh and classy as
ever, but he imagined he heard a different dimension
in it. Emotion. A rare occurrence. "I made a mistake.
As you so rightly said, I interfered, believing what
I was doing was for the better. For your good."
A slight hesitation, "I realise now that I was
wrong and I apologise. Deeply, and from my heart. I
consider you a friend, Dan. As close to a friend I will
ever have, and I am devastated that I have hurt you."
didn't know what to say, couldn't answer at first, had
to swallow, then cleared his throat. "No need to
apologise, Ma'm, but I thank you nevertheless."
He pictured her nodding, in her economic style.
will get you out, Dan." She spoke again, firm and
convincing. "But it might take a while. Will you
be alright in the meantime?"
realised she hadn't even argued, nor asked why she shouldn't
simply take Vadim away instead of sending him as he
had requested, and he was thankful for her immediate
Ma'm, as long as I know you'll get me somewhere else,
whenever that's convenient. Guess there are enough war
zones in the world where I might be needed."
fancied he could hear her wry smile in the voice. "Too
true, Dan. Sad, but too true, and it's our business
to deal with truth."
nodded, drawing formless shapes against the wall with
his fingertip. "Guess I'm good at something, even
though that's war."
are good for a lot more," her answer came without
a moment's hesitation, "I have faith and trust
smiled, "I know, Ma'm." She didn't answer,
except for a gentle huff, and he continued. "Good
bye, my friend." A click in the line told him she
had put the phone down.
few hours later, Dan made his way to the safe house.
Unlike any of the other times he'd ventured out of camp,
he was unsteady on his feet. Swaying, occasionally hitting
a wall of one of the buildings with his shoulder, before
zig-zagging for a couple of steps towards the centre
of the road. Catching himself again, he managed a few
more strides that were more or less moving forward.
He'd be the perfect target for anyone wanting to shoot
up another of those Brits, Yanks, or whoeverthefuck
the war had brought into the Gulf.
finally made it to the safe house, let himself in after
some lengthy fumbling with the lock. Matt wasn't there
yet and Dan grunted as he flopped onto the bed, reaching
for one of the unopened water bottles. Luke warm, but
didn't mater jack shit, might stop the carousel in his
head and the pain in his chest. Maybe. Possibly. If
he was goddamned lucky.
had fallen to the side, curled up in an awkward foetal
position, when the door opened again and the jarhead
slipped inside. Oblivious to the sounds the Yank was
making, Dan slept on, drunkenly, which stopped Matt
in his tracks once he'd locked up behind him.
the carelessness, especially from an old dog as Dan,
and Matt frowned as he walked closer. Taking the risk
of getting jumped at, he shook Dan's shoulder. "Hey,
buddy! You wasted?"
several snorts and grunts, Dan was coming back to himself,
blinking sluggishly. "Aye
he pushed himself up to sit, swaying, before looking
at Matt with a distinct lack of focus. "Good ...
see you. Last time. Gonna be gone."
know." Matt pulled the only chair close, plonking
himself down, right in front of the rat-assed Dan. "You
told me. Want to tell me why? Can't imagine, like, that
you'd be thrown out or stuff. Except for the shit you're
pulling right now, bud."
blinked again, then tried an uncoordinated grin, which
failed miserably. Waving his hand about as if shooing
imaginary flies. "No. No shit. Off duty."
His head almost hit the wall when he nodded and tried
to sit up straight at the same time. "Just so much
Scratching the back of his neck, Matt put a booted foot
onto the edge of the bed, leaning with his elbow on
it. Moving forward to study the drunken Dan. "What
the fuck's up with you?"
me. Nuh-huh." Heaving a heavy sigh, Dan shuffled
upwards to sit at last in a mostly straight way with
his back against the wall. "Shit's up with Vadim."
Cunt?" Matt shook his head, completely lost by
now. "You better tell me what the fuck you're on
blinked at him again, then nodded awkwardly. "Aye."
Nodded again. "Tell you."
that he did. Despite his pissed-up state, or perhaps
because of it, Dan told his baby-Yank the whole story.
Everything, except for the very first and very worst
secret that no one know except for one dead Russian,
whose throat he had cut, and two men: Vadim and himself.
The rest he told as it had happened. Eleven years of
pain and pleasure, hatred, sex, lust and love, and deepest
understanding - until the terror of the end and the
ultimate price he'd thought he'd paid, until it all
began and ended again. In one single day. Then nothing.
Until now, and the unbearable sense of being; being
was quiet all the way through except for an occasional
grunt, and he remained silent for a long while after.
Long enough for Dan to nearly fall asleep.
you hate him now?" Matt asked quietly.
opened his eyes to stare at the opposite wall, unseeing,
unfocussed in his drunken state. "No." At
last, "I can't. Can't hate him, even though you
hate what you love, aye?" He huffed with a half-arsed
wry smile. "But I hate him for what he did to me.
No, shit. Not him. Don't hate him, hate what he did,
but can't hate him. Cut me the fuck open and left me
to fucking rot." Dan's eyes closed again, "Two
and a half years. Just fucking hurt."
last words more slurred and mumbled than the ones before.
Dan dropped his head, staring at his hands which seemed
are you going to do now?" Reaching for one of the
water bottles, Matt kept watching the drunken man. Expecting
an answer, but nothing happened.
kept staring at his hands as if he hadn't heard the
question. Suddenly moving into action with a jerk, he
clumsily patted his shirt down, looking for his fags,
but couldn't remember where the fuck he'd left them.
Hands dropped onto his thigh, his body weaved to and
fro as he tried to sit upright once more, blinking to
focus on the Yank.
know what, kid? I wanted to die
"but one's not s'posed to, and I promised Maggie."
He drunkenly waved his hand. "You know, Baroness."
As if he'd ever talked about her before. Expecting Matt
to understand and ignoring the kid's confused sounds.
"The diplomat, you know, the one I'm working for.
Promised her I wouldn't go on a suicide mission."
interfered with three quiet words. "But you did."
I ...," Dan closed his eyes, hand waving about
before dropping on top the covers, beat. "That's
open for in... intra... interpretation."
see." Matt pushed the water bottle into the discarded
hand, but it never made it to Dan's lips. "That's,
like, the most fucking amazing love story I've ever
with an uncoordinated movement of his head, Dan forgot
about the bottle, gripped Matt's hand instead. "Some
'love' story alright."
you do still love him, don't you, Mad Dog?" Matt
ignored the question, his hand surreptitiously opening
and closing around the kid's for a long time. "Tell
you can be strong and keep going for
so long, and then ... then all hopes and wishes just
die. Shatter. And all of the nightmares, too. "
Shaking his head while looking onto his flexing hand.
"The day they let Vadim out ... that night he left.
Just walked away. No note, no sign, nothing. I knew
he wasn't the same, I could see it, feel it, even smell
it. But he just walked. No chance, I didn't get one.
I would have done anything. Any fucking thing. But no
chance." Dan paused again, lifting his head slowly,
and when he looked at Matt, he wasn't aware that he
had tears in his eyes, unable to stop their flow. "I
never knew anything could hurt so much."
stared into the face before him, and it was too much
to bear. Sliding onto the bed, he sat beside the other.
" Trailing off, his hand
clenched tightly by Dan's. "And what now?"
shook his head, again and again, while those goddamned
boozed-up tears kept falling onto the blanket. Like
a stupid bimbo, crying like a girl. "Don't know."
He finally murmured. "Just don't know. Fucking
hurts. All of it."
you do love that Russian." A careful statement,
not any longer a question.
Whispered, "how the fuck could I not."
sat with Mad Dog for a long while. A kid, offering silent
comfort to a weary old soldier, who'd seen one battle
too many, and had lost himself in the final war.
had left the safe house after a couple of hours. Still
unsteady on his feet, despite litres of water and a
session, that had, after all, ended in sex. Predictably.
But he'd make his way back to camp even if he had to
crawl all the way. He'd proven it before, and almost
managed to get himself thrown out of the job for it.
was tying his boot laces while thinking about everything
Mad Dog had told him. He couldn't get his head around
the whole fucked up situation. How anyone could still
love such an arsehole and how that arsehole could have
once loved the other. Was a mystery to him. Strange
thing, that love. Unlike his own relationship, wholesome,
simple, if it weren't for him being in the military.
Ken, his boyfriend, back home. Safe, sound and normal.
Matt huffed, stood up and stretched. The night hadn't
quite turned out as intended, but he'd got some pretty
damn good sex out of it in the end, so he wasn't going
to complain. And fuck, he liked Mad Dog, and being buddies
meant sometimes to listen. He'd miss that crazy Brit.
checked the room and turned off the light before slipping
through the door into darkness.
came down on him like a ton of bricks, his elbow hit
Matt's neck, and the jarhead went limp, stunned, unconscious.
"Surprise", murmured Vadim, spared a glance
for the surroundings, grabbed the Yank by the collar
and pushed him right back into the safehouse. Third
dimension. Sniper. Ambush. Jarhead never saw it coming.
closed the door with a controlled kick, then sat the
kid down on a chair. It looked solid enough. Weaved
the boy's legs back under the chair, flexcuffed them
to the legs, hands bent back enough to put pressure
on the hips and back, flexcuffed those as well, double-checked
the stability of the position. He pulled the cover from
one of the pillows, stuffed it in the kid's mouth, took
the scarf off his neck and secured the gag. Glanced
around, could still smell Dan's sweat here, like a shark
tasted blood in the water.
checked the soldier over, but he was still out cold.
Waited a little, then thought he could start with the
psychological part of his. Unbuttoned the tunic, pulled
it down over the overstretched shoulders, pulled up
the shirt underneath. Nice sixpack. Good definition.
Fitness freak. The skin was soft, vulnerable. Vadim
felt his face twitch. Fuck you. Fuck you, Dan. Tore
open the other's belt, bared the briefs, reached inside
and pulled out that cock. Thought Dan had touched it.
Sucked it. Less than an hour ago. Fuck. His head spun,
the anger came back. He stepped behind the kid and waited,
just waited for a change in breathing.
next thought after stepping out of the door and closing
it behind him, was the feeling of heaviness in his body,
discomfort, and a sharp pain in his neck. His breathing
quickened and he tried to move. Completely disorientated.
Groaned, but found himself biting down on something
obstructing his throat, had to cough - unable to cough.
Began to panic in that state of utter disorientation.
Fuck. He'd been caught. Iraqi insurgents. He forced
his eyes open.
checked his watch. Twenty minutes. Not bad. Well within
the time frame. He stepped close to his prisoner and
placed both hands on the kid's shoulders. "Welcome."
His voice so low it would be hard to identify him. He
didn't care. "You are in my control now. If you
want to breathe, I need you to understand that I will
cut your throat if you scream. And I mean it. No shit."
panic set in. Matt couldn't breathe, couldn't cough,
couldn't swallow and most of all couldn't understand
what the fuck was happening. Who was that bastard who
touched him and talked in a weird voice and ... oh God!
Only then realised the way he was tied to the chair.
