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Special Forces Chapter XXVII: Deliverance

August 1991, the Persian Gulf

The next morning, Vadim woke with a blazing headache, not much different from when he'd fallen asleep. A case of dehydration, exhaustion, and, of course, a sun that had hated him all his life. Lying in the stuffy semi-dark, the only sound the electric fan, slightly creaking when it swayed from side to side. At least being the camp bogeyman kept the well-wishers away. The backslapping, the childish Oo-rah, and whatever else mercs and soldiers did to confirm their brotherhood.

I got him out because I owed him, he thought. Not for orders. Not for any sense of decency. No brotherhood for him, fuck that.

Vadim stood, swaying slightly, feeling his stomach tight and empty, weak still, but, he thought with a vague sense of irony, he'd live. He dug for a fresh shirt, fresh trousers, socks, groaned while rubbing his skull, then glanced at the watch. Not a Russian make. No more Volkovs. He thought in English, these days. Sometimes it shifted into Russian, and back within the same thought. Ragtag pile of words. No longer any language. Didn't matter.

Couldn't stand being alone anymore, needed to get out. The sun was sinking, still didn't seem to have lost any of its vicious power, and Vadim stood in the entrance to his tin can and thought, fuck it, whatever he did, both was bad. Outside, sun, and his head already hurt, inside - darkness. Potential for. Fear.

He saw mercs stalling, pausing, looking at him. Camp bogeyman. He might be a bitch, but at least he was the scariest motherfucking bitch they'd ever seen. So much bitch, in fact, that nobody had a taste for taking him on these days. He snorted, settled his face into the usual mask, lodged every muscle in place, didn't even sneer at them. Fuck them.

And fuck him, too. Jean must have spotted him, probably lying in wait, only to jump him when he felt like shit, anyway. Vadim decided he still needed some food and headed towards the mess tent. There was always a bite, somewhere. He wasn't choosy, really.

"Hey, Krasnorada."

Vadim paused, not turning. Let Jean run around him like the barking dog he was. "Yes?"

"Payslip." Jean actually had a bundle of them in his hand. Did the rounds to hand them to his team. Vadim had thought he'd get it from somebody else. Hadn't even enquired about it.

He took it, ripped it open, cast a glance. Numbers didn't compute. That money. That was actually in his account? As in, real money, real, black numbers? "Shit."

"Seems you are worth that much", said Jean, calm, as he usually was. Vadim expected a snide remark after this, but Jean kept his mouth shut.

Vadim folded the paper and stuffed it in his pocket. Money. He'd never earned that much money. Exchanged it for roubles several times, the sum made even less sense now.

"I'd blow my first proper pay", said Jean. "Heard it's custom."

"Not sure I can drink that much."

Jean grinned. "You're on R&R soon. Where are you headed? Still Thailand?"

He'd mentioned it. A destination he'd heard about while working on Jean's team. Hadn't booked anything, felt almost nauseous at the prospect he could just walk out here and go on holiday. Passport. Travel. Board a plane without orders, with a destination he'd chosen. The world suddenly was a huge place without order or purpose. Felt something well up and realised it was fear. "I guess. Thailand."

Jean looked at him, far too inquisitive for Vadim's taste. Did he try to be friendly. Or just friendlier than the rest of the camp? And why the fuck? Why should he care.

"Dan's off for R&R, too." Pause. Waited. Vadim gave him a sideways look. "Did you think about anything I told you?"

Vadim inhaled. "Like?"

Jean glanced around, but of course there were witnesses. The rumour mill only waiting for the newest story. "Book your time off, the flights, the hotel, and whatever wellness treatment you want. But I would try to not go alone, if you get my meaning, Vadim Petrovich." Jean grinned, but it was a mask. Jean didn't have a single friendly bone in his body when it came to him. No more. He'd fucked that up, but couldn't care. It remained on the outside, like everything else. The headache was worse than that. "Guess you deserved it, didn't you."

"If you say so, comrade team leader." Vadim gave him a nod, indicating he was hungry and wanted to eat, not stand here, with the low sun stinging his eyes. But a thought lodged in his brain like a piece of metal in a clockwork. Not alone. Thailand. Dan. He could, for once, afford it. And he owed Dan. Money. Guilt. Duty. Blowing that paycheck on Dan sounded like a great idea. If Dan allowed him to.

After eating and, most importantly, drinking, he made a few phone calls. Amazed that he held credit, that people were willing to reserve and book things just because he gave them numbers.

* * *

After a day spent with a lingering hangover and too many briefings from too many sides, Dan had slept through the afternoon instead of having the intended little nap. When he finally woke, it was late at night. His stomach rumbled, his throat was dry, and the water in the plastic bottle beside his bunk was empty - he must have drunk it throughout his sleep without noticing. His wrist beneath the plaster cast itched like hell, and he cursed the heat in that place. Yawning, Dan pulled on his shorts and searched for the flip-flops, just about bothering to slip his arms into a parka. It got cold at night, but he couldn't be arsed to get dressed properly.

Getting out of the hut and onto his search for food, water and something - anything to keep his mind off the itch, he pondered for a moment if he should see if Vadim was awake. Stood still, looking at the Russkie's hut, and did nothing. He couldn't face it yet, too complicated, and for once he didn't have the energy for it all.

Making his way to the mess bar instead, at least they'd provide packets of peanuts, crisps, shit coffee and bottled water. If he was lucky he'd snatch one of the elusive bags of pork scratchings. Good old British fare.

He was rubbing his eyes when he opened the door, stepping into the brightly lit place to the sound of voices and the clack of pool balls.

It was mainly Jean's crew. Pascal was practically lying across the table, trying to reach the white ball that was in an awkward position, and might be shot by a left-hander. He lay splayed across the table, while three more guys were having a drink, and Jean stood close. Playing idly with his cue, holding it in the middle and letting it whirr around his hands like in a stupid action movie. He looked up as the door opened and grinned, stopping to play around, then slapped Pascal's ass hard. "Ten-HUT. The hero has risen."

Pascal ruined the shot, shooting up and glaring at Jean. "What the fuck?"

"Thought you didn't want to be all bent over when the Master Faggot is around, huh?"

"Fucking French git." Dan called over, grinning. The parka hung open over his shorts, showing off a strip of body from throat to waistband, sunburnt skin and pale scars, his very own mixture of texture. "Take no notice, Pascal." Trotting over to the pool table, Dan raised his brows and rolled his eyes. "The bastard's only so cocky since he can boast he 'rescued' Mad Dog." Snorting, "as if I needed rescuing, could have done it easily on my own. Now, the Yank babies, that was a different matter …" He winked, hell, they all knew, and most of all him, that without Jean and most of all Vadim, they would have been fucked. Including himself.

Pascal gave a somewhat cautious grin, he was one of the ones who were uncomfortable to have Dan very close, keeping a friendly distance. Jean, of course, was a different matter. He swaggered right over to Dan and handed him his own alcohol free beer, straight from the freezer, condense water running down its neck. "Hey, grumpy, relax." Pulling Dan into a bear hug and murmuring into his ear: "You want to talk, I'm free. Too tired to win that game."

Dan winced at that hug, his ribs were giving him hell, but he sure as fuck didn't complain. He just grinned as an answer, then downed half of the beer in one go. Didn't taste too bad, that alcohol free stuff, could get used to it if he had to. "I'm fucking starving. Got anything edible flying around? I'm not choosy. Ran out of water, too."

Jean grinned, moving back. "Hang on." He looked at Pascal. "Amuse our guest a bit, Pascal, while I get him some grub."

The other Frenchman didn't like that idea, visibly. "Ah, shit, I'll get it." Giving Jean a dark glance for it, then put down the cue and left. Jean huffed laughter. "You alright? Nobody kissed you awake, huh?"

"Holy fuck, Pascal," Dan called after him, "you're not even my fucking type!" Shaking his head he muttered something under his breath. Something about blokes and cocks and arses and showers and bodies and the fact that he wasn't going to jump just about anybody's bones, simply because they were male.

"Guess you got some sleep in alright after the briefings, eh, mate?" Dan grinned at Jean once he had caught himself.

"Just a nap, then people thought grabbing me and carrying me out for a small victory party would be good." Jean's eyes were bloodshot. "Had to tell the story a dozen times."

"Guess I was lucky, then, was only briefed for what felt like twelve fucking hours today." Dan grimaced. "Managed to get some shut-eye, just woke up, hungry, thirsty, bored. The usual shit." But the way Dan shot a glance at Jean was everything but 'usual'. Hidden from anyone else, and Jean grinned as an answer.

"Seems the Russkie's asleep," Dan continued, "or at least ensconced in his hut. Wonder what he's planning, he looked funny at me today."

"I have a couple guesses. After all, we spent some quality time together on the mission."

"Ain't you lucky." Dan drawled in a fake American accent before polishing off the last of the cold beer. "And what would that be?"

Jean walked over to the vending machine close by, rummaged in his pockets for a coin, pushed it in, selected Coke, and waited for the machine to oblige him. Then pushed against it with hips and arms, making the bulk tremble, and the can fall.

Dan was watching, with far too much interest, especially when Jean bent down, gathered the can, before turning towards him. "My guess? He'll try something new."

"What, being 'nice' for a change?" Dan laughed, but it all went far too deep, and despite the humour, he didn't want to pursue the subject. He felt still raw inside, every word, spoken on the roof, remained etched into his memory, and the bullet stashed safely in his wallet.

Jean whistled. "You never know." Opened the can, drank it seemingly without swallowing, just down, then tossed the can into the trash. Wiping his lips to hide his smirk.

"Anyway, enough about the Russkie. What about the food? To be honest, I wouldn't mind sitting down." Dan pointed at his bare feet in the flip flops. "Or do you want me to start whinging on about old age, creaking bones, and war-weary blisters?"

Pascal returned with a full plate of stuff, and water, and offered it to Dan, who had to push the empty beer bottle into Jean's hands. "There. Didn't know what you wanted. Hope that does it." He pulled back almost immediately, towards the others at the bar.

"Cheers, mate, that's great." Dan stuck the water under his arm and balanced the plate in the right hand. His left useless, the plaster cast was a bugger.

"Guess I could use a fag." Jean fished in his shirt pocket for cigarettes, brought out a lighter, too and nodded to Dan. "Let's go outside." He grinned to Pascal. "Rematch is tomorrow."

"Sure thing", said Pascal, waving, then turning to talk to one of the guys.

"Right, then," Dan turned to walk out of the mess, waiting for Jean to hold the door open, "since I haven't got a fucking clue what happened all day today, thanks to that lovely CO and all of his cronies, anything interesting going on in camp?

"By 'interesting' you probably mean what happened to your Vadya, yes?" Jean allowed the door to close behind them, then lit his cigarette, glancing at Dan with those water blue eyes. "Tell me if I'm wrong."

Dan pulled in a deep breath, pondered all his optional answers, and ended up expelling the air with a resigned shrug. "Aye, you're right." Gesturing with his chin to Jean's hut. "but not completely. I'd also like to know what your day was like. Hardly saw you since we made it back. I assume you got your debriefing straight away?"

"Yeah. Basically in the running jeep." Jean grinned, making the red spot flare up in the dark. "Well, I told my story, and Vadim told his, leaving out all the stuff we talked about, of course. Then I had a bite to eat, but Vadim went straight to bed. I don't think he was coherent at that point." He opened the door to his hut. "Come. Have a seat."

"Aye, but that was yesterday." Dan stepped inside, glad to be able to put the plate down on a rickety 'table', dropping the water bottle. "I was together with him last night, talking." Sitting down, rather gingerly, Dan stretched out his legs, favouring the right side. The left a cacophony of reds, blues, greens, yellows and purples. "Did you see him today?"

Jean nodded. "Yeah, I did." He sat down on the bed, reached for a water bottle and had another drink. "He's different. Nicer. Shit. Like he's making some effort for once, to get people to not hate him. Trying to be nice. You know. Talking. Saying hello and thanks."

Dan had started to tuck into the food, a mix of sandwiches and leftovers of cold meat and chicken. He smiled, more to himself than Jean. "Told you so. He's not an ogre." Paused, while chewing, "well, he doesn't have to be."

Washing the mouthful of food down with some water, he reached out to pluck the cigarette from between Jean's lips. "I wonder what to do now." Taking a drag before handing it back and then making himself comfortable as best as he could on the bed, plate balancing on his knees. "Seems I'm staying here for the time being, and they want to send me off to R&R. Wouldn't be surprised if I wasn't the only one. Heard anything for yourself?"

Jean nodded. "He's going out on R&R, too. I'm heading for Paris. Offer still stands, you know. Spend some time in a nice country. I'll translate for you, because most French people's English is worth shit."

"No need," Dan grinned, chewing, "I speak some French, too, and I bet after a week or two I'd be fine." Shaking his head, though, "thanks for the offer, mate, but you should go and visit your lady on your own. I'll see what I'll do with my time, maybe fly back to New Zealand. I bought a farm there, bloody dilapidated and was cheap as dirt, but fantastic views, and an old orchard. Fancy it as the place I'll retired to. Bought it only last year and haven't been back since."

"Sounds like paradise." Jean grinned. "You going to repair it yourself? Or hire people?"

"Hire, I guess. The plan is to work in this business until I'm knackered, save all my money, then have the place redone." Polishing off the plate, Dan rubbed his stomach with a fake burp. "Better, I was starving." He tried to scratch one of the largest bruises on his ribs, but only winced. "Goddammit, it itches everywhere!"

Jean grinned and reached for the sun lotion. "I can offer this." Raising the bottle. "Or scratch you. If you fancy." Turning to face Dan. "You are aware that Vadim knows what we're doing … and he's pretty jealous. Told me in no unclear terms he's going to fight for you."

"But why does he feel the need to fight you for me?" Peeling himself out of the parka, it was awkward for Dan with the bruised left side, and Jean reached out with one hand to help a little, off-handed, almost, without thinking about it. "You've got your lady, we're just fooling around, and we're mates." Dan stopped, looked at Jean, "aren't we?" Dropping the garment to the floor.

"We're friends, Dan. That's it. All the other stuff, whatever. No ring from me, anytime soon, so don't worry." Jean nodded at the bed. "Get comfortable."

Dan lay down on his front, right arm pillowing his head. "Vadim … that's an entirely different kettle of fish. We talked, last night. He knows I love him, always have, and I tried to explain why I hated him, but he also knows that he can't just walk back into my life. The stunts he pulled were too much."

"Well, we talked on the way and what he said was 'Stay away from him'. Vadim doesn't get the whole friendship thing, huh? It's all or nothing for him." Jean shook his head, warming some of the lotion in his hand.

"I don't know if he ever had a friend, don't think so, but could be wrong." Not that Dan knew of anyone.

Jean placed the slick hands on Dan's back, touch firm, but far lighter on the bruises, just working to moisturize the dried out skin. Lazy, gentle touches, up to the shoulders, working half a massage into it, working with thumbs and fingertips, not palms, without strength. "I guess he's been thinking about that. Probably still is. Just the way he looks."

"Thinking about what? You? Me? I told him I've changed, my life has changed, every fucking thing has changed since he came back, except for the fact I'm still a stupid fuck and love him. Despite everything." Dan looked up, flicking the flip flops off his feet, while Jean squirted more lotion into his hand. "He won't touch anyone again, ever. I vouch for that. But I won't stop what I'm doing. If I get the chance, I'll have sex. I have eleven years of monogamy to make up for."

"What do you mean he won't touch anybody?" Jean kept his voice level, as if asking just for curiosity.

"I meant the shit he pulled with the guy whose name tag he dropped on you. Threatening my friends. He was desperate, and yeah, before you say anything, I know I'm making excuses again." Dan closed his eyes for a moment, just giving himself over to the touches. Now and then a faint moan at a particularly tense muscle that relaxed under the careful massage.

"Ah, yes. That. Poor bastard."

Jean slid down to Dan's lower back, using a bit more force, but still mainly caring for the skin and less about the muscle. "You'd be fucking stupid if you didn't make the most of it. Life's short. Love is one thing, but that doesn't mean tying yourself down."

"No, but if it really hurt the person you love, what would you do?" Glancing up one-eyed, Dan stretched under the touches like a cat. "What if your lady found out about someone else and she got really hurt. What would you do? Would you stop seeing the other person?"

Jean arrived at the shorts. "Lift your ass." He took the shorts and pulled them off, discarded them to the side. Then regarded Dan's ass - far more muscular than Solange's, but still a sight to behold. "Well." Placing his slicked up hands on Dan's ass, massaging it as well, somewhat bemused by the effect it had on him. "She doesn't find out. If she did, I'd lie low for a while and then go on. I think people are free … if you stick together because you're in love, great, and no other person can take that away. If the other person can take it away, it means that you're in love with somebody new."

Dan sighed with pleasure at touch and care, involuntarily opening his legs. Those hands were too damn good. "I don't think it's quite that straightforward. It's not necessarily about someone new, but about something comfortable and good, like this here …," Dan paused, "something that isn't about love but about fun. And if that hurt? What then?"

"The way I see it, you're not back together. And that means you can do whatever you like. Including screw around with half the Legion, Delta, and whatever Baby Jarhead that doesn't climb the tree fast enough."

"Well, yeah, that's right, and even if we were …" Dan couldn't help but grin at the mental image of shagging himself through several countries' worth of regiments. A mental image that had a certain effect on his lower anatomy.

Jean took some more lotion and rubbed it into the back of Dan's thighs, including the insides, feeling how Dan opened his legs. That usually meant that Solange was ready for it. Rubbing the lotion in, he stopped from the crack, didn't touch the dam or the balls. Wouldn't have minded, though. Wondered what a man's … a proper man's ass would be like. "Well, might be selfishness talking." He continued with Dan's lower legs. At this rate, he'd use the rest of the bottle, easily.

"Hmmmm," Dan almost purred, "does that mean you are hedging a kind of interest in me still?" He grinned lopsidedly, peering up, but unable to see Jean.

"'Kind of interest' is a nice way of putting that. A very special kind of interest", Jean murmured close to Dan's ear. "Why?"

"I can only say, if you keep up that kind of massage, I'm going to be anybody's."

"Better keep you in my hut then, can't have you walking around in that state, now, can I?" Down to the legs and the feet. Sex was a distinct possibility. "You got a glorious ass there, Dan. Turn over so I fix your front."

"What if I rather you fixed my back?" Dan wasn't quite sure where this was going, just that he was too relaxed to turn over. Jean's hands on his body, working his arse, was exactly what felt right after the shit of the past weeks.

"Then I'd give you an extra special treatment right now." Jean paused, then squirted more lotion into his hands, and worked up the legs again. Different, this time. Clearly designed to arouse interest, touches changing from firm gripping, kneading, to the teasing sliding of splayed fingers inside Dan's legs. Spending time on the knees.

Dan spread the fingers of his right hand underneath his face, lying comfortably, eyes falling shut in increments, the longer Jean was touching. Plastered left hand stretched out over his head, the itch beginning to fade into the background. He didn't know what to think, other than not-thinking, and simply enjoying to be alive. No tension, nothing but his aching body, relaxing under the awfully skilled hands. Dan sighed with the comfort of it all, smiled, his legs opening further to accommodate those clever fingers. What was he going to do and where was this going to go? Didn't matter, no thinking and no deep emotions. This wasn't a matter of life and death, not even of gut-wrenching desire and heart-felt love and lust. This was Jean, his mate, and his inimitable ability to make Dan simply feel good.

Jean slid up to work on the thighs, marvelled at the strength, all the hard muscle, not a bone under his fingers. All firm flesh and dark skin, with hair, not the carefully epilated and lasered texture that Solange sported, not her trim, slim legs that were almost as narrow in the upper leg as the lower leg. Dan was clearly very male indeed, yet opened his legs like she would do, and Jean caught himself grinning as his fingers moved up to Dan's ass, just as firm and strong, nicely rounded. Thumbs slipping into the crack, hands massaging both cheeks. "Hope you don't mind if I wake you up in a few minutes …" he murmured.

"Mmmmm …" Dan mumbled, "depends on why you'd want to wake me." Still smiling, it was too good, floating in a cloud of tranquillity. Damn, that man had the knack, and for a moment Dan envied that lady of his, for going to marry those hands. And lips. He sighed once more, stretching his body slowly. Moved his arse into the hands, completely relaxed, not a shred of tension in his body.