Naked. The important parts. Felt air on his genitals
and on his abs. He tried frantically to calm himself
down by remembering all they had told them in their
breathing was sharp and noisy. Mad Dog. Where was he,
what happened? Not someone he knew, the voice. No American,
no Brit either. Fuck. No. Panic. Sweat broke out on
his forehead, but remembered he had to acquiesce his
captor. Nodded. Just nodded. Would stay silent, but
needed to breathe. Get out. Survive.
moved to the side, just allowed Matt to see the glint
of the blade. Turned the knife so it definitely caught
the light, then brought it up to the kid soldier's face,
cut the scarf, pulled the pillow cover free with the
left hand, point of the blade touching the corner of
those lips. Lips Dan had felt on his body. Lips that
had gasped, maybe cursed.
eyes followed the blade, as if staring at the steel
made the weapon less lethal. Repeating in his mind 'calm,
calm, calm', had to keep his senses about him. Breathing
desperately, in large gulps, once he could, before coughing
and moistening his lips. Trying to catch a glance of
his captor, who didn't sound like anyone he'd ever heard,
but sure as hell it wasn't an Arab. Couldn't stop the
sweat that was running down his face.
stepped into the kid's back, rested the blade against
the jaw line. "There. Let's make this quick. I'm
sure you want to return to your unit on time, yes?"
He smirked, didn't feel a scrap of humour, felt nothing.
the fuck do you want. Who are you!" Matt's voice
was raspy, trying to ignore the panic. Fear burning
like hot coal in his stomach. Vulnerable. Exposed.
the bravado, Yank. You will cooperate. You are meeting
a man who is called Mad Dog. You're fuck-buddies."
eyes widened. Mad Dog. What? What the fuck? He tensed,
nostrils flaring with every breath. This was an interrogation
and he didn't have an idea why and what for. Mad Dog.
answer." Vadim moved closer, placed his hand around
the kid's throat, allowed him to feel the strength in
his hand. Enough strength to squash the voicebox. "I
have seen you. I know. Try again."
finally managed to get a good look at his captor and
he forgot to breathe for a moment. Tall. Blond. Blue
eyed. The accent. That man. Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck
oh fuck! Hadn't thought his fear could rise anymore
notches until he realised who that madman was. Had to
be the Russian Mad Dog talked about.
forced the word out, had to be strong, couldn't allow
himself to break down, but that hand, oh God, he'd do
it. He'd just slaughter him like a pig or let him suffocate
slowly. From what Mad Dog had told him, that man could
be mental, absolutely fanny-fuck crazy.
smiled at the reaction. The muscles did everything to
make it a smile, at least. The baby soldier's fear came
from the stories, the rumours, his reputation.
do you want?" Desperate, Matt tried to hide the
leaned in, met the other's eyes. "Let's start with
what I don't want. I don't want to have to hack off
your head and hands with just a combat knife, then put
your bits and pieces into plastic bags and bury them
somewhere out in the desert." He read the fear
in the kid's eyes, could smell it on his ragged breath,
saw the sweat rolling. "Making men vanish is hard
work and I don't get paid for this. Because this is
a personal matter."
stared at the madman, followed every movement. Personal
matter. Oh God, oh God have mercy. All he'd done was
have fun with Mad Dog and make the man laugh while having
a great time in return. Mad Dog. His idol.
glanced at the kid's name tag. "Donahue. I know
you're fucking with Mad Dog." He brought the knife
down, let the blade scrape over that smooth chest, touched
the nipple, watched the old poetry of skin against steel.
shuddered, tried to follow the blade but couldn't lower
his head enough. Believed every single thing he was
being told. Everything. And worse.
will release you, unharmed, if you tell me the whole
story." Vadim grinned, again, without emotion.
He used to enjoy situations like this, but it was as
technical as planning how to take a building. A man's
mind was nothing but a room with a closed door. "You
will tell me everything Mad Dog has told you. Every
touch. I want to know the whole story."
shook his head. No. No he couldn't. No no no no no!
Had given his word. Couldn't do it. Breaking his word,
no way, no. Even though he was sweating like a pig with
knife rested against the taut stomach and Vadim looked
at the blade, thoughtfully. "I have made tougher
men than you talk. Scream, even. I can make you vomit
with pain, Donahue. I can destroy you so completely
even your experts will have trouble reconstructing how
or what you looked like."
can't." No. Just can't. Fucking fucker of
a fucking madman. "Fuck off." Had forgotten
the Russian's name. Just remembered what Dan had told
him, and those fucking tears that he promised he'd never
tell anyone about. The anguish, a buddy in pain, a man
who didn't deserve that shit and ... trying to prep
talk himself while so frightened, he wanted to spill
the beans. Everything, but couldn't. He'd be a swine
if he did.
paused, stared into the kid's eyes. What did inspire
him to do this? Love? He recoiled, then hit the kid
in the face, a bitchslap that made the head turn, and
another one, for symmetry. Snarling, faced with a sudden
bout of feeling. Anger. Jealousy. "Too fucking
head exploded. Once, twice, felt the bruise in his neck
protest and his face hurt like fuck. Nothing in his
training, not even the worst of his Drill Sergeants,
had ever been like that.
inhaled sharply, turned the knife in his hand and brought
the blade around to Matt's balls. "Not very dignified,
bleeding to death with your cock in your throat",
he murmured, toneless. "Guess it can't be helped."
whole body tensed, he almost shrieked with panic. "No!"
Oh God please no! He was praying now. "I can't
tell you!" Tried instinctively to pull his knees
together, fighting against the restraints. "I gave
stared at him. Strange, it was getting difficult. Word.
Honour. The world according to a baby American. As if
it mattered. As if anybody cared. "Do you think
you're harder than Mad Dog? You're not. You will break.
I promise, you will break. And nothing will keep me
from what I need to know. It's simple. He wouldn't want
you to die for his secrets. He knows me, Donahue. You
stand no chance in hell."
could hardly swallow, sweat stinging in his eyes. "Why
me. I don't understand." Didn't beg, not yet. "Mad
Dog's my buddy." Couldn't say it. Couldn't admit
to the sex.
did not matter. No why. Just how. Above all: when. Vadim
shook his head. "Brave little soldier boy. Willing
to die for a blowjob. You are so willing to die, you
don't want to die!" Matt started to fight against
the restraints with all his strength, while trying to
stay away from the blade as much as possible. "No!
I didn't do anything. Let me go!"
moved in, pressed his hand to the kid's mouth, shut
his nose off, too, waited whether the kid would be able
to topple the chair. Matt was breathing hard against
the hand, felt like suffocating, but still thrashed
wildly, using all his strength until he ran out of air.
allowed the kid to fight, for a little, the adrenaline
would work in his favour. Steadied the chair when it
rocked, with a knee between the kid's knees. "Wrong
company, Yank", he said, calmly, clearly, to allow
the information to register properly and sink in. Allowed
him to breathe through the nose, but kept the head pushed
back so harshly that he stretched the kid's throat.
He liked the view of that, healthy, strong flesh. Could
imagine the kid arch like this when he came. Damn unlikely
he'd ever see this.
breath came in frantic, sharp gusts, trying to remember
everything he'd ever been told in training. How to survive,
how to fool his captor, how not to break. But they'd
never told him about a madman who was not playing by
wasn't in the mood for sex, forced or not. He wanted
to know. Needed to break into another man's mind, not
his body. There was no struggle involved.
far are you willing to go, Vadim?
far as I have to.
hammered the knife into the chair, close to the kid's
balls and Matt jumped within his bonds, half-muffled
yelling against the hand. Vadim then took the pillow
cover again. "You don't want to talk. Fine. No
screaming, no talking. But you have to understand, Donahue,
that thing like mine and Mad Dog's does not end like
this. Not by you nor deserter stepping between us. Yes,
you are pretty, and deserter is such nice man, but it
won't end like this. If I am going crashing down, I'll
take Dan with me. His life is mine. It cannot be separated.
We are like Siamese twins sharing heart of a killer."
He gave a laugh that only increased the tension in his
eyes grew wider with every word. Insane, fucking insane.
Completely unhinged, impossible to judge and no way
to survive according to any rules he'd ever learned.
He almost whimpered when the Russian continued.
it or not, but one of us will die. I know you are hoping
right now it's me. You might as well be right. It won't
matter, because I will destroy Dan on the way down.
You, Donahue, are just collateral. Ah. I thought you'd
understand that concept. You're Yank, after all."
Vadim took his hand off, then forced the pillow cover
back into the baby soldier's mouth, pushed the teeth
apart when Matt tried to protest and resist, brought
his lips close to the other's face. "I can smell
your fear, Donahue. I know you want to talk. I can hear
it in your breathing. But you won't. That's where I
will fuck you up."
was swallowing on the fabric, sweaty, uniform stained,
whatever of it was still on his body. He stank of fear
and loathing, while Vadim stepped back, then took off
his watch, slipped it into his pocket, watched the young
soldier fight his fear. Looked a lot like neither would
budge. The kid had guts. Too bad the deck was stacked
took off the vest, neatly folded it on the bed. Where
those two must have fucked just an hour ago. Dan and
the kid. He stared at the sheets, remembered a room
like this. Remembered a lust that had destroyed his
career. Worth it. Fuck it. He was crashing down, had
been for nearly three years now. Maybe the day Dan had
been blown up. Changed everything. He hadn't been able
to stand what he was. Spetsnaz, officer, invader, fuck
it. The lies. The subterfuge, treason, committed a hundred
times, every time he had left Dan, had allowed Dan to
leave. Had denied what he felt. Had not put everything
on that card, that fucked-up feeling of belonging. Of
love. This feeling was to love what a ravenous wolf
was to a dog puppy. He wasn't even sure it fitted the
bill. He pulled the shirt off. He paused for a moment,
glanced at the kid. "I don't want to have to explain
your blood on my camo at the gate", he clarified,
and allowed his lips to curve into a lazy, dismissive
moaned against the cloth. Couldn't help but stare at
the crazed bastard, fighting against the restraints
once more. Had to get away, please, not die, not like
this, couldn't do it anymore. Wanted to break, to give
up, but hated himself for that very same thought.
loosened his belt, opened the fly, fully frontal to
the kid. Part of the game. Showing off the body, the
engine of destruction. Showing the implements of torture
before the torture, a time-honoured tradition. Just
wearing his briefs, black, clinging, he placed the camo
on the bed, took an extra moment with that. He had time.
The kid's time frame was now different. Minutes were
hours, trapped like this.
just concentrated on breathing, as hard as that was.
Panic went up a notch. Sheer, unadulterated fear of
dying like a dog.
closed the distance again, placed the knife against
the kid's left nipple, cool perfection against something
just too weak. Tilted the blade and pulled it across
the skin. Felt the resistance only in his fingertips,
saw a line open, and swell. Matt jerked and whimpered,
tried to see what was happening, felt pain, too much,
too sensitive, and he started to fight embarrassing
more than cutting into the dermis, but the kid had no
fucking clue. Would heal without a scar, and looked
like a scratch. "Ah. I guess I'm already drawing
blood", said Vadim, and smiled. Not enough to bead,
or even run, but it did have an effect, he could see
that in the Yank's eyes.
brought the knife lower, and Matt shuddered, stilled,
breathed harshly. Vadim placed the knife into the ridge
between two muscles. Loved the contrast. "The Mujahideen,
as you called them
to us, they were just bandits
they had something we called the 't-shirt'. They
liked killing our men like that. Skin the torso of a
man, pull the whole shit up, and knot it over his head.