"Okay, that's it", murmured Jean, giving a near-silent laugh. "I should lock the door. Don't run away, mon cher." The French sounded affected, slightly mocking, when Jean got up and locked the door.

"Hm?" Dan mumbled, couldn't be bothered to open his eyes. "Whassup?"

"Nothing. Relax." In an afterthought, Jean switched on the radio. Just for any stragglers of his crew to potentially check on him. He glanced over at Dan, a picture for the Gods. Solange's many photographers would lick all their ten fingers to get Dan in that position, with that expression on his face. And get their camp little cocks up. The line of shoulder, the waist curving with muscle. Well, he knew the score, and slipped out of his usual wifebeater and shorts, cast them aside, then opened the locker. Solange smiled at him. Miss you, baby, he thought, and fished for the pack of condoms.

Dan was stretching his legs, all the way from hip to toe, feeling every muscle contract, tense and relax. Taking a slow, deep breath, he cracked one eye open. "Hey, Frenchie …" murmured while grinning lazily, "what takes you so long?" He wanted those hands back and the bliss of just letting go. He could, because nothing bad would happen. Not with Jean. He just knew it.

"Nothing much." Jean returned, slyly slipped the pack under the bed, within reach, and straddled Dan's thighs, squirting more lotion into his hands. The white stuff made him think of something else, and he grinned again, returning to work on Dan's ass. Right thumb sliding between the cheeks, down to the dam, teasing, mainly, and touching Dan's balls, as if by accident. "Ooops, sorry."

Dan jumped at the touch, in the abso-fucking-lutely best way possible. "Fucking liar." He murmured and grinned, lifting his arse half an inch off the bed and into those hands that made him quietly moan with pleasure. "But I don't mind another 'accident'." His whole body moved gently while he chuckled, creating friction of his cock against the bed sheet.

Jean whistled. "Now, how should I interpret that, Mad Dog? Like this?" He slid more of his hand between Dan's legs, teasing his balls, rubbing and pulling them slightly, while his free hand kept massaging Dan's ass.

"That's … not a bad interpretation." Dan's low voice was getting breathless, yet that grin never left his face. Smug, like the cat that got the milk. Not bothering to suppress any sounds, he moaned softly, moving his hips in fractions, to keep up the delicious pressure on his cock.

"Damn, here I am, trying to make you relax, darling, and what happens, you get all squirmy."

Dan chuckled, stretched out his left arm, before relaxing even further into hands and feeling. "No one ever called me 'darling'." He rubbed his face against his arm, barely murmuring the last words, "trust you to be the first one."

Jean shook his head, grinning. Seemed the Russian didn't even know how to do that part right. But mentioning Vadim would likely not have a great effect right now. "I just believe in good manners in bed, that's all." He grinned, enjoying the sight of Dan squirming, slowly, few things that were as sexy as Dan wanting, sensuous, relaxed. His left moved to the crack again, thumb rubbing the hole, but without pressure, circling it. He could do that for hours to Solange unless she was crying with need.

Dan's body was shifting, with slow, unrushed movements of his hips, enjoying hand, fingers, and most of all thumb, right there. He could feel his heart beat, the blood course through his body; a body that reacted to stimulation in more subtle ways than he'd thought he was capable of. Alive and breathing, once more jumped off the grim reaper's scythe, and it felt fucking good. "Damn good bed manners you have." Murmured, breathing through parted lips. "I envy your wife to be." His lips curved into a smile while he let out a sound of utter contentment.

Jean grinned, leaned in, decided it was worth checking whether Dan liked this, too, and opened his mouth and bit tenderly into the muscle, breathing through his nostrils, noticeably for Dan. Then moved his head, biting again, a bit down, a bit harder, while his thumb kept the pressure up, not breaching, just stretching, skirting the edge, never enough to actually slip in. "Yes, she could have found a worse lover, I suppose." Jean grinned. "But your ass is better than mine, clearly."

Dan shuddered with every bite, drawing in hissed breaths, letting them out in long, pleasured moans. "Better?" He moved his hips in slow, undulating motions, completely shameless and with relaxed abandon. "Not from my perspective."

Jean placed another bite, harder, moving his jaw as he made Dan feel more of his teeth, enjoying how Dan moved, and the way his voice changed. "'course not, you're attached to yours." Jean grinned, then changed the angle of his thumb and breached the muscle, again only stretching, not pushing further than half the first digit. "You turn me on, you know that?"

"Shit." Dan breathed out, couldn't control his body that jerked at the minimal breaching, and the pushed back, involuntarily seeking more of the thumb. Hazy memories behind his closed eyes, of cave and fire, heat and skin, and of fingers that had turned into a fist, consuming him inside and out. "Seems …," his voice turned rough with an entirely new shade of need, "I'm turned on by you, too."

"Of course you are", murmured Jean gently, half-joking. "Not that you have much of a chance against my devastating charms." Moving against Dan, slipping the thumb further in, granting the unspoken request for more. Hooked the thumb and slid against the wall, pretty sure he'd soon find what he was looking for. "That good, sweetheart?"

"Oh fuck," Dan laughed under his breath, while moving with and against the digit, "must you call me sweetheart?" Didn't mind, just chuckled again, whatever Jean said, nothing diminished the desire, nor touched the lust. Especially not since that long thumb was moving so damned clever inside of him, it made him buck and want to take hold of his cock, to jerk himself off.

Jean laughed. "Just checked whether you were still listening." Unfair, yes, but then, keeping things light and playful was exactly what he was planning.

"Wouldn't mind …," Dan gasped when that thumb touched places inside, he knew all too well, "… ah …," momentarily losing the ability to form words, "… some more."

"And just checking whether you like the same stuff." Jean eased up, grinning, pulled the thumb towards the hand and out, not without circling the hole again. More lotion, just to time things right, and the stuff was still cool when he brought index and middle finger in, again, circling, playful, as if he had all the time in the world and was just fooling around. Leaning closer, he noticed two small scars on the outside, old and pale, and frowned. Flicking them across the place he'd found earlier, he opened the fingers against Dan's muscles and rubbed both sides of it.

The sounds Dan let out made no sense and had no meaning. Pushing himself up, a little on his knees, unabashedly lifting his arse and stretching it towards those fingers. Inside his body, movement. Hand, no threat. This meant, no danger. And fuck, but the stimulation was just like something he only remembered hazily, and only once. When he had lost himself completely, then found again. "Yeah ..." Long drawn out moan, his body spoke his consent, didn't need any words.

Hot. It was damned hot to see and hear this, different, but good, and Jean licked his lips, a touch nervous. That now, that was pretty damn gay, too. Of course he'd wondered, and Dan was sexy, but it was a step up from what they'd done, and Vadim would likely rip his head off if he knew. Well, he likely suspected it anyway. And there was a slightly nasty thought for a moment that had to do with Vadim, and revenge, but Jean shook his head. Fuck that. Nowhere near what Vadim thought, and frankly, it didn't matter right now. Just about making Dan feel good, and take his own pressure off, too. The position was just right as well, he preferred ass, Solange, of course, but even before her. He reached towards the pack, found a condom and tore it open with his free hand and teeth.

Dan was too far gone to hear anything, concentrating on the fingers inside of him, fucking himself in slow, smooth motions, and moaning. He still hadn't touched his cock, up on his knees now, and with his left hand useless, he couldn't stroke and support himself at the same time. Hard and weeping, almost flat against his stomach, he didn't want to cum yet, lost in the drawn-out lust.

One-handed, Jean fumbled around with the condom, oddly remembered the worst situations he'd had to deal with that basic protection, jungles, deserts, stoned out of his mind, drunk, absolutely, or sharing some dark-eyed whore in a nameless place in the dead and rotting heart of Africa. He'd stopped smoking because that was barter for pussy. Or ass, as it were. Pulling it down, then shifting his weight. Removing the fingers, causing Dan to groan, getting himself to the entrance that should easily accommodate him now.

Dan murmured something unintelligible, but he could hardly reach backwards to slap Jean's fingers into the position. Eyes still closed, he protested when the Frenchie shifted. "Hey …" mumbled.

Jean was about to enter, slow, lips open, both hands on Dan's body, pulling him closer, trying to ease himself in.

"Hey!" Dan's eyes suddenly opened, tensing from one second to the next. Clenching his muscle, but he was trapped, could hardly crane his head enough to catch a glimpse of Jean. Kneeling behind him. Between his legs. About to … "What the fuck are you doing?" Torn between immediate tension and the lingering mellow lust.

Jean pulled back, something alarmed him at the back of his mind, but couldn't place it. The sudden tension more that of a straight guy than that of somebody who flaunted being gay and, he had assumed, enjoyed getting fucked. "Not … okay?" He asked, feeling strange that Dan could object. "You don't like it?"

Shit. What to answer. Dan's mind was in no way functioning as normal, his cock still hard and the lust still there, and he did 'like' it, yes. With one man. Never anyone else. And with that man only with suffocation and brutality and … "Don't know." Truth, as crazy as it sounded. Didn't know right now. Did he like it? Didn't he? Or was he just one fucked-up old guy who was too damned hung up on some shit from the past. "Don't know." Repeated. Half-cocked permission, curiosity even. A lie, yet none. He knew, yet didn't.

Shit. What did Dan do with that hulking Russian, with his other conquests, baby jarheads and other guys? Jean just couldn't believe that he, as the straight guy in this, would teach a gay guy how to take cock. The thought was hilarious, but Jean only felt a mild, somewhat shocked tenderness well up. Very much like Solange's "please don't hurt me, non?" that had gone straight to his heart even drunk and stoned and half delirious with freedom on that fateful night in Montmatre. "'s okay", he murmured, grinning despite the weird situation and the condom hanging off his cock. Instead brought his slicked hand forward and took Dan's cock, stroking him. "You're still fucked up from that mission, probably hurting in all the wrong places." Giving Dan a ready-made excuse.

"Aye …" Dan closed his eyes once more, willing his head to fall back onto his hand, making his body relax. That hand on his cock was damn good, but hell, those fingers up his arse had been better. Both together, that's what he'd wanted. He drew in a shaky breath, concentrating on his body and its reactions. "Is just that I don't let myself get fucked." Adding, "usually."