We found a few that were still alive, barely. Amazing
what the human body can survive." He slowly pulled,
another shallow cut, but long, and Matt nearly screamed
into the gag.
course, this blade is too broad for it. You need a proper
skinner to do it. Takes some practice. I learnt to do
it. Sometimes, I was tasked to kill a man and make it
look like it had been somebody else. Using trademarks
like that one did half the work for me. The first one
was clumsy, but that was just a test run. I had it down
on the second one."
the blade slip deeper, brought it to the insides of
the kid's leg, felt that body turn to stone, and Matt's
eyes filling with water. Tears he had tried so hard
to fight, holding on by the thinnest thread. "Actually,
I think I prefer you not talking." Vadim looked
up into the kid's eyes to judge his reaction. Still
not done. Well. The Yank just didn't have enough imagination.
took hold of the other's cock. Clearly not a masochist,
ran his hand over it, patient, the touch deceptively
gentle, couldn't help but wonder how Dan touched him.
What Dan felt when fucking a guy half his age. "Ah,
you hurt my feelings. Now, let's make this consensual,
huh? Think of somebody else. Everybody else does."
He gave a laugh, dark and cynical, when Matt let out
a choked sound. Vadim paused to spit into his hand,
began to go more seriously, twisted, pressed, pumped
him nice and intense, felt his own body grow interested
in the quarry, much like the flesh in his hand began
to harden. "Now, that's better."
fought. Fought his own body. Fucking treacherous body
and its simple mechanics. Could hear nothing but the
blood rushing in his ears, the pounding of his heart
pounding, and his harsh breathing.
looked into the young soldier's eyes, saw a new level
of fear. This was hardly something they learnt to resist.
He'd be surprised if it was even mentioned in the Marines
handbook. Nothing but friction, just like with Jean,
nothing personal or intimate about it, no struggle.
This was where he was going to fuck the kid up, pretty
badly, depending on how strong he was in that area.
Hard to judge. And he didn't actually care whether the
Yank healed from this. Life was tough, and unpleasant,
and never fair. The flesh was fully hard now, and Vadim
looked down at it, kept it in his left hand, while reaching
for the knife that was still stuck in the wood of the
chair. Regarded the bare tip with a smile. "I'd
feel so vulnerable", he murmured. Why on earth
the Americans chopped away the foreskin was a mystery
cried now, pleading. Holy Mother of God and mom and
pop and buddies and Mad Dog and please, please, no,
not this. Not die like this.
took the knife and laid it flat against the tip of Matt's
cock, moved his hand up to take more control, and let
the flat blade run across the organ. The kid was sweating
like a waterfall. Then, took the knife away and brought
it back, tip of the cock in his hand, knife point moving
towards it, like he wanted to stab it, and gingerly
placed the steel tip into the slit, and turned the blade
for just the hint of friction.
broke. Resolve shattered, sobbing with panic and absolute
terror. Attempted to shout against the gag, didn't have
enough breath. Not dying like this, oh God, no. Shook
his head, body tense as a rock, would do anything, anything!
glanced up, questioningly. "Oh. I almost forgot.
Talking, now, is it?" He released the cock to pull
out the gag. "Well then, talk. Everything. Each
and every word."
coughed, curled forward, relief for a split-second,
before he came back up, head high. Still sobbing, godamned
fucking tears of fear and dishonour.
fucked-up bastard!" He spat out the words with
a dry voice. Choking on the humiliation. "You don't
need to destroy Mad Dog anymore, you've already done
it. Fuck you. Fuck you!" Matt was shouting and
sobbing at the same time. Panic, disgust for himself,
hatred for the madman and shame, terrible shame. He
was shaking and he loathed himself for that weakness.
"I promised him not to tell you, not to tell anyone.
Gave my word. I fucking hate you. How the fuck can he
still love you. How? How could he ever love you in the
first place? You are disgusting, you make me sick."
Matt was choking on tears and snot, tried to wipe his
face on his shoulder. Trembling with rage and terror,
but there was something else, an overwhelming anger.
make my skin crawl. You make me sick. Seemed, Vadim
mused, these days he had that effect on people. How
the fuck can he still love you. Secret. This man
was a whole lot closer to Dan than he had any right
to be. Somebody to get drunk with and share secrets.
That was more intimate than a blowjob, and Vadim felt
bitter envy, and even worse resentment. Jealousy. He
kept his face impassive. "I'd hate to repeat my
question, Donahue." A warning.
want to know all he said? He cried, you understand?
Damned Mad Dog cried. Drunk, for what? For you. For
fucking you! Told me the whole story, told me all about
Afghanistan, KGB and the way you fucked him up. Well
and truly. You don't know what you did, do you? You
wouldn't care. You don't care about anything."
The tears had stopped, the fire of anger was burning
now, taking over the fear. Matt had forgotten he was
looking into death's face, his cock soft now, wilting
against the steel. All he could think of was the shame
of breaking down and telling everything he had promised
he would never say. Shame, and rage, growing, burning.
tensed. And even that secret. Those many, many secrets,
the shadow years. Dan had delivered them both into the
hand of a child, on a drunken whim. Vadim pulled back,
broke contact, moved the knife in his hand so it pointed
against his elbow. He cried? We all do. Enough vodka,
and we cry.
was shouting by now, tears still running. "You
don't deserve him. Of what I know of Mad Dog, he's a
great guy. So fucking loyal, you wouldn't even know
the word, have no idea of honour, do you? What the fuck
do you care that he'd never gotten over you walking
out; that he had given his word to that woman boss of
his to not get himself killed. But you don't know, do
you? The missions he's done? Suicidal. You fucked him
up, congratulations, arsehole. He's hurting like shit,
enough to get himself piss drunk, after all the time
you son of a bitch walked out on him. You know that
he sold everything he owned to bribe those people? Just
to get you out. What for, for you? I don't get it, you
don't fucking deserve anything."
stared, then broke eye contact, knew it showed that
that had impacted, and pretended to get dressed. He
still loves you. That was the prize he had come
to claim. A secret. Dan did feel the same, there was
something left. He was clutching at straws and knew
at the same time how futile it was. He thought of selection,
and the doctor, and all the hard work to get into the
camp in the first place. Fuelled by a hope that seeing
Dan might make things alright for both of them; about
saying goodbye, or maybe find out if there was anything,
anything left to feel.
was getting so angry, the fear began to fade. "I
don't understand what he's ever seen in you. You asshole,
you fucking asshole! Accusing him of who knows the fuck
what, and now he's getting himself redeployed and none
of us his buddies know where to, because of his asshole
of a fucking ex!" Matt was seething now, despite
his situation. All but forgotten, replaced by something
bigger and so insane, he was yelling at the Russian
madman. No tears anymore, just rage. Tearing at the
restraints again, this time with loathing, despising
that man before him.
No. Dan was about to cover his tracks and vanish in
a different war. And the woman diplomat wouldn't send
him after Dan. Last chance. Wasted. He looked at the
kid that was getting himself all worked up, felt nothing
for him but envy. He'd live. He'd survive this, mentally.
That anger would help him cope. Dan. We ruined it. We
broke it beyond repair. Vadim pulled his trousers back
up, slipped into the shirt, the vest, closed the belt,
sat down on the bed to tie his boots.
hope you'll die, fucker." Matt shouted, "I
hope you die like a dog, screaming in agony, because
you deserve it. But since that would fuck Mad Dog up
even more if he witnessed that, do us all a favour and
go and die like a fucking dog once he's gone. So that
he will eventually forget you, because he doesn't deserve
this shit!" Matt spat at Vadim, right into his
face, "Fuck you, asshole. Fuck you, fuck you, fuck
you! Fucking kill me now if you want to. Do it, just
do it already. Kill me now, hear me? Kill me!"
Matt was mad with rage, completely out of his mind.
looked up, wiped the spit off on the arm of his vest,
looked at the kid. He had nothing in his defence. Had
stopped defending himself somewhere in prison. Don't
go there. Honour, loyalty, pride. Yeah, right. He gave
a smile, bared his teeth and stepped closer again. Ripped
the name tag off Donahue's tunic while Matt glared at
him, unable to stop him. Vadim slipped the trophy into
his pocket, pulled his watch free and closed the wristband,
sneering. "Welcome to my fan club, jarhead. Run
mewling back to Dan and tell him Vadim made you cry."
The poison returned. "That's right, you'll live.
I know everything I required to know." He brought
the knife back out, stepped behind the chair and cut
the plastic restraints.
sat still, just as tense as before, the anger still
burning, but something else there, big and overwhelming
and it wasn't relief. Sat wary. Silent now while breathing
hard. Expecting the worst. A knife at his jaw, slitting
his throat, or stabbed in the back.
glanced down, checked, from the look of the Yank's hands
and wrists, he'd be alright. They were slightly swollen,
a bit raw, but nothing that didn't heal in a day or
two. He stepped back, expected Donahue to attack him
and the knife was ready. He'd die if he attacked him,
simple. His patience was worn thin, and he only needed
to be free and alive long enough to finish this. Put
Dan and himself out of their miseries.
there was nothing, no movement, only extreme tension
in Matt's body. Live. Over? Matt could feel the cuts
burning, and the swallowed the last of the snot from
his sobbing, tears still stinging. Fucker. Bastard.
He hated that Russian asshole. Hated him so much, he
wanted him dead.
stood, looked down at the kid. Dan wouldn't take him
back, love or not. He didn't believe it. Dan would never
admit to it. He'd crossed the line, all he had to do
was finish walking the distance. Get Dan to kill him,
finish him off, thought the other might come to terms
with that, and that meant he didn't have to turn the
gun on himself. Despair had never been darker, never
been more enticing. End this. The nightmares, the envy,
the bitterness. He wanted that love. He couldn't have
it. No way to take it or force it. It was fucked beyond
recognition. Donahue seemed to work as a replacement.
Jean was the friend, this was the lover. Dan had everything
he needed to survive.
moved towards the door, put his hand on the frame. "Ah.
Rule one in a hostage situation: Don't antagonize your
captors. Show respect. Befriend them." Vadim smirked.
"I'd grade that as a failure, Yank."
left into the night.
turned his head, burst into action and shouted, "fuck
off and die!" The Russian was gone and he could
suddenly move. He had to get out of this place, back
to his unit. Grabbed the stale bottle of water beside
the bed, chucked water over his face before pulling
up his uniform trousers. Standing, he felt dizzy, but
he gritted his teeth, inspecting the damage. Shallow
cuts. The bastard had known what he was doing. Known
far too damn well. Rubbed his wrists and put his uniform
back together. His hands were shaking, but he would
pretend nothing had happened. Way to go, Matt. Way to
go. A fun fuck ending in a fucked-up mess. So much for
sex and fun and rock 'n roll.
was out of the room and back in the night, heading towards
camp, but he wouldn't sleep that night.
night in bed, Vadim stared into the darkness, shifted
every now and then to convince himself that he wasn't
tied up, moved his arms, his legs. Thought of the kid.
Strange. No other victim had stayed with him after the
job was done. But he did remember them. Remembered Platon,
remembered his unassuming sweetness, his desire to go
home, have an education, have a life after Afghanistan.
Remembered the smell of Platon's blood. Smelt just like
that of anybody else. Red colour. Nothing to it. People
die. And this kid. Strength in the face of adversity.
Anger replacing fear. Donahue replacing Krasnorada.
Two years. Plus six months.
me, thought Vadim. I'm trapped in the past. I'm still
kid and Dan. Hard to imagine and it still made so much
sense. That fresh-faced innocence. Dan, who'd seen and
dozed off for a while, had a vivid dream that was about
sex, wild, cruel sex, painful, but oh so good, gut wrenching.
He thought it was Dan who fucked him so hard he thought
he'd have to die, and he cried when it happened, cried
during the sex, felt burnt to ashes, his own need impossible
to survive, knew there was blood, a knife that sliced
through skin, carved him open, heavy bleeding, hoped
he'd come before he would be too weak to feel anything,
could feel the blood leave him, the last shreds of his
life for Dan, felt how he got numb, bleed out with the
sweat. Cried with relief that Dan would still have him,
didn't care he also killed him, and woke up horny and
with gunk covering his eyes and lashes, breathing hard.
vivid. Too vivid, too intense, feared he'd been fucked
with a knife, couldn't remember, didn't dare to. Only
knew he'd died in the dream. And how good it had felt,
much his body liked the thought. He finished himself
off, felt miserable, felt it like a loss, and cried,
silently. Nerves so bare he felt raw and pained, as
bad as after the first interrogations. No. Don't go
there. He'd pleaded, just like Donahue. He'd wanted
to survive. Just like Donahue. That had changed, now.
He didn't care.
you ever consider suicide?
Williams. He'd known. It was a normal response to trauma.
He probably had put it down to survivor's guilt, some
fucked-up misunderstanding. Ten years in Afghanistan
can fuck a man up.
will live. I have something to work towards. That keeps
me on target. I am focused, Sir. As long as I have a
target, I keep going.
will have to give you a target, then. But be advised
that this might not be enough.
worked to prove he wasn't broken. Worked to see Dan
again, forced that aging body to compete when his prime
was over, when he clearly didn't heal as fast anymore,
when his body punished him with pain for carelessness.
All for unfinished business. Had felt he'd owed him.
focused on the landing of the plane, so focused on seeing
Dan again that there was not a single thought that reached
beyond that. He'd worked towards it, like he had worked
towards winning a war. Victory was supposed to be sweet,
the end of all strife. Victory resolved everything.
Had relied on Dan's goodwill, on his understanding,
on a bond they'd forged with sex and pain and trust.
No sex, no trust. Plenty of pain. That was all that
was left now. And that had to end.
burrowed his face into the pillow, cried, he didn't
want to die, didn't want to lose this battle, but there
was no place he could go. No life. No alternatives.
He had no idea how to be free. Dishonoured, disrespected,
fucked-up, with no goal, no target, nothing worth fighting
for, no country. He thought maybe Katya would take him
back, allow him to have a bit of her life, like friends,
brother and sister, as awkward as that would be after
all that time. It was the only bit of life he had left,
a few things that weren't all darkness, a few things
he hadn't ruined. Hoped the kids were growing up to
be good people, despite his hand in their life. Two
people he hadn't fucked up. Two he'd never touch. He
should stay away from them. Another reason to remove
himself from the equation.
the hope that had kept him going in prison. He should
have died the night they'd taken him in that hotel.
With the feeling Dan loved him, and that he loved Dan,
invincible, indestructible, with the illusion he was
a worthy man. Honourable, a man who finally did what
he was supposed to be doing, one that followed his heart
instead of orders. A good man, a lover, a soldier defeated,
but with his integrity intact.
walking dead man. Vadim wiped the tears away, swallowed,
looked at the dark ceiling, too close, felt trapped
in an oversized coffin. He'd seen death. He knew what
it would look like on his body. Had a fair idea what
the temperatures would do to his skin, his flesh. He'd
fester within hours. They'd bury him somewhere here,
no 'home' to send him back to.
was not an infidel, just somebody who didn't believe,
not even a lip-servicing Christian. Clearly doomed.
He didn't believe in any kind of afterlife. Didn't think
there could be a god sadistic enough to create stuff
just to make it suffer. Would resent a god that did
that. It would just be over, darkness, with no senses
to perceive it. An end to everything. Which sounded
like a good deal. Nobody required him, he'd be a lost
investment to the boss, eleven years worth of memories
to some people. He'd be in no position to care whether
those memories were good or bad. He hoped there were
some good ones. Knew there were good ones, not all bad,
some good stuff before he had ruined it. Hoped his death
might counter some of the bad shit, but he'd be in no
state to care. He cared right now, but that would pass.
got up, cleaned his tin hut. Sorted his locker, shined
the spare pair of boots, made sure everything was in
top shape. Field bed, pillows, everything like he was
still in the army, and still did this himself. Soothed
his mind. He'd not give any reasons for further ridicule.
Arranged the books on his shelf by size, not that he
had managed to read any, but that hadn't kept him from
trying, pulled the plug on the radio, took out the trash.
Checked the letters, made sure they were correctly addressed.
One to Katya, another one to Anoushka, and one to Nikolai,
to be sent via the Hungarian. How grateful he was, grow
up to be honourable people, just in case anything happens
to me. I lived the life I wanted to live. It was my
decision, all of it. My responsibility. There is nobody
else to blame. True enough. Another letter, that passed
as a 'will', his pay to be refunded to the place where
it had come from. The closest he'd come to admitting
this was suicide. I am a wasted investment. Here's your
another letter - he'd written this five or six times
and cried too hard the last two times. To Dan. But Dan
was the very tool with which he was about to kill himself.
Had tried many things, one of them was just 'I love
you, I'm not a good man, but I love you'. And: 'Forgive
me. Forgive me for being the man I am'.
that horrible darkness, the bitterness, the relentless
pain. He doubted Dan could forgive. No. Disbelieved.
Didn't think his love made a difference. Not now, not
with Donahue and Jean. Donahue had told him there was
still love. Maybe it made a difference. Maybe, in a
fucked-up way, Dan would understand. Maybe. But then,
it was better to not say anything than saying the wrong
thing. It would be like turning the knife in the man's
heart. Nothing he could write would take that away,
forcing Dan to kill him. It was better when that scrap
of love turned into hatred as well.
burnt that letter, then finished cleaning up his kit.
Placed the photos into a bag, labelled it, put the letters
on top, what 'personal effects' he had. Would tell everybody
he had anticipated death. And being killed by Dan made
sense. A last, fucked-up pledge. A last pain. A last
satisfaction. He hoped Dan understood it the right way.
But it didn't matter. It would end like this. Better
than how it was going. Much better. Less painful. Dan
would lose control, and he was probably the only man
who would manage to do it. One last favour.
checked and double checked his gear, then went to shower,
shaved with the care of a man condemned, shaved the
sides of his head, his neck, took all the care that
was necessary to make a bit of a dignified impression,
at least that, at least leave like a soldier. With a
modicum of face.
dressed, impeccably, and went to the Mess when it was
time. He wasn't hungry, went for orange juice, shoved
token scrambled eggs on a plate he didn't intend to
finish. Dan wasn't there. Damn. But Jean was. The legionnaire
would do. He'd be a tool for a tool.
moved towards him, saw Jean's crew glance up, while
the legionnaire kept drinking coffee. The tension around
the man spoke volumes.
put the tray down on the same table. Saw Jean look up,
eyes baleful. "How's the screaming going, you sick
fuck?" In Russian.
smiled. "I slept like a baby." In English.
looked up, seemed almost worried at that, and stared
at Vadim as Vadim pulled out the name tag and tossed
it on the table. It landed with the right side up, and
trophy." Vadim kept smiling. "You might want
to ask your 'stud'." English.
stared at him, then laughed, like it was some stupid-ass
insider joke or running gag, and Jean looked uncomfortable,
but just for a moment. "Will do. Now piss off."
drank his orange juice, then cleaned away the tray.
Stepped outside, in the middle of camp. Knew Dan would
be able to see him, knew it would happen right here.
Dangerous, they might be stopped, but he counted on
Dan's effectiveness and speed. It would be done within
minutes. Maybe Dan had the presence of mind to ask him
into a different part of the camp. At the moment, the
main point was to be visible and easily found.
looked up into the sky, a pale blue that would heat
up soon. He'd be dead before it became hot, he'd die
in the morning cool. Good timing.
was crossing the open space in front of the tin huts,
showered and shaved, dressed in t-shirt, trousers and
boots instead of his customary flip-flops and shorts
on days off duty. Seemed he had something planned for
that day. He rubbed his temples with a groan, fighting
off a hangover induced headache, thankful for the shades
that kept the worst of the morning sun away. Muttering
something to himself before he glanced up and set eyes
on Vadim. His stance changed immediately. There was
tension, his lips set into a thin line, glaring at the
Russian before heading straight into the Mess tent.
He needed food. Lots of it, and the company of men who
knew nothing about his past. Some stupid jokes, a bit
of banter and a good amount of laughter would do just
his tray laden with double helpings of everything, he
spotted Jean and Pascal at a table and grinned, heading
straight towards them and plonking tray and himself
down. "Morning, mates." Lifting his shades
for a moment, revealing red-veined eyes. "How's
things?" Downing the first cup of coffee in one
hand closed around a scrap of cloth. "Morning."
He saw that Pascal was about to say something, and even
for an ex-para, Pascal was a little slow to pick up
on social interaction. Which could save the day, or
ruin it. Mind racing, but then he decided to speak Russian
to keep Pascal out of the conversation. Pascal would
think he knew what it was about. "Do you know anybody
called this?" He opened his hand and dropped the
name tag, then emptied his coffee, like this was routine.
moment Dan's eyes fell onto the name tag, he dropped
the Styrofoam cup and the rest of the coffee splattered
over the table. "Where did you get that from?"
Russian, as well.
jumped up as the coffee ran towards him and he cursed,
which at least prevented him form saying anything stupid,
and for once, Jean was grateful. "The Russian.
He said it was a trophy. That was all he said."
ignored Pascal, coffee, even Jean. Staring at the name
tag, picking it up between his fingers. 'Donahue'. Matt.
Fuck, Matt! "Trophy. He said trophy?" Still
in Russian. "When."
opened his hand and splayed the fingers. Five. "He
just dropped it off."
nodded, took off his shades, had never done that in
public before. Handed them to Jean. "Hold onto
them for me." Right fist clenched around the name
tag, he stood up. "Stay here." Said nothing
more, just turned and walked out of the Mess. Not running.
Not walking. A purposeful march. One goal. One target.