The scars. The answer. Something. Somebody. Had torn him. Anal trauma. That was … the solution, and Jean felt his face grow cold. Paled. Cursed himself for not having drawn the right conclusion before. Still. Dan had liked it. Shit. Oh shit. Pushing for something that must freak Dan out. Hell, he'd be freaked out alright if anything - anybody - had done that to him. Dan would suck him off, eagerly. Wasn't like he'd lose anything if he did the decent thing, overplay it, make a joke, to put Dan at ease and make him come with a few fingers up his ass and pumping him. "What do I know about gay stuff anyway", muttered Jean, light-hearted.

"Pretty much, actually …," Dan breathed out, "for a straight guy." Concentrating with that hand on his cock turned out to be difficult.

Jean knew. He knew who would be capable to do that - and that gave the desperate hatred between Vadim and Dan a completely new edge. How fucking stupid to kind of get those two back together, even giving the Russian bastard hints. Dan had plenty of good reasons to hate him. "Fingers alright, though?"

"Aye." Dan's hips were moving again, in sync with the strokes, and he suddenly found it all so incredibly absurd. He was forty-two years old, and the shit happened eleven years ago. The world had changed in the meantime, and so had he. "You just threw me." This was too precious to let the past be a hindrance. Kabul, eleven years ago, a night of pain, terror and blood, held no sway over him anymore. It was long over.

"Yeah, was … assuming too much." Shit. Jean entered Dan with his fingers again, rewarded with a gasp and a more enthusiastic movement of those hips. Nearly apologetic for this whole seduction thing not having gone completely to plan, not just one thing after the other, natural and nice, one logical step after the other.

"I didn't mean 'no'." Dan murmured, "I'm sure you know what you're doing, what with your lady-love …"

"I'd think so." Jean smiled, wasn't quite sure he wanted to go ahead, despite what his body said, then thought, fuck it, he could always pull back in case Dan didn't like it. He was hardly Vadim, not brutal, not a fucking rapist, and he sure as fuck wouldn't injure Dan. "Can I try?"

"What do you think my body is telling you." Dan brought out, had to focus hard on each word. His cock and Jean's hand slick with precum, and once those fingers were back inside his body, he couldn't stop moving towards them, making irrepressible noises. "Holy shit!" Dan exclaimed when Jean managed to hit a spot just right while stroking with the perfect pressure and speed. "All that's missing …," groaned, "is a cock …," drawing in a shuddering breath, Dan's cock jumped at the mental image, "to suck."

The memory of one of the whores he'd shared flashed across Jean's brain, bent over, him deep inside her ass, another Legionnaire stuffing her face with cock, and the bitch loved every minute of it. And Jean had loved the way she had squirmed, and seeing his comrade fuck her face. Not a very straight thought. "Oh fuck", he murmured. "Don't think Pascal would oblige us, eh? Even though he has a good size."

"Pascal …" Dan forced each word out with a moan, "is worried … to be in the same … room … with me."

Jean grinned, pulling his fingers back. Horny enough to try again, shifting, then entering Dan slowly, gently, proper angle, allowing Dan to move back against him, groaning deeply.

Almost the same as the fingers. This time there were no dark thoughts, no greed, and no need to exorcise any demons. Dan easily fell into Jean's rhythm, able to accept the intrusion. Slow, steady and he could feel his body accommodating the cock, the muscle yielding with barely any pain. "Not … bad," he exhaled.

Not bad. Yeah right, Jean thought. Like hell was not cold, heaven was not close. One thing to fuck a girl, or one who'd be a girl, soon, more girlish than most girls, another to fuck a man. Dan was completely different. For once, the power in the motions. Not a body he could direct, steer, goad into following him, but quite powerful enough to have his own mind, starting from the strength with which Dan held him there, to the play of muscles on his back, and the sounds. No endearing girly squeals, nope. Instead low, male sounds. "Yeah … not … bad." Moving slowly, tilting his hips to hit Dan right, teasing him with minute movements that made him sweat.

"Ah … yeah … shit …" Incoherent sounds and senseless words, Dan's lips parted, eyes shut, just breathing. Letting his body take over, giving full reign like he'd never done before - not without the violence and the choking. His own rhythm in sync with Jean's, but pushing back and urging the other's body to increase the pace. Muscles tensing, relaxing again, like whipcords running along his back, up to his shoulder and back down again, ass cheeks clenching, powerful thighs spurring the movements.

Dan was demanding it, oddly powerful, nothing like the frantic 'please fuck me' he was used to, and Jean struggled for control, every now and then throwing the rhythm to change something. Twisting his hips, laughing breathlessly as he realized how good they worked together, going faster when Dan demanded that, and slower when he felt he was getting there too fast. "Easy does it", he murmured, touching Dan more slowly, more intense. Taking his hand away to run it across Dan's sweaty, scarred stomach, feeling him tense there, goddamned deadly bastard, cocky, courageous, gentle, smart, funny, trustworthy, and how fucking sexy in all that.

Easy, fast, slow, whatever. Dan didn't care, cared only about the hand on his cock and the … yes, the cock inside his body. Not Vadim, not his Russkie, the only man who would ever get him to take it up the arse, but … a friend. Fun, easy-going, and it was all suddenly so bloody simple. Dan was getting further and higher and wasn't going to be holding on much longer, yet that hand wouldn't speed up and the man didn't either. "If you don't … make me come soon…" he forced out, managed to get the words together in his befuddled brain, "I'll fizzle out. Am not fucking thirty anymore." Groaning with frustration and entirely too much need.

Jean nodded silently, speeding up, his hand found Dan's cock again, and thrust harder, faster, feeling his own pressure mount - decided to let it go, hoping to drive Dan over the edge first. Pulled every trick in the book, harsh strokes on Dan's cock while his thrusts just remained this side of intense, gritting his teeth.

Jean's technique was rewarded soon, when Dan's movements became more erratic, simultaneously more forceful, and all the power in his body seemed to be contained in his middle. Turning his head to muffle the cry, he came against his belly and chest, convulsing involuntarily, taking Jean with him and over the edge.

Jean cursed as it hit him, thrusting deep and with force, that searing moment that went on for too short, but instead of collapsing on top of Dan he forced himself to pull back and out. He had only enough coordination left to pluck the used condom off without spilling the stuff all over the place, tossing it into an empty Styrofoam cup near the bed, while Dan crashed down, lying flat on his stomach once more. Jean stretched out, half lying on top of Dan, shifting to not lie on the bruises. "What a nice way to … say … good you're alive", he murmured.

"Mmmmm." Dan mumbled, a slow grin spreading across his face, while his eyes remained closed. Still breathless, he slightly shifted his weight. He'd done hell to his bruised ribs, but heck, it was worth it. "Interesting massage technique you have." Peering one-eyed, grinning.

Jean grinned, running a hand down Dan's flank. "Yeah. There I was, unsuspecting straight guy, and then you get me to massage you, only to … finalise my corruption."

"I think you're talking bullshit, Frenchie." Dan winked, stretched slowly, deliberately, with a wince at the rare ache deep inside. This wasn't what he usually did - but when he did it, it was damn good.

Jean laughed and yawned, which was quite an accomplishment. "Fuck, I made it through the Legion straight, and then comes Mad Dog." Reaching out to turn the radio down.

"Why, had any opportunities in the Legion?" Leering, Dan ever so carefully started to move, he had to change his position and get his limbs to function again. Sooner or later it was time to leave Jean's hut anyway.

Jean shifted, rolling over on his side. "Of course not. All straight, and hormones and closeness are not a problem, at all." He grinned. "What do you think?"

"I think that I rather like the mental image of a whole 'straight' orgy in the Legion. All buff bastards, one arse more muscular than the other." Flashing a toothy grin, Dan made it to sit on the bed, hand on Jean's hip, stroking the smooth flesh without thinking.

Jean laughed. "Thanks … that gives my happy memories a new dimension. I'll show you some photos if you want. Just come down to Paris, and I show you more 'muscular arses' than you could shake a stick at."

Dan laughed, "Short of me trying to twist and bend down, which is going to be awkward and painful, what about you coming up and doing your speciality?" He pointed at his lips with a toothy grin.

Jean got up into sitting position, legs dangling over the edge now, but kissing again, stroking Dan's face and chest, suppressing a grin every now and then, the kind of pleasantly exhausted tender grin that showed Jean's world was just fine, thanks very much.

Dan's was, too, and when he left the hut an hour later, he was humming to himself, when he stopped to look at Vadim's hut for a long time, smiling. He fell asleep within seconds that night.

* * *

Lunchtime the next day, Dan was ambling across the US base, heading towards the gates of the compound. He'd just finished his latest briefing. Taking his time, he grinned to himself, in high spirits despite the boring meeting. The bruised ribs freshly strapped up, his sore leg and side reminding him of every single one of his forty-two years, but the strangely pleasant ache in his arse reminded him of something else entirely. He was whistling crookedly to himself, left arm dangling, grubby-white plaster cast scrawled all over with signatures and silly doodles, right hand in his trouser pockets. Customary shade over his eyes, he nodded a greeting and grinned good humouredly here and there to guys he'd never seen before. Seemed he had turned into something of a celebrity amongst the Yanks. Saving comrades' lives seemed to have a mellowing effect on those guys, not a one had mentioned the word 'faggot'. Not yet anyway.

He stopped when he first noticed a shadow, then the bulk of a man come into the centre of his vision. Lifting his head, Dan flashed an easy-going grin at the guy. Didn't know the man, but recognised the insignia right away. Delta. US Special Forces. Army. Fairly tall and dark and strangely reminding him of himself. Ten years or so ago.

"You're the one who jumped." The Yank drawled.

Dan nodded, shrugged.

"You crashed with the kids."

Dan flashed a toothy grin.

"You're the faggot."

Dan huffed with a short stab of dry laughter. "Aye." Raising his brows above the shades. "And you?"

"I'm the opportunist." The Yank pushed his chewing gum from one side to the other. Tongue darting out from between his lips.

Dan smirked, baring his teeth. "In that case, I'm 'waste not want not'."

The Delta nodded, pulled a pair of polarised shades out of his tunic pocket, and slipped them on. "Name's Hooch."

Dan nodded in acknowledgment. "Dan."

"I know."

"You would."

"Am off duty at 1600 hrs." The Yank gestured with his chin towards the vehicle area. Rows of bloody big trucks and armoured personnel carriers.

"Aye." Dan nodded. He had a temporary pass for the US camp, and no more briefings scheduled in the afternoon. That would do just nicely.