Shouting in Russian once he had stepped out of the tent,
"Where are you, you fucking cunt!"
glanced back to the tent, over his shoulder. Like clockwork.
Mind over emotions. Strings to pull, reflexes to trigger.
Life could be simple. He turned, raised his hands, waved
Dan towards him with his fingers. A mocking gesture,
like they were already fighting. Waited till Dan had
seen him, then broke into a run, to get to the racing
track. Out of sight. A good place for a fight or murder.
Felt good, running, last good thing he'd feel in his
life. He was still faster than Dan, Dan and his fucked
Dan broke into a run, as expected. He'd run to the end
of the next desert to beat that fucking piece of scum
into a pulp. Vadim stopped on the wide open ground,
a slight sheen of sweat, heart pumping. Felt good, and
waited for the other. Thirty yards. Twenty-five. Twenty,
Dan was shouting, not out of breath, just not that fast.
"Where the fuck did you get the name tag from.
Answer me, cunt!" Vadim assumed a defensive position,
like he would actually fight. He'd put up an act, not
stopped, opened his fist. Not even in a sweat yet. Heat.
Dan. Heat and Dan and blood and murder. "Where
did you get the name tag from!"
took it from his uniform when he was tied up and crying",
said Vadim. "I followed you last night. He was
helpless when you were gone. He never saw me coming."
Vadim snarled, felt the darkness roll and coil, the
poisonous blood. Predator. Utterly incapable of remorse.
"He didn't give me enough of a fight, but give
he did." He stared at Dan, gave a cruel, rough
laugh. "Nowhere near as fierce a fight as it was
taking you down. I didn't even need Vanya to take him
prisoner." Stoke the fire, prodded the tiger. Hate
me. Hate me like you did that night. Let's start at
the beginning, and end it right there, annihilate everything.
A roar of rage tore out of Dan. Had the presence of
mind to stuff the name tag into a pocket before running
towards and body slamming into Vadim. "I'll fucking
kill you!" Impact of body upon body, shoulder first,
square into the other's chest, where he was the most
vulnerable. Hitting the solar plexus straight on.
half-hearted block did nothing to take the force out
of the charge. Vadim thought that that was an excellent
way to start it, then the pain was a fist against his
heart, eradicated thought, pain like a bullet, impact,
heat. He staggered back, fell, body didn't obey, breath,
heartbeat, all had stalled, stopped, chest too tight
to breathe. Saw people running towards them. Body curled
up, automatically, felt his breath come back like yet
another impact, hurting like fuck.
you!" Dan snarled, had his body more under control
than ever before. Dozens of fist fights since he had
joined the camp. The fag. The poof. The fucking faggot.
He'd learned with every fight. A better killer than
even in his SAS days. Bare-fisted, he'd smash the bastard's
face in with nothing but his knuckles. Straddling the
curled-up body, he hit the forehead once, twice, forcing
the head back. "Look at me while you fucking die!"
Hit the face, left, right, right again, jaw, temple,
working his way to the centre, he'd broken the nose
before, could break it again, but that wouldn't be enough.
"Die! Fucking die already. Cunt!" Aimed for
the neck and throat instead. Killer punches, designed
to smash and tear the trachea apart. The fucking rapist
would die in agony.
tried to protect his face, saw the rage on Dan's features,
knew, yes, he'd done it, finally, the rain of blows
would do it. Dan's weight, Dan's rage, Dan's vengeance,
finally, for something he'd done so long ago. Fair payment.
Lips smashed, an agonizing blow to the side of the throat
which hadn't come in true. Felt Dan's punches open the
defence, never worked, this wasn't boxing, no gloves
to hide behind. His body wanted to fight back, hurt
too much, he stared into Dan's face and thought you'll
never know. I'll drown in my own blood, will never breathe
again, but you'll never know. Felt a blow that came
in true, the pain almost blacked him out. Didn't cling
to anything, no feelings, no memories, no names. Had
said his goodbyes long ago.
came in a full run, freed his arm on the way, tore the
sling, lunged at Dan, both arms around the other before
any of those vicious blows could kill. "Dan! Don't!
Fucking don't!" Felt him struggle, but at least
had knocked him off the Russian, who didn't move, face
one bloodied mess. Pascal had been right behind him,
he hoped he'd have the presence of mind to act. Jean
resisted Dan's struggling, felt his elbow hurt, grate
like it was rusty, but clung to him, kept Dan's face
in his hands. "Don't. Put a fucking bullet into
his back, but don't kill him in camp. Listen to me!"
did it!" Dan was fighting Jean as if he were still
fighting Vadim, but Jean had the better position and
kept the upper hand, fucked elbow or not. "He did
it again! Let go!" He was like a raging bull, vying
for blood. Muscles, tendons, blood vessels beneath the
surface of his tanned skin, all raised, hard, ropey.
"Fuck off, Jean, this isn't your war! It's mine!"
He could hardly breathe nor speak, could see nothing
but a red haze and blurry vision.
kept Dan under control with his own weight, would take
any blow, tried to keep him pinned. "I know
he deserves it, Dan, he deserves it all, fuck I'd hold
him down so you can fucking kill him, but not in camp.
He's not worth it. He's nothing, he's scum, listen to
don't want to listen!" Dan shouted at Jean, one
last effort to free himself, but the rage was starting
to subside, draining his body and most of all his soul.
"You shouldn't have fucking stopped me. Fuck."
Jerked in the human restraint, then stilled. "Fuck!"
me, I'm already sorry
" Jean glanced up to
see Pascal check on the Russian, check the throat. Pascal
seemed worried, but not alarmed. Good. Bad. Shit. "What
the fuck did he do", he muttered, holding Dan under
control, away from the Russian.
was breathing hard, the come-down harsh, like cold turkey
with the dirty needle still stuck in his vein. Shaking
his head. No. Wouldn't talk. Couldn't tell. "It's
not your war." Repeated, while the tension in his
body was draining away, leaving him aching. Sore. Empty.
Refusing to look at Vadim. "Used to be ours. Only
right", murmured Jean, releasing some of the pressure,
grew tired, felt his elbow throb. Fuck. So much for
'no strain'. He patted Dan's face, touch meant tender,
but Pascal wouldn't be able to tell. "How's the
said Pascal. "He'll come round. Guess that's a
fell", said Jean. "Didn't tie his shoe laces.
I can't have them both in the fucking brig after an
grinned and gave a thumbs up. Jean got off Dan, released
him and offered his good hand. "Come." But
before Dan could take it, there was movement and sound
from Krasnorada: "He sucks good cock, yes, Jean?"
covered the distance, wanted to fucking kick the bastard,
held back, but Dan was faster. Had got onto his feet
and covered the few steps before either could hold him
back. Delivering a kick into Vadim's ribs that was meant
to break bones, only a slightly off aim prevented the
worst from happening. "Fucking shut up and die,
cunt!" He didn't get another kick in, Jean moved
between Dan and Krasnorada, the good hand on his upper
arm. "I need to check with the medic. Arm fucking
hurts." Take Dan's mind off the enemy, who had
curled up from the kick, smashed lips opened, teeth
pink with blood, eyes shut against the pain. Good.
fight had drained everything out of Dan yet the slightest
provocation flared the rage back up again. "Sorry,
mate." To Jean, glanced at Pascal. Neither would
talk. He couldn't risk it.
waved. "Whatever, don't worry about it." He
looked at Pascal. "Make sure a medic checks up
on him." Hoped Pascal understood that letting Krasnorada
lie there for a bit would keep Dan and him separated.
He began to turn back towards camp, picked up the sling
that lay discarded on the way.
shouldn't have stopped me." Dan protested, "I'd
rather go to prison than let that cunt live." He
followed Jean, glancing backwards to where Vadim lay
curled up, before forcing himself to take his eyes away.
can always arrange an accident by sniper", said
Jean on the way to the medic's tent. "But not like
this. He must have planned this. He wanted you to do
this. That's the single best reason not to do it. Because
he wants it."
stopped as if frozen on the spot. "What?"
glanced around. "Do you see anybody out here? Witnesses?
And then, coming up to me and tell me I should tell
you he took a trophy from somebody? I assume that somebody
is somebody you
know quite well. Can't remember
the name, but that's me, good old Jean having trouble
remembering names and faces. Must be the shit they gave
us in case of a chemical attack." Indicated back
to Vadim and Pascal. "You nearly did it, and look
at you. Not a scratch on you. Bruised knuckles, but
said nothing. Stared at Jean. Planned. Vadim had planned
it. The showers. The knife. The attempt to get him to
fight. He hadn't bitten then, but had jumped at the
chance now. The fucker had forced a friend into the
equation. "Up close and personal." Dan murmured
to himself. Fists clenching and unclenching. Could feel
the ache now, where knuckles had connected with skin,
muscle and bone. How satisfying it had been.
arsehole planned it." He was breathing hard, shook
his head, glanced back to where Pascal stood above Vadim.
"Fucking bastard wanted me to kill him." Couldn't
move, couldn't think. "Why? Fuck, why!" Didn't
expect an answer. "I got to get out of here."
idea. But that was a suicide attempt and we can't even
get him for it." Jean shook his head. "And
that bastard will have a weapon out there on patrol.
Woah, no way. I'll have a word with the CO. Krasnorada
is nowhere near fit for duty, and he needs to get his
nodded at the latter. Shit, he couldn't even get a single
clear thought himself anymore.
continued, "Can't have him out there with my boys.
And whatever shit he'll pull when he's in his hut. Nope.
I want him in the brig."
Dan suddenly stopped the other, "You can't do that.
Lock him up in the brig and he'll find a way to kill
himself. Even if that means running against the wall
enough times to split his goddamned skull." Dan
shook his head, "I'm not making excuses. I was
ready to kill that bastard, nothing would have felt
better than spill the fucker's blood. I swear, if he
has done what he wanted me to believe he has done, I
will kill Vadim Krasnorada, and no one will keep me
from it, but you can't lock him up. He's fucked up alright.
He needs help alright. But not here. He's a fucking
nutcase, but if you lock him up, like in the Lubyanka,
it'd be better to kill him first. Not that I care."
Lie, Dan? Still a lie. "But you don't want the
groaned with frustration. "And who's going to watch
over him and make sure that he doesn't shoot himself?
Or us, and then himself? And how do I sell the whole
hog to the CO?" He rubbed the base of his nose.
"Okay. I will talk to him about the screaming at
night. And propose that man gets his head sorted while
on R&R. And if Krasnorada does not show significant
changes, I'll get each and every one of the boys to
complain and swear holy oaths he's been raping baby
rabbits out in Iraq. I want him out of here."
nodded, "just drop the bit with the baby rabbits."
Started to walk, away from the man still lying on the
ground, whose blood was drying on his knuckles.
that was my favourite part." Jean laughed, shaking
has happened to us, Dan thought, and when did it happen.
I would have killed you, murdered you, and you wanted
me to, and I still will, if I find out you didn't lie.
think I got a chance to get into the Yank camp?"