Hooch nodded, tipped his temple with one finger and Dan flashed one last grin before he continued on his way, whistling loudly.

The deal was done.

* * *

1600 hrs, on the spot, Dan was sauntering through the gates of the American camp. Once again whistling to himself, this time with anticipation. Seemed he was getting himself a nice little harem in this godforsaken place. Who would have known. The Gulf, a gay bloke's wet dream.

Chuckling to himself, Dan nodded to a couple of jarheads, and he just about dodged the attempt at buddy-slapping his bruised left shoulder. "Hey, careful, this old guy's knackered." They laughed, and once again Dan marvelled at the youth of those kids. Babies, no more, just like Chris.

Shit, Chris Johnson, he hadn't managed to find out how the chopper crew was doing. He had to risk being late for his 'rendezvous'. Picking up speed, he made it to the admin block, finding an Officer who was able to give him the latest stats. Johnson had been flown back home once he was stable enough, and all they knew was that the kid was going to make it. Martinez and Jackson were doing well, with the pilot in a military hospital, and Gary still in camp, taking it easy with the concussion, waiting for some well deserved R&R back home. Dan smiled with satisfaction, thanked the man, who was about to express his gratitude once more. Cut short with a nod and a "cheers" from Dan, before he hurried back to the vehicle park.

Damn, 1615 hrs, he was late, and if he was unlucky, his chance for a quick stint of mutual wanking had come and gone. Still, he was in a damn good mood, humming to himself, as he passed through the rows of trucks, personnel carriers, and light armoured vehicles.

The sudden sound of metal being beaten, once, caught his attention. He'd counted on the Delta guy finding him, rather than vice versa, and wasn't disappointed. The flash of polarised shades glinted in the sun, then a movement, right where a row of armoured personnel carriers was parked. Dan made it to the second to last one, furthest away from the hustle of the camp, before he dodged a fist in a split second, which just about missed him. Probably deliberately.

"You're good." The Delta drawled, chewing gum while peeling out of the shadow. "And late."

Dan shrugged, didn't attempt to defend himself. "Aye. Old but good."

His eyes followed the movement of the Yank's chin, indicating the open door at the back of an M113.

"Like wine?"

Dan followed the Delta, who climbed into the vehicle. "Cheese, rather." Pulling himself inside with his good hand, he was sore, but managed.

The door slammed shut behind him and he found himself in the gloom, watching the other sit down on the metal floor, in front of the jump seat.

Dan glanced to the side, made out the five seats along the side he'd known would be there, and sat on one of them, facing Hooch. Making himself comfortable, legs braced apart, desert boots firmly planted.

Two men sitting opposite to each other, both wearing shades, both dark haired, both deeply tanned. One of them chewing gum noisily and dressed in US fatigues, the other in t-shirt and shorts, made from cut-off old BDUs, plaster-cast left hand and a slow grin tugging at the corners of his lips. Regarding each other, checking the opponent while guarding their territory.

Dan broke the silence first. "How much of an opportunist are you?"

"Depends on what you offer."

"Not my arse."

"Mine neither."

Dan grinned, lifted his injured hand. "Jerking only one handed."

Hooch nodded, flashed a grin in return. "What else?"

"I suck cock."

The Delta's eyebrows raised beneath the shades. "OK."


"I do, too."

"Good, but 69's out. Whole left side's knackered." Dan gave a short laugh. Lying on his side or kneeling, or in any other strenuous position and one-handed giving head? Wasn't worth it. Far too acrobatic, anyway.

Hooch nodded, shifted the gum from one side to the other. "OK." He went from the floor onto his knees, moving purposefully closer to Dan. "Show me."

Dan's grin grew and he shrugged one-sided. "Sure." Deftly opening waist cord and button with one hand, he fumbled a moment with the zipper, then lifted his arse off the metal seat to pull the shirt up with his hand and let the shorts drop down to his ankles. He had to stay bent in the troop carrier, too tall, so he sat back down and opened his legs as wide as the shorts around his ankles allowed. "Passing inspection?" No underwear, as usual, and his already interested cock nestled in dark curls above smooth-shaved flesh.

The Delta said nothing for a moment, presented with not only the cock but a mess of scars. He hooked a finger beneath his shades to push them on top of his forehead. His eyes almost as dark as Dan's, the two men odd mirrors of each other, just a decade apart.


"Aye," Dan grinned, amused at both the lack of reaction and the acute perception. "Suicide bomb, Afghanistan."

Hooch nodded, shuffled closer until he knelt between Dan's legs. His callused hand cupped heavy flesh in a strong grip, weighing the goods. "Shaved nuts. Convenient." He commented while he let Dan pluck the shades off his forehead, placing them safely to the side, where they were joined by Dan's own. Hooch's head lowered, studying Dan's cock without touching, watching it harden and grow beneath his gaze.

Dan was intently staring down at the head. It felt a bit surreal, but his body seemed to take it in stride, reacting to that weird-ass Delta with interest.

"Good dick." Hooch took hold of Dan's cock at last, pulled the foreskin back, studied the crown. "Never had an uncut one."

Dan chuckled, but the touch made him gasp, wanting more within split seconds, impatient. "Get on with it, mate."

Hooch looked up at the demand, dark eyes meeting in the gloom, and both men understood that moment how much akin they were to the other. He silently nodded and spat out the gum before sucking in Dan's cock, most of the way.

Pulling in his breath with a hiss, Dan let his head drop forward, watching the Delta. His face, lips, cheeks hollowing, head moving, the whole damned skilled technique, and most of all the mind-blowing sight of his cock vanishing down the man's throat, to reappear with a strong hand wrapped around its base. Stroking, before sucking down again.

Gripping the edge of the metal seat with his good hand, Dan didn't utter a word, except for nonsensical, suppressed sounds and his ever increasing, harsh breathing. The sight was intoxicating, the man a complete stranger sans few words and gestures, kneeling between his legs. The Delta was giving head like a pro. One thing Special Forces across the world seemed to have in common: they never did anything half-way.

Despite trying his best to hold back and savour the sensations, Dan felt his abs tighten when the Delta took his balls into a firm grip, simultaneously rolling, kneading, the other hand stroking. Those goddamned clever lips and throat of his, with just the perfect light scrape of teeth, drawing his cock into the tight and wet heat with a strong suction.

"Shit!" Dan forced out between clenched teeth as his hips involuntarily lifted off the bench, pushing towards the mouth that came down onto his cock in one last, hard, near punishing move, allowing Dan's cum to spurt down the back of Hooch's throat. Dan's whole body shuddered in the moment of ecstasy, all muscles standing out in hard ropes beneath his skin.

"You … swallowed …" Dan managed to gasp out when he came down from the high, while his cock was licked clean in one long sweep of tongue and lips. The Delta's hand still closed around the softening flesh.

"Figured you're clean." Hooch drawled, "like me." Flashing a grin. Unspoken the underlying understanding they were both professional military men, and neither of them would be so stupid to get themselves killed by their cock.

"Aye." Dan looked at the man, faces at the same height, when Hooch drew up, straightened, and sat on his heels.

"Want to fuck my throat?"

Hooch raised one brow and one corner of his lips. The lopsided grin told Dan the answer to an offer no man could refuse.

"That's a 'yes', then." Dan flashed a grin, gesturing for the other to stand up, which he did, taking hold of a metal rail along the roof of the vehicle. Hooch had to stoop as well.

One-handed fumbling with the Delta's fatigue trousers, Dan's efforts were quickly aided by the Yank, helping with the unfamiliar buckle, then pushing camo and briefs down. The cock that sprung free right in front of Dan's eyes was nicely sized, cut, of course, and he grinned in appreciation.

"Don't know why you Yanks chop bits off your cocks, but never mind."

He didn't wait for an answer, let alone expect one, rolled his neck, flexed his shoulders a moment and took a breath, relaxing his throat muscles before he placed his good hand on the Delta's arse, pushing him forward and between his lips. Dan lifted his eyes once, met by a gaze from equally dark eyes and the silent understanding that he was ready and perfectly prepared to take that cock like a good soldier. And taking he did.

Encouraging Hooch to use the strength of his hips, while guiding the man with his hand on buttocks and hip, allowing the Yank to let lose and fuck his throat, while Dan concentrated on relaxing and adding suction and tightness as much as he could.

He'd have never thought he'd enjoy this no-nonsense raw power so much, the abandon of strangers. The sounds the Delta made, as suppressed and restraint as his own had been. The near-brutal force behind the thrusts and the sudden erratic snap of those lean hips. Dan knew the guy was close and he pushed his head forward, took the cock as far down as he could without gagging, accepted - demanded, and let his hand slip between Hooch's legs, applying harsh pressure.

Hooch came less than a second later, his head thrown back and his whole body taut and arched. Silent except for mindless groans and thrusts, completely out of sync, while Dan swallowed. For the same reasons of fucked-up logic as the Delta had done.

He let the man calm down for a moment, before pulling back with a light slap on one of those smooth and muscular cheeks. Wiping his lips, Dan looked up with a broad grin. "Not bad for an afternoon's entertainment."

"Yeah." Hooch drawled, still gathering his breath, before he appeared as cool and collected as he had before. "Had fucking blue balls."

Dan grinned, pursed his lips with a clucking sound. "Leave the army, join the Mercs and fuck what you like."

Hooch shook his head while pulling briefs and trousers up, working on t-shirt and belt. "The job's good."

"Bet it is." Dan stood up with a wince, his left side was aching, but hell it had been worth it. "I loved mine." He felt he had stretched the extent of possible after-sex conversation to the limits. Working silently on his own shorts, pulling them up.

"Two days same time?" Hooch suddenly asked.

"Not sure if they'll still let me in, mate."

Hooch flashed a grin, fishing for a chewing gum. "They will. Delta requires briefing, too."

Dan raised his brows while closing the shorts, fiddling with the waist string. "Do you?"

"Yeah, like I said, buddy, I'm the opportunist."

"And you don't miss an opportunity."

"Fucking correct."

Dan grinned, picked up his shades and slipped them on. Moving towards the exit hatch, which Hooch pushed open. He looked around, but the area was still deserted, so he scrambled out of the M113. Turning his head before walking off. "Two days, 1600 hrs. And keep that thought."

He was whistling all the way back into camp.