Dan asked, "got to have a swift word with someone
who lost something." He was flexing his hands as
he walked Jean towards the medical tent. He'd have to
hide his scraped knuckles, knowing that Jean and Pascal
would swear that the Russian had lost his balance while
tying his laces.
smiled, but didn't make eye contact. "I've heard
a story that they requested some kit from us. Maybe
they are getting sick of their MREs and are exchanging
some of theirs for ours. I know the QM is involved,
maybe he needs a hand or two for unpacking. Talk to
mate." Dan didn't smile, just flashed something
which could pass for it. "Got my shades? I feel
naked." Held out his hand. "Got to clean up
first and then have a word with the QM. Need to check
up after that, when I can get out and light fire under
some arses. Better sooner than later."
nodded and pulled the shades from his breast pocket.
Looked like they had survived the small wrestling match.
He put them in Dan's hand. "Yeah. Good luck with
the guy who lost his stuff. I'll go off to get my ass
chewed by the medic and the CO. Pretty sure the CO is
a little sweet on me." He winked. "Like all
faggots in this goddamned camp." Gave Dan a slap
against the shoulder, and turned.
all, Jean. Remember." Dan turned as well, slipped
the shades back over his eyes and made his way to the
shower block to wash the evidence off his hands.
almost killed Vadim. He couldn't bear it.
day couldn't possibly get anymore worse than the morning
had started, but it got a hell of a lot more hectic.
He remained under such tension and strain he was like
a coiled spring, ready to snap any moment. He had to
postpone his arrangements for the day off, instead sweet-talked
the QM into letting him co-deliver the requested kit
into the American camp. Heading straight for the accommodation
tents, he'd been lucky. Matt Donahue was lying on his
bunk, chilling out while reading some paperback. Dan
had become buddy-friendly with a lot of the kids who
came popping down to the bar for a soft drink whenever
they were allowed to, and was able to pry Matt away
to exchange a few words in privacy, without anyone suspecting
more than a quick exchange of banter between mates.
There were quite a few in that camp who secretly admired
the old Mad Dog for his guts.
was angry, but Dan had expected worse. Had prepared
himself for blame and spite, instead meeting anger,
hurt and a chilling edge to the kid that Dan had never
encountered before in the Yank who'd always been a happy-go-lucky
twenty year old jarhead. It sobered Dan, worried him,
but clung to 'that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger'.
He handed the name tag back to his mate and started
asking questions. Matt couldn't understand why Dan was
adamant and kept asking several times if he had been
raped and refused to admit to it, until Matt lost his
temper in a short-fused but spectacularly impressive
way, leaving Dan absolutely convinced that the kid was
telling the truth. Shallow cuts, Matt admitted to, swollen
wrists from the rope and a spot of beating, but most
of all fear and goddamned knife play that had gotten
to him. Matt apologised, over and over again, for having
told everything that Dan had spilled, the love and lies,
the hatred and emptiness and most of all the pain, but
Dan reassured him that it did not matter, and that anyone
would have broken down and told it all if faced with
said his good-byes, knowing they wouldn't have another
chance to meet again and Matt seemed to be everything
but interested in sex right now. Understandable, Dan
had a fair idea how much the kid was fucked up, faced
with Vadim at his worst, and he wished him good luck
with his boyfriend and a bloody good military career.
left when Matt started drilling him for an answer why
he had been asking about rape several times and if that
fucking bastard of a Russian madman had been known for
the shit, but Dan shook his head, refused to answer
and left Matt with a slap on the shoulder and an apology
for having dragged him into a private war.
Dan arrived back in the British camp, he managed to
get an appointment with the CO, demanding the earliest
possible date out there, being told that arrangements
would be made within a week, probably sooner. They still
were not sure where he'd be redeployed to, but there
were plans afoot and the CO could not wait for the day
Dan, the trouble maker, was leaving his camp, no matter
how good he was in his job. Dan grinned, wryly, thanked
the poncy arse, then pushed the shades back over his
eyes. Finding scran, then solitude and silence in his
overheated room, sitting naked on his bunk. Guzzling
lukewarm water and staring at the metal walls, thinking.
was already evening when he pulled the shorts on, threw
a t-shirt over his head and found the battered flip-flops.
His last mission for the day, the week, and the Gulf,
would not need protective gear. Not anymore.
was making his way through the dusk, past a handful
of rooms in the row of tin huts, aiming straight for
one he had never been in before. The lion's den. He
didn't knock on the door, just hammered once with his
fist against it, before walking inside, unannounced.
He needed answers. Simple ones this time.
door was open. A fan was running, adding a slight whirr
to the room. Nothing else. The radio was unplugged,
the cable neatly fixed to the side with duct tape. The
room impeccable, no personal effects visible, no photos,
the books in a line, untouched. No food. No water.
stepped inside, closed the door behind him, allowing
his eyes to get used to the gloom. Saying nothing for
a long time while looking around, taking in every little
detail. He'd never seen a place that was Vadim's own,
not in eleven years. Twelve almost.
was lying on the field bed, wearing the British camo
that he had adopted since the selection. Had felt odd,
but he'd worn different camo patterns in his life, most
of them to confuse the enemy. Take on different roles,
nationalities, spetsnaz style warfare. The shirt was
unbuttoned, boots shined and off, the only two things
that implied the temperature. Dark sweat patches on
the undershirt, old burn mark under the throat barely
visible in the gloom. One hand was up to keep something
cooling to his face, elbow propped against the wall,
as if Vadim couldn't be bothered holding it up with
his own strength. His face was mostly covered, apart
from one blue eye, which opened to reveal a bloodied
white rim, the area around it swollen where fist had
hit cheekbone. Vadim's gaze focused on Dan and there
was a flicker of tension, body panicking at the potential
pain, the brute force, the potential killer.
saw the sudden tension, did nothing, thought nothing
either. Silent, still, until Vadim indicated the slightest
nod, stoic, fatalistic, and closed his eye again. The
left hand that had been resting on Vadim's stomach came
to rest on the bed, palm towards the ceiling. His chest
expanded with deeper breaths, soundless.
want you to answer me a few questions. It's simple.
Yes or no will do. Can you do that?" Dan asked
into the silence.
adjusted the cloth on his face to bare the lips, bruised,
swollen. They hardly moved. "Yes."
nodded. "You did not rape Donahue." He knew
the answer already, but this was no game. It was deadly
serious and it was big. Dark. Dangerous and fucking
painful. He paused, waiting for the answer.
I fucked his mind, but that's it."
lied to me by implying that you did do to the
kid what you had done to me." Another pause,
Dan was still standing in the middle of the room.
manipulated me into killing you, my bare fists as the
weapon of your murder, and you would have succeeded
had Jean and Pascal not interrupted." Dan was breathing
selfishly decided I would end your life. I would live
with the guilt. I would be sentenced for murder."
Three questions - three answers? Dan stood still, not
a muscle twitched, only a few long hairs moved by a
stray breeze from the fan.
Not murder. Grievous assault, resulting in my death.
You have witnesses in your favour. A beating that went
too far. There were plenty of them. None of those were
attempted murder." Vadim paused. "Selfish."
That depended entirely on the perspective, the state
hadn't liked this, the individual removing himself from
the pool of workers and soldiers by his own leave. It
was really a question of who owned a life. And who owned
his? Not his homeland, and Britain handled him like
something useful, but distasteful. Not a homeland. No
army, just a job now. Now, Dan hadn't wanted his life,
either. As if it weren't worthy enough for anybody to
want it. Ironic. "Every decision is selfish. Everything
we do is selfish. Dying is selfish. So is killing. I
wanted you to hate me enough to do it."
coming back was not what you had expected?" Still
no movement, just Dan, dusk, and death.
back where?" Vadim opened that bloodshot eye again.
"The plan was sound. I underestimated Jean. Or
overestimated." He sounded tired.
back from wherever you had fucked off to. Coming back
to where I was." Coming back to me? "Don't
play dumb." Dan frowned, using his voice like a
whiplash. "I don't even know where the fuck you'd
fucked off to, how the fuck you came to the Gulf and
most of all why the fuck you showed up here. Why?"
He snorted, "No. Don't think I expect an answer."
He moved, but only to put his hands into the pockets
of his cut-off camo shorts.
short version: I was caught breaking and entering in
Sweden. I got in touch with the boss lady, she offered
me a job. I trained with the Royal Marines, and went
through SAS selection to prove I can still shoot a rifle.
And I was posted here, a mercenary like you. I requested
to be sent to the same place."
the fuck were you thinking, Vadim? Half a year. Six
fucking months of nothing. You could have been dead
for all I knew." And it probably would have been
easier than this now.
was like dead. Vadim closed his eye again, it felt swollen
and itchy, but it looked better than the other one.
He shifted the cooling towel to cover it again.
continued, trying to understand. "Two years, fucker,
two years I had been hoping and working towards that
one moment, for when you'd come back. Two fucking years
and you left without a word, no note, not a fucking
thing." Dan glanced over to the bare window, shook
his head. "Just one word, anything, and I might
not have understood, but fuck, I would have respected
your decision. Just one fucking measly pathetic word
would have done it. Just one, you thoughtless bastard."
jaw muscles tensed. "It was not a decision. I couldn't
think. I couldn't feel. I couldn't decide. Too much.
It was too much. Your guys put me back together. I felt
back in control. I came here to ... do what I should
have done, and couldn't. It's not an excuse. I should
have been capable of acting and deciding. It was a weakness.
I was not in control." Sounding much like he was
debriefing after an exercise to a superior. I blew it.
I accept full responsibility. Punish me.
what happened to you? What the fuck happened to you
fist tightened, pressed against the outside of his thigh.
Solitary. Confinement. He needed to see, to move. He
took the wet towel off, couldn't stand the soothing
darkness, manoeuvred his body to lean against the wall,
face discoloured, one eye blackened and swollen. "Russia
told me in no uncertain terms she's finished with me."
My country. I was good enough to kill for Russia; suffer,
bleed and be tortured for Russia, but I wasn't good
enough to be forgiven - for one thing, being human.
shook his head again, pulled his shoulders up before
letting them drop. Resigned. "I don't claim I understand,
but whatever it is that fucked you up, you got to get
help, Vadim. And that help can't be me. You got to get
your head sorted."
I will be gone. Never knowing if you made it, because
I can't. Too late.
had help. I'm fit for service." Not for polite
company, but for service. Shoot straight, run, march,
kill. Suicidal, but fit for service. He wasn't sure
he had fooled them, or whether they had made allowances.
Something in Dan's voice made him look up, concern,
more than accusations, a warmth that threatened to choke
him. Wanted to beg. Ask. Hope. Felt his eyes burn.
nodded his head slowly. Fit for service, but not fit
for life, apparently not. "I can't stay, because
what you've done this time was too close for fucking
nodded. "Yeah. That was the plan. It worked halfway.
But no plan ..." survives enemy contact. He looked
at Dan, that sunburnt bronzed dark-haired man he had
wanted all the time, and who was already gone. Posted
somewhere else. Loving, needing, trusting somebody else.
"It's alright. It's good now." I'll live.
No. Lie. You did everything you could, I used you, manipulated
you, hurt you, and you're still here to ask questions.
Courageous Dan. I've done everything I could think of
to force you, but that's expended, the last bullet expended,
nothing more, no weakness, no link, no guilt. No desire,
no touch. Dan was free now, untouchable.
that slow, resigned nod. Dan inhaled deeply, dark eyes
like pools of black in the gloom of the barren room.
He was nothing but shadows.
looked at him, saw him move towards the door. Questions
answered. Dan would leave. And wouldn't be there after
that. Their rituals of saying goodbye. Be careful. Don't
get killed. See you when I do. Get in touch, you know
the place. The contact. The time. The reason. You know.
Presents that he could find, kit, food, boots. He still
wore Matterhorns, different model, more advanced. Anything
like that. A scrap of the old thing. He didn't ask for
a touch, craved it, yes, but he knew Dan too well. Anything.
Maybe forgiveness. Leave me something, Dan.
don't go fucking up any more of my mates." Dan
paused, half-turned, then stopped, looking back. "Not
that it will make a difference. I'll be gone in a few
days and don't bother asking anyone where I am. They
won't know. No one will."
fuck, I don't even know it either.
concern for his friends. Jean. Donahue. It hurt like
a blow to the teeth. "I've done that, it didn't
time Dan walked to the door, a shadow amongst shadows,
defeated on a level where only one man was able to touch
him - and had touched him. Too many times. He stopped
in the door, but didn't glance backwards. "I wish
you peace, Vadim." Peace. The ultimate absence
of pain, loneliness, anger, suffering. Love or hate.
voice broke as he tried to speak. Had no idea what he
had wanted to say. Don't go? I love you? Or just "no"?
he was gone.
is cheap. You can load it into a fucking gun!"
Vadim shouted, and fell back onto the bed again, crying,
stifled the sounds against his fist.
never heard the last words, or perhaps he didn't want
asshole", said Jean, darkly, after stepping out
of the CO's tent. Overpaid bastard had been exceedingly
helpful. He snorted and headed back to the tin huts,
inhaled, cast the tension off. Solange hated it when
he frowned and kept telling him if he smiled, things
always got easier. Trouble was, she was right. She kept
reading stuff in Cosmo and Elle and even though she
managed to whittle the articles down to short maxims
like "smiling makes you pretty", there was
something to it.
rapped against Pascal's door and the para opened the
door, dressed in cycling shorts and a sheen of sweat.
Holy fuck. Was he really starting to look at men differently?
Was he? Jean stepped back and raised his hands, laughing.
"Fuck, man, you getting ready for a date with Mad
Dog? You ain't got no shame ..."
hit him square against the chest. "Shithead. What
do you want?"
him to the medic, seems he's alright."
got a sly expression. Which was about as believable
as Pluto the dog feeling sly. "Medic said he's
off duty for today and tomorrow. Did stuff to his pupils,
so they can see whether his eyes are fucked. Can't have
bright light for twenty-four. Had a few stitches. Concussion,
so he got some painkillers and they told him to rest."
Need to think about that." Jean peered inside.
"You have a bottle left?"
that Pluto the dog expression. "Yeah." Pascal
vanished inside and returned with a bottle Jack. "Pay
me tomorrow. I'm busy right now."
laughed and saluted with the bottle. "Too much
information, mate." He was still chuckling when
he rapped against Dan's door. "Hey, Mad Dog. I
open!" Dan shouted from the inside, sounding breathless.
"Always is, dickhead."
there was Mad Dog, on his back on the floor, feet hooked
beneath the metal bunk and doing crunches. Sweating
like the proverbial nickname as he worked on his abs.
glanced around, couldn't help but notice the tensing
and relaxing of muscle under the dark, horribly scarred
skin. Shit. Second guy that was nearly naked, as if
to tease him with the fact that he saw some things.
He did. Or maybe it was just about Mad Dog. He placed
the bottle on what served as a nightstand, sat down
and waited. Watching the tense shoulders, the curve
of chest, pumping motions. Shit, he really missed Solange.
He was getting too used to this.
stopped soon enough, just flopped back down onto the
ground and lay panting on the floor. The room looked
empty, most of his stuff had already been packed up.
The only remaining items were a table lamp that cast
a yellow glow over his sweat-glistening body, and the
pieces of furniture that belonged to the camp. Nothing
else, except for a bergan stuffed to bursting and a
sports bag. He was ready to move on, at least that's
what it seemed from the outside.
that?" Dan gestured with his chin to the bottle
of JD. "Farewell booze?"
Jean gave a grin and indicated his arm, a white stabilizing
bandage around the joint, but no sling anymore. "Farewell
to the damned sling." He broke the seal of the
top, offered the bottle to Dan.
here I was, believing I meant something to you."
Dan smirked, then threw the back of his hand in an overly
dramatic gesture against his forehead. "See if
I care, eh?" He reached for the bottle, while still
on the floor, lifted up and started to drink, every
line, ripple, formation of muscle and sinew on his body
a shimmering dark bronze statue in the low-level light.
sat down on the bed and found it hard not to stare at
the muscles. Tease, he thought. Only he didn't believe
that Dan did it on purpose. Okay. I'm slowly turning
gay. I was fine this morning under the shower, but this
... is a bit much. But truth was, Dan was sexy. Male,
yes, but sexy.
mate, just what I needed." Dan wiped his lips then
handed the bottle back. Scrambling up to sit with his
knees bent, still on the floor, leaning against his
bunk. "You heard? I'm off day after tomorrow. Went
faster than I thought."
Lucky bastard. Getting out of this fucking desert."
Jean took a deep swallow, glanced down at Dan. "I'll
stay until this shit is dealt with." Indicating
Kuwait and Iraq with a gesture. "And after that,
Paris, the city of love."
grinned, "You going to stay in France? Don't tell
me you won't be itching to get back into adrenalin-heaven."
He reached round and found his towel. Wiped his face.
want to spend a few weeks fucking my woman." Jean
gave a broad grin. "Food, parties, proper drinking,
sleeping long, more sex. Air-conditioning. And then
I get bored and sign the next contract. That's the life,
Dan. That's exactly the life."
laughed and nodded. "Aye, I can see that. Sounds
like heaven, except that it would bore me to death within
days." He looked at the damp towel, "I must
stink like a possum. Meant to have another shower."
sniffed himself. "Don't let me keep you. I might
join you." A wink. "So you get a vision of
my straight ass. Something to think about tonight, huh?"
Dan flashed his teeth. "Your ever so straight-as-fuck
arse." He grinned, but then sobered for a moment.
"Don't think I'm going to do too much of the thinking
tonight. On a scale of one to ten it was a twenty-two
pointer of a shit day." Paused, "Week. Month.
Years. Life. Whatever." He shrugged, got up from
is overrated anyway." Jean got up as well. "Let
me get my towel. See you in the showers." He gave
See you in a sec." Dan waved the other off, took
hold of the soap bag and wandered off, while Jean headed
towards his place. Got the washing bag, towel slung
over one shoulder, headed towards the showers, heard
one of them was running, saw Dan already under water,
steam rising. He stripped as well, started the shower
right next to Dan, let the water run over him, and glanced
at Dan's body before stepping behind the partition.
Yeah. Definitely turning gay there. Shit. Friend and
sexy. Didn't really go together, only that he had already
kissed this man, had felt him come against his body,
had come against him, clinging, relishing in the rock-steady
strength. Dan had something about him that allowed crashing
and being weak without threat. Fuck, am I falling like
a girl for the strong shoulder? More like a brother,
a comrade. He gathered a handful of shower gel, liked
being this close to Dan, liked to watch how he washed
himself. His hand found his own cock, getting hard from
the closeness. Jean leaned against the stall with his
good elbow, began to stroke himself.
head poked out of the stream of water, looking pointedly
at the job Jean was doing on himself. "I reckon
you fancy a hand." Lifted his eyes away from the
cock and towards Jean's face. His own, though, not quite
glanced around. Showers. Shit. The best way to ruin
his reputation forever. Pascal - or anybody - blundering
in. It aroused him, strangely, the open space, the possibility
to get caught. Had played those games with Solange.
Night clubs, dark corners, toilets, cars, parks. Few
suitable places in Paris they hadn't tried out. "If
you ... have a spare one." He moved closer. "I
didn't plan this, honest ..."
I do have a spare one." Dan lifted his hand, waved
it about. "Got two, after all." He leaned
against the corner of the thin partition wall, grinning.
He had nothing to lose. No reputation, no face, no nothing.
They stood close, both touching the wall, both a step
out of the actual shower spray, and Dan reached for
Jean's cock. "Guess going to me knees," starting
to stroke, expert touch, strong fingers, "would
be a touch too much," harsh grip, demanding. He
was a bloke after all, and fuck, he loved cocks, even
though his own right now was only mildly interested,
"but you could always claim my throat raped you."
hands reached blindly to Dan's chest, slid down the
wet skin, felt the muscles vibrate, while his body was
begging, craving the touch, the attention, the fucking
strength. "I ... won't claim a thing ..."
he said, breathless. "Can't claim ... I don't want
this." Shit. The other's cock, right hand squeezing
Dan's balls, moving to stroke the other, giving a helpful
hand, more coordinated, stronger. Still felt a little
tension in the elbow, sore, whatever, fuck, the heat
and strength and Dan reacting to his touch, some odd
compliment, and Jean liked that. Liked the thought to
think he aroused the other, a game, light-hearted fun,
yes, Dan closed his eyes for a moment, while stroking
the other, stepped closer. No way they wouldn't get
caught if someone entered the showers now. He was stroking
Jean faster, harder, while stopping the other's hand
on his own cock, instead moving it to rest on his hip.
Jean glanced up, questioningly, not quite selfish enough
in his need to not care.
young anymore ...," Dan was breathless, but just
not enough, the edge was missing and he knew he wouldn't
make it. "Been a shit day
his effort on Jean's body, using every trick of the
trade while grinning.
was a lot of things, but not as straight as he claimed
to be. The way he arched into Dan's hand, took hold
of muscles and darkly tanned skin, gasped and breathed
under strain and stared at Dan's body, spoke volumes.
Perhaps not gay, but sure as fuck not just straight
either. Making far too much suppressed noise when cumming,
for someone who just happened to need a helping hand.
came, shuddering, watched intently by Dan, then rested
his weight against the partition, catching his breath.
Then, quickly, glanced around again, and gave a throaty
laugh. "Fuck. That's what happens when I want to
chat a bit." He gave his body another quick, final
rinse, switched off the water and angled for his towel.
"You sure you're okay?"
grinned, had given himself a quick rinse as well. "Sure
am." Turning the water off he reached for his towel.
"Didn't know you were a kinky motherfucker who's
into public places."
laughed. "But I am. Into public places. But a mercenary
camp is a new one." He towelled his hair and stepped
into his trousers, then slipped the wifebeater over
his head, let it hang out over the BDUs. He glanced
at Dan's body, as if to check, seeming vaguely guilty.
"I think we have some Jack left in your place.
I can restore my reputation when you're gone."
laughed, fastening he towel around his hips and reaching
for soap bag and customary shades. Sure, it was dark
outside, but he slipped them back over his eyes nevertheless.