* * *

Vadim rapped his knuckles on Dan's metal door. Scrubbed up a little, shaved, clean clothes, not too obvious, and he was fucked, because Dan would still see he'd made an effort. Had struggled what to wear, whether he should just cancel the thing and go alone. Felt stupid with the manila envelope in his hand. Feared Jean would be inside, he'd interrupt something there, and felt a stab of nauseous fear at the thought. Not Jean. Not him. Anybody else, but not fucking Jean.

Inside, Dan looked up, surprised, didn't expect anyone to come along at that time. Barely 1800 hours, the guys would still be at work. He was naked, just about to jump under the showers, the plastic bag for his plaster on the chair. "Aye?"

Didn't have a god to ask for mercy or barter with. Instead, Vadim rapped again. "Dan?" Not Lapushka, not Teamleader McFadyen. Just Dan. "Have ... a word?"

Vadim. Dan stood still for a moment, warring between relishing the voice and a strange sensation of dread.


"Just a sec!" He called out, snatched the towel he'd been about to wrap around his hips and did exactly that. Wearing nothing else except for the obligatory pair of flip flops as he opened the door.

"Come in." He smiled, couldn't help it. Oh shit, since when had he turned into Pavlov's dog, either snarling, biting or tail wagging and tongue lapping, depending on what his Russkie was set for him to feel?

"Haven't seen you since the night we came back." Waiting for Vadim to step inside. Dan noticed everything. The clothes, the smell of freshly showered skin, the hair and eyes and skin ... again … just skin … like an LP stuck on repeat.

"How are you?"

I'm fucking scared. I'm so fucking scared, thought Vadim, and looked away. "Getting better. Got ... too much sun, is all." Saw Dan's toes and shins, the beginnings of the scars on one leg. Forced to look up. Remembered that English meant that no real answer was expected. How are you was answered with I'm fine, thank you, how are you. "I mean, I'm good. You?"

Closing the door behind them, Dan tilted his head, regarding Vadim from head to toe. Looking, truly looking, without hatred and without emotions threatening to drown or suffocate him. Just looking and seeing a man he hardly knew. His voice softened without being aware of it. "I'm fine, really am. Just the bruises and stuff." He shrugged lopsidedly. "You wanted to talk to me?" Indicating the bed, the only place to sit down.

"Yes." Vadim looked at the bed, knew he didn't want to smell Dan, didn't want to imagine him lying there. Made a step towards the bed. Didn't want to sit down. "I ... just ..." Hard, fucking hard, worse than pulling a bullet out of a mess of blood and splintered bone. "Have a look at this, and ... let me know what you think." Adopting the pattern of the doctor, the easy, noncommittal, but heartfelt way to present evidence - or anything else. His case. Offering the envelope to Dan, who took it with a quizzical look on his face. "All booked, paid, if you ... want to. No ... pressure. Nothing. Just ... R&R."

"R&R?" Dan stood for a moment, staring uncomprehendingly at Vadim, expecting further explanations. When none of them came forth, he sat down on the bed. Indicating the chair when Vadim remained standing. "Just put the plastic bag to the side, it's for the plaster."

Vadim took the plastic and sat down, slowly enough to look reluctant. At least not the bed. He just knew that given half a chance - no, no chance at all, he'd still try to get more. And that was not an option. Dan didn't belong to him anymore, whatever the feeling, whatever the history. We can try and be friends, thought Vadim, knowing he was clutching at straws. Just spend time together - just be like we were, bantering, silent, comfortable. It was the comfort he missed most, feeling at ease in somebody's presence when his own presence was often unbearable and sometimes pure horror.

Opening the envelope's flap, Dan shook out a stack of colourful brochures. Blue skies, sea, sun and palm trees immediately caught his attention. Beach, sand and ever more sun. "What the fuck?" Murmured under his breath, he stared at the brochures in disbelief when one word jumped at him. Thailand. "Oh my …." Breathed out, he began to smile, somewhat bewildered.

Vadim noticed his own tension, shoulders and chest stiff, stomach a knot of tightness. Looked good, but he feared the 'no thanks'. Feared the mockery that this was exactly the place some others of Jean's crew used to unwind.

Dan was leafing through the letters of confirmation, then flicking through the colourful pages. 'R&R' was not the proper term for this luxury: two bungalows, all inclusive, right at the beach, and the flight was in three days. Leisure and beauty treatments, food, drink and sports. Not that he could do the latter, and he chuckled at the idea of frequenting a beauty farm. Yet it all came back in a flash: the way Vadim had liked to be shaved smooth, and how he had loved the water, back in the Hamam. Water and steam, the laughter, the tenderness, the … Lapushka. Dan felt a long-drawn pain in his chest, but when he finally looked up, his smile had grown. Two bungalows, two. There really was no pressure and he had time, at last. They had time.

"Two weeks in Thailand? You're blowing your first pay check, aye?" His dark eyes gleamed in the half-dusk, catching the filtered light. "It looks fantastic. Better than anything I would have come up with."

Not my idea, thought Vadim, but was strangely proud. The place had sold him in an instant. "Might ... help you carry your luggage." He tried a smile, wasn't sure it looked natural, felt relief that washed everything else away. "Took liberty to tell them you're not ... vegetarian."

Dan scrutinised the smile, before catching the words. He suddenly laughed. Easy to remember the light hearted moments, he just had to cling to them. "I sure as hell am not. 'Vegetarian: ancient word for lousy hunter'." He winked.

Vadim gave a laugh and shook his head. It hadn't occurred to him that people could be that, vegetarian, and he had to check a dictionary when they had asked.

"Did you also tell them that I take two desserts, at least?" Dan grinned, joking. Yet unable to shake off one thought: Vadim, I don't know you anymore. The man sitting there felt like a stranger. But hell, he was going to get to know that man. Nothing would keep him from it, and the bullet was a promise given and accepted.

"From what I read, it's eat as much as you can." Vadim gestured towards the brochure. "They call it 'Thai Fusion', whatever that is, but the buffet looked good, and there's room service." All fearfully slickly organized. What drew him was that he didn't have to think or plan while there. All provided, all taken care of. They promised the service would be all but invisible. Sounded good in his book. He didn't want to see many people, least of all mercs or soldiers or towelheads. "They have fruits there I've never seen", he murmured. "Not even read about. And the sea." The sea. Water. Swimming. Diving. Being carried, and a crashing surf. "No desert, no wasteland."

Water, the one constant. Once again the memory of the night in the Hamam. "It sounds like a paradise." Dan gathered the brochures and put them onto the bed beside him. Standing up, the towel slip, but he caught it, just at the line of dark hairs. Pulling it back up. "Thank you, Vadim."

Vadim's eyes had darted there, he knew the body, so much, and right now wanted it so much. The smell. The taste. Even the cock down his throat. He looked up, his name had a strange effect. Dan had noticed, of course, and kept things formal, just by mentioning his name. "You're welcome." He looked away again, to not see the abundance of naked skin, the bronze colour, the muscles, and the scars, each of which he had licked. Except for one. The 'V' on the arm. V, for …

"I realise I've never seen you swimming." Dan smiled. It was easy to smile, much easier when remembering what water meant to Vadim. I know how you loved it, you told me. Told me so many things.

Vadim looked up, wondered why that hurt like a missed opportunity. Somewhere, in some archives, there was coverage on a Soviet model athlete - not because Pentathlon was that interesting, or even the pinnacle of athletic achievement, since most people looked down on it - but because he had been plain good on camera.

"I am looking forward to it," Dan nodded. "Guess I have to buy swimming trunks, eh? No chance to find them around here." His wardrobe consisted of t-shirts, shorts, jumpers, parka, BDUs, flip-flops and combat boots. Nothing else.

Vadim nodded. "Kuwait's fully stocked, but there are shops. Can get things at the airport, on the way."

"Just a bit tricky to get into Kuwait. Only got two days before the flight and I'm a bit busy. The Yanks still haven't finished their paperwork." Dan rolled his eyes. "Wouldn't surprise me if they thought about some tinsel, for you and Jean as well." Dan shrugged, because that thought was positively hilarious. Former arch enemy. Cold war and all that shit.

The prospect was fearsome, Vadim thought. After all ranks and decorations had been stripped from him, including his citizenship, possibly offering him something from the enemy wouldn't do. Let alone the fact Vadim was quite relieved to have vanished under the radar, under his stone, where he wasn't exposed anymore. "Stupid Yanks. Can live without background checks on me." Jean, however, the man with the blank slate, Frenchman without past nor allegiance, he'd relish that. Just another of his small victories. Bastard.

Vadim looked at the towel again and stood. Dan was about to shower. Shower. Water. Dan. Treacherous thoughts. Jean? Nothing he could do about it. Nothing at all, short of cutting the deserter's throat. He glanced at the watch. "I ... should lift my weights." Precious little alternative evening entertainment. Pumping iron felt pointless, but he did it anyway. He needed any possible way to get tired, get his body to relax, and calm. Exhaustion was a great method.

"Before you do that, can you fix the plastic bag over the plaster cast for me?" Dan gestured to the bag that had been on the chair, a bundle of elastics close by.

Vadim took the bag and nodded. As close as he stood, he could feel the warmth emanating from Dan's body. Could smell him, and had to keep his eyes on what his hands were doing. Making sure it was properly fastened, like he'd check kit before going out into the mountains.

"Well, I ... have a good time and recover with that arm. I know broken wrists can be tricky."

Dan's brows rose. "Surely, I'll see you before the flight?"

Vadim nodded. His presence wasn't exactly a sought-after commodity and he kept to himself, nothing but the most casual contact with anybody. Couldn't deal with crowds, not after a tense day, and likewise couldn't deal with being alone for too long, but not exactly welcome anywhere. He felt homesick after Russians, if anything, he could read those, knew about hospitality and sticking together, and at the same time, the sound of Russian hurt him. Weak, pathetic, gloomy. Knew it and couldn't help it. Hated himself for it. "I'm here. Where else. I'm usually free." Wanted nothing but to stay and talk, but he was keeping Dan from his shower, and from meeting one of his small harem. Wanted to pat Dan's shoulder, and couldn't bring himself to touch his skin.

"I'll be in the Mess tonight. Can't risk the bar, a brawl would kill me right now." Dan flashed a grin. "I'll be playing pool, one-handed, but the guys tell me I'm crap even with both hands." He looked around for his shower gel and the shades, clamped the bottle under his arm and slipped the latter over his eyes. "Do you want to come? You never told me, do you play pool?" He couldn't imagine, didn't sound like a Soviet pastime.

"No, I don't." Jean did. Pascal was better than him, but Jean could be found 'chasing balls across the green', as he called it. Chasing balls alright. "We used to play chess. I was usually reading, though. Back in those days." And lifting weights. And, in the first years, looking for fresh meat to press into the mattress and fuck. "Not sure it's the greatest time to start." Not with Jean's crew laying siege to the pool tables. They did tournaments.

Dan nodded. "If you want to, I'll teach you when I've got both my hands back and my ribs stop giving me grief." He smiled.

Vadim nodded. "I'll give it a try."

"OK, I'll be away from camp some time tomorrow, but I'll look out for you."

"Aye." Vadim paused, then tried to overplay the faux pas when Dan's smile changed to something wistful. "Doing ... some hand to hand with some guys. Someone wants to pick up some basic Sambo." Good excuse to beat the shit out of somebody, usually, but he'd keep it civil. As much as he'd have relished the opportunity otherwise.

"Guess they found a good teacher, then." Dan found it was simultaneously easy and hard to skirt around everything that lay beneath and between their civil conversation. Eleven years. Intertwined lives.

Vadim shrugged. "I'll pick up basic boxing, so it's fair. But ... I don't want to keep you." He almost winced at the English turn of phrase. Keep him - yes.

"See you later." Dan made his way to the door, with Vadim following. Adding, before he walked towards the shower block, "and thank you again. I can't wait." For more reasons than he was able to put into words just yet.

"I heard it's custom to blow the pay check. Alone I can't manage. Too much." Vadim gave a somewhat pained smile. Making far more than he'd ever possibly earned in a year, including money plucked off dead turkeys or with some harmless smuggling on the side. "Customs must be honoured."

"Aye …" Dan stalled, looking at Vadim for a long moment, eyes hidden beneath the shades. "Customs must be honoured." His voice carried ambiguity, and so did the ghost of a smile on his face, before he turned and left.

* * *

Two days later, Dan was sitting on the sole chair in his tin hut. Feet propped up on the bed, he had found a slouched position that was as comfortable as he could be, at least for a while. Eyes half closed beneath his shades, he was smoking leisurely. Relishing the heat and burn of the nicotine, as it travelled deep into his lungs. Exhaling slowly, watching the smoke curl towards the ceiling. Sun beams cut across the dingy room, smoke and dust dancing in the shafts of light.

So, here he was. Body bruised, wrist fucked, lives saved, while being considered a 'hero' by most and sundry. But not all. Not by himself, for sure, and Dan pulled his lips from his teeth in a self-mocking grin. Time off to relax and heal, too much time on his hands to be comfortable. Alone. Thinking. Almost off on R&R with … Vadim. And hell, he didn't know what to think about that one. A bullet as a promise. Just like the scars they both wore? A 'V' on his arm, a promise to live and love, and … too much thinking. Too much time alone and too much opportunity for confusion.

"Fuck it!" Dan murmured and jerked upright, wincing at the movement. He kept forgetting those goddamned bruises. Stubbing the fag out on the ground, he deliberately kept going until he had ground the butt into dust and ashes. Too many thoughts. Thoughts he didn't want to be thinking until he could make more sense of them. Feelings, hopes, wishes, and so many bloody wants, if he left it all to his body, he'd just head over to the Russkie's hut and not take no for an answer. But for once he couldn't ignore his mind, nor those thoughts, determined to interfere with the needs of his body.

Not anymore the man he had once been. Not any longer the reckless squaddie, driven by testosterone.

Dan shook his head and stood up, groaning. He felt stiff, and old, if he was honest with himself. Used up. A body abused during a life on a knife's edge, but hell, he'd do it all over again. There'd been only one way to live his life: up to the gills in adrenaline.

Rolling his shoulders, he tried to ease his stiff muscles. Carefully moving the bruises, while his eyes remained fixed on the small square of light in the wall of his tin hut. The sun stood high, mercilessly belting down, and his room was more akin to an oven than an abode. Grinning, though, despite heat and confused thoughts. At 1600 hrs sharp he'd see the delta again, and that was a good thing in his books. Sod gloomy thoughts, meandering memories, and the ambiguity of the future. One thing was certain: he'd have a cock in a few hours. Shame he probably wouldn't see that particular Yank again, when he came back, and a real shame of man material, unless …

A sudden thought crossed Dan's mind and his grin turned into a fully fledged smirk. Baring teeth and all, from ear to ear. That was it! Perfect. Two Yanks, both horny, and Mad Dog off on R&R. Now he just had to light the fuse, stand back and let the touch paper blow up.

Glancing at his watch, Dan figured he could easily make it to the US camp, get in with his temporary pass, have a quick chat with Matt, hoping he was around. If he could only set up the right time and the right place …

Lighting another fag, Dan slipped his feet into the obligatory flip flops, couldn't be arsed with the one-handed struggle of tying the boot laces, and grinned a Cheshire cat grin to himself. What better way to celebrate his rescue. He strode purposefully out of his hut and into the glaring heat of the midday sun.

Dan was about to start whistling as he turned the corner towards the Mess tent, when he walked into a man, who came seemingly out of nowhere. "Shit!" he exclaimed, taking a step back. He'd jarred his bruised side, cursing expletives under his breath. "Can't you look where the fuck you're going?"

"Yeah, faggot, I know damn well where I'm going, and you're in my fucking way."

Dan groaned at the sneering voice. Of course. Who else. No one other than Midge to piss on his parade. His face hardened as he looked down, glaring at the short-arsed bastard.

"Sure, wanker, and the camp's so small, you had to walk into me." Angrily inhaling a drag from the cigarette, Dan blew the smoke deliberately into the other's face.

Midge had both hands on his hips, a mocking mask of hatred on his face. Displaying the stance of a man ready to attack. "Consider myself lucky, then, having found you right here."

"So what? Fuck off and out of my way, I'm busy."

"Getting soldier cock up your arse?"

"Midge," Dan exhaled harshly, "I told you before, I'll smash your fucking face in, if you don't shut your trap."

"Oh, really? Can't see anyone here to help you. No French joker and no Russian cunt. Not a single mate here for the rescue. Poor Mad Dog."

Dan took a deep drag on his fag, before throwing it to the ground. "Funny, isn't it? I've always known you're a fucking coward, but waiting till I get shot down? Nice one, Midge." Dan scoffed, "but you got it wrong, wanker. I take you on, even in a wheelchair."

"Oh really?" Midge's laugh sounded nasty and far too triumphant, while his stance shifted towards a fist fighter's balance. Defence, attack. He seemed all too ready. "You and what bunch of faggoty cunts?"

Dan couldn't afford losing face. Lunged forward, despite the injuries. His right fist flew towards Midge's chin, but the bastard had expected the punch from the uninjured side. The fist did hardly any damage, while his aching body was too slow getting back into a proper defence.

Midge shouted something that Dan couldn't make out, and the next moment his ribs exploded in agony. The fucker had punched the bruises, knowing damn well, like anyone else in camp, what the fuck had happened in the crash.

Dan curled over, holding his side, unable to draw in a breath. Pain exploding behind his ribs, he staggered, but managed to stay upright. "Fucking … coward …!" Forced out between his teeth.

Midge was laughing, an ugly, grating sound. "Look who's talking. Come on, Mad Dog, fight!"

Dan barely managed to lift his head, trying to breathe the pain out of his body, with no success at all.

"What, no fight left in the faggot?" Midge mocked, dancing around Dan, who struggled to straighten up. "Come on, make me laugh."

Dan forced himself upwards, with gritted teeth, didn't manage to put up his defence, before another fist came pounding into his ribs. Once, twice, straight into the worst bruises. This time he went onto his knees. Doubled over in the dirt, the shades clattered onto the ground. He nearly blackened out, the pain too great and he couldn't breathe. No way.

All Dan could hear was Midge's laughter over the rushing of blood in his ears, as rage crept into his bones. Unspeakable anger that had no words. Brought down by a fucking arsewipe like Midge, and all he could do was crawl in the dirt, every breath wheezing in his lungs. Dan lifted his head, eyes ablaze, but couldn't get enough air into his lungs. Shallow, desperate, yet so angry, he didn't notice the man who was coming towards them in his back.

"Hey, Midge!" Dan suddenly heard another voice, accompanied by even more ugly laughter. "What's up? Having fun with the camp faggot?"

Dan was too winded to turn around. Knew the voice and the thick Irish accent. One of Midge's goddamned cronies.

"Hey Dave! Want to have a go as well?" Midge burst into laughter, as Dan struggled upright onto his knees, to get out of the range of that bastard.

He didn't make it in time, just managed to shift to the side, preventing the worst of the booted kick that Midge delivered to his ribs. Dan almost bit his lip bloody, forcing the scream back down. If he didn't get the fuck away and damn soon, he'd be minced meat. But he still couldn't breathe, and moving became impossible when he fell back down, holding his side, trying not to black out.

Dave's laughter mixed with Midge's, as he came to the front, looking down at the man in the dust. "Having some fun faggot-bashing? Mad Dog doesn't seem that loudmouthed now."

Dan lifted his head, glaring with all his rage and utter disgust at both of the men. It took an almighty struggle to press the words through his clenched teeth. "Great … fight … wanker." Pulling his lips from his teeth, he snarled at them like a rabid dog. "Knowing I can't … fucking … fight!"

"What?" Dave took a step back, but his expression was drowned out by Midge's spiteful laughter.

"Who the fuck cares, faggot. You're a shitstabber, you deserve what's getting to you. Just means less work for me and my mates." Turning to Dave, who was staring down at the wrist in plaster and the bruises that were visible along the left arm and leg, dark purple where the t-shirt had ridden up.

"Right, Dave?" Midge let out a sound that was meant to be laughter. So full of hatred, he almost choked on it. "Come on, mate, have a go yourself. This is fucking funny." He lifted his foot, and Dan struggled once more to get out of the line. Had to get back up onto his damned knees, and out of the way. Out of the dirt. Out of this fucked-up situation!

The boot never hit him, and when he looked up, ready to defend himself best he could, he saw the big Irish guy holding onto Midge's foot, who hopped angrily on one leg, cursing his own mate.