His too-long hair glistening dark with specks of grey
at the temples, as drops of water caught in the artificial
light. "JD sounds good and to be honest,"
he delivered a reckless slap onto Jean's backside, "I
could do with some company tonight."
stared at him, then laughed, surprised by a touch that
was fine among mates in camp, banter, but Mad Dog's
banter had a couple more dimensions to it. "That's
alright, then." Is it? Yes. Spending time with
Dan was always a good option, and especially in this
odd mood. And he did understand that Dan might not want
to be alone. Not after Krasnorada's latest shit. He
followed Dan to his hut, waited for him to close the
door, still feeling the good, warm tingle in his body.
closed and for once locked, Dan pointed to his bunk,
gesturing to Jean to sit down. "Wonder where they'll
take me." He shrugged, he didn't have a say in
where they'd send him anyway. Getting the steel mugs,
he poured two generous measures of Bourbon, handing
one to Jean. "Here's to a new job in a new country
with hopefully good mates." But he didn't want
to go, did he? Shit.
raised the mug. "To plenty more fucked-up places
that pay good money." He grinned, and drank, then
studied Dan's face. "Just remember April and Paris,
emptied the entire contents of his mug, glanced at Jean
over the rim before walking to the bunk and sitting
down next to him. "April. You serious about the
wedding?" Realised what he had said, smiled. "Not
the wedding, but about me being there."
not getting cold feet, are you? I'm getting married,
grinned, "just making sure. Best man and all that
shit. Guess I'll have to wear a suit, eh? Holy crap."
He leaned back against the wall, smiling when Jean leaned
in to kiss the corner of his mouth, checked his reaction
to that, but didn't get any, apart from a somewhat stunned
paused to give Dan time to push him away, which didn't
happen, then kissed him fully on the lips, broke the
kiss only to grin. "I'll leave you my numbers.
Just get in touch when you feel like it."
it tradition in France, or something like that, to kiss
the Best Man?" Dan pushed the shades from his eyes,
let them rest on one finger, on forehead height.
shrugged, pulled his lips between his teeth to lick
them, then gave a grin. "You didn't strike me as
a traditional person."
not, especially when it comes to wearing suits. I'd
rather get a kilt." Dan raised his brows in a toothy
grin before letting the shades drop back over his eyes.
"But the things I'll do for your laydee."
moved forward to take the shades off Dan, dropping them
on the bed, looking into his eyes. "Yeah, it's
better you're leaving. Two more weeks like that, and
I'll start shaving my legs and wearing skirts."
He raised a hand before Dan could burst into laughter.
"Yes, I know. You like them male. Just making fun."
that shaving legs bit is damn male." Dan grinned
once more, teeth and all. "Or so I was told. Olympic
swimmers and that jazz. Besides, nothing wrong with
skirts, or are you trying to tell me a proper Scotsman
in a kilt is not the very symbol of manliness?"
laughed. "You guys are fucking weird. I start to
get my own theories about why you don't wear anything
underneath, and why it's skirts. Lifted faster."
He winked and Dan grinned, commenting idly, "good
reason, then, to get myself a kilt. In fact, would your
lady accept a kilt as suitable evening wear? There's
a McFadyen tartan." Dan trailed off, musing, while
Jean leaned back, stretched, relaxing, placed a hand
on Dan's back, between the shoulder blades. "I'm
still wondering what makes you so sexy. Can't say. Really,
I don't get it."
Dan turned his head, laughing with ill disguised surprise.
"You're fucking bonkers. I'm a worn-out, aging,
scarred-as-shit battle horse who's well past his sell
why do you make me hard? Not because I like scars."
Jean seemed thoughtful. "Not even because you're
gay and a cheap source for sex. Well, cheap is relative,
you know what I mean. Plenty of guys who worship the
ground under your feet. The younger ones, but I haven't
heard any stupid stuff from my own crew about you."
Don't be stupid, Jean, it's just the sandbag tall-tales
of past glories and a few stunts I pulled while here.
Suicidal tendencies seem to lead to an interesting reputation."
Dan reached for the shoulder strap of Jean's wifebeater
and let it bounce against his skin. "Perhaps you
just happened to have found out with me that you happen
to be a bit more bi than you thought. That," Dan
smirked, "and I'm a fantastic cocksucker."
laughed. "You are. Easily up there with the best
of them." He ran his hand over Dan's neck, shoulders,
a reassuring, firm touch. "No idea. You're ...
the first guy I do this with. You know, on purpose.
Sober. My idea." He shook his head while Dan laughed.
purpose? So you've ended up shagging guys before, aye?
Claiming every time that you were drunk, after all,
and it wasn't your fault." Dan leaned into the
touch, rolling his neck.
... quite. Had a guy rub against me and ... was sucked
off, but that was different. Can't say it was memorable."
Jean shrugged, dismissively. "Ah, I'll survive
this. I'll think about it some other time. I mean, you
went from straight to gay. Things change, eh?"
do, fuck, yes, they do." Dan suddenly moved, pulled
his legs up on the bunk and twisted until he let himself
fall back, lying half across Jean's thighs, head in
his lap, grinning upwards. "Admittedly, I had been
a right arsehole towards women before and a bastard
gay basher, so I guess it wasn't really a surprise that
I hated what I was and what I didn't want, but thought
I had to want." He paused, stretched his legs out,
added with a somewhat confused laugh, "or something
sense to me. Makes perfect sense." Jean placed
his hand on the other's cheek, stroked along the jawline,
causing Dan's eyes to close, while he let out a contented
sound. Jean continued, "You should find somebody
to love. Your body, looks and pay check? Plus uniform?
There must be hundreds of guys wanting to get into your
pants. Hell, I want to get into your pants. Take a couple
weeks off and look for something, I'm pretty sure if
you allow it to happen, it will."
opened his eyes again, smiled wryly. "Love? There's
just this one little problem, you see. Sex, lust, fucking,
no problem, friendship and fun neither. But love? I'm
afraid that one's been done and over with." He
looked at Jean in a strange way. "I'm not exactly
young anymore and neither gay mag stud material. Even
if I were, that love thing, can't say it's quite done
and over with." He pulled a face when he realised
what he'd said. "Bugger, guess I'm contradicting
looked at him, quizzically, and shook his head. "Oh
damn. So, bringing that fucker a loaded gun is not an
option, either. CO wasn't really helpful, he said that
guy is my responsibility, I'm his team leader. I told
him he's a loose gun, and I told him about the screaming
at night, but it doesn't look like we can get rid of
raised his hands, palms up. "I don't want to know.
Not my responsibility anymore, alright? I've said my
farewell and that's that. He's been my responsibility
for too long. Guess I'd forgotten that it's supposed
to be a two-way street and not just a one-way bumfuck."
sorry. Shouldn't bring it up. The CO just pissed me
off." Jean's hand moved to Dan's chest, the other
kept stroking his jaw and throat, veered off to touch
the neck every now and then. "Some R&R would
be good. Been to a brilliant place in Thailand before
I came here ... mostly for windsurfing. It's not the
usual tourist trap, more a place where rich Thais go
on holiday, too." Jean grinned, the thought of
that place put him into a sunny mood. "Perfect
place to relax and think, get shitfaced and laid, and
whatever else you want. Stoned, too, and the food is
great and not too expensive. I can show you some photos,
I have some in my place ... tomorrow, after breakfast."
good." Dan yawned, looked at the ceiling. Quite
comfortable in his position, too comfortable perhaps.
It would be hard work again, getting to know guys and
starting from scratch. Hell, he didn't expect to ever
find anyone again to shag with. Not like that. Not that
easy. And sure as fuck not two at the same time. "Stay
a moment? Have to grab a chance while I still can, aye?"
Dan smiled and closed his eyes, expectantly waiting
for some more of that caress, but hadn't counted on
the fatigue that was starting to drag him under.
grinned. "I think you're falling asleep",
he muttered under his breath and kept stroking Dan's
chest, but reduced the touch in his face. Solange hated
it when he touched her face when she was falling asleep,
or was asleep. He waited until Dan's breath deepened
and slowed, the remaining tension leaving his features,
then shifted the body to pull his legs free and pushed
Dan back into position on the bed so he could sleep.
Sleep was a good idea, but short of lying on top of
Dan, there was just no space for him, and the implications
were too complicated. Spending time together - yes.
Sleeping together - better not. It wasn't quite worth
he padded out of the tin hut for a sleeping place with
a little more space.
never even half-woke when shifted, just snuffled and
rolled over to curl up on his side. One more night,
then a day, perhaps another night and then the Gulf
would be a memory. Like Afghanistan. The mountains.
The endless skies. Like heat and dust, cold and thirst.
And like Finland on a frozen Christmas night.
day Dan would be nothing but memories of a tall-tale
of all people, kept an eye on him. Vadim found himself
sneering at the thought. Team leader, yes, superior
in no way. If he planned to blow his brains out, Pascal
sure as hell would react too late. He wouldn't see it
coming, despite expecting it.
forced himself to concentrate on work. That was the
only reason why he got up, why he convinced the medic
he could see with his banged-up eyes. Dan avoided him.
He avoided Dan. He went through the motions, his heart
wasn't in it. Not easy to do anything.
felt removed, detached, too far away, things were around
him but never sunk in, unless it was potential danger,
which he spotted. There was no fear. The next two days,
he volunteered with a raised hand to check things, to
do anything. By all means and purposes, he was the stoic
Russian who didn't care enough to take pleasure in fights,
to be thirsty, to talk, or to be scared.
had achieved it finally. He had bled dry. Had taken
a lot of time, but he finally was only a mind and a
body. He worked, replenished calories and water, and
slept, to get up for work again. It was a soothing existence.
Finally some kind of equilibrium, only two days after
live for a few more years, he figured, save up the money,
then die - whichever way, and ensure the money returned
to Dan's account. He didn't want to owe him anything,
and definitely not hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Houses. Assets. It was the only way left he could get
even. He was left with a debt and he planned to repay
that. And after repaying, he'd do something else. He
didn't really know yet.
was dispassionate about life or sex or comradeship.
Finally bled out. He couldn't cry anymore, couldn't
confront Dan, could only feel the time running out and
no way to stop it. Dan would soon be gone, vanished,
and there was no way to hold him back. The emotions
didn't matter. He'd won so many battles, he had lost
their war. The masseur's encouragement was all bullshit.
He had lost because of his feelings. They had made him
weak, had fucked up his life. Good that the feelings
were gone now. Tugged away, at least. He'd take them
out so he could feel enough pain to pull the trigger,
but for the moment, he existed. Focused on what needed
to be done. Life in prison. Focused on taking every
moment by itself and surviving that. One breath at a
returned to duty on the second day, and Vadim kept volunteering.
He had the feeling Jean was too willing to get him into
danger, and felt nothing because of it. Maybe it was
a small mercy, maybe it was spite. Maybe it was some
twisted kindness. The legionnaire kept things strictly
to business, and Vadim knew nothing but business. He
was as much a person as the jeep.
tool, content in being a tool. It kept the muzzle pointing
in the right direction.