"Get up." Dave gestured with his chin at Dan, "get the fuck away before I change my mind."

"Fuck you!"" Dan snarled, spitting sand and dust onto the ground as he scrabbled onto his knees. "I don't need a fucking minder."

"I can see that." Dave's laconic reply betrayed his effort of holding back an irate Midge.

Dan let out an angry snort, picking up his shades. Getting off the ground would be the next task to tackle. "What-the-fuck-ever. I can deal with anyone. Most of all an arsehole like your mate, here." Onto his knees, then onto his feet. Dan stood at last, but couldn't straighten up. Right arm wrapped around his left side.

"Yeah." Dave laughed, pushing his mate a few steps away, who stumbled backwards. "Arsehole is right, but you're a stupid bastard, if you don't fuck off now."

Midge came barging back, yelling, "what the fuck's the matter with you? He's a fucking faggot, he deserves it! Eat dirt, lick shit, and on the ground. That's where the bastard belongs."

"You're out of your fucking mind, Midge." Dave shook his head.

"You one of those pussy-boys yourself? What the fuck's up with your shitty attitude?" Midge was about to attack Dan once more, who'd managed to get into a half-arsed defence stance, shades back over his eyes, when he saw a figure coming through the gap of two of the largest tents.

Dave shrugged, stepping aside, "all yours." To Dan, but the man who was approaching began to shout. One of the Sergeants, especially keen on keeping the camp in order.

Midge stopped the attack at the last minute. "Fuck you, Dave!" Midge shouted at his mate who was walking away as if nothing had happened. "You're just as bad as the arse loving shit stabbers!"

Dave didn't reply, and Dan saw him shake his head and flipping the finger back at Midge, before disappearing around the corner of the cookhouse tent.

Dan took a sudden step closer, before the Sergeant came too near. Keeping his voice down, he growled, "I tell you what, Midge. You be careful. Once that plaster's off I'm going to fucking smash your ugly face in, until even your mother won't recognise you. You got me, arsehole?" Adding with more venom in his voice than he'd thought possible, "you fucking coward!"

Midge was about to reply, when Dan cut him off again, hissing once more. "Fuck you. Fuck! You! When you least expect it." He shut up, right at the moment when the Sergeant arrived.

It took him a considerable amount of will power to calmly lie to the Sergeant, pretending that nothing had happened, just a verbal stand-off with a fellow Merc. All the while neither Midge nor he were looking at the other. Dan managed to get away within a few minutes. Still holding his side, and forcing himself to stay upright. The afternoon would be 'fun' but short of getting his head blown off, nothing was going to keep him from plan nor encounter.

Dan was in too much pain to be able to make his way straight to the Yank camp. Pissed off to hell, still struggling with shallow breathing, his ribs hurt like buggery thrice gone wrong. Heading for the Mess tent, he decided to grab an over-stewed coffee which was always brewing away on the large machine, probably had been for hours, but he didn't care. Nothing three spoonfuls of sugar couldn't cure.

The place was deserted, just as expected right after lunch, with both the morning and afternoon shifts being busy. He was glad, the solitude gave him the space and time that he needed. Dan sat down, planning to smoke a fag while waiting for the pain to recede. Nothing better to let off steam than an orgasm, and the Delta was going to be just perfect for that.

Still breathing shallow, Dan sat as comfortably as he could. Staring at the opposite wall, he drank his over-sweetened coffee. The encounter with that bastard had rattled him more than he wanted to admit. The fact that the cowardly wanker hated him so much, he wanted to wipe him out, and that for only one reason: because he shagged men and wasn't quiet about it. That had shocked him more than he liked. The sheer extend of loathing. The willingness to destroy, and all because of what? Sucking cocks and loving muscles.

Dan snorted to himself, watching the smoke curl out of his nostrils. He should have expected something like this, but when faced with blind hatred that had no reason other than who he fucked … it rendered him speechless.

What a bloody tosser! Dan shook his head and stubbed out the fag. He decided that it was pointless to dwell on that arsewipe. Besides, he remembered hearing that those who complained the loudest were trying to drown out the truth with their shouting.

Interesting thought. Interesting enough to make Dan's lips curl up into a nasty grin. The mental image of fucking Midge's ginger arse? Enough to help forget the throbbing pain in his bruised ribs. Midge, on his knees, begging to be taken roughly like the bastard dog he was. Ah yes, highly amusing.

Dan finished his coffee, lukewarm by now, and pushing himself up to stand. Still sore, but it'd do, no way he'd give up on his plans for the day. Stepping outside into the blinding sun, he readjusted his shades and took a careful breath, as deep as he could, while straightening up. Damn the bruises, he wasn't going to let on to anyone what had happened. Bad enough he had a witness in Dave.

The midday sun was searing, but he couldn't care any less, as he sauntered across the compound. Making sure the fresh bruising was no more visible in his gait than the chopper crash injuries warranted. Exchanging a few words with the soldiers in the guard house, he shared his packets of fags, smoking while chatting with one of the Sergeants. The guy was in the same Scottish infantry regiment that Dan had been in, before he'd become part of the SAS. A giant Scots, who didn't give a shit about who or what Dan shagged.

Heading off after fifteen minutes, Dan was on his way to the US base. He fished the temporary pass out of his shorts pocket, hanging it around his neck, ready to field the guards at the gate and their inane questions. They knew who he was, but they were Yanks, and some of them, Dan reckoned, were as thick as planks, adorning a farmer's shed in Iowa.

* * *

With his pass acting as a magic wand, his worries had been unfounded and he was almost waved through. Answering a few questions, he exchanged several friendly words with the guard, before gaining entrance quite painlessly. Sauntering over to the work area, he was on the look out for Matt. The kid had to be somewhere, just a question of prying him away from whatever he was doing, to get a few undisturbed words in. Couldn't be seen talking too long with any one guy, or the 'faggot' rumours were going to spread, after all, and it was far harder to dispel the truth than a lie. Funny that.

He spotted the kid after a few minutes, chatting with a couple of other guys, seemingly relaxing in between chores. With fifteen spare minutes before he was going to meet the Delta, Dan figured it fit just perfectly. He wouldn't need long, if he could only convince his baby Yank that doing what he was going to tell him to do, without asking too many questions, would be a damn good thing.

Dan was greeted by the young Jarheads like a long lost mate, which made him grin once again at how he'd become their 'bestest buddy' within a day and a night. He should do this puppy rescuing business more often. He quite liked the company of those kids.

It was Matt who managed to find an excuse after a few exchanges of shoulder slapping pleasantries. Steering Dan away from the others under the pretence of showing Mad Dog some of his kit, wanting advice from the experienced soldier.

They both kept their heads down over the equipment, while talking quietly, as Dan inspected the Yank's webbing with interest and care.

"You still trust me?"

"Uh?" Matt looked up, "why the fuck shouldn't I trust you, buddy? It's just the creepy dickhead I wouldn't trust from here to the shitter."

Dan grinned, nodding to himself, while inspecting the contents of Matt's first aid kit.

"Good. Because if I told you to be in the safe house in two days time, at fourteen hundred hours, would you be there?"

Matt blinked, took him a moment to compute the info. "You're on R&R by then. You just told me." Blinked again, "and how the fuck did you know I got a couple hours off?"

Dan tipped his finger to the side of his nose, just like he'd done before. "I told you, kid, I'm old, cunning and resourceful."

Matt laughed, taking the re-assembled kit out of Dan's hands. "OK, buddy, but if this is anything freaky, I'm going to have your ass."

"Oh … really?" Dan waggled his brows above the shades, smirking in a face-splitting grin. Showing each and every of his teeth. "Don't tempt me."

Matt simply laughed again, glancing backwards when he heard his name, and shouted a greeting to one of his comrades.

"Got to be off, Mad Dog, but whatever it is you're planning, you sure I like it?"

"Damn sure. It's a gift." Dan grinned. "Just trust me, and … trust yourself. Aye?"

Matt didn't look convinced, but he nodded nevertheless. "Aye. See you around, soldier." He took some of his kit and the weapon, flashing a bright grin before turning to join the others. "Have a good time off. Hope you'll have some fun."

Dan gave a wave and a grin, murmuring to himself when Matt had left, "if only you knew, mate." With thoughts of a certain Russian and whistling as he walked, he was on his way to the vehicle park.

Hooch waited at the same M113, at exactly the agreed time. Not that Dan would have expected anything else. He didn't tell the Delta about the fresh bruising, didn't want any holding back, and just went with the ride. Short, intense, and no-nonsense, with the understanding between two men who knew exactly what they wanted - and how to get it. They exchanged bodily fluids, orgasms and suppressed groans, but very few words. Until the come-down of the aftermath, when Dan struggled not to reach for a fag, to avoid the suspicious smell in the carrier, while Hooch was readjusting his shades.

"Can you get off base in two days, at 1400 hours?" Dan asked out of the blue while one-handedly closing his shorts.

Hooch's brows shot above his shades.

"I got a safe house, outside."

The Yank's brows steepled.

"And I got something in there, at precisely 1400 hours, that would be of interest to an opportunist."

Hooch finally opened his mouth. "No shit."

"Nope," Dan grinned. "None. Just be there."

"Safe house?"

"Damn safe. I fucked my way through the Soviet war in Afghanistan. With a Russian. I know what safe is." Dan's grin widened as he stood up, stooped, and moved towards the exit.

"OK." Hooch shrugged, pushing the rear door open. "You there?"

"Afraid not, mate. I'm off to a Thai beach. R&R." Dan waved his plastered hand about. "But here's the map." Pushing a piece of paper into the Delta's hand.

Hooch hesitated, seemed he wanted to say something, but merely shrugged in the end and let Dan lower himself out of the vehicle.

"You be there?" Dan looked up, readjusting his shades.


"Good." Turning round, Dan gave another grin. "You'll like it." Adding, before he stepped away, "unless you got something against Jarheads."

He left Hooch staring after him for a few seconds, while he whistled once more, weaving his way through the vehicle park and towards the exist. Damn good day, after all, and he'd already forgotten the ginger bastard.

Special Forces Chapter XXVIII: Rest and Recovery
Warning for Readers

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

By accessing this work of fiction you hereby accept and agree that this is a work of fiction and does not reflect in any way the opinions of the authors. The authors do not necessarily endorse the views expressed by the fictional characters.

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

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


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Published 14 September 2